Saturday, May 03, 2014

China 2014 Day 8: Suzhou

China 2014 Day 8: Suzhou

We slept in a little longer than we could have because we prepared our bags last night for the 6:30am "bag pull" -- funny name, it basically just means "someone is coming to grab your stuff" :) We didn't use a good chunk of our food credit so we're gonna have a huge dinner tonight! So I think we were up at 7 instead. Still very much "up and at 'em".

We had breakfast and jumped onto the bus to head out to Nanjing, via the water town of Suzhou. Our first part of the day was about a 2hr drive out of Shanghai, and it was great to see all the buildings.

Cool buildings as we drive out of Shanghai
Whoa, crazy building!
Really epic apartments
Construction everywhere
Our tour guide is really great and on the way out of Shanghai she told us lots of interesting stories about the city and about China in general. People asked her about changes to the "1-child-per-family" policy that China has had for some time, and she said she has 1 child and she is happy with that, even though it is possible to have a 2nd child now. It sounds like she felt it is quite expensive these days in China to raise a child and she and her husband are comfortable just to have one, mostly because of this it seemed.

She also pointed out the parks in the city that we were driving by. Shanghai is looking towards Singapore ("The Garden City") as an example of what an ideal city should look like. As such, Shanghai is closing down old and dilapidated housing areas and turning them into city parks. "Relocation" fees are paid to home owners for the hassle or dissatisfaction of them having to move from their homes, potentially the homes that their families had been living in for several generations. These homes can be in generally bad shape... and from what she said it sounds like these relocation fees can be substantial when you have a lot of people living at a home and also your home is in a desirable area for the country to develop in. When she mentioned "relocation" I assumed it wouldn't be a good deal for people, but I guess it's possible to refuse the money and stay in your home, and some larger building may be built around you. (Hang on, wasn't that a plot point in the movie "Up"?)

After a nice drive out of Shanghai, and making friends with some more people on the bus, we got to the Suzhou gardens. We first wandered along a street with cool markets on it, and I quickly grabbed a 50Y teapot as a backup to my awesome one from Shanghai a few days ago. Sweet! There was also lots of weird food on sticks. There were some pretty good looking Strawberries and Plums, but it looked like without much doubt they had been washed in tap water... noooopppe! So we stayed away from those, even though they looked good.

The gardens were beautiful and everyone had a great time there.

Springs in Suzhou
Awesome gardens
Cool trees and waterways
Funny duck
Stained Glass
A view into the gardens
Bansai Trees
Schoolkids, super excited to see us
Awesome Hello Kitty glasses
Haha so excited
I high-fived this dude
One part classy, one part silly
Then it was time to enjoy an awesome boat ride. We boated down the canals of Suzhou, led by a funny lady in jaguar leggings. She pleasantly offered to sing for us as she paddled the boat, for a small tip. That was fun. Boating down the lake was great, and we saw many people alongside the road having tea, eating at small cafes, and several wedding photography setups along the route! It was very scenic and a great experience, it made me wish we were staying in Suzhou longer... the vibe was awesome and very rural. I loved it.

Boat Tour in Suzhou
A grand day out
Our new friend Claire, having a great time!
Another boat
After a 30min boat ride, or so, we got picked up by the coaches again and headed for a banquet-style lunch. We walked by a few more random things on sticks and then got to the restaurant. We sat down in a group and the amount of food was ENORMOUS. Wow there is a lot of food at these banquet restaurants! Similarly to Green Tea and Spicy Joint, there was no way we would come close to finishing everything. But for what we could fit in there... it was REALLY good.

Lots of random stuff on skewers
More random skewers
Epic lunch!
Cool rice porridge design
And... even more food
On the way to the silk factory
After a big lunch, we headed to the silk factory. This was fun to see and a little crazy as silk is made from silk worms! I didn't really know that, I don't think. It was pretty crazy, we saw some live silk worms and our guide told us that Chinese kids often keep silk worms as pets, like Canadian kids might keep goldfish. Our guide told us she remembered collecting mulberry leaves to feed them -- but they never ate the berries! Funny. I told her that in Canada we had some mulberry trees and we really liked the berries.

Silk Worms
Silk-spinning machine
Raw Silk
We then saw some machines spinning silk and weaving the silk into a pattern. The coolest thing was an old silk weaving machine that had the design for the silk punched into punchcards, and it was feeding the threads through the holes to get the design! Very cool.

Sik weaving machine, making a cool pattern
Pattern is drawn on punch cards!

We then checked out some silk goods like duvets, covers, clothes. Then we wandered around the sales shop - and it was a legit sales shop - but there were some pretty funny hats that we tried on and dressed up in, costume-style. Fun times :)

...and then we put on silk costumes.
We headed back onto the bus and made our way towards Nanjing. This took a bit longer than planned due to traffic from Chinese locals making their way out of the city for the QingMing Festival (which is tomorrow, April 5th -- you may recall my tea from last week is called Pre-QingMing, because it's picked before the QingMing Festival).

Fortunately, we had some tasty treats for the ride to Nanjing.

Weird Cucumber Pringles
Chinese Fruit Pastilles
We arrived at Fairmont Nanjing... it is huge!!!!! It's a very tall building and you start by going up to the 50-something floor to go to the reception! Crazy. And then the rooms continued skyward. Pretty darn epic.

We dropped off our stuff in the rooms, and the rooms were very modern and awesome. The curtains/shades on the window were controlled by a series of buttons at a console beside the bed! Crazy. We checked out the room a bit and then headed down for dinner.

Arrived at Fairmont Nanjing, check out this chocolate game board!
An epic cherry to try!
Awesome room
Sweet tub
Even the water bottles here are awesome
We had some credit to use up, so we went nuts and ordered the most epic steaks ever at the brand-new Vancouver Grill at the Fairmont Nanjing. One word: WOW. It was suuuupppper good. Really excellent steak! We got one of each of the fancy Fillet Mignons -- an Australian 250-day aged beef, and an Australian Wagyu. It was fun to try both, though they were both so good. The flavour was really excellent. On the sides, we got some Truffled Mac & Cheese -- good stuff! To drink we had some really good Bordeaux.

Over dinner we chatted a lot with Jason and Claire, man they sure are awesome people. I really liked them. We talked a lot about the work they do, and also about movies, internships, etc. Really awesome peeps. We also made a plan to hang out with them tomorrow for the day, which will rock.

Springs got tired and headed to bed after our long and epic dinner, and I went up to say peace to the guys and have a short nitecap. The whisky selection there was pretty darn awesome, and I ordered a Hibiki 17 to finish the night off. That was super good. I got back to bed and whew... the bed was quite firm! Much firmer than the last hotel, but I bet it is going to result in an excellent sleep. I opened the shutters to see the view of Nanjing city, and there's a great view directly out the window of the Youth Olympic Stadium. This place rocks.

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