I'm in Shanghai, and loving it!! I think the reason is because it has a river flowing through the middle and there is something about a river flowing through a city - a focal point? The ageless tranquility of nature? A break from the unending concrete? I have also got myself a super duper hotel right on the river in a super duper location and that also makes a difference. AND I've got myself upgraded to an EXECUTIVE room with FREE INTERNET!!! The hotel is gorgeous - one of the oldest in Shanghai with ballroom-sized bedrooms, dark wood panelling and floorboards and chandeliers! The only trouble was that the room I was in was very, very noisy - traffic, all day and all night. So I asked to change and they upgraded me! What a result!! It is only with the greatest reluctance that I venture out from the luxurious womb of my room! But I do like Shanghai... So, back to the blog...
It has been a mere month since I left the UK - it feels more like a year! And this is my last stop before Guilin (hurrah!), where I shall be until the beginning of August.
Before Shanghai I was in Suzhou, which I imagined would be small and quaint, but was actually large and sprawling with the usual towering skyscrapers and heaving and seething with traffic - a smaller version of Beijing, which all Chinese cities seem to be. However, the sun came out and the pockets of 'old' China came in the form of the beautiful gardens ands canals of Suzhou. The trees are all in blossom, the birds are singing and the gardens with their winding stone pathways, zig-zag bridges, strange rock formations, fish-filled ponds and picturesque pavillions are beautiful and tranquile, in spite of the hordes of tour groups. The tour groups are almost exclusively Chinese - there are very few Europeans, which makes me as much of a curiosity as the places I visit! The children stare and point and shout 'hello' and the adults want me in their photos! The gardens are all different yet all very distinctively Chinese. The final one had a lady dressed in a lovely silk kimono-type dress, being rowed about on a small lake as she sang most beautiful songs, (full of pathos), and strummed a guitar-like instrument, all in the most glorious spring sunshine. It was quite enchanting!
Unfortunately the enchantment disappeared as I tried to get back. There was not a taxi to be had anywhere and in desperation I hopped on a likely looking bus which did get me part of the way back and the rest was a wild ride on a bicycle-rickshaw to the Grand Canal to do an evening boat trip. The Grand Canal is another tribute to the indefatigable industry of the Chinese. It is as wide as the Thames and runs for thousands(?) of miles and is entirely man-made. Truely an achievement to rival the Great Wall!
Yesterday morning I set off for Shanghai (with my ever heavier and unwieldy bags). The train was delayed and packed when it arrived so had to stand all the way (not too far), then found that the hostel I had planned to go to was closed for repairs, so I opted for a bit of luxuary, on the basis that things are going to be pretty basic when I get to Guilin. So, that just about brings me up to date!! Until the next time, love and best wishes to all!