Some students from our university acted as our tour guides, so we made our way to the Hangzhou East Bus Station after a 30 min taxi ride to meet up with them. Here we are waiting for our bus to Xitang to arrive.
Jack loves his stocking cap because a) it keeps him warm, and b) people don't know he's a blondie, so he gets a little less attention that way.
After starting from our house about 7:45 am, and 4 hours of walking, taxis, and 2 bus transfers, we finally arrived at Xitang. This sign caught our fancy. If you're going to fall into the water - do it carefully!
As we were waiting to go inside this proud poodle with purple ears walked by.
We stayed for a night in a little local hotel. We were so thankful to have our students with us because we would have never found our little accommodations down this very tight alleyway. Their rooms weren't all together but scattered around the town. They wanted to put the boys in a room that was in a different building, on a different street than ours. We traded rooms around and we got a nice little upstairs-downstairs arrangement right next to the canal.
... and here's the entrance to our little hotel. It is a local place that doesn't see many Westerners and we probably wouldn't have been able to stay without our students helping us.
Sophie and Sue, coming out the alleyway into the entrance of the hotel.
Peter and Jack having a rest in the little anteroom of the hotel after our 4 hour trek to get there!
Xitang is a beautiful water town where part of "Mission Impossible 3" was filmed, so there are a few pictures around of Tom Cruise doing his stunts and interacting with the locals. The houses, shops and boardwalk are built right along the canals.
Day to day life goes on next to the canals too. This little Pomeranian was getting a trim and a blow-dry.
This town is located in the Yangtze River Delta and has a history of over 2,500 years. Long sheltered passageways crisscross the town allowing the people to stay dry when it rains. It's a gathering place for many talented arts and crafts people.
Left: A sign advertising a local hotel, and Right: our friend and fellow teacher, Ashley who came with us on this weekend expedition.
Some local boatmen waiting for customers to take up and down the canals. We were told to wait to do this after nightfall as the town lights are especially pretty then.
A scene through one of the decorative portals on one of the river bridges.
There were many little dogs around, and Sophie had to try to pet all of them. Some of them were not too friendly so we had to block her a few times from getting nipped. One of the students, Rebecca, on the left helped organize the trip, and also helped a lot with Sophie.
People moving up and down the canals...
Some of the quaint little houses that line the canals...
We ate a late lunch, and although it was about 40 degrees, there was no heat and all the windows were open, so everyone was bundled up. Everyone, that is, except Sophie who likes to be as cold as possible.
"Michelle" and "Rebecca", the two girls who organized our trip and took such good care of us.
... the view from the restaurant window.
From the boardwalk side of the canal, we could look across and see a Chinese Opera going on.
As evening advanced, more boats began appearing on the river.
This fisherman had some help! He grabs his trained birds by the head and dumps them into the water. They dive down, grab some fish, and give it to him. Then he gives them a treat. We have heard before of the fishermen placing metal bands around their necks so they can't swallow the fish themselves, but these birds didn't seem to have the bands. He would call his birds by splashing his oar on the water so they could hear him when they were beneath the surface.
Late afternoon looking down one of the canals.
Later in the day, it's getting colder, but this restaurant's windows are all open!
Our 3 lovely tour guides, Rebecca, Michelle, and Lillian.
Rebecca, Sue and Ashley looking at a picture of Tom Cruise that was taken while he was making "Mission Impossible 3".
Peter sat still long enough for me to take a picture of him, but he likes to dart his tongue in and out of his mouth to try to foul up my picture. Finally his tongue is not sticking out.
Another shot, where both brothers were conspiring to mess up my picture. Jack jumped in front at the last second :) .
As daytime transitioned into night, it was time to go get fireworks for the evening festivities. The boys were very excited and looking forward to lighting them off!
Our motley group of travelers...
Sophie found a friendly little kitten and was gentle with it, briefly.
The townspeople use the canal water for everything, and we saw many examples of people dipping in their mops or washing their clothes.
There are many opportunities to buy floating candles to launch on the water at night. The boys' plan was to buy a few of these and destroy them on the water with fireworks.
Rebecca with Peter and Jack. We told her her boyfriend would get jealous if he saw this shot.
More Xitang scenery...
Here we are all together. We had to stop the foot traffic on this bridge while we set up the timer for this shot, and the locals and tourists were willing to oblige.
Sue and Sophie, with Sue trying not to look tired of looking after her all day. Since we were next to the canals all day we had to watch her constantly and she is so fast!
Go pluck a duck! We watched this woman do it as we had never seen it before. It looked like quite a laborious task!
The water town at night. No those aren't UFO lights above, but someone firing a Roman Candle over my head.
Looking down an alleyway at night to a little bamboo garden.
The boys loved the sparklers, and all of the other fireworks. They waited until others floated their candles down the canals and made their wishes, then Peter and Jack fired their Roman Candles at them. Nice!
Another funny example of "Chinglish".
Launching fireworks off of the bridge...
... and here we are in the boat, looking at a beautifully lit up Xitang. We sang Christmas carols as the boatman rowed, and he thought we were all crazy.
After a night of sleeping on a bed consisting of 1) a wood plank and 2) a sheet, we were ready to get up and finish our exploration of Xitang. The bed had no mattress, but rather just wooden boards with the sheet on top so we were not adjusted to it! Here are Sue and the girls ready to take on the day.
Tim with Lillian, Rebecca and Michelle.
We met this Pomeranian again who had been coiffed the day before, and Sophie wanted to give him some love. He wasn't interested in her affections however!
This is an old style chamber pot; we weren't sure if this was in use any more or not, and no one wanted to go check.
We watched these guys dredge the canal for awhile. They probably have to dredge up all of the fireworks waste that gets thrown in the night before!
This woman was over 90 years old and she had such an interesting face we had to get a shot of her. She must have seen many interesting things in China during her lifetime!
We ordered some cotton candy at this little shop, and the woman had just gotten this new machine. She wasn't too good at making the cotton candy yet, so she offered Jack to have a try. Sue and a few others also tried, but Jack had the knack!
... and here's Jack again, having made friends with that mean little Pomeranian!
After a rough night on rock-hard beds and a weekend of adventuring, we were all ready to go home. We had an uneventful and sleepy ride back home where we ordered pizza and relaxed!