A day trip to Suzhou and a visit to the rip-off m

Trip Start Sep 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day 228 Sat 24th June 2006
A day trip to Suzhou and a visit to the rip-off market

I got up this morning at around 9am, no sooner had I opened my eyes than I met a guy called Brian, he was also staying in our room. He was born in Beijing but moved over to LA and the tender age of 4, he is back in China now studying. We got talking and he said he was going to a small town outside Shanghai and invited my to come along. I got ready and met him downstairs, where I was introduced to Paul, a Scottish guy, who was again in the same room as us and coming along for the daytrip. They were both on the net so I decided to use the time wisely and have some breakfast.  I could not resist having a traditional English breakfast, and a good one it was too!

We eventually left at 11am and made our way to the train station to get tickets, it's a good thing Brian was with us because the train station is a bit of a mess!!! There is no way Paul and I could have got our tickets, well we would have got there in the end I suppose, but way later than we should have! They have a crazy system here, where the ticket offices are actually located in different buildings around the station, then you have different buildings for different tickets and to top it all off there are no (or very little English signs), a whole heap of fun if you don't speak the local lingo! We ended up getting tickets for the bus instead of the of the train, we had an hour to kill before the departure so I got my ticket to Xian and Paul got his ticket for Hong Kong, with the help of Brian, of course. The bus left at 12.40pm, but it took us ages to get around to the place it was leaving from, again I cannot stress enough how lucky and grateful we were that Brian was with us. The bus journey was over an hour and a half long, Paul and I had a chat while Brian got some shut-eye.  

We pulled into Suzhou after 2pm. It's a nice town, it's not as small as thought it was going to be but then I didn't really know what to expect. We took a couple of rickshaws to our first destination (see pic), I don't even know what the place was called, but it was some kind of park. The rickshaws were the most comfortable I have ever been in, the seats were super soft! The park was really nice, we walked around for a while and then made our way into the Pagoda. I think it had about seven or eight floors and by the time we had climbed to the top, the old legs needed a rest. There were some really steep steps inside (see pic), and there was not much head room either - definitely not for the taller person. After the Pagoda we went on the 'love boat' well, that's what the brochure said it was! It was just a little cruise along the canal that surrounds the park.

The next stop was at 'The Master-of-Nets garden', we took a taxi to this place and when we got there the sky clouded over and it was only a matter of time before the rain came down. This place was really nice and very tranquil, it's basically a very well maintained old style Chinese mansion, it has the most beautiful gardens that wrap around the whole place. It's a bit of a maze inside with lots of different rooms and passages. We were there for a while and could probably have chilled longer, but Brian had to get back to Shanghai to pick up friends from the airport. We left the garden and caught a bus to the train station, the bus is cool, just like in HK you just pay one fixed fare, but here you take a ticket off the stub yourself, that wouldn't work back home!

We had a bit of time to kill after we had brought the tickets so we had a bite to eat, the first meal of the whole day for Paul. By this point I was starving so I shudder to think what he was going through. The worse thing was his food took the longest to arrive and by the time it did we were running late fore the train so he had to get it packed up and eat it on the train. The train left Sozhou at 6pm and we arrived back in Shanghai and hour or so later. Brian went off to the airport while Paul and I decided to head to the 'Fake Market' in the French Concession. We got down there on the metro and it was raining most of the time we were there. The market gets it name from all the counterfeit goods they sell there. it's closing down in a couple of weeks to clean up the image of the city, so everything is SUPPOSED to be really cheap. It was cheap but not Chatuchak cheap. I didn't buy anything but helped Paul get some money off a tee-shirt and some shorts he bought. We got back to the hostel at 9.30pm, I don't know about Paul but I was shattered.

After showering up we just chilled downstairs till Brian came back, he got back around 10.30pm and we went out to eat around 11.30pm. We went to a place near the hostel where you select from a list of skewers and then make them yourself on a little grill in the middle of your table. It's a pretty cool concept and the food was really nice, well it would be, we made it ourselves! Oh by the way, your not going to like this, but I had Rabbit meat, it was quite nice but I don't think I would try it again. another thing I tried that I won't be trying again was some Chinese Rice whiskey! Paul and Brian were on the beers so Brian ordered me a small bottle of this whiskey, when I say it set my insides on fire that is no exaggeration, it was potent stuff! I had received a mail from Adrian earlier in the evening and he said they were going to Bar Rouge with some mates and invited me to come along so after the restaurant, Paul and Brian made there way back to the hostel and I jumped into a cab to the Bar Rouge. It was a pretty snazzy club right on the Bund, it was a bit too 'posh' for me and the music was not doing it for me at all so I left after one drink. Adrian was doing his thing with his mates and Elin was not there as she was ill so I just bailed out, I was too tired for a night out anyway. I got back to hostel around 3.30am and saw some of the Mexico vs Argentina match before flaking out around 4am.

What a first day, long tiring but good fun. It's been good chilling with Paul, just someone from back home, well nearly!
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