Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday, 7/9/10 9:24 a.m. Raffles Hotel Beijing, Rm 7701

Woke up at 6:30 a.m. after going to bed at midnite but due to adventurous day anxiety, couldn't sleep anymore.  Got showered, packed, breakfast and checked out, then headed to the train station.  We left our luggage at the Sheraton and took the subway to the train station.  The subway took an hour and a half, the train took a half hour.

Once in Suzhou, we headed directly to the Garden of the Master of the Nets which was superb.  I found out after we got there that it's considered the smallest but the best.  The central courtyard garden with its large pond was quintessential Chinese garden.  

We got a bit lost on our way out of the Garden of the Master of the Nets and in wandering through the alleyways, we stumbled upon a non-tourist jade market with huge pieces of jade spread out on blankets on the ground amidst tens of little shops with jewelers cutting and shaping the jade.  Very serendipitous.

We then headed to the Blue Wave Pavilion which is the oldest.  It too was beautiful with a more wild, natural feeling.  Next, we went in search of the canal scene and lucking into Pingjiang Lu.  A lovely walk along the cana with a stop at the Bookworm and then a cab back to our business class seats on the express train to Shanghai.

Once back in Shanghai, we tried to have dinner at Zen on Xin Tian Di but ran out of time so had to leave the restaurant and get a baguette sandwich at Paul.  Back to the hotel to collect our belongings and then to the Shanghai train station for our soft sleeper train to Beijing.

Once on the train, we found a number of English speaking Chinese and spent almost two hours chatting and asking and answering questions.  It was very interesting.   One young man in particular was very curious, asking a lot of probing questions on subjects ragning from family to politics, religion, movies, sex, travel, career . . .

Got up this a.m. just as the train pulled into the Beijing station, long line for a cab, long cab ride (time not so much distance) to the hotel, then a quite personalized check in experience.  We were greeted at the door, our luggage was whisked away from us and we were asked to take a seat at a cafe table.  The very proper Chinese gentleman apologized for troubling us for our passports and my credit card, then left us with some plum juice while he went to the desk to handle all the check in paperwork.  He then personally showed us to our room along with a bellman with our luggage.  It felt a bit like we had an entourage.

Now shower and out to hopefully see the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Wangfujing and the Silk Market.  We may be being a bit ambitious. 

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