For your convenience, please refer to The Journey for the itinerary and the latest updates.
Weather: Cold and hazy
It was Christmas and we were heading to Suzhou on a train.
Train: CRH D5416
Depart: Shanghai Station 10:06
Arrive: Suzhou Station 10:42
Time taken: 36 min
Cost: 26 RMB
We arrived on-time again but didn’t have any plan for the place.
Escaping the touts, we had our second breakfast at KFC (first was instant noodles at Shanghai Station) and planned our next move. Alan’s friend had recommended us to go to Shantang Street, a rather well-preserved historical street with canals running through it.
We got into one of those unlicensed cabs (bad mistake) and the driver brought us to a ticket counter. In order to enter the historic area, we would need to pay 45 RMB. Being gullible, we just paid up and didn’t realize that we did not need any ticket to visit the main street at all.
The less gentrified part felt more real as the people there were actual residents. After our lunch, we continued exploring the area.
Across the bridge lied the underbelly of Suzhou.
From far we could see the old city gate.
Exiting the historic area, we entered the more modern part of Suzhou. I could hardly believe my eyes. There were so many pretty girls. Especially the one at McDonald’s (I’m sure that Alan will know who I was talking about). The myth that Suzhou produces beauties is no urban legend. Too bad I’m too coward to take their photos. Feeling tired from all the walking (not legs going soft from all the beauties), we went inside to Holiday Inn’s lobby to rest. Little did we know that we would return there again.
Kee Yeh, Alan’s army friend who was doing an internship there, would meet us in Suzhou’s equivalent of Orchard Rd after work. Christmas is not a public holiday in China and since we were early, we waited for him at KFC (our second visit for the day).
We were fortunate enough to have the shift manager to entertain us.
Sorry for the poor quality picture but trust me; she was one of those typical Suzhou beauties whom we were seeing all day. Silky hair + big eyes + porcelain skin + slim figure.
What got our attention was that she had a routine inside the restaurant. It was me who noticed it first. She would stand at the counter and observe her crew and help out if necessary. Then she would disappear inside the kitchen for quite a while. Then she would walk and check herself in the mirror right beside the counter. Then she would walk round the premise and she would never fail to remind the cleaning lady to clear the tables. Then she would walk to the washroom/washbasin are and check herself in the mirror. I estimated that she checked herself in the mirror at least once every minute when not behind the counter. Observing her kept Alan and I amused and before long his friend arrived.
After dinner he brought us to another historic/touristy area with canals lighted up in the evening (I forgot the name) where we chilled out and shared stories.
We also drank tea at a tea tavern which was ran by a Hongkonger. Apparently he used to work in theater and was hired to join a theater group in Suzhou. The place grew on him and he decided to start his business there. We couldn’t help but notice that the lady running the shop with him was gorgeous as well. Perhaps that was the real reason.
Kee Yeh and us parted and we had to return to the Holiday Inn. Alan had misplaced his cap and mobile phone in the hotel’s washroom and I had to wait inside the cab for him. The cab driver was getting impatient and kept asking us to hurry up. As if I would. I thought that I might want to tip him for waiting but changed my mind because of his attitude.
We caught train D5449 to Shanghai and took metro and cab back to our hostel. I ended up chatting with a Mauritian guy who studied architecture in NUS. He took a year off from his studies and was learning Chinese in Beijing. He was in Shanghai on a holiday with his friends in language school and it was cool talking to him. He impressed me with his language ability; apparently he could speak like five languages fluently. That’s WOW.