Wednesday, September 29, 2010


By Saturday (18 September) we were halfway through the Ring, in nights if not in hours, and needed a break from this

(view from our hotel window, centre photo and distance you can see some 'old Shanghai')
(clicking should enlarge the pics)

so we took a taxi (taxis are cheap) to Suzhou, about one and a half freeway-hours drive away, in the delta region of the Yangtze River, where it has earned the compelling nickname of the 'Venice of the East'. If we thought we'd be escaping the hustle and bustle, we were wrong. The traffic was heavy, though never standstill, the freeway was an ever lane-changing dash, and Suzhou was hot and crowded, with tourists, Chinese ones. Not many Caucasians to be seen at all.

Leaving Shanghai, here's some old grand housing at an intersection. The photo is taken at the end of a traffic light cycle; you rarely see streets looking empty like this. Note the shade umbrella for the policeman and the absence of signs. Sydney would manage at least four signs per post, and then some.

The freeways are beautifully planted, even inner city cross-overs are lined with boxes of flowering roses and other treats. A bit of old and new here, crossing this bridge, with a wide bicycle lane too.

This is the Expo mascot, gone organic.

Suzhou is worth a lot more than the few hours we could give it and get back to the hotel in time for the compulsory nap in the hot afternoon. (K was having some mild chest problems so the air-conditioner was off and the room was flung open onto the heat and humidity, and noise, and delirious drifts in and out of sleep with dreams of a Brünnhilde approaching with a wide open mouth glistening pink and moist...). So we settled on one of the UNECSO world heritage listed gardens, the Humble Administrator's Garden, and the other reason we'd come, the I. M. Pei Suzhou Museum. They are side by side, down a market stall street, alongside this canal. It was very hot and sensible Chinese had umbrellas.

"Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens [of Shuzou] reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design."

He's brought an umbrella.

The I. M Pei Shuzou Museum, completed in 2006 by the Chinese American architect Ieoh Ming Pei was a refuge from the heat and the crowds. Unlike the gardens, there were very few people there, and now the balance had shifted toward non-Chinese. It is small, with an exquisite collection, the display rooms wonderful dark thoughtful spaces reached by white connecting corridors of delicate natural lighting.

As beautiful as it was looking at the collection, like these screen watercolours,

inside-looking-out was equally seductive, and provided for.

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