Where We Be
|Suzhou is called the Venice of the East and is one of the top tourist attractions in China
|A lone fisherman uses a lever to lower a huge, globe-shaped, bamboo dipping net into the water
|We have no idea who this stern-looking gentleman is but he seems to be chiding us about something -- maybe all the fighting going on behind him
|This guy makes a mean “Chinese crepe.” He adds an egg on top, sprinkles in diced onions and spices, folds it once, adds hoisin sauce and a spicy
red sauce, and finally adds crunchy wafers before folding it again, cutting it in half, and dropping it into a bag. It’s crunchy, spicy, and delicious.
|This dangling fruit is called “dragon’s eyes.” A member of our group who is also a Chinese chef urges us to try them They're tasty, like crunchy lychees.
|You know you're taking too many pictures when even the locals start giving you grief!
|I try a shot of snake wine for 10 yuan ($1.25). It’s called snake wine because a large snake ferments at the bottom of the bottle of rice wine.
The waiter pours me a glass. By now a small audience has gathered to watch. I raise my glass, call out “Ganbei!” and down it in one shot. “It’s actually
quite good!” I insist, but nobody else seems to want to try it. A reverend in our group offers to give me last rites. Robin vows not to kiss me for a week.
|These are the cocoons of silkworms (which are actually caterpillars, not worms). Suzhou is at the heart of silk production in China.
|This woman looks like a mad scientist doing some weird experiment, but she's actually overseeing a machine that spools single threads out from cocoons
|This is so cool! These four workers stretch a silk "cap" of seven cocoons until it is the correct size for the quilt they are making.
|This stretched cap will serve as one layer of batting for a luxurious silk quilt
|Our visit to the silk mill ends with a silk fashion show
|Bus Chat #7:
On "Tofu Projects" & Plastic Surgery
During the 2½ hour bus ride to Suzhou, our
guide Tony gives us another compelling talk.
“For most Chinese, the top five keys to
success are home, son, money, health, and
car.” (We notice love isn’t on the list.) The four
main subjects taught in junior high are math,
history, Chinese, and English. English! That
means in ten years' time most young adults will
be able to speak English in China. He goes on
to tell us about “tofu projects,” housing and
road construction projects that are so shoddy
they collapse like tofu shortly after they’re built.
China has actually had white-collar executions
related to tofu projects: 17 top-level highway
officials were executed by the government due
to a bridge that collapsed, killing many people.
Tony somehow manages to segway from this
discussion to a discussion of plastic surgery.
He tells us the Chinese spend $25 billion per
year on plastic surgery. “There are specialized
tours,” he tells us, “where Chinese women are
taken to Korea as a group for sightseeing
combined with plastic surgery. Special note is
taken by the government when they leave
China since they look so different from their
passport photos when they come back!”
Suzhou is called “The Venice of the East”
because of its many canals. We board a boat
and take a tour of the main canal encircling (or
rather “ensquaring” since it is more or less
square-shaped) central Suzhou. Multi-story
houses crowd both sides of the canal. Chinese
children wave at us from arched bridges that
cross overhead. Women wash clothes on steps
disappearing into the water. Perhaps the most
unusual sight is of a lone fisherman lowering a
huge, globe-shaped dipping net into the water.
Some of the canals are quite narrow: in fact,
one barely accommodates the width of our boat.
That evening we stroll down a side alley with
lots of shops, food stalls, vegetable stands, and
covered markets. We see bunches of young
people and eventually discover a university
with a gated entrance just off the alley. We're
the only Americans there and stand out like a
sore thumb, but everyone is extremely friendly.
Many say “Hello!” to us (it's the one universal
English word all Chinese seem to know) and
smile and laugh when we say “Ni hao!” back.
|"Heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below" is a common Chinese
saying akin to our "Heaven on Earth" or "God's Country"