’05 Jun: Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou

New and Old, snuggled right up.

I had a heat…

June 4-5 Shanghai

I had a heat crisis on the 4th and had to go back to the hotel early and just chill, so to speak, so for the 5th I got out at 5:30am, to see if that helped.

Here it is about 6am on The Bund, Shanghai’s most famous promenade. ‘On the near side of the river is Shangai’s signature citscape, a long wall of colonial-era European buildings erected by foreign governments, trading houses, and expatriate millionaires mostly during the 1920s and 1930s.’

‘And on the far…

‘And on the far side of the river, casting the shadow of Shanghai’s future over its colonial past, are the modern towers of the city’s remarkable economic boom.’

Reading about the history of Shanghai – I think it is among the most interesting stories I’ve heard here.

Following is a link to a few concise paragraphs from Lonely Planet’s Shanghai history and there’s plenty more to read about if that peaks your interest.

This is here as…

This is here as an example. In the modern parts of Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai you cannot pitch a stick without hitting a US chain restaurant. The seemingly most popular? KFC. Ol’ Colonel Sanders’ face is far far more in evidence than that of our ol’ Chairman Mao.

And of course look-down-look-up and there’s a McDonalds. And these guys, Starbucks, lines ’em up everywhere, speaking to my theory that you mustn’t get started since Starbucks is clearly addicting and the cost too, even here, makes you think it must be a controlled substance!

Ya know, you read…

Ya know, you read about a place and you just never know.

I pictured this famous tea house described as in the middle of a lake, to be in the middle of an actual lake, but no, and the gardens associated with it, I pictured ok, that’s a nice garden, but no. The tea house was interesting and modest while the garden was interesting and vast.

Looks like Chinatown USA….

Looks like Chinatown USA. It’s called Old Town here and is what you’d expect with the tea house and garden being the focal points and the surrounding streets refurbished into a tourist area with historical presentations, shops, and restaurants.

At least three times a day someone will take my arm to join their group photo or thrust their baby up to give me a kiss while someone snaps a pic. I am of course an excellent choice for such requests since I snuggle up real good and generate gales of giggles and ‘sank yous’.

In various combinations these girls took my picture about five times.

This is a different…

This is a different place, more like the garment district than a modern Mall. I have a shot like this from almost every city and town. I forgot to check in the Mall. Dang. I was about to conclude that every mannequin in China had a Western face.

Shanghai is an amazing…

Shanghai is an amazing place I think from a couple of days of taxis, buses, and a lot of walking. One thing, there is a very high percentage of English in the signs so for the most part you know what you’re looking at.

And it was the 100% case that if I stopped to study my map someone would come up and offer to help. Every Single Time. I quit looking just for kicks because I felt bad about bothering people!

The big downtown construction…

The big downtown construction projects are all pretty much finished in the late 90s and now new building is happening across the river. For this reason, unlike in Beijing where downtown is one giant effort to create the most possible dust, here the air quality seems to be better. I should check that out though since I just made it up!

I also ran across many streets in the old hutong style like Beijing’s but ‘inside’ the traffic pattern, as well as semi-modern housing blocks like this one, and then the huge apartment towers too. It’s a complicated place!

I left my BigBag…

June 6-7 Suzhou and Hangzhou

I left my BigBag in Shanghai and with just a few things took the train to Suzhou, then to Hangzhou for the night, and then back. Suzhou is about an hour away in one direction and Hangzhou is about three hours in another. All the train tickets cost less than breakfast at the Peace Hotel.

When you’re walking along the way, minding your own business, and you see a crowd of people chowin’ down and at the same place you see a line at a window, then you want to be in that line. Yummy!

Suzhou is famous for…

Suzhou is famous for its dozens of magnificent gardens. I’m just not getting a feel for it in the pictures. I couldn’t get it at that huge garden in Shanghai either.

These are not gardens in the Victoria Gardens sense. Mostly the garden is filled with buildings, pavillions, colonnades, and walls, sometimes with little space between them, where you stand or sit inside and admire a small view framed by a feature of the building.

There are also inticate stone paths that lead from place to place, the more circuitous the better, plus water features, arching bridges, rock formations, and mirrored surfaces abound.

This garden is known…

This garden is known for its big trees. I liked this one especially. It was more peaceful than most since it seems to be absent from group itineraries, the trees make it shady and cool, and the rustle of the leaves is very soothing.

Hangzhou is famous for…

Hangzhou is famous for this lake. It was very overcast and even rained some. All around the lake are good views, lawns and benches, restaurants and hotels, etc.

Then there are causeways that cross the lake, leading to islands with more gardens, pavillions, boat rides, and food of course.

This was my last…

This was my last day in China and I wandered around, went across the river to Pudong, stopped to eat about seven times, saw Star Wars, strolled down Nanjing Lu, and not once did I remove the camera from its case. How curious!

Tomorrow I pack-up and am off to Japan for a week. Were it not that summer is coming on strong and everywhere every day is hotter than the previous, I’m sure I could happily stay in China for another month!

A view in Yu Garden.

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