Small day trips around Shanghai
22.09.2007 - 20.09.2007 32 °C
Although it hasn't been that long since our last entry, we have done quite a few things in the past couple of days so this entry may get lengthy. I apologize in advance!
Last weekend we had to work both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I (Heidi) actually had to teach a couple of demos for parents and students. I was unaware that I would have to do this so soon. I was hoping I could teach a few classes to get comfortable before I had to do a class in front of parents. Any of you who know me will understand that I did not sleep a wink the night before the demo. I could just imagine my face getting all blotchy and my voice getting shakey. But it actually went really well, I taught body parts to a small group of 4-5 year olds. I got them all laughing and a few parents signed their kids up so, I must have done an okay job.
After work, we found a restaurant near our home that was serving an American style BBQ. They had shish-kebobs, chicken breasts, hot dogs, potato salad and beer. It was all you can eat for $10 and we took full advantage, it was actually very good and we plan on going back this weekend.
Monday we spent running errands and going to the foreign book store. We really miss having a Barnes and Noble right around the corner! We ended up only buying a cookbook though because the books were kind of expensive, $10 for a paperback. I have also been on a mission to find fingernail polish remover, I still have my toenail polish on from the wedding! Unfortunately I have only been able to find some that cost $25, thats right 25 USD for a small bottle of fingernail polish remover.For that much money, I can just wear socks until it grows off! So our errand running was not that successful.
Tuesday was a big day. We went to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park with our friends Erik and Amara. This is a type of zoo where the animals are not in cages but in big yards with moats around them. There is also a bus that you can take through the "reserve" part of the park. They used to sell live animals for you to throw out of the bus windows to the animals but have stopped doing that recently. It wasn't clear if that was for safety reasons or for cruelty to animals reasons. Whichever the reasons, the animals have not gotten used to it and still walk up to the bus begging for food, like the bear and lion below.
Other than the animals that wandered to the bus, most were just sleeping in the shade, quite disappointing! The rest of the zoo was pretty nice, there were a lot on monkeys and baby lions but it was such a hot day that most of the animals were laying around. The highlight of the day came when we visited Lemur Island. This is an island where all the lemurs roam free outside of their cages. You can purchase fruit to feed them and they will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. When I heard about this, I was less than excited, animals eating right out of your hand sounded pretty gross to me! It was actually really fun, they were pretty cute/weird looking but their fur was really soft and their feet had soft little pads on them. They would come right up to you and jump on your head and shoulders just fighting for the apples. Then they would sit right on your shoulder and munch away at the food.
Tuesday was Mid-Autumn Holiday, the celebration of the Full Autumn Moon. To celebrate, we were invited by our friend Ben to go out to dinner. We met him at his apartment where he treated us with mooncakes. Traditional mooncakes are cakes filled with a variety of things such as bean paste, egg yolk, or nuts. Ben bought us some more "American" style mooncakes which were made out of white or milk chocolate and filled with bean paste. Afterwards we enjoyed a spicy Sichuan dinner and then walked around Fudan Universtiy campus. Since it was a holiday, there were people everywhere, sitting on blankets, reading poetry, looking at the moon and of course eating mooncakes. It was quite festive and reminded us of the 4th of July, everyone just spending time with friends and family. The moon was quite beautiful that night!
Wednesday we got up really early to catch a 7:45 train to Suzhou, which is a city about 1 hour outside of Shanghai. Suzhou is a "smaller" city with a population of 5.1 million. It is very famous for its ancient gardens, at one time there was over 100 but now only about 1 dozen remain. When we got to the train station, we were a little disappointed, that part of the city is really dumpy with decaying buildings and muddy canals but after we started walking the city soon turned quaint. Narrow streets with overhanging trees. Our first stop was the North Temple Pagoda, which is the tallest pagoda south of the Yangzi River at 9 storeys tall. We climbed to the top and had an awesome view of the city. The temple goes back 1700 years and was originally a residence. We spent some time wandering the grounds, with the hidden gardens and Buddha statues.
Next we headed to the Humble Administrator'a Garden, the biggest and most impressive in Suzhou, it was constructed in the early 1500s. Everything about this garden was beautiful and you could tell that much thought has been put into the placement of every building, tree and stone. Although it was a very hot day, the garden has been constructed to keep people cool, everywhere we went we were either in the breeze or under the shade of a tree. It was very beautiful and very peaceful.
Above is just one of hundreds of bonsai trees in the garden. There where trees there anywhere from 5 to 100 years old. It is such an interesting and time consuming art. This was one of Nate's favorites.
To end the day we went to the Suzhou Silk Museum. Suzhou was once an important part of the silk road and has a 4000 year old silk industry. We where able to observe ancient and modern techniques of silk making. It was really interesting. They even had baskets full of silk worms munchin' away at mulberry leaves in preparation for their cocoon making. If anyone needs some silk, that is the place to purchase it, you can get a meter of silk for less that $1!
We decided to only do a few things in Suzhou on Wednesday, the weather was really too hot to do much outside and since it is so close to Shanghai and it only costs $2 each to get there, we will just come back frequently to enjoy the small town. It really is a nice break from the fast paced life of Shanghai.
That pretty much catches us up to today. We also have a Picassa Web Albums account where we are posting more pictures the address is http://picasaweb.google.com/heidigras. I hope you enjoy!