We were delighted to discover that the hotel offered a huge and varied buffet breakfast; everything from stir fried dishes, to sushi to cocoa cereal. There was also honey dripping from the comb, many types of dim sum including one designed to look like a dog’s head, fresh fruit, dried fruit, yogurt, pancakes with whipped cream, waffles, pastries, salmon and more, more, more; all washed down with a choice of juices, lattes, cappuccino, espresso, and teas. Our table had a view of the lovely garden. Too soon it was time to check out and we were on the bus at 8am, heading to the “Garden of the Master of Nets”.
Celia gave us a lot of interesting information and told us more about current Chinese culture including the one and then changed to two child limit as well as courtship practices. She told us that she married later in life to a guy younger than her. People said she was an old cow feasting on tender grass. Celia is an awesome guide, I enjoyed her openness and humour.
She was very knowledgeable about the Garden of Master of Nets. She explained that a Chinese garden has four elements; water, stone, architecture and plants/wood.There were many rooms and many small courtyards. Very picturesque.
During our visit, Christine from our tour told Carol that she was concerned that some unknown North American guy was following our group through the garden. Her daughter Alexis said she didn’t think think so but Christine insisted. Then Alexis said maybe someone new joined the tour. Carol asked Christine to point him out to her... it was John.
We next went to the embroidery factory. I was thoroughly impressed with the skill and training needed for these intricate pieces of art. You would swear that some of these pieces were photographs.
We moved on to the silk factory where we had lunch. At an extra cost we could even sample a glass of snake liquor. I stuck with a beer.
After lunch we attended an interesting silk presentation. After being worked into a state of utter excitement (or at least I was), we were let loose into the factory store to shop. The first floor was bedding. Unfortunately I didn’t find any patterns of duvet cover and sheets that would go with our decor so we just bought a silk duvet.
The second floor was scarves and clothing. I was excited about the silk underwear that dries in twenty minutes...perfect for travelling. Unfortunately Asian styles are made much smaller than North American styles. I was horrified when I discovered what my Asian size was so I didn’t buy any...too hard on my fragile ego.
I was forced to use a squat toilet before we left (or explode). I find the whole squatting thing a challenge. It did not go well. So far I had managed to always find seated toilets. It was only after I went that I discovered seated toilets on the lower level. I really need to build more muscles into my quads.
Leaving the factory, I noticed that Barry and Cole carried packages to the bus. I swear, those two are a factory store clerks dream.
After an hour and a half bus ride to Wuxi, we stopped at a famous Lake known for producing pearls and had free time to walk in the parkland around the water. It was cool and overcast but I could tell that this would be an ideal setting on a warm and sunny spring or fall day. Apparently summer is really hot.
I got a real kick out of the names given to some of the areas in the park.
We next made our way to Ancient Nanchang Street. This attractive pedestrian street had cute (but pricy) boutiquey type shops, night clubs, lots of restaurants and street food stalls all in an area filled with glittering lights and a picturesque bridge.
For some reason, John wandered off with Barry, Cole, Em and Vince, probably because Carol and I were running into numerous shops. The ever patient Steve stayed with us, taking many pictures of the street scenes outside.
I think our tour group were some of the only non-Asian people in the Area. Our Wuxi guide, Fey Fey said that not many westerners come to Wuxi so we should expect a lot of attention.
This street really came alive at night. While waiting for the group to assemble in front of Starbucks, many of us watched some Chinese comedy show that played on a large screen over one of the restaurants while loud dance music blared from another nearby restaurant.
Cody started to dance on the street and was soon joined by Matina. Soon a large crowd of Chinese people clicking pictures gathered around them.
Once everyone was accounted for, we walked en-mass a few blocks to the bus, passing a large group of couples waltzing in a park.
I noticed in both Europe, Central America and Asia, people seem to do a lot more group social events in public places such as dancing, exercise classes, hacky-sack games, skipping ropes and even board games chalked onto the pavement. I find myself wondering why don’t we do more of that in North America?
We stayed at another lovely (and large) hotel called The Gloria Grand. Celia efficiently checked us in and we all quickly disbursed to our rooms.
While searching for the bathroom light, I inadvertently hit the emergency button. Within thirty seconds, front desk was calling on the bathroom phone to see what kind of catastrophe had befallen me...oops.
Meanwhile Vince was wandering the halls and floors offering extra pieces from his box of pizza to our group. He passed Cole and Barry’s room. Through the open door he noticed Barry lying on the bed while the young concierge was attempting to get his internet going.
Richard was wandering the halls because he couldn’t remember his room number. A call was put in to Celia via the hotel staff who clarified that Richard was wandering around the wrong floor.
One can only imagine what the staff thought of our Canadian tour group.
John,Em, Vince and I decided to check out the hotel bar. The two bar staff had no problem getting the beers but there was much confusion over Em’s gin and tonic. She got a glass of straight gin but then she had to explain that gin and tonic actually had tonic in it. The bar was all out of tonic and soda. Finally she settled on Sprite.
Wuxi doesn’t get a lot of North America tourists so many of the hotel staff had just a smattering of English.
Cole and many of the younger people of our tour group grabbed a cab and went back to the ancient street to party at one of the bars. A good time was had by all.