Suzhou City delights
Trip Start Dec 01, 2004
13Trip End Dec 10, 2004
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There were two older gentlemen on the bus that were fabulous. One was a Sehk that had been a sociology professor for the last 30 years in the States. The other was a interesting gentleman that reminded me of my Pap-Paw. He wore interesting hats the entire trip. Both of them were having a terrific time on this trip.
The number of bikes on the road was fascinating. There were entire lanes of bicycles. We also saw entire staffs of restaurants and stores out on the sidewalk doing calisthenics. This is a nation of very healthy people. I don't think it is totally our dietary difference. They have a totally different view of exercises.
For me, connections with the locals is what makes it special. We seemed to be moving about the same pace as a Chinese family with a little baby. It was such a beautiful baby. The baby had gotten a little cranky and had started to cry. The family was all working to quiet the crying. We always bring stickers and pez dispensers with us when we travel so I pulled out a Mickey mouse sticker. I shyly walked up and offered the sticker to the mother. It seemed odd but the mother took the sticker and put it on the baby's face and the whole family started taking pictures of the baby with the sticker on its face. The baby distracted by the weird American and the excited family finally stopped crying.
The Gardens www.youtube.com/watch?v=U81cFyQgpX0
When it came time to go guess who was missing. Yep the jerk, Mr. Rios, that caused our late start. Ron volunteered to go look for him. Ron found them and told them that we were all waiting for them. He arrogantly said that they were taking pictures. He did not rush back and we all loaded on the bus. Annie went to look for them again. This time it was about a 45 minute wait. He came back to the bus smiling. The people on the bus turned on him. He tried to defend himself saying he paid for this tour and he wanted to spend as much time as he wanted. As we got off the bus to eat I couldn't stay silent any longer. I told him that if he had wanted to do what ever he wanted he should not have joined a tour group. One of the consolations you make when you join a group of people is that you adhere to the schedule given to you. As for paying for this tour, we all paid for this tour and because of him we had all just spent 45 minutes of it waiting on him. Being told that he was rude didn't seem to have any effect on him but I proceeded to tell him that he didn't have any class. This seemed to finally make some impact. It was the last time that he caused the group to be late.
Another drawback of a tour is that I think that they feed you what they think that Americans think is Chinese food. We were taken to a buffet. It wasn't bad food but certainly not the best nor the most interesting food that we had on this trip.
Would you believe I ended up sitting next to the jerk and his girlfriend. He was less confrontational and I think he knew he was wrong. He tried to feed us some line of crap about how they had never been on a tour before and didn't know that they needed to adhere to the schedule. (Strange since they had been told every single optional tour on this trip before today. I am just glad that we hadn't dealt with them until today)
Our last thing of the day was the tour of Suzhou by waterway. They call this the Venice of the east. I guess that is because the waterways come right up to the door steps. We took this ferry through the canals. There were beautiful vistas and interesting people. We enjoyed the trip very much. One of the staff on the boat brought out his wares. He was selling Tiger Balm and card decks. We made a good deal on Tiger Balm.
After the bus ride back to Shanghai we finished out the night with Da Niang dumplings. What a fabulous experience. We were hungry and decided that we were just going to stop at the first place that we saw. We saw this dumpling place in the basement of one of the shopping centers. It is like the McDonald's of Asia. Fast food Chinese style. As we walked in it was evident that we were the minority. The menu was in Mandarin. We were watching everyone else in the restaurant to figure out how to order. It was like McDonald's. You order at the counter and carry your food back to your table. We were just trying to figure out how we would point and shoot at a menu on the wall.
We were down to picking drinks. We pointed to a brown bottle and we held up 4 fingers for 4 bottles to drink with our meal. Her eyes got wide and she said "NOT beer" We asked if it was tea. "Not tea, Chinese drink, You try just one." She was very adamant about us not wanting 4. So we got one bottle of that and 3 beers. Thank god. I don't know what was in that bottle but it tasted like soy sauce and rubbing alcohol. Just to be able to choke it down we had to mix it with one of the beers. There were several locals laughing and staring at us. I don't know if it was our odd behavior or our odd looks.
The food was wonderful and the entertainment of eating in a place that wasn't frequented by tourists was a blast. There is nothing in the world quite like stepping outside your box.