Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
15Trip End Jul 24, 2007
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June 20, 2007
Weather: AC ON!!
Today was a day about new China. It started with an eye-opening experience at the Suzhou train station. People lined up on the platform! That was completely unexpected, given our previous experience in China: we had learned to fight our way into a crowded bus or subway train! Yes, a girl did cut in front of me on the platform while we were waiting for the train to Wuxi, but she did it in such a mallow way that we all considered a great improvement from what it was like before.
The train pulled in the station, and we were pleasantly surprised. The exterior looks like a bullet train, even though it wasn't one. There was even a name for the train: Harmony.
The ride was quite smooth, and the scenery along the railway reflects the rapid development of modern China. Gone are the rice fields and vegetable farms; concrete houses and apartments line up the road to Wuxi, which is about 20 minutes away. The "national bird" of China, the cranes, could be spotted amid the high-rise apartments as we arrived in Wuxi. The numerous, and newly built, high-rise apartments, along with the 8-lane, newly paved roads, reminded us of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the economic power houses of China. On the way to Wuxi Institute of Technology (WXIT), Lily, who met us at the station, pointed out for us a coal-fueled power plant whose 20-story high chimney was spewing ominous plumes of white smokes as we drove by. She expressed her concern about the problem of pollution but was quick to make it clear that Wuxi has started to make efforts in environmental protection. The plant will soon be moved outside the city, she said. Against the gray, hazy sky the looming white clouds of the smoke from the power plant were onerous and worrisome.
The sky cleared up a little as we arrived at WXIT. The college was founded in the 1950's, but it underwent a major expansion and rebuilding three years ago. Buildings are all new and quite spacious. After a brief meeting with the party secretary of WXIT, who is in charge of international affairs, we were invited to lunch at a beautiful restaurant in a nearby hotel, which is located by Lake Li (Lihu). Lihu is part of the Lake Tai (Taihu), one of the most popular fresh water lakes of China. The hotel was modern, and the service was courteous. Food, of course, was heavenly. We were treated to the local specialties: Taihu Three Whites (white shrimp, white fish, and silver fish), as well as the legendary Wuxi short ribs. We ate like a king!
Next to the hotel we saw a lot of a few subdivisions with stylish, spacious one- to two-story houses not unlike those in Houston. Given the fact that land is scarce in this part of China, we were amazed that such subdivisions exist. Apparently, the houses were the last batch under the old policy. A new policy prohibits building houses like these exactly for the reason of land shortage. Interestingly, as we walk along the outside wall of the subdivision, we found that not many houses were occupied. There were even moles visible on the outside walls of one of the houses facing the water. There has been a tension between real estate developers and the government in this region of China because of the amazing and, some say, worrisome growth of the real estate market. This subdivision may have fallen victim to the government's crack down on over-priced properties.
New buildings are also featured on the sprawling WXIT campus.
It was an extremely hot and humid day, and I didn't realize I had a heat stroke until I returned to the hotel room.
The night ended with a dumpling dinner at a national chain restaurant, Da Nian Shui Jiao (Big Mama's Dumpling House).