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nomadnorrie From Sydney to the formula 1 grand prix in Shanghai, Beijing, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Europe. Final destination by train is London. Hopping on a flight to Finland, then on to Japan and finally back to Sydney.


CHINA | Saturday, 6 October 2007 | Views [6131]

I visited ZhouZhuang yesterday, it's a small town close to the Yangtze river about 80km from Shanghai. It's a pretty town with lots of canals and old buildings dating from the Ming dynasty. To get there I had to use a Shanghai tourist bus, the little Mandarin that I know did actually help me buy the right ticket and get on the right bus at the right time. My bus was one of about thirty that arrived in ZhouZhuang that day. Consequently the quaint little town was flooded with thousands of predominantly Chinese tourists.

Mock workshop?
I wandered about without really taking too much notice of where I was going. I didn't have a map but wasn't worried because the town is small and the streets are nicely aligned with each other, principally because of the canals. I stumbled across an open workshop where a couple of old ladies appeared to me making some clothes. Everywhere I had been so far was incredibly noisy, there were so many tourists I had to fight my way through the crowds so as not to disappear in them. Chinese tourists in ZhouZhuang, like the groups of north Americans and Germans at my hotel, make an awful lot of noise. I stood silently watching the old ladies do their thing with the weaving equipment for about five minutes or so. It was just long enough for the nearest batch of tourists to move away. Suddenly there was a soothing silence and the weavers stopped what they were doing, they sat back in their chairs and had a bit of a rest. That was when I realised it was in fact a show. There were actually lots of similar workshops open for people to peer in and say aaaaahhhh in amazement; very slowly, craftsman were making combs, painting the insides of bottles and writing on grains of rice.

A short while later I found the main temple in the town, QianFu, at the edge of the lake. The sun was hot and the air was humid, I'd been walking for about an hour and I was desperate for a rest. So, I perched myself on a seat in one of the shaded areas within the temple and just watched what was happening. There were several connected ponds and the one nearest to me was where I saw a constant stream of tourists buying turtles and goldfish to release. On the way to the temple I saw turtles for sale to eat, because of that I was expecting to see someone fishing out the freshly released turtles, and then later for them to be cooked and sold to the same tourists that released them. I didn't spot see anyone fishing there.

ZhouZhuang ferry
I left the temple and made my way along another canal street for a slow amble, this time along the canal. I got a closer look at the boats and how they work. The locals seemed to keep the boats moving with very little effort by moving the tip of the oar through a figure 8, most were smiling and seemed to be enjoying it. In contrast I was hiding in the shade, perspiring at the thought of them having to stand in the sun for so long. Oddly one of the moored boats had half a dozen pelicans resting on it, I rushed over to take a photo but was tackled by a fast reacting Chinese woman who covered my camera lens with a rather nicely framed photo. I thought she might be confused so looked at her in a puzzled way but in fact it was me who was confused. With a bird like squawk she pointed at the nearby sign that I missed. To take a photo of the birds would cost me AUD$1. I didn't bother. As I was moving away I looked back and wondered why the birds don't just fly away. They were gently flapping their wings and warbling their throats as though they were hot. That was when I noticed that they were all tethered to the boat.

After roughly 50 restaurant owners had asked me to dine in their restaurant I gave in. Up to that point I was frequently harassed with "Hello, have lunch." "I'm not hungry" I would reply in English but that didn't work so I tried it in Mandarin "我没胃口", that didn't work either. Eventually I sat down to have lunch somewhere where I could try the local beer at a reasonable price. I was delighted to find Pork and Bamboo in the vegetarian section of the menu so I ordered that. Apart from the odd hint of Ginger it was the most bland food I had tried since getting off the plane. Shortly after I arrived a western family dined at the table opposite me. The family managed to capture the attention of the whole restaurant when their child started playing in the entrance. There was a mad rush of cameras going off as the other diners started taking pictures of the kid clapping his hands. After lunch it was nearing time for me to find my way back to the tourist bus station. I had 2 large beers at lunch so my decision making capability was ever so slightly impaired. I ended up getting lost quicker than I could have thought possible. After much manic and a few attempts at asking for directions I found my way back. Luckily I can say useful things in Mandarin like "This is my bus ticket. Where is the bus station." Unfortunately I cannot always understand the reply. By the time I had arrived back at the bus car park I still had about 45 minutes so I decided to sit down and have a refreshing drink. I was approached near the bus car park and offered beer. After inquiring about the price, which is a very important step, and then haggling I managed to get the price down to a reasonable amount, but that was on the condition that I had 2 large bottles. In the time it took me to get through the fresh beer sitting on the table I was amusing myself by annoying the waiter with questions like "Do you have any brothers?". "Are you from Shanghai?" "Have you got any children?". The last one was particularly funny because the kid was probably not much more than 15. In the end they got fed up with me asking silly questions and not ordering food so they tried to sell me some take away. Gesticulating wildly at the selection or near-dead looking, upside down fish they had in the tank they tried again and again until I finally finished the last drop of beer and buggered off.

Tags: Sightseeing



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