First Full Day in Suzhou
Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
11Trip End Jun 24, 2007
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Their classes start on Monday. For their three-week course they will spend mornings immersed in language training and the afternoons either touring Suzhou sites or participating in cultural activities like tai chi. Some have taken Chinese before while others will be taking their first classes. The news ones are understandably a little nervous
After the orientation we head to downtown Suzhou on the No. 501 bus. Like most Chinese city buses, it is beyond crowded. All the clichés apply. Half of the city seems to be standing on the bus and we bend our bodies in ways not supposed to be possible as more and more people get on with each stop. (Rides at Disney are nothing like this and this ride only costs 13 cents.) But we are the fourth stop so the ride is short. We get out at Guangji Lu, the main drag in Suzhou and adjacent to this busy street is a new shopping district that is filled with fancy boutiques selling everything imaginable. (Ten years ago a shopping district like this only existed in Beijing, Shanghai and of course Hong Kong.) This district is a well designed extremely large walkway that has no vehicles or bicycles because they are not permitted. The only moving vehicles are small monorail-type shuttles (you would see at a large outlet mall back in the states) that take people from one end of the walkway to the other. So I am not sure how long the walkway is and assume that it is a trek from one end to the other.
While the majority of the people in China are peasant farmers or poor migrant city workers, the middle class is growing fast
After getting back to the hotel, our hopes of having the AC turned on have been dashed. It is hotter today, but I guess still not hot enough. We part ways with the students as they go to dinner at the hotel (which is part of their language programs' package.) Ben, Carolyn and I get to explore more of our area. We chose a restaurant that brags on their sign "Recommended by Lonely Planet". Ten years ago, Lonely Planet's China book was the Bible for back-packers and other adventurous tourists. You don't leave the hotel without it. I'm guessing that is still true today. The food is very good at the restaurant, which seems to have more locals than tourists. We eat vegetables and jiaozi (boiled dumplings filled with either crab or pork) that bring back a flood of memories for me. Some of the dishes are a bit oily which is a characteristic of Shanghainese food. Toward the end of the meal, we find out that after today the restaurant will be closed for 20 days due to renovations. So it looks like no return trips.
With some of the Howard students, I make an attempt to hear live traditional Chinese music at one of the more famous gardens. But we arrive too late (around 9:30 p.m.) and the garden is about to close. It is probably for the best as I am exhausted and ready for bed.