. She accepted this compliments. Jack and Teresa also bought a birthday cake and gave Ray some fantastic birthday gifts including a beautiful amber bracelet to keep him healthy and safe.
We took a bus from Shanghai that went across Shanghai Bay to Yuyao, Zhejiang to visit Joe Gan. Joe is a member of Columbia Friends of China but I met her first at a downtown Salsa club. She is one of those unique persons you will never forget once you met her. She graduated from Stephen College, speaks fluent Spanish, involved in various entrepreneurial activities and is married to a Chinese man. Being an African American lady, this is indeed quite unusual in China. Chinese could be as prejudice as anybody else against persons with dark skin. Joe, however, won them over with her wits, her humor and her enthusiasm and love for China. Joe currently is the head teacher for a language school in Yuyao but she is planning to open a private English school near Hangzhou next year. If any of you are interested in teaching English in China, I can get you in touch with Joe.
From Yuyao to Hangzhou, we took a “slow” train ride which was quite crowded but not too bad. The public transportation in China is really good and travel by train or bus is very easy. Shuming, another friend I met in Columbia, was waiting for us in Hangzhou. Her first question to me was “do you want to see a Chinese Opera” tonight? A Beijing Opera troupe was performing “Red Maiden” at the Hangzhou performing art theater. This is a light, comical opera in which the mischievous maid “Red Maiden” played cupid between her young mistress and a handsome scholar in defiance to her old lady mistress’s wish. The 4 main actors all sung well and their customs are brightly embroidered and gorgeous
. Red Maiden’s expression was animated, expressive and cute. Even without understanding a word of what they were singing, Ray was able to follow the story and enjoyed this opera. Hangzhou and Suzhou are the two most famous cities in Southern China that embraced the beauty of the arts and the pleasure of Chinese culture in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (from about year 900 to 1900). With the beautiful West Lake at its city center, Hangzhou was highlighted in many famous paintings and poems. “Heaven may be above us but Suzhou and Hangzhou are the paradises on earth for mortals” is an old saying which accurately reflect the love and pride the Chinese people held in their hearts for these two cities. West Lake is surrounded by willow and peach trees which blossom in spring. Shuming said that in summer the lake is totally covered by large patches of lotus blooms and West Lake is at its peak in spite of the hot weather at that time. I definitely need to come back in both spring and summer to enjoy the different seasons of Hangzhou flowers. We took a boat ride across the lake, stopping at a small island which has 3 little pagodas partially submerged in the water for over 1000 years. They were used as markers for areas where cultivation was forbidden. This is the place everyone visits during the moon festival to watch for the 33 moons. Each pagoda has 10 little round holes and when people light candles in the pagodas, there are 30 little moons shining on the lake surface
. Along with the full moon in the sky ant its reflection on the lake, they make up 32 moons. The 33rd moon is the one you have in your heart. Very romantic indeed. There are many stories related to Westlake but the most famous one is the Lady White Snake and her lover. After hundred years of meditation, a white snake was able to transform herself into a beautiful lady. At the Broken Bridge of the Westlake, she met and fell in love with this young scholar. A monk gave the scholar some special wine to give to his wife and her original snake form appeared in their bed and her husband died of fright. Lady White Snake went through the heaven and hell to find the medicine to revive her husband. The Westlake Impression – a beautiful light and dance show performed on the lake surface directly by the famous director Zheng Yi Mou was based on this legend. The show is done brilliantly and actor/actress appear walking on water. If you ever visit Hangzhou, you should not miss this show. Hangzhou is famous for its freshwater sea foods. One of the famous 200 year old restaurant – Lu Y Lu – is located right at West Lake. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner including lake shrimps cooked with Dragon Well tea and its most famous dish - the Westlake vinegar fish. The fresh fish was blanched and a sweet and tangy sauce pour on top. This tasty dish give credit to Lo-Y-Lo as the best restaurant in Hangzhou. Hangzhou also distinguish itself as the first Chinese city provides free bicycles to its citizens
. Shuming showed us how she uses a special card to unlock a bike. She can ride it anywhere in the city and drops the bike at any of the hundreds of drop stations and just walk away. The card has her id so if any bike is missing, they will notify her. I saw more Hangzhou people riding on the streets than any Chinese cities I have visited. Many parents have a special made tent cover on their bike to keep their children out of the cold and sun. What a great idea and I know Columbia’s former Mayor Hindman would have loved this idea. The week before we visited Hangzhou, China launched its fastest high speed train between Hangzhou and Shanghai. We took this train (for about $20) back and were impressed with how smooth and quite this train travels. It reaches its highest speed of 350 km/hour but you will not notice how fast you are going until you see how quickly the train passes the moving cars on the highway. The usual 2 hours travel time between Hangzhou and Shanghai was cut in half. Quite impressive. China has more high speed trains than any country in the world. It is quite a nice way to travel. I hope you enjoy this segment of our “million miles of SE Asia tour. Onward to Taiwan for our next stop.
My brother Jack, sister-in-law Teresa, two friends from Beijing and I celebrate Ray's 70 birthday by doing ballroom dancing at the oldest Shanghai Dance club Bai-lu-man (Paramount). This club was the "Hot" spot for war lords, high government officials, movie stars and rich businessmen in 1930s. Its dance hall still retains its past grandeur and elegancy but the outside of this building didn’t quite catch the modernization the rest of Shanghai experienced. Even on a weekday afternoon, there were about 10 couples dancing, some are ladies with their instructors. After warming up his Tango, Cha Cha and Waltz steps with HM, Ray finally got the courage to invite the other ladies to dance and had a grand old time. In the evening, we feasted on the famous Shanghainese crabs steamed over beer that were carefully prepared by Teresa. Teresa considers the Shanghainese crabs the most delicious food on earth. After enjoying the crabs, we all had to say one phrase in appreciation of the crabs. I said that “Teresa would prefer a life on earth eating this crab then a life in heaven without the crab”