My mother was on on an artist's tour of China where they have been on a rampage to see many artistic sights in 3 weeks - in the last 3 weeks she has been on 4 plane flights taking her all over China! The closest leg of her tour to us in Hangzhou, was Suzhou, a 3 hour train ride away. Suzhou is known for its beautiful gardens which is why their tour group is stopping there.
So, last night we went too early to the East Hanghzou train station to catch the train to Suzhou, to avoid Hangzhou crazy rush-hour traffic. We were surprised to see that we were the ONLY Westerners around, and we soon drew quite a crowd! There are mostly farmers and other people from the countryside who use this station so they were very surprised to see us! We may have been the only live Westerners some of them had ever seen!
While waiting for our train, we bought some Ramen bowls of noodles from the shop behind us, and the shopkeeper pulled out a little table and stools and we ate there in front of the shop.
What a great marketing technique, as we soon had more than a hundred people in a circle around us all watching our every move, and buying things from that little shop to eat while they watched we strange Americans! You can see the legs of the front row of onlookers in the photo below. Next time we charge admission!
Peter and Jack were asked for several pictures; here are some college kids who wanted their picture with them. The girls all told them how handsome they are. :) Of course they're right!
Next, we boarded the train, and we had sleeper beds which were very comfortable for the 3 hour ride from Hangzhou to Suzhou. Sophie loved climbing up and down the ladder. Who would have guessed?
Peter and Jack enjoyed spending part of their time on the top bunks, and fell asleep for a couple of hours.
Jack lodged himself between the top 2 bunks, and I was below him taking this picture. We have just finished the Lord of the Rings movies and Jack has just finished reading "The Hobbit", so we think Jack looks particularly like "Gollum" in this picture!
Unfortunately for the rest of us, Sophie stayed up for most of the ride!
We arrived around midnight at the Bamboo Grove Hotel, a very nice 4 star hotel in Suzhou - here are the kids the next morning with Grandma at a real Western Breakfast! Yum.
We went with Mom and her tour group to the Garden of the Master of Nets. The garden was laid out in the 12th century, abandoned, then restored in the 18th century. Apparently the owner, a government official, had had enough of bureaucracy and decided to become a fisherman, using this garden as a hobby. Some pics below of us in the garden with Grandma.
A very peaceful garden! However, while we were there, a little Chinese boy of about 5 was leaning against a railing when it gave way. He fell into the pond and an Italian guy jumped in and saved him. The boy came out throwing up pond water, but he seemed to be ok after awhile.
Here is Mom's friend and roommate, Ingrid Turner.
Some of my Mom's tour group doing their painting. The master is in front with a purple shirt.
Here is part of the scene they were painting.
... and the Master's result starting to take shape!
Sophie enjoyed climbing on all of the rocks, next to the signs that said, "No Climbing". We sent Grandma after Sophie to chase her all morning. I think she got a good workout!
These two were dressed in period clothing and were quite a nice sight in this lovely garden.
Sophie thought maybe she could walk all the way up the side of the doorway - with Grandma's help!
... Peter being 11 for the camera.
Peter bought a bottle that is painted on the inside, for a friend. Sue found a bigger one for cheaper somewhere else, so Peter was a bit disappointed that he didn't get the best deal! Live and learn!
We took rickshaws back from the garden to the hotel. My mom, myself, Jack and Sophie all piled into the other one. It was very "cozy", and he charged us double what Sue and Peter paid - probably because we were twice as heavy!
Inside the Bamboo Grove Hotel. Peter and Jack said they wanted to be picked up like Sophie, so I said - it's my turn to be picked up, and they did it!
Outside of the Garden of the Master of the Nets was - you guessed it- shopping! This is Peter and Jack's favorite activity. Probably Sue's as well. I usually end up holding Sophie and try go away from them so they don't ask me for more money :)
... in case you had any doubt as to where the bargains are, this sign will tell you. It's not in Chinese though - how do the locals know which one is the cheapest??
The hotel has a little bar that had a pool table, foosball and darts and we were the only people there. This afternoon, Mom, the boys and I went to the bar and played all of these games while Sue and Sophie slept. We felt a bit guilty about not going out and seeing more of Suzhou today but it was nice to visit with Mom and have some down-time. Speaking of time - Chairman Mao can help you keep track of it, below...