November 21, 2006

Nanjing and Suzhou

Thursday, 16 November:
We arrived in Nanjing on an overcast afternoon. We checked into the International Nanjing University housing. The room is very nice, but more expensive than the western cities that we have been visiting. Still it wasn't too bad. We washed our clothes, but as usual there were no dryers. We were lucky enough to connect with an American, Paul. He is one of the many foreign students studying Chinese in Nanjing. He brought us a pole and hangers to dry our clothes with. We took it easy the rest of the day. We ate at a Korean restaurant across the street.

The weather the last several days has been sour. If it had been more warm and sunny, I might have enjoyed the city more. It has some great parks and comfortable avenues. There are several universities here. All of which should make it my kind of city. It has been cold and rainy. Most of what we want to see is outside. And we have gotten cold and soaked. To make matters worse, there is no heat in our room. Up until now, I have liked China a lot more that Betty. But here we have been on par with each other. Another reason that I have been off here is that Friday morning I got a touch of the stomach flu from something I ate.

Eventually we made it out of our room. Not yet raining, it was another overcast day. We went to the Nanjing Museum. After visiting several provincial museums, we are beginning to see the same things over and over again. They have all been excellent with nearly perfect artifacts. Some are as old as 6000 years. The Nanjing Museum is much like the others. The few differences made it worth the visit. It had and excellent porcelain and pottery section. The temporary shows are often really good too. Here there was a show of 16th and 17th century Chinese furniture. Unlike so much of the carved Chinese piece that I have seen, the lines and quality of these pieces almost seemed modern to me. They were beautiful. Another show was of local artists and photographers. I could clearly see where more modern Chinese art was headed.
We took a bus halfway back and looked for a movie theater. The one where we expected to find subtitled movies only had dubbed films. Since there is rarely any English on TV, I need a shot of it and there is no better place than a movie to get it. Hopefully, we can get that pick-me-up in Shanghai. We ended up walking back to our room. It seemed like it took forever, and the rain had started. Despite our early return, I crawled into bed to warm up and was soon asleep.

Bettty in Suzhou
by the Beisi Te Pagoda


I still was not feeling good, I started some medication. We decided to go for a walk. We visited a drum tower. And we looked for a Starbucks. Unfortunately after an hour of searching, we discovered that it had closed. We came back cold and wet again. We decide to wash some more clothes. I slept in the afternoon. There is a restaurant in our building. The food was very good and cheap.

We would have left, but we still had some damp clothes and I was not at 100% yet. So, we would stay one more day in Nanjing. In the morning, we went for a walk. We stopped to eat, and then walked through the Nanjing Normal University campus. It was really lovely. The buildings looked to be about 80 years old and in the more classical Chinese architecture. The campus was well laid out with a large mall and a pool its center.

It seemed that the day we decided to leave Nanjing, it stopped raining. The bus ride to Suzhou was a little over two hours. The tollway was the finest that we have seen: very smooth, six lanes and light traffic. That was until we were almost to Suzhou. There was a serious accident in the opposite direction. Traffic in both directions came to a complete standstill. Every vehicle's passengers were out and trying to see the fire. Half our bus emptied, but we were a mile away from the disaster. After 20 minutes things began to move on our side of the highway. Still the rubber-neckers were gumming up the works. Traffic control and flow is awful in China. More than likely this is due to the newness of it all. We arrived about 1:30 and took a taxi to our hotel. The drive there gave us a sense of the beautiful grand moat that encircles the city. This is a stunningly beautiful area.
After a short break we made our way on foot and bus to the Suzhou Silk Museum by an eleven story 400-year old pagoda. Suzhou has dozens of small canals. We crossed several on our way to and from the museum. We decided to walk back from the museum. We picked up a young tour guide that spoke no more that a dozen words of English. Still, it was nice to have the company. After a mile we walked through a large temple area. It was nearly dark. We walked on to a nearby pedestrian avenue. Another half mile we were at a beautiful town square next to the twin Pagodas, but - alas - it was too dark to see them. We stopped for supper, and then walked another mile to our hotel.

To view my photos Suzhow, press HERE for a slideshow.

Tongli Canal
Sex Museum Statue

The rain came back, and our spirits fell. We really wanted to get out and explore this town and some of the beautiful places nearby. We decided to brave it, and visit the nearby village of Tongli. We got a late start, due to the poor weather disaffection. This little village is like a living theme park. I mean this in more ways that you might imagine. You can walk in and walk around the village. But to visit the numerous museums of questionable worth, you have to pay. They even have a ticket office at the entrance to the old city where you can purchase a ticket from $10 to $20 each, depending on the museums and level of service. We are getting sick of this pay to enter every little site. The over commercialization of little places like this really spoils them. Tongli is an extremely nice spot to visit. It is a city of canals with homes backing up to them. Vendors, tea houses, restaurants and shops of every type abound. Its gardens and streets are as charming as they come. Our only wish would have been for good weather, so we could have slowed down and enjoyed sitting and relaxing along the canals. There was one museum that looked interesting, but we declined to go in. A statue in the courtyard of the museum caught my eye. The cold and the rain kept us walking.

Small Canal in Suzhou

Posted by bill at November 21, 2006 07:30 PM