Hello Friends and Family,
We are approaching the last day of a three holiday and head back to work on Sunday for the next 6 days. We still struggle with the concept of payback in holidays. We get an extra day but it comes off your weekend. TIC.
We have had a delightful weekend with friends visiting Terry and Geoff in Jiaxing. This is a farming community about 150 km. from Shanghai. We set out and took the subway to the Hongqiao Train Station about 8:30 in the morning. The subway was very crowded but we shoved our way on and rode the 35 minutes to the railroad Station in a subway car with 200 of our very close Chinese friends. At least they are friends now. It’s a pity more of these people do not believe in personal hygiene or deodorant. Anyways we arrived about 9:30 with the intent of buying a ticket for the 10:00 train where we met Steve H and Lawrence V.
Steve, Lawrence and I are waiting for the gate to open so we can catch the train.
We waited an hour in line, the whole time glaring at those folks who dared to try and jump the line because they were far too important to wait. One fellow tried, but Steve made short work of him by asking the person he stood next to if they were together. A negative response resulted in the gentleman finally moving.
The station was big but the crowds were enormous. Note to self, never travel on a holiday week-end. After an hour wait, we boarded the fast train and 22 minutes later pulled into Jiaxing.
Rural China is beautiful. Despite the fact there is more land available once you are outside of Shanghai, there is a tendency to build upwards as opposed to outwards. All available land is used for farming.
There are small rivers and irrigation canals to water the crops and also provide an opportunity for the farmers to fish.
Here is the fast train. Each car hold about 180 passengers and there are 16 cars on our train. There were about 6 trains that left for our destination and beyond every hour. That’s a lot of people!
Steve, Lawrence and Kim at the Jiaxing Station.
Although it is a farming community it still has a population of 3 and a half million people. That’s twice the size of Vancouver.
Our bus ride from the station to the downtown was 40 minutes. Here is our driver. Mark, this picture is just for you! Every time the bus stopped bells started to ring, buzzers flashed and a Chinese voice came on. I think the voice was either announcing the stops, telling people to be careful or just thanking them for riding with the bus service. Perhaps all three. It sounded as if the driver was playing a video game. He was on level 19 and had three extra lives because he had run a number of lights. Who knows. I appreciated the fact that he takes my view on speed bumps. If you are going fast enough, you can hit the first bump, get airborne and land just after the last speed bump.
Terry and Geoff were wonderful hosts. They had lovely snacks waiting for us and took us on a tour of Jiaxing. The city is beautiful.
We got a tour of Geoff & Terry’s school. Here is the Reading Room/Library .
This was a tourist center in downtown Jiaxing. There was almost no one there.
Here is the museum in Jiaxing. It was a huge impressive building, but we didn’t go inside. It was just too nice a day!
There were lots of funky little boats on the lake.
This Teahouse was right on the lake.
This handsome fellow was standing around looking pretty groovy in his costume and seemed to understand I wanted a picture, so he took on this serious face, I made the shot and he was all smiles again!
Here is the Junk where the Communist MAnifesto was signed in Jiaxing many years ago!
Here is a beautiful Pagoda beside the lake.
Steve is a relaxed tourist and like us all took lots of pictures!
Here is the pagoda we climbed all of the way to the top. All very cool!
The view of the lake and the city in the background from the top of the pagoda. This is certainly not your typical BC farming community.
Here we are at the top. Proof we climbed up!
The highlight was dinner at Krabi Thai Restaurant. It was very low key, we brought our own wine, ate a ton of delicious Thai food, listened to the fabulous Charlie and the Cowboys Filipino Band. (I even got to dance with the girl lead singer.)
Yes we had a great time! The entire evening was $12.50 each. I love China! We stayed at the Leedum Hotel where the clerk spoke some English. It seems we always do much better when they speak no English at all. Our hotel room faced the main street so Kim and I had quite a noisy night being woken up regularly by the buses, which sound a lot like video games every time they stop. The hotel itself was pretty nice and very modern. It was like our hotel in Suzhou, where one of the walls to the bathroom is glass. This meant I could watch Kim while she took a shower. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen….
We woke up about 7:00 and had the hotel breakfast. It was more like a Chinese dinner buffet with some very old noodles, rice, some deep-fried chicken cardboard sawdust treats, and something called a fungus tablet. I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to eat that or put it between our toes. Then we discovered they also had fresh omelets, delicious watermelon and honeydew melon. They also had a fresh pot of coffee. You just have to look to find the rainbow sometimes. Unfortunately, Kim and I had already eaten some of the other less delightful fare that was offered and we both suffered from upset stomachs for the rest of our day.
We met Geoff and Terry at Starbucks then Terry, Lawrence and Steve, braved the rain and went for a walk while Kim, Geoff and I stayed high and dry back at their apartment and solved all of the problems of the world. Jiaxing is a beautiful City. Terry and Geoff have a great school and a beautiful apartment. I understand why they have chosen to stay another year.
If you get a chance to read Terry and Geoff’s blog, it’s very funny and informative.
They are going through the same sorts of issues as we have with one huge difference. There are very few white people in Jiaxing so we really stand out. It turns out that watching foreigners in a subtle, quiet or unassuming manner is not a strong point of the Chinese.
People would openly gawk at us, take our pictures, or just sit and stare at us. Geoff is a lot like me. He has takes the view if you get to stare at me, I will greet you and interact with you as much as I can. It turns out that the Chinese really like this. So we have many new friends. The rain washed out plans of a day roving around Jiaxing, so after Steve and Lawrence finished their quick walk about with Terry, we bid them good-bye and trained back to Shanghai. The return trip was much faster with no bottle neck at the train station again.
I like to point out cultural differences as I notice them, to help our readers better understand our experiences and also help them learn more about Chinese culture. This week I want to talk about temperatures. It seems we Canadians are a lot more accepting of the cold and the Chinese do better with the heat. Now before you jump on me and accuse me of making a huge sweeping generalization let me provide some evidence…
Evidence 1: On Thursday, Kim and I are walking to the subway station on our way to meet Steve and Lawrence and I can only describe it as being quite hot. Even Kim who is always cold stopped to take off her fleece coat. Every person we passed was wearing a winter jacket. It’s 17 degrees and sunny, but still the winter coats with lots of layers. We have heaters in our classroom and we turn them on, but our students will sit there with their winter jackets and 3-4 layers of clothing on in case it gets cold?
Evidence 2: We arrive at the hotel in Jiaxing and it is modern and comfortable. By western standards, this place is easily a 3-4 star hotel. The room is complete with a mini-bar. The water here is not drinkable so all hotels provide a few bottles of drinking water to brush your teeth, however, the water is warm. So Kim and I put the water in the mini-bar fridge. We love our cold water. We get back to the hotel and want a drink of water to find that our water and all the drinks in the fridge are warm! The fridge is never turned on or plugged in!!!!
Evidence 3: Now Geoff has already spilled the beans about this in his blog, but it bears repeating. Our Thai dinner was delicious and spicy and a round of water was in order. We asked and the waitress brought us a pot of hot water as though we were drinking tea. We asked in English for cold water and she just looked at us in disbelief. I thought she didn’t understand us as her English wasn’t great so I asked in Chinese. I asked for ice water. (Editor’s note: The word for ice is bing in Chinese. It’s pretty hard to mess up that word so it wasn’t my lousy accent.) She kept asking bing? Bing? Bing? We kept saying yes. Ice water. Cold water. She shook her head and went off and returned 2 minutes later with an ice bucket filled with ice and a large pot of steaming hot water. Clearly it had just been freshly boiled. She lifted the lid off of the tea pot and steam floated gently thru the air. She then picked up the ice tongs and carefully dropped 3-4 ice cubes into the steaming hot water. She then looked at us as if we were all crazy and left.
The defense rests. Enjoy your weekend. We miss you all!
The view from our hotel room.
This is wonderful. In case of fire, they leave you a couple of smoke masks you can wear to get out safe!! I felt so safe in that hotel!!!!