It had been absolutely wonderful wandering around the gardens and streets of Suzhou but we had to keep moving as China is such a huge place to travel around. Today was going to be the first bus experience in China and it started off pretty easily as our host booked our tickets using her smartphone and then we got a screenshot with our ticket, seat numbers and gate number on. Too easy.
We chuckled as we arrived as to how quiet and clean the bus station was, especially in comparison to the places we have been in South and Central America. There was no shouting of destinations and no food stalls (bit of a shame really). Anyway we went and sat next to our gate which is still a little confusing as there was no English writing so we weren’t 100% sure we were at the right place, but sure enough when the time came to board we were right and it was all a little bit too easy and uneventful. The only main difference in the Chinese busses we noticed was that the seats were a little narrower so we were quite glad we were sat next to each other!
As I said it was all too calm of a trip but our bus driver soon sorted that out! He drove the bus as though it was a Ferrari, overtaking and undertaking everyone and darting into gaps that really were only just big enough for a small car. It was all pretty crazy and this guy seemed determined to get us to Hangzhou on time! When we encountered traffic jams he would simply cruise up the hard shoulder or race through a service station. I said when we safely got off that if we had crashed we would have only been able say that “that was inevitable!”
I have to admit that most of the time was spent watching the road and waiting to brace for impact but when we could look out the window it was a pretty grim sight. It has to be a smog haze that we have been in since we arrived, apart from the odd day the visibility has been pretty bad. To be fair it has been worse on cloudy days but it’s definitely there. It’s also quite amazing as to how many people live just in this relatively small area, Shanghai 24 million, Suzhou 1.3 million, Hangzhou 6.2 million! Plus there are loads of other cities we haven’t been to so all in all there are millions of people living here and judging by the smog you can certainly tell. It will actually be a really nice change to head out towards the countryside and see what that’s like.
Our hotel here is the first we have stayed in without any English in the sign so we weren’t exactly sure we were in the right place! The receptionist didn’t exactly fill us with confidence either as she really struggled with checking us in, but eventually we got a room key and got charged the correct amount. Getting the wifi code was a little harder but again we succeeded thanks to online translator apps and the fact that the Chinese people so far have been so welcoming and hospitable it is fast becoming one of the best places we have been!!
There wasn’t long left in the day so we decided to head down to take a walk for sunset next to the West Lake. It was quite bizarre walking through a massively developed city expecting to come out and see what was meant to be a spectacular view, but we did and it was! It was really quite a spectacular sight and although the sunset wasn’t fantastic we enjoyed walking along looking at the sight. So did about 200,000 others!! Once again we have been flabbergasted by the sheer number of people here and the fact that we didn’t see another westerner the whole day! To be fair though the pathways were huge and there was space for everyone so it was still enjoyable.
We had found a place highly recommended just near the lake to eat but unfortunately so had everyone else! Outside all the massively busy restaurants were ticket machines where you entered your phone number and the number of people in your party and waited for your text or your number to be called. We decided we were too hungry for this so wandered off and found ourselves a lovely little noodle bar and then finished the evening off with a walk through a fairly disappointing night market. Still looking forward to tomorrow! T
A video would have been better, but this shot gives an idea.
Boating on the West lake at Hangzhou.
It all looks quite serene and beautiful.
Of course, this being China someone has built a much bigger boat!
The crowds! They may be larger than normal as everyone in Hangzhou was given a weeks holiday during the G20 in an effort to cut down on the smog.