On the Road Again

Trip Start Apr 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 19, 2006

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hi everyone - a quick update from an internet cafe in Suzhou on a rainy day just before heading out on an overnight train ride (16 hours!) to Xian. When we left Shanghai we headed to tiny Zhouzhang which is a very very traditional water town about an hour and a half away. We stayed overnight in a 300 year old guesthouse - so you can use your imagination on that one:). Will post pictures when I can but that likely won't be for a bit. It was a very pretty place and lots of stalls for shopping etc. The next day we headed to Tongli, another traditional village, but just for a couple of hours before arriving here in Suzhou.

Suzhou is really a large city that has grown up around the various traditional gardens which it is famous for. I have toured a few of these incredible places, and last night we attended a cultural performance at one of them. Lots of silk around here, and much embroidered for framing. Love that stuff but will save most of my shopping for Beijing I think.

The group I am with is a little quieter than the folks I travelled Japan with - probably not a bad thing:)- but very friendly. Three Canadians (including myself) one brit and the rest are Aussies. As I indicated, tonight we head out to Xian on a very long overnight train and I am quite sure I will have lots of stories after this one! Will update probably from the village after Xian, and I hope to be able to post some photos for you then.

In the meantime I can tell you that China is a country of contrasts like no other - from the 3rd world conditions in the rural areas to the hustle and bustle of cities like Shanghai. Very different from Japan, in terms of the face they show the world, but I think in Japan much of the rawness of life is hidden away while in China it is in your face. One image is framed in my mind: on the bus to Baisha market I looked out the window and saw the back of a little fellow about 6 entering his "home" through the large garage-like overhead door. Beside him walked his father or grandfather holding his hand. His other arm was out to the side and held very still - to accomodate the IV that was inserted, the bottle held high by his father. It was a fleeting glimpse but I know that he must have been a very sick young boy for his very poor family to take him to the doctor. And he was walking home with an IV in his arm. I wonder if he is ok.

Today I have been approached twice by local people who struck up conversation and were extremely friendly and helpful. I was very surprised but pleased - it is harder here to interact with the locals than in Japan. They keep to themselves much more, but one of them even asked if I live here(!) although there may have been something lost in the translation there.

Off to shop for some food (and drink too I am thinking) to take on the train for dinner. Think of me in the hard sleeper car and hope that things go well:)!
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