> rewind to: suzhou
Time for some rewind. I left Shanghai the middle of this month, spent a week in Cancun, and then was on to Wisconsin. Just before leaving Shanghai Sean and I had a weekend away with his team of lawyers. We went to Suzhou, the “Venice of China.” It’s just a couple hours from Shanghai, and it was a fun weekend.
We met outside the office and piled into a little bus and were off. When we got to Suzhou, our little bus bypassed the main part of town and took us to a newer area that is within an industrial park. It was much more picturesque than that sounds. Our hotel had a lovely view of a lake with an island with an old-looking building on it. Next to the lake is an amusement park with a giant ferris wheel which we could also see from our window, which I was super excited about. (It appeared to move about one inch a minute, so we never did take a ride.)
The weekend included three shared meals. The first night was teppanyaki, which seems to be very popular in the Shanghai area. The chef chopped and flipped and etcetera’d in front of us to our stomach’s (dis)content. He had seriously defined forearms and I imagine some back pain. The co-worker next to me and I kept count and determined the meal included 12 different types of creatures, including shrimp from a few different regions of the sea. I am always shocked by how many critters show up in these group meals, especially ones that still have eyeballs or feet intact.
It was hot. So hot and sweaty. Sitting by a windy midwestern lake I almmooost can’t even recall what that humidty was like but then again, yes, yes I can. The kind that makes you want to change clothes about 15 times a day, and that almost gives you pnemonia when you return to air conditioning.
On Saturday Sean and I checked out the old/touristy part of town, full of winding alleyways of trinket shops along the canals. We found a hostel that we’ll probably return to, with a sweet little cafe nearby that has its own line of postcards and images of the area, and will mail a letter for you on a specific day of the month. Lots of cute going on there.
We ended up following along the canal into a “regular” neigbhorhood where people buy fish and snakes to eat, or get a dress made or tailored, or whatever else they might need in their everyday shopping. We bought a funny hand-held pinball game featuring a photo of a white baby for one of my brothers. I found a checkered housedress for 30 kuai. Hardly anything (except for starbucks) costs 30 kuai in Shanghai, and it reminded me that Shanghai is its own thing more than it is typical of China overall.
The hotel had this super over-the-top free brunch with cuisine from around the world. If you want to have a sushi-curry-congi-waffle-bagel-sausage-bacon-donut breakfast, message me for the name of the hotel. Though you’d think a hotel brunch is not a great cultural experience, we actually really enjoyed watching the people from various parts of China or parts of the world navigate the buffet, and tried to guess what brought them to the hotel. It was interesting to see if people chose food that was close to what they usually ate or tried something different.
The last morning we rented bikes from the hotel and cruised alongside the lake. (man-made I think) We could see the building across the way that Sean thinks looks like a pair of giant pants, some beautiful lotuses, modern sculptures, and landscapers in large straw hats. It felt really good to be near a lake and made me homesick and excited to visit home all at once.
On the way back, after getting lost for about an hour, Sean’s boss led us down a dirt path and insisted all 12 of us pile onto a tiny speedboat. We rode very low in the water but made it to our destination, an “authentic farm meal” which lasted over two-and-a-half hours and consisted of at least 7 creatures, mostly with faces, fins, and feet attached. Meals are often long like this, but it was particularly slow because the other group at the restaurant kept going into the kitchen and taking whatever food they wanted, flustering the staff and making them confused as to whether they’d brought us anything or not. Very odd and comical and maybe not great for the digestion.
We made our way back to the city and soon the skyscraper forest appeared and the minibus left us on the curb outside the office.