Friday, August 8, 2008

Sightseeing in Suzhou, China

Friday - 08-08-08 - Olympic Opening Day! We decided to travel to Suzhou, China - the silk capital of China to experience touring alone - without an English guide. What were we thinking? No, really - we hopped on the Metro at 7:30 am - RUSH HOUR - and went 8 stops to the Shanghai Railway Station to get our Fast Train to Suzhou. The metro car was jammed - we didn't even have to hold on because there were so many people. Security is amazing. The Chinese are taking no precautions when it comes to safety. We've seen many officers in brown uniforms - traffic cops - and officers in blue uniforms - regular policemen using wands and checking large bags and today we saw men in camouflage - they were helping checking tickets and putting bags in the scanners. The small shops in the Metro stations have been closed for about 3 days and will remain so until after the Olympics. You can usually buy some food or small electronics in this little shops/kiosks but now they are locked up with what I call bumper stickers across the doors - like that will really keep people out. . .

Anyway, at the train station, we had to put our purses through the scanner move to the waiting area to wait for our train to be called. We got there quite early so we had about 40 minutes to wait. What a madhouse. Whole families traveling with taped up suitcases and boxes and children. No animals.

Then the train was called and you would have thought someone was giving away money. Run for the exits - thousands of people. Thank goodness we bought tickets in advance and had seats already allocated to us so we were good. There are so many Chinese people that they violate your space all the time - when I say that I don't mean anything mean by it - I just mean that in the States, you can pretty much stand there without someone touching you or brushing by you or hogging the arm rest. Here - all bets are off. There was a woman sitting beside me with a young daughter who needed her hair re-braided. Both the mother and the child were putting combs and hair ribbons and barretts on my tray table the entire trip to Suzhou. I didn't bother me much but I find it so amusing. The children are so interested in touching our hair because it isn't like theirs - it's not black and straight.

Once we got there I was concerned about getting around. The guys on Mike's team persuaded him from going on a bus with a tour guide. It is costly - it would have cost us about 2100 RMB or about $291 just for the tour bus with the guide and there is no guarantee we'd have an English guide. So Mike and Kate opted for the "let's just get there and find an English driver". Scary to me. It worked out great. We spent about $35 instead and he was fine. His English was pretty good and he was funny. Took us to a Buddhist Pagoda (Ann, Kate and Mike), #2 Silk Factory (where the ladies are pulling pure silk together to make the "down" inside a silk quilt), Tiger Hill (construction on the pagoda at the top of the hill began in 959 A.D., It has a 3 degree 59' lean - just like the leaning Tower of Pisa) and the Lingering Garden (music provided by these lovely dressed Chinese couple playing antique musical instruments). Also check out the beautiful re-cycling container. I want one for my living room!
I'm having trouble posting photos - I don't know what I'm doing wrong but they don't always come out the way I post them. I guess practice makes perfect.
Well, off to Brunch with the boys of Westinghouse. Should be a good time. I laugh so hard everytime I'm with them.
I'd also like to welcome Denise Allan today - 8-9-08 at 1:35 on Delta. She's married to Kirk. Mike and I and Kirk and Denise go back a long time. As do John and Joy Mallory. Mike/Kirk/John/Joy and I all used to work together at (W) PSPD/NOD in Greentree. Denise's brother, Rob Donatucci worked with us as well. Ah, the good old days. . .
Stay tuned - tomorrow, we all venture out to the Shanghai Stadium where we'll see Australia play Venezuela play soccer - I cannot call it football!
Hey - the Steelers played tonight - Winning 16-10 over the Eaglets from Philly. What happened to Charlie Batch - please tell me it's not true!


msamraney said...

Hi Annie - it's Melissa!

I just read your last 2 posts on the blog! I like to know what you are doing - and I think it is a grand idea to capture every minute of you Shanghai experience. :)

SO - of course, I want pearls from that pearl lady too! Maybe we can work something out. Let's chat.

Cari and I read your email about the opening ceremony of the Olympics together. We both laughed about the soccer match - just picturing you w/ the American flag at a Australia / Venezuela game.

Have fun today - and continue to update us on your adventure.

Miss you-

Alison said...

Hi Anne - I love these last few posts! It helps imagine your daily life. I remember that feeling of so many people always moving in crowds without our western ideas of preserving private space. Some days I loved the sense of being part of so many people and other days I just had to retreat to our apartment for some quiet space. I found that the public gardens offered more space, too.

we're watching the Olympics. The opening ceremonies were gorgeous, a wonderful blend of art and technology, ancient history and futuristic all at the same time. It was so sad to read about the attack on Americans this morning, but we're all hoping it was just an isolated crime that could happen anywhere.

Keep the stories coming. Your photos look great!


banjo795 said...

Hi Annie
I was excited to see that you are visiting Suzhou! PPG has a plant there! I can't remember what kind, but am pretty sure it is a powder coatings plant. Glad to hear that you are having a good time. So what's this about pearls?

Anyway, have a great time at the soccer game!


Becky Christian said...

Love reading about your good times - keep up the blogs :-)