The Road to Suzhou

Every place is a place, and connecting places, there are roads. Along the roads, there are trees, plants, buildings, bridges, lights, power lines, signs, and maybe animals. There are millions of combinations of things you can see out the window of a car. And if you’re not driving, you can take photos. Which is what I did on the road to Suzhou.

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My boyfriend Siqi drove us to Suzhou for a short vacation when we had a long weekend for the Dragon Boat Festival national holiday here in China. Suzhou is famous for “Venice-like” water towns, ancient residential complexes with exquisitely landscaped courtyard gardens, and the city museum adjacent to the city’s most famous garden.

We didn’t plan very far in advance—in fact, we didn’t plan much at all—but we still enjoyed our time. The main tourist sites were completely booked and/or full of people, but we were lucky with the weather, and were able to amuse ourselves just fine by walking around in the historic district. Now that we’re more familiar with Suzhou’s geography, we know where to go when we go back, which is easy to do since Suzhou is just next door to Hangzhou.

I took photos mainly of:

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Spring trees at Zhejiang Lab Nanhu Campus

The Zhejiang Lab campus is impressive, not least because a veritable army of gardeners is employed to look after the enormous variety of trees, bushes, grass, and flowers. I appreciate their work daily on my short walk to the main building, and during lunchtime strolls, which take me and my colleagues in different directions on different days.

This post features flowering trees. Some are cherry blossom (sakura), but mostly I don’t know what kind of trees they are; kinda wish I did.

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China culture shock: English on signs

The holy grail of Chinglish, for me, would be to see in person a sign saying “Carefully Slip And Fall Down“.

Since the English on signs in Hangzhou is not by any means so terrible on average, I’m still looking.

Meanwhile, I’ve spotted quite a few other amusing signs in Hangzhou.

Have a guess… what kind of store advertises its products as “cheap, fresh, quality, intimate”? See below to find out!

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Hangzhou Tollbooths

This tollbooth in Lin’an is exactly what you’d expect a Chinese tollbooth to look like, isn’t it? Well, they don’t all look like this.

And they don’t all look like the viral photo of a huge traffic jam at a very wide tollbooth. That’s a photo taken during Chinese New Year, which I imagine causes the most and biggest traffic jams anywhere on the planet. Chinese New Year, known in China as Spring Festival, is when Chinese people all go back to their hometowns. (If you’re American, imagine Thanksgiving traffic, with about four times as many people involved.)

See below for more photos of tollbooths. The third one will surprise you! Continue reading Hangzhou Tollbooths

Hangzhou City Balcony

I arrived in Hangzhou in winter with a pair of breathable sneakers suited to the summery weather in Singapore, a pair of somewhat worn but comfortable heeled leather office shoes, and two other pairs of office shoes, one of which broke and the other of which didn’t fit as well as I thought. Since arriving, I’d acquired a pair of casual leather boots, but they didn’t fit me as well as I thought either. So Siqi took me shoe shopping.

There’s a fantastic underground outlet mall at a place called City Balcony, near the spherical Intercontinental Hotel and Hangzhou Grand Theater in Qianjiang New Town in Hangzhou. After thoroughly exploring the mall, we were blessed by the shoe gods with no fewer than four well-fitting pairs of shoes, one from Hush Puppies and three from Columbia; two for me and two for him. (Also, I took down the product number of another pair I wanted to buy from Hush Puppies, and bought those later, when the weather got warmer.)

By the time we finished our subterranean shopping, it was night. We emerged and enjoyed the lights across the river:

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