Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Typical Zhouzhang view - it is pretty, isn't it?

Back street of Zhouzhang - also a bit like Venice, see?

Stack of old wine jars in Zhouzhang

Part of Temple in Zhouzhang

Grounds of same temple and pagoda built to hide mobile mast.

cormorants - used to catch fish, etc.

Traffic jam!

'Gondola' in action

Approach to Northern Pagoda

Northern Pagoda, Suzhou

Northern Pagoda Garden Suzhou

BIG incense!

Last night I ate at an Ughyur place, they being the peoples of North-West China and other Central Asian republics where I would like to go. To be honest it was a bit disappointing, just heated up mutton on bread in gravy, probably good to prepare on horseback before invading Europe, but I have gotten used to some very nice Chinese cooking, albeit that I don't always want to eat all of it.

Anyway, apropos yesterday's conversation about hairdressers, on the way home afterwards, I saw what was obviously a hairdressers, at least I thought it was. It was brightly lit, all glass shopfront, on a mainish road, and the clincher was that a whole family were in there. So I whipped in too, and I have to say it was the best haircut I have ever had, no, honestly Mrs!

I didn't want a shampoo, but got one anyway, combined with a lengthy Indian Head Massage of my shampooed head (all nowhere near a basin), then a rinse, and then more head massage and some upper back massage, and then over to a craftsman of hair who spent ages cutting my hair, then another rinse, and dry. About $1.50 (no pound sign on this PC). I thorougly recommend it, though now I see how hairdressing can develop into a front for other 'massage'.

This morning, up early and off by bus to the nearby town of Zhouzhang, heavily marketed throughout China as their Venice. It is similar, in that like almost all the places in the Yangzi Basin area where I am, it is completely flat and covered in rivers, canals, bridges, etc. Also like Venice it has a very old town centre, the attraction in question. However, all the sewage goes in the river, all the clothes are washed in it, and as far a I could tell, half the food came from it. I have stopped having cooked lunches some time ago, as an attempt at dieting (I live off the nuts and dried fruit that are easy to get everywhere round here), and I was glad, because everyone of the hundreds of cafes had things either in tanks next to you, or trying to escape from plastic bowls in front of the establishment. I should also add that we are back to 100% humidity again, as far as I can tell.

Seriously though, it was a very beautiful place indeed, until about two hours after I got there, when everyone else in the Province arrived, and then it was pretty intolerable, as the streets were so narrow. Fortunately I'd been almost everywhere by then.

As I think I may have said before, I go days at a time wihout being able to have a proper conversation (one reason why I am on the PC so much, as well as keeping me out of bars). Funnily enough though, today I met again this Jamaican woman and her German friend that I was speaking with in a garden in Suzhou yesterday.

Crossing the road is noticeably more tricky in Suzhou than Beijing, even though the roads are a lot smaller. It is because there are so many bikes and motorbikes. Anyway, I got a pedicab back to the station, and as I was walking into the bus station, not paying attention for some reason, I got hit head on by a motorbike, and I don't mean a moped either. This hurt (my left leg) a bit at the time, and is beginning to hurt even more now, but luckily no broken bones, etc.

Then back to Suzhou and visiting the Garden of the Northern Pagoda. Lovely garden, lovely pagoda (nicest yet), the biggest incense sticks I have ever seen (over six feet high and as thick as my wrist), and a still working 1700 year old Buddhist Monastery. People were getting classes, prayers were being done, etc. Not for the first time, I saw a Chinese asking a monk how he should pray.

I'm not sure if its a legit tactic or not, but I went in a top hotel, and got the staff in their Business Centre to check out train tickets for me to Huang Shan Mountain, my next goal. No seats tomorrow night, but a choice of all types the night after. I thought instead of going to Hangzhou to see the legendary West Lake, but knew that would involve two long hard seat journies instead, so I agreed to night after tomorrow. My only regret is that for the sake of ten quid (lot of money round here) I went hard sleeper (top bunk though), when it may have been a rare opportunity to try soft sleeper.

A slight worry is that despite several attempts I can't find anywhere to burn CDs and I am about to run out of memory in a few days.

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