I’m writing this on our last day in Shanghai. We fly out tonight, our transfer will pick us up at 4pm with checkout at 1pm.
On Sunday we had a nice sleep-in before getting ready for our day. Our breakfast was up on the 25th floor which is pretty cool. However, there was no rice or noodles to have… so we had eggs, bacon and toast.
We ate breakfast with ladies from our group. 5 of them had a midnight flight so they weren’t going to join us for the day touring, but would later join us for dinner.
After breakfast, we went down and grabbed our hotel umbrella, day pack and dry clothes. Today was the first day of our trip that was quite wet.
The four of us and our guide Rachel jumped onto the bus and off we went for a grand adventure!
We were driving for about 2 hours outsideof Shanghai, we lost about half an hour when our driver decided to follow his GPS down these small roads until he got stuck by a low bridge…. so we had to reverse for a while, stop every now and then to let cars go past. Rachel our guide was not impressed, we could tell even if she was speaking in Chinese.
We arrived at our first stop in Suzhou. This area is famous for its gardens. It is only a small city with 1 million people… This garden was called the Master of Nets. Apparently the owner could call their house anything they want.
We had to jump off the bus early as there was lots of traffic and it would be quicker to walk. We wandered through some small streets to get there but the place was extremely beautiful. Rachel took us through the history of these houses and what each room was, but the gardens were phenomenal. It’s hard to explain but the way they thought about the plants they use that every season would be represented so that the garden was always blooming. I would love a retreat that had that outlook like this and quietness with only the birds chirping away.
Apparently there are 60 odd gardens like this of varying sizes in the area and this was the smallest one but Rachel said it was one of the prettiest.
Back on the bus, our next stop was X gate. With all the rain we had to walk a bit further to another entrance which was fine by me as we got to see more of the water. With all this rain, Rachel told us the water level was up about half a metre. The little rivers, bridges and boats were picturesque.
The gate was similiar to Xi’an city gate but this gate was a land and water gate. So we got to see how they would defend both against land and water attacks. We got to climb up on the gate, but we didn’t walk along the wall at all.
Back on the bus for lunch. Lunch was at a small restaurant and it was delicious! So much good food, we had some chinese chicken curry which was so good.
After lunch we jumped back on the bus to go to water city….
So our driver got cut off by some sleek black car, he yelled out in frustration. The car when it cut us off yelled something at the us because at the next lights, our driver unclipped his seatbelt and started opening the door before our guide yelled at him. He grudgingly closed the door… but it was on. Our guy was speeding to catch this black car so he could cut him off… after he did that very finely…. Cindy watched from the back seat to see black car speed up and over take us and then swerve in front of us going over all three lanes…. all the while the ground is wet… and we were going OMG we are going to die. Rachel was telling him in Chinese to slow down etc in very stern voice but now he was yelling at her… road rage big time! Anyway we thankfully survived and made it to water town called Tongli.
This you could kind of draw very small similarities to Venice, a smaller chinese version of Venice. The city lives by the river and all these little bridges going over the water. We went in a shortcut way, Rachel talked us past security saying she would get the tickets later. He was dubious but let us through. We walked through some small streets, saw an extremely old tea shop.
The waterways are quite beautiful, they now have a lot of restaurants and lots of shops along the front of the water. Thankfully the rain has scared off the crowds. We walked by the river and over a few bridges to the Chinese Wedding museum… Rachel ran off to get tickets and the three of us walked over the three wedding bridges that newly married couples would walk over to give them happy life, long life and something else.
When Rachel came back, in we went. I wouldn’t say it was a wedding museum but it does have old traditional wedding clothes and old marriage certificates etc, but then you get to walk around what another house would look like.
After the walk around the house, we walked into the commercial area of the town. We went into another garden called the garden of I quit my job.
Apparently, the guy didn’t want to work and wanted to be an official and stay at home which wasn’t a hard job so he quit his job and was an official and got to stay home. This garden was nice but nothing like Garden of Nets. They did have a awesome bonsai collection though.
We got free time exploring the commercial area, Cindy and I walked around and looked in a few stores. Cindy got me to pose for a picture with this character thing but then I discovered a little knook with cool vending machines. We got Abby a character stuffed toy… the machine wouldn’t give us change (2 yuan), but I didn’t want to donate it, so there was something random for 5 yuan. We put in 3 yuan and we got this random box… no clue what was inside. Our guide looked it over and laughed. We were happy with our selections. Bet you can’t guess what it was.
After that, we boarded the bus to go back to Shanghai. The other lady on the tour needed an ATM so we had to drive and find one and then circled around for 20 minutes till we could pick her and Rachel up.
Just when we hoped our trip couldn’t be any scarier… our driver decides he needs to fly…. Rachel was telling him we aren’t in a rush etc… she told us to put our seat belts on. It all got a bit much when he was trying to overtake a car and a long truck on a 2 way road…I could see cars coming in the distance and even I knew we couldn’t overtake both…. the driver thought he could, we overtake the car and get to the first tyres of the long truck before slam the brakes on and cut in front the car we had just overtook to not have a head on with oncoming traffic.
We were very thankful to hit Shanghai traffic where we had to drive slow. We were late back to the hotel, so no refreshing before dinner. The other half of our group were there ready and off we went to dinner.
Dinner was good, Rachel sat with us (normally the guides sit by themselves and are fed), but she has been by far one of the best guides we have ever had and we always got her to join us. She apologized for the driver today, it was his first time with a tour group, that he had been reported and won’t be driving again as he was too reckless.
After dinner, we had a quick shower and went back downstairs to have a few drinks with the group leaving. We had another round with Ingrid before bed.
Today, we plan on going and doing a little more shopping to use our leftover yuans up.
After getting ready we headed downstairs and I exchanged one of bigger notes for smaller notes for our shopping day. We walked into town and boy it was humid! It was about 3.5km to the markets, we went into a few shops and bought a few little things. We then walked to the main shopping street and went into a mall so I could go to the toilet in a nice and clean environment.
We ate lunch at CoCo Chicken Curry, it wasn’t as good as the one in Japan but still good. We walked back to the hotel. It ended up being a 10km of walking in about 31 degrees and high humidity.
Thankfully we have a late checkout so I could have a quick shower and change.
This afternoon we plan on a few drinks in the lobby until our transfer to the airport.
We said our goodbyes to Ingrid, she was making her way home to Melbourne. I grabbed some cheap vending machine beers and we sat in the lounge area with the large fish tank.
We played some bananagrams and waited until 4pm. Our transfer came up to us five minutes early and we jumped into the van.
The trip was okay, he liked to look at his mobile alot while driving which freaked me out a bit but at least Shanghai is a bit more safer on the roads compared to Beijing so I didn’t feel as bad. I ended up having a small nap.
We got to the airport in an hour and had to go through a mini security check to get into the airport. Checked-in no problem, unfortunately no upgrades.
We lined up and went through immigration and then security. We did a little shopping to get rid of the last of our money and then found the lounge where I am sitting now.
We have had an amazing trip and it has opened my eyes a lot more on China and its people. It’s interesting to see how different each area of China is. I don’t think it’s high on my return list but it is definitely a fascinating country and I have thoroughly enjoyed touring around. The Great Wall Half Marathon will be a run I will remember.