China:Beijing to Shanghai and Suzhou

(typed on the plane and bus rides to Suzhou)

March 16th

We had a 4:30 AM wake up call in the morning due to an early flight to Shanghai.  We had a brief (almost 2 hour) flight that sure beat the alternative of a 7 hour bus ride. They served breakfast on the plane, but I passed on it.  My seat mates regretted taking the food because it turned out to be a weird offering of mushy black beans and pickled eggs.  Good thing I had a Kind bar and some almonds! Once we landed in Shanghai we took a short bus ride and stopped for a brief lunch. Afterwards, we spent another two hours on the road en route to Suzhou.

This trip is the first in my life where I have ever traveled by bus on vacation. While this trip is different due to the group component, I can’t say that I enjoyed the bus rides very much.  While I greatly enjoyed my back-of-the-bus crew, I can’t say I enjoyed the sometimes rough ride and lack of an onboard bathroom. As a natural camel – oh how I love chugging water – I have a hard time managing water intake and scheduled bus stops. Anyhow, I found that cutting up with my travel companions, and writing notes or watching shows on my iPad, helped to pass the time.

Once we arrived in Suzhou, we ventured over to Tiger Hill.  According to Chinese history,  He Lu, King of the Wu,  died during battle. His son buried him within the hill and three days after the funeral a white tiger came and sat upon the grave as though guarding it. From that time on the space has been known as Tiger Hill. Today, the Hill is a gorgeous and calm space with a soaring pagoda (the tomb of King Lu).

Afterwards, we checked out the city and took a tour by boat. Because of the very cloudy and gray day,it was sort of a depressing experience.  Throw in the poverty and abysmal living conditions and many of us were ready to go home after seeing the way some people live. Talk about feeling grateful for my life!

After the tour, we ended up walking around a local food market.  Because the Chinese like shopping for their food on a daily basis, these markets are always full of a variety of fresh foods. However, this means  these markets are also full of the weird and unbelievable. Fresh chickens, monkey brains, exotic meats and less than clean produce made my stomach churn.

Not surprisingly, I was appalled when we went to dinner right next to the food market.  Something about seeing where the food comes from made me not want to partake in the meal. Instead, a few of us  ended up eating Subway next to our hotel.

While I realize Subway has processed foods and is full of gluten, I just couldn’t help myself. My food was heavenly down to the last bite.  I had a 6-inch turkey sandwich, a bottle of water and a bag of Lay’s chips. Not surprisingly, I slept like a baby until my stomach started hurting terribly.  However, this may be the first time I haven’t regretted eating gluten. What can I say? I needed that meal.

Travel Confessions

  • I may not like Chinese food after learning that most of it is not healthy after all. Here, you can see all of the oil glistening off the food, including the vegetables.
  • I will not drink water in a foreign country unless it is delivered to me in a sealed bottle. Sadly, this means I have had to break one of my Lenten sacrifices and have consumed softy drinks.  Better safe than sorry, my friends.
  • I miss John!
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