Wednesday, 28 September
Our local guide, Daisy, got us rolling by shortly after 8:30, on our way to the Jade Buddha Temple.
First stop, though, was a silk rug factory, where we saw rugs being hand knotted. Many of us bought a variety of things in the store. The prize goes to Jane who bought a room-sized rug shipped home. It's gorgeous!
We arrived at the Temple in time to see a family's car being blessed in the courtyard. Although it was not one of the two worship days this month, there were many worshipers there and very many tourists. The statues of Buddha are
wonderful, including two made of jade and many covered in gold leaf. Daisy is Buddhist so she was able to tell us a great deal about what was going on. There were wish ribbons all over the temple and we asked about them.
Larry realized that he had left the camera's memory card at the hotel, so set off on a fruitless search for one which caused a little alarm when he didn't appear on schedule at the bus. [ not entirely fruitless as I covered a km or so immersed in Shanghai shopping streets and saw lots of interesting sights. I was alarmed when I discovered the group had left the rendezvous site, and was confused about where the bus was actually parked. Visions of being "Shanghaied".] He ran up just as we were starting to think he'd really gone missing.
We spent a bit of time walking around the Bund promenade and Larry actually was able to buy a new memory card there. [now there are pics again]
There are many impressive modern buildings across the river, and old attractive ones [ built by other countries who controlled
sections during the early part of 20th century ] . When we got to the vicinity of the Yu Yuan Garden, Daisy warned us of the danger of pickpockets and also of the maze of streets we were entering, telling us to move like "a bunch of bananas."
We went through streets of small shops and street vendors to the Garden, which is tranquil and beautiful, with many buildings. Kathy and David dressed in costumes for photos,
followed by Maria Angelica and Gray and Esme. The dragon walls in the complex are astonishing. When we emerged we spent some time in the market area. Several of us couldn't face more bargaining, so we retired to Starbucks for Frappucinos. We hope the ice was safe! From there we went to a performance of the famous China Acrobatic Troupe.
It was quite spectacular with everything from contortionists to motorbike acts. The jugglers and straight acrobatic acts were great fun. The 5
motorcyclists inside the steel mesh ball were just plain scary! After dinner we returned to the hotel and had drinks with M-E, Dave, Sal, Pepper, Susan and George.
Thursday, 29 September
The early-morning trip to Suzhou was very interesting. The area around Shanghai reminds me of the Golden triangle, where there are bits of rural and agricultural land but mostly town after town.
It was about a one hour 40 minute drive, and when we arrived we went first to a beautiful garden: Fish Net Garden.
Like most other formal Chinese gardens we've seen, there are few flowers, but rocks, trees and water are designed to be tranquil and beautiful. Walls are whitewashed so that the shadows play across them like paintings. Windows set into walls frame different views.
After lunch we visited the Silk Factory. Silk making is a fascinating process. Silk thread is wound directly off the cocoon of the silkworms.
Some proportion of the cocoons are twins, or even triplets in the same cocoon. Because they tangle their threads together, they can't be used for spinning and weaving. The resourceful Chinese instead spread them out, layer by layer, and make duvets from them.
It was fun to watch this process and our group of 31 tourists bought 28 of the duvets! They're supposed to cure arthritis and high blood pressure, plus be very comfortable. Although I searched for about an hour, I didn't find any clothing to buy. Next on the agenda was a boat tour of the canals. Suzhou is called the Venice of the Orient because it is criss-crossed with more than 30 canals. The houses that back onto them are old, cold, leaky and uncomfortable, but protected as historical sites.
Their garbage and waste is dumped into the canal, but they also wash and bathe in it.
Several people bought sunhats on the boats so we got photos afterward.
We had to rush to the Silk embroidery Institute, since the embroiderers go home when the natural light fades. Their work is astonishingly fine and
detailed, including things like 2-sided embroidery with different pictures on each side of a piece of silk so thin it's transparent. The guys were
"toured out" so while we went through the Institute (and shopped, of course)
while they sat in a lovely little garden drinking beer.
When we emerged to join them they were gathered around a wall shouting encouragement to an army of ants who were hauling a half peanut up a wall. They had bets on what time the peanut would disappear into the hole that was about two feet up the wall.
After that we were all glad to arrive at dinner. It was our last formal meal together on the trip, and we were also celebrating Sally Jo's birthday.
So we had speeches and presentations to Michelle and Kathy,
wine as a gift from our local guide John, and birthday cake! Michelle talked
about going to church with us and understanding us better from our "Go now in
peace" song. We ended the evening singing it again, holding hands in a big
circle. Of course there were tears.
Friday, 30 September
...and we thought we'd seen shopping before!! This was certainly the big day for it. The bus delivered us first to the knock-off market area for an hour of frenzied bargaining. Michelle had warned us carefully of the dangers and the
necessity of really bargaining. Even so, we likely paid too much for some things. [ not me, I was ruthless.
- 12 recent movie dvds for Cdn $30 plus some other good deals ] We were a bit wary of the surroundings and the vendors, but it was a real adventure.
From there we went back to the Yu Yuan Garden old market area, where we felt a bit more relaxed, [ we had previously thought THIS market
very frenzied ] but still bought with a passion. We also risked the ice in Starbucks Frappucinos
Next stop was the Shanghai Museum, which is just wonderful, and has - guess what?
- a gift shop.
Back at the hotel, we did a run to the import grocery store for goodies then had another hall party to say goodbye and use up some food and drink. Everyone else had dinner in the hotel-restaurant, but we stayed in our room for cup-a-soup, and to work on getting the news on the new baby Woods. Sure enough there were messages that she had been born, so we phoned Lorrie for the details [ little girl, 7lb 4oz ]. Then we joined the others and spread the news to the many others who
knew the Cansfields.
Finally we ended the evening with a visit to the 34th floor lounge where we had a wonderful outdoor view of the city. Great way to wind down a truly marvellous vacation.
Saturday, 01 October
[ making the final web update and packing up for a noon departure from the hotel. We take off about 4:30 pm for a flight to Vancouver, and then a plane switch to Toronto. It will be a gruelling 16 or 17 hours in the air. Looking forward to home in Burlington and a look at the new little Woodsie.
...later in Toronto: We had a pretty good flight home but got detached
from our group in Vancouver. At the Vancouver-Toronto check-in we saw many
of our group moving by us, and at the same time were being told that we had
missed our flight ( which was book for 2 pm). We were put standby on the
next flight, at 2:25, and had to rush like gazelles to get to the gate in time.
We made it but no one from our group was on the aircraft.
In Toronto no one from our group was around Vancouver flights' baggage
carousels either. One of our bags arrived but 2 others were missing.
Delivery was promised so we headed out.
Arriving home, we found that Sarah had gone to Pearson to meet us.
Fortunately she linked up with Dave and M-E and was able to drop them with Sal
and Pepper. Much story telling, beer, and off to bed. What a trip!
Departure day - it's hard to believe our 2 weeks in China are at an end.
The last morning is leisurely as we don't need to have luggage outside our doors
until 11:30. Larry spent much of the morning finishing uploading this blog,
while I lolled about, reading. Then check-out and the trip to the airport,
with Daisy filling more details about Chinese sex taboos and fetishes. We
spent a long time in line waiting to check in for our flight, then to get
through the various exit processes. Even so, we had about 2 hours to wait
once we reached the departure lounge. Everyone had snacks and we bought
some beer, so it was like another party.
Oh - and did I mention those last few yuan burning holes in our pockets?
There was certainly some shopping going on.