Trip Start Aug 22, 2010
76Trip End Jul 01, 2011
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Last Friday immediately after our grade 10 & 11 parent teacher interviews Madonna, Jen, John and I piled into a pre-planned 'Music Man' pick-up and headed to the train station. 'Music Man' is our nick name for this one driver we use a lot, but I'll leave more taxi driver insight to a blog John has planned.
We arrived with time to spare - always a concern for trains near rush hour. Our train was a 'G' train, which is a fast train, that departed at 4:44. As usual the crowd starts to stir near the turnstile about 15 minutes before departure and then everyone pushes through as soon as the green light indicates we can load onto the platform to await our train
We had chosen the hotel out of Madonna's Lonely Planet as we couldn't get space at the highly recommended Mingtown Hostel. Our first impressions as we pulled up weren't so great as the doorman was openly taking a leak in the planter by the door
The next morning at 8:30 John and I scoped out the included breakfast. It took about 2 minutes to decide there was no point in trying it! We collected Jen and Madonna from their room next to ours and headed back to Starbucks. Met a nice couple there in line behind us - an American and a Taiwan woman - visiting as an escape from their work in Shanghai. Marvelled at the Starbucks sign I had missed the night before. This Starbucks, one of 11 in Hangzhou, seats 240 people! It was enormous, comfy, and quiet. Soon we realized western xmas music was being piped throughout. Served as a nice contrast to the Chinese workers scampering about on the glass roof above us with hoses keeping the roof clean. After Starbucks we headed north up Yu 'an Street to find an address from the internet. I wanted to find 'Hi Panda'. John and I came across this store in Shanghai of the same name, were gobsmacked by their prices and left without a purchase but having been impressed by the edgy product. Once home I googled it, thinking it was called Hello Panda - a knock at Hello Kitty - which is everywhere here!!! The company Hi Panda came up - Google really is impressive - and I read about the Chinese designer behind the angry panda images that had captured us in Shanghai
After lunch we piled back in a cab and headed to the Silk Museum. We had seen it on the map and were convinced the taxi driver was taking us the wrong way, but it turned out to be a one-way street issue and fairly quickly he delivered us to what looked like an abandoned, under-construction facility. We dodged the back-hoe tearing up the entrance way - literally! - and into the free museum. At first it seemed fairly limited, but I ended up really enjoying it. It took me back to being 10 or so and Julia Meeker, a cousin of mom's, lent me a skein of silk to use for a school project. She had spent time in China and now I wish I knew the story, not to mention understood how Julia Meeker was a relative? The history displays were really very good and all the English was accurate. We proceeded outside and then figured out there was more underneath the area we'd been in. I was delighted to find numerous models and then full size samples of many many looms for silk weaving. I got great pleasure from seeing words such a part of my history with mom: weft, warp, shuttles, heddles, harness, treddles, tabby, twill,.. the list goes on and on and I really enjoyed reading the displays. As we finished at the silk museum we caught a 'fashion show' being put on for a tourist group ahead of us. I asked John to take a picture of the men gawking at the girls in silk, it was a very odd scene. John also took a picture of the sound man for the fashion show fast asleep at his post - another common sight in China
Around the museum were large ponds with many men and a few boys fishing. We managed to see one guy haul in his catch so we could see what was living in the water. Pretty murky water... I hate to think what water the fish have been living in that we are eating? Good thing we don't usually know! From the silk museum we grabbed another cab and headed to the Leifeng Pagoda. Only the foundations are ancient, everything else is a modern rebuild, but the view was great and the grounds nicely done. John got a picture of the biggest stone medallion/centre of square feature we've seen yet - quite beautiful. It was very hazy (smoggy?) view, but worth it.
Our next cabbie John dubbed the 'curb-sneaker'. He was determined to get us through the now busy traffic in as short order as possible! He'd gun it up the curb side of traffic, narrowly missing numerous cyclists and then budge his way back into grid lock traffic. We weren't too disappointed to spot where we wanted to go and get out of his cab with our skins intact! Madonna steered us to a restaurant she knew from a previous visit. The food was delicious, but unfortunately the mosquitos were out in force in this restaurant which I know really spoiled the meal for Jen. We did have the best chicken dish I've had yet here though, so it was worth it. Madonna is a huge fan of eggplant and I haven't really liked the various eggplant forays I've tried with her, but this restaurant's eggplant was fabulous and I really liked it
We tried to do a bridge walk after dinner on the lake, but although the bats were out in force, after about 30 feet we decided the mosquitos had won and we retreated. Next cabbie ride took us to a night market. Markets can be exhausting: crowded, pushy vendors etc. This market was busy but not jammed and no pushy vendors! Plus there were various musicians playing occasionally (video below) and the stalls held different goods than we'd seen before. It was a real treat and we must have browsed almost a kilometre of shops and we were there well over an hour, perhaps two. We took a rest in a Costa Coffee part way through before returning down the street to check out the stores on the other side from where we'd been. Quite exhausted we got back to our hotel around 9:30 pm. A sensible woman would have happily retreated beneath the covers and unwound, but silly me agreed to accompany the others to a Jazz bar. John loved it, Madonna too, so I won't say more about the volume, smoke, or other features of the evening I found tortuous! Never mind, next time I know where I'd rather be.
The next morning it was drizzling and John and I had unwisely not packed umbrellas so we started the day by getting 2 super-cheap brollies from the hotel lobby shop. Such pieces of ..... Never mind, we were grateful for the protection from the rain and headed to Mingtown to check it out for breakfast
From Mingtown we attempted to check out an HIstoric Alley, but soon realized our map was steering us to the same location as the night market of the previous night, so we aborted and hopped yet another cab. I think I took more cabs in Hangzhou than I've ever taken before! We headed to a museum of a famous Chinese hero (Yue Fei) where the gardens were lovely and it was the first burial mound we've seen. He was wrongly accused and executed in his life time and there are statues there depicting his betrayers. Chinese people used to spit on the statues, although this is now discouraged (as all spitting is) but we did see a woman come along and lean over the fence in order to hit the statue on the head. Yue Fei is also famous for the 4 characters that his mother burned on his back: tortuous tatoo-like, along the lines of serve your country beyond all else. He is a figure Madonna says all our students are familiar with.
After the museum we partook of another famous Hangzhou past time, the tea house
Since then school has been focused on the BC Ministry of Education's inspectors visits - much drama there, but all is well ultimately. The school has some must-so items, administrative problems, teacher certification problems, none of which affect me and soon the stress levels should retreat. Next on the agenda is the grade 12 parent teacher interviews on Friday and having survived last week's I now know what to expect. It's getting late now so I'll sign off. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Love from Suzhou,