From the Arch to the Great Wall

16. Heaven Suzhou

Instead of departing for a tourist location this morning, we started out by taking a bus ride to Suzhou. I slept and watched a movie and before I knew it, we were there. We ate lunch and met up with our temporary guide that replaced Bill. Next, we went to the Lingering Garden. The garden was first laid out in 1522 AD. The whole space is artfully and appropriately handled, and arranged with exquisite petty scales. It is a typical garden of the Ming period with elegance and exquisiteness in the southern Yangtze Valley. The Cloud-Crowned Peak in it is a treasured piece of Taihu rock noted in the region.

This was a neat place and I had a lot of fun there. There were live musicians that sat in private booths and played traditional instruments such as the guzhen. The garden itself was very pretty and we learned about the "flirting corridor" which was two corridors separated by a wall with windows; one corridor was for the men and one was for the ladies. The whole point was to be able to talk to the opposite sex while maintaining the social hierarchy of men being powerful, women being timid.

The next stop was a silk embroidery factory. We got to see how a trained artist takes strands of silk to weave intricate designs on cloth that look almost exactly like a painting or real picture from far away. We also got to see a world famous weaving of a cat that took 2 years to make and contained over 500 colors of silk, even though it was just a white cat with blue eyes against a red background. After that, we proceeded to the Tiger Pagoda. It started to rain so I put on my poncho and headed out while others without rain protection stayed behind on the bus. The mini expedition found out that the pagoda was closed due to rain so I walked around and meandered back to the bus.

Today was Dr. Tai's birthday and everyone surprised her by presenting a card on the bus and singing "Happy Birthday" in Chinese. She felt honored by this and talked about how nice it was to spend her birthday with her family in China.

The stop following the Tiger Pagoda would have to be my pick for "most fun filled" stop. We first arrived at another silk factory but this time we got to see the actual process of preparing silkworms. Later, we got time to shop around inside the store for silk weavings, blankets, and decorations (again, more of the same stuff we've all seen before). Finally, the tour guide led the group into a medium sized room with a small runway down the middle. Not one to miss out on a private fashion show, I picked a seat on the side of the runway. As soon as the women came out, I knew I had made a right decision. The models modeled everything silk from outerwear (chi paos and silk tops) to evening wear (gowns and dresses). The show lasted about ten minutes and when it was over, everyone went to another part of the store to look at silk clothes and then to the bus.

We checked into the China Garden Hotel after dinner and immediately fell in love with it. It looked like a huge mansion with a main building and two wings. The main building housed such things as the squash room, billiards room, indoor maze, and massage parlor. Each guest room had a mini water cooler and a standalone shower in addition to a bathtub. After unpacking and looking around, Jason and I took a taxi to a small shopping district to look for CDs and DVDs. When it was time to go home, we only saw bike taxis (a person riding a bike and pulling a covered carriage) and decided to take one. The journey home was quite interesting because like most of my experiences in China, this was my first time riding in a bike taxi. The driver was nice and asked for only what we thought was a reasonable price. I paid him and went upstairs to pack because the next day, we would be traveling to Hanzhou.

第十六章 上有天堂








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