|Today started as normal with breakfast at the hotel. Then on to the bus for a 2 hour trip to Suzhou – a city renowned for its gardens and silk production.
We first visited a hotel to use the toilet as the garden we were visiting had traditional squat toilets. The garden itself was beautiful – the traditional order and chaos. It is called the Garden of the Master of Fishing Nets because the intricate pattern of the walkways and courtyards resembles a fishnet. Beautiful furniture and walkways, it is still used as an artist's retreat. If it wasn't so hot (around 93) it would have been much more pleasant,
hen off to the silk factory. They showed the whole process, from worm to silk. They even had a working (but way out of date) silk factory processing the cocoons. The machines were taking the silk from the cocoons and winding it into silk, then further machines were weaving cloth with the silk. We bought a silk quilt for Alice. There were a LOT of silk products for sale. Having absolutely no idea of the value of silk, I'm hoping we got a good price.
We also got to see the terminus of the Grand Canal – it goes all the way to Beijing – over 1,000 miles, all hand dug. Still in use by barges and pleasure craft.
Then off to Tongli – the Venice of the East – where we had a nice (but hot) lunch. We wandered through the very narrow alleys (the town is 1,800 years old in parts) and visited a wedding museum where we found out about traditional Chinese weddings, but also that most are now very Westernized. The traditional wedding dress for the woman was red, the color for luck. It has shifted to white, which traditionally has been the color of mourning. Hmmm...
Then to another beautiful garden which had a marvelous pond filled with coy. Then to the fun part – a gondola ride on the canals of the city. We had an old woman rowing the boat. She didn't sing. We saw working cormorants as well, eight of them on a boat fishing the canal. Even got to see two of them catch fish and then have the handler take the large fish out and give them a small one as a reward.
Then shopping at an alley way where prices were dirt cheap. But also several artists were working and selling their materials. There were also several buckets of turtles for sale, as well as lotus blossoms (tasted like corn) and more traditional foods.
Finally a bus ride back to the city and a final group meal. It was rather sad to ting the great adventure is almost over.
Almost being the operative word. Tomorrow is a “free” day so we'll go shopping!