The sun shone today and it really felt like Spring. John and I cycled to Lake Li to enjoy the good weather. Cycling around Wuxi is quite straightforward. Most of the cycle paths are good, although you do need to watch out for potholes and the occasional ebike rider travelling in the wrong direction. The lake looked lovely in the sunshine.
After a couple of week’s of hibernation to recover from colds and hide from the bad weather, John and I decided it was time to go on a bike ride today. I was keen to visit a garden close to Lake Li famous for its plum blossom (Mei Hua Yuan) as the blossom will be gone in a few weeks.
The weather this morning was misty, but as it wasn’t actually raining, we thought we would try it. The garden is about 7km from our apartment and is quite an easy bike ride.
The garden was really lovely and worth a visit. It was good to be able to smell the blossom and listen to the birds. Even though there were quite a few visitors, it didn’t feel too crowded. It was beautifully maintained and had some beds that had been planted with bulbs ready to sprout as soon as the ground warms up. We guessed that some of them must be tulips as they surrounded a miniature Dutch windmill and giant clogs.
After an hour or so, the sky turned dark and it was obviously about to rain. We thought we would risk taking a longer route home between two mountains and over the Grand Canal. So, we got completely soaked in heavy rain. Maybe not the best cure for a cold, but it was a good ride.
Sorry this blog has been so quiet lately. I have been in hibernation and I keep hoping Spring is just around the corner. John has been busy though: http://wuxifrisbee.tumblr.com/
Today is the second day of the second lunar month, which is, of course, Dragon Head Rising Day. Apparently this means spring is just around the corner. Let’s hope so…
After a period of doing not very much, John and I are now in Nanjing. Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province and about 1 hour from Wuxi by (fast) train. John had to come for a work meeting, so we thought we would tag on a weekend break.
Nanjing was an ancient capital of China.Nan means south and jing means capital as opposed to Beijing, which means north capital. So far we haven’t seen much of the city, apart from the area immediately around our hotel, but tomorrow we intend to visit the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum and surrounding area. More to follow…
We returned from the excitement of Beijing to our chilly apartment in Wuxi; everywhere was still shut for the Spring Festival holidays and to top it all, we both caught colds. So, we decided we deserved a short break in a comfortable hotel in Suzhou.
We managed to find a special rate at the Pan Pacific hotel. This hotel appealed to us especially as the bathrooms had a separate shower and bathtub. We agreed that if the weather was bad, we could just take it turns to soak in the tub.
At the train station, I was pleased to be able to conduct the transaction entirely in Chinese. It might not sound like much, but 6 months ago, I didn’t really speak any Chinese at all. Now, I was able to ask for tickets departing on one day and coming back on another, at a specific time and on a specific type of train. I might never be fluent, but it is good to be understood.
Suzhou is on the Nanjing – Shanghai line and the ‘G’ trains are fast and efficient, travelling at up to 300 km/h. The system is also much more organised than in the UK. Each passenger has a seat allocated in a specific carriage. All passengers wait in the main station until about 10 min before departure time, then they are allowed onto the platform. Along the platform, there are numbers indicating which compartment stops where. This does away with the confusion about which end of the train you need (the trains are pretty long). Also, a note to Virgin Trains, they only feel the need to have one first class carriage, thus allowing more room for standard class.
The Pan Pacific hotel is at the southern end of Suzhou city centre. It is a relatively low rise hotel, built in traditional style. Our room was lovely with a balcony overlooking a fish pond. From the balcony we could see the pagoda in the Pan Men garden adjacent to hotel. Staying at the hotel allowed us free entry into the garden, so, as the sun was shining, we set off to explore.
Pan Men is a large garden in classical style. We climbed to the top of the pagoda, from where we had a panoramic view of the city. We then took a river boat trip. The wooden boats looked a bit like punts. Ours was powered by a stern looking oarswoman who started singing to us as we set off. Once we were out of sight of the ticket office, she suggested we might like to give her a tip in appreciation of her talents. She looked quite capable of casting us both overboard, so we thought it was best to comply.
That evening, we had a nice meal at a large restaurant nearby. Our meal was spoilt, slightly, by lots of chain smokers at the other tables (I nicknamed one of them ‘Smoky-Joe’ as he would start another cigarette as soon as he finished the previous one). There were even quite a few women smoking, which is unusual in China. I still find it hard to get used to the number of smokers here and how acceptable it is to smoke anywhere. I had forgotten how in the past after going to the pub in the UK, your clothes and jacket would stink the next day. Tobacco is really cheap here, to I don’t think it is something likely to change in the near future.
The next day we got a bus to the centre of the city and went to the Mingtown Cafe on Pingjiang Road for
an American breakfast. This kept us going long enough to walk up and down this lovely canal-side road with its interesting little shops and views. We then went south to look at the Twin Pagodas. Apparently, they were built by some grateful students in appreciation of their teacher. I could see John was getting some ideas, so we walked on to the Garden of the Master of the Nets.
Suzhou is understandably famous for its formal gardens. The Master of the Nets is one of the smaller ones, but is fascinating with its little rooms and pathways around a central pond. We had walked enough by now, so caught a taxi back to the hotel. We had dinner at the hotel and spent a lovely evening watching films in our nice warm room.
This morning, we woke up late, enjoyed a substantial breakfast and felt ready to return to Wuxi.
Last night there was a party at the hotel. There were about 100 people here enjoying mulled wine and locally brewed beer. We were able to stand on the roof terrace and watch the fireworks exploding from ever direction. It was incredible, as midnight approached, the fireworks intensified until you didn’t know where they would explode from next.
Some time after midnight, we thought we would go for a walk to see what was happening outside. The
streets looked like the aftermath of a riot, with paper strewn everywhere and smoke still rising. Groups of people were setting off firecrackers on the streets and pavements, with no concern for the cars parked nearby or traffic trying to pass.
We saw one girl of about 10 year old happily lobbing bangers across the pavement. The old year has well and truly been chased away, but I think there are still more fireworks to come over the next few days.