A Travellerspoint blog

cycle to Suzhou

beautiful town of ancient enclosed gardens

View 1985 on 1985 trip's travel map.

Tuesday 16th April
Another lovely day. Sit and have tea on the balcony. Local flavour restaurant is just across the yard. Using brazen laugh and smiles the startled Chinese serve me, it seems to be mainly for staff. The waiter from the night before says hello, 'Nee-ha'
Catch bus 27 from the back of the complex with an English fellow who is off to get his thrice daily intramuscular penicillin from the local nurse. He has a sore throat. He'd be better off with an aspirin. Stroll around town, spend time in foreign language book store looking for a phrase book for Melia. Shanghai was her port of entry so she’s not been in China long.
Find bike rental and hired all four bikes for the outrageous fee of 50 Fen an hour with a 50 foreign exchange certificate deposit. Cycle out to the Suzhou canal boat booking office. Locate correct ticket desk and stand in line. A lot of people turned away without tickets, we want two berths on the night boat up the 2000 year old Grand Canal to Suzhou. My Chinese calligraphy amuses the ticket clerks, and after various permutations of today, 2 bed, tomorrow, 2 bed, one today, one tomorrow, are you married, we get invited behind-the-scenes. Queue gets angry and the shop is shut, we are not sure what is going on but keep quiet except when spoken to. They clearly have something up their sleeves. It turns out to be two berths for tonights boat 6.40yuan, but foreign exchange certificates only, and no bargaining. Much tze tzes and by now it’s lunchtime. Bikes get locked up for being in the wrong place. Cycle back to the lake and along the blossom long causeway to a big island, leave bikes in a bicycle park, lunch on the red bean cakes and wallpaper paste all hot and sweet. retire to a grassy knoll overlooking the lake with slightly fewer Chinese tourists and doze in the sun. Get burnt. Read and enjoy First Among Equals.
Canals of Suzhou in 1985

Canals of Suzhou in 1985

Take bikes back to shop. Melia checks out and settles for 12 yuan each! Bus 27 to railway station, wait nearly 40 minutes for Bus 54, in the end catch a Mitsubishi taxi for eight yuan in Remninbees to the boat dock. We are the last to board.
The boat is basically a metal cargo boat with a wooden superstructure erected within and over the hold. Lined with triple bunks we are shown to a private cubicle at the far end with our own table chair and spittoon. Feel very pleased at this unexpected turn of events. The canal turns out be very busy with many house boats plying their trade through the smelly waters. Read late into the night. The evening meal was cheap, filling but uninspiring. Your standard cheap meal in China is plenty of veggies with rice and some slivers of fat and bean curd.

Posted by 1985 trip 16:00 Archived in China

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