Sunday 18th October 2015, 16:45
I’m on a coach – we’ve just driven out of Wuzhen, a little water town about 1.5hours out of Hangzhou, where I spent the weekend. I have a lot to catch up on (blog-related), and a 2+hour drive back to Shanghai now, so let me briefly summarise the past two weeks.
Two weeks ago, on Sunday, a few of us ventured out to find starfish to eat. We failed on that front, but stumbled into an animal/pet/insect market instead.
The rabbits, turtles, kitten and fish were all nice enough, but rows and rows full of spiders, crickets, grasshoppers and some kinds of flies (all very much alive) were slightly off-putting.
One of the salesmen tricked a friend into believing they were for eating, could be eaten live, and that they were very tasty, as well as healthy for you.
The friend in question said he wanted to try one, but only after the salesman showed him how to eat it correctly. In the end, the salesman just shook his head and spitted out: Americans really are stupid…
A few days later, on Wednesday, the last day off for the National Week Holiday, a friend and I made a day trip to Suzhou, a small city about 100miles west of Shanghai.
The bus journey there was eventful: soon after leaving the station, we made a quick stop at a small roadside cabin, where two guys stood by large brown parcels. They opened the storage compartment in the side of the coach while the driver got out, they loaded the parcels, and the driver was slipped some money, which was visible for barely a second before it was out of sight and in his pocket. Less than ten minutes later, when we were back on the highway, the driver’s phone rang. He received the call, listened for all of about five seconds, exclaimed loudly and stopped abruptly in the middle of the highway. After much hooting from angry drivers behind, he sensibly moved from the far left over to the far right. As he exited the coach once again, he apologized to us for having to stop for ‘personal matters’, and went outside to smoke and peer nervously at the road behind the coach, clearly waiting for something, or someone. I’m pretty sure someone boarded the coach from some invisible back door several minutes later, and we we continued on our way.
Once in Suzhou, we visited the Garden of the Master of the Nets (网师园), which was pretty enough, but was too busy, and the admission was arguably expensive for what it is. Suzhou is famous for its beautiful, classical gardens, but you kind of feel that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all…
We then walked a very long way to Shantang Road, famous as it is still a cultural centre. Among some side roads, we saw fish, crabs, chickens, pigeons, and more, for sale.
We then ventured over to the northwest corner of the city, to Tiger Hill Scenic Spot, which – to my slight disappointment – involved no tigers.
After an early start, and a long day of just walking, we were both ready to knock out on the bus back to Shanghai, but to our surprise, we were the only two passengers on the whole bus, so we ended up chatting with the driver about a range of topics, from Chinese investment in Africa, driving rules (or lack of) in China, Tanzanian exports, China’s economic development, and how China compares to our countries. I tried to think of topics or questions I’ve been wanting to ask Chinese people, since this was a perfect opportunity to do so, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think. I was more than satisfied with the conversations in any case, as they helped make me aware of my improved Mandarin level.
We were back to class on Thursday, Friday…and Saturday, after which a group of us went out to enjoy a dinner of hotpot, which is something I haven’t had in about 3 years (since my last time in China).
Wandering around after dinner, I spotted this, which sounds pretty unappealing in my opinion, but is incredibly famous in China:
On Monday and Tuesday, I went to dragon-boating practice, which was fun, but made my body feel amazingly sore, so I’m definitely continuing that.
I will write more about this weekend’s trip to Hangzhou another time as it’s getting dark now and I’m extremely inclined to copy everyone else and fall asleep for the remainder of the drive back, especially since I still have work to do for class tomorrow after I get back tonight.
Good night, China (as I’m not sure exactly where we are at the moment)