Sunday, May 4, 2008

Suzhou and Tongli

The cleaning crews at the hotels generally swooped into our rooms before our coach even left the parking lot, and it's a good thing because frequently someone would forget something. The item would be whisked to the coach and given to our guide. She would then hold it up, ask who's it was and we'd be on our way, thankful for the hotel's efficiency.

On the day we left Guilin it happened again. That morning it was a little bottle that looked like whisky. "John" admitted his ownership, and claimed he'd left it because of our impending flight to Shanghai. Then our guide asked if he knew what it was. "Noooo, not really", he said. So she explained that it was like Viagra wine. While the whole bus erupted into hilarious laughter, "John" kept trying to explain that he didn't know, didn't need it, didn't really drink it, etc. Yah, right.

After surviving the worst food on the whole trip, and a wild crosswind landing, we finally arrived in Shanghai only to be herded onto another bus for the 2 hour ride to Tongli.

Tongli resemblesVenice with its canals and gondola-like boats. It was wonderfully peaceful and quiet walking through the misty rain. First we visited the folklore museum, then we took a ride on a gondola. Then we visited a restored example of a typical home.

On our way out of town "John" found this wine shop, but it was closing. We were beginning to sense a pattern here.

The next day we visited The Garden of the Master of the Fishing Nets in Suzhou. It was originally constructed in 1140 AD and recreated in 1770. It is said that the gardens of Suzhou are some of the finest in China, and indeed, a recent gift, 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die, describes this garden on page 767. It was beautiful and contained all the classic images you'd imagine. Round gates, standing stones, water, bridges, koi, pavilions, wisteria, and peonies.

In fact, while the rest of the group was paying attention to our guide, the Lord of the Manor and I slipped away and found these peonies. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, so how could I resist taking portraits of them all? Whilst I snapped away, he kept track of the group and we slipped back without anyone noticing.

Our obligatory daily factory tour was silk that day. I found it interesting how silk is harvested and processed into fabric. It reminded me of Mrs. Humphrey's first grade class where I helped out when Teen2 was little. Every spring silk worms were hatched and grown to adulthood. The teacher would put a little box of worms on the hyper kids' desks. It somehow helped to calm them down so they could do their work. Perhaps it was their rythmic munching. Alas, we saw no live worms here. The worms are first killed with heat, then soaked in water and unwound. Eight to ten strands are spun together to make the threads then dyed and woven into beautiful fabrics. The imperfect cocoons are made into comforters. I know we had silk comforters on the beds in our hotel rooms and they were light and warm, but not too warm. I kind of wish I'd bought one since our down comforter is often too warm for our climate.

Next up will be Shanghai. Don't touch that dial!

1 comment:

Beverly said...

You have me such a laugh this morning - Viagra like wine. So, so funny.

I love the gondolas.