Today was a whole lot cooler than it was these past few days. It felt kind of nice. I slept in again and lazed around the hostel until noonish when I decided to venture out. I easily found a cab and went off to see the Humble Administrator's Garden and I must say that's it's absolutely fantastic! The garden covers over 50,000 sq.m. It was huge and I got lost. The garden was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644) and it's the largest garden in Suzhou (there's easily 5 of them that I can find on the map without any trouble). Plus this garden has a reputation of being one of the nicest gardens in all of China (and maybe even the world) When I paid for my admission I was asked if I'd like a tour of the garden. I refused it since I wanted to take my time with photographs, in retrospect it might have been nice to have known what everything was. Luckily I got a map so I could at least know which building was which one. Assuming of course I was following the map correctly.
I wandered around the garden for over 4 hours and left because it was closing. The place is absolutely fantastic and gorgeous. There's hill with little gazebo type buildings that really cool you down since a wonderful breeze seems to always pass by while there's a bunch of ponds and streams going through the entire place. Naturally there's a lot of bridges too. Most of the stairs seem to be built from stones and are pretty worn down which made it a little difficult to climb in some areas. There were a bunch of young artists in the garden drawing various places. I ran into one of them at the top of one of the hills and we chatted for a good half hour. He was learning English and wanted to practice with a native speaker. We had fun chatting away about various things before I went off on my own once again to see the rest of the garden (I had only made it half way through at this point so it was also rather nice to sit and rest for a few minutes). He did ask me if I spoke any Mandarin and I said "Nihao" and mispronounced thank-you (again) he then thought me the word for duck (which I've already forgotten). He asked if I knew any characters and I proudly showed off my knowledge of numbers, dates, time, and other random characters that I can remember) I eventually explained that I took some Japanese which is how I knew them. He looked pretty impressed.
One of the questions I always seem to get asked is why I am alone. People always seem shocked that I've somehow managed to make it where I am without speaking Mandarin. I find that rather amusing.
It was really easy to find a cab back since I lucked out and snatched one as these girls were dropped off (if I could always be so lucky!) I got back to my hostel at around 5.30 so I grabbed a bite to eat and went over the map of Suzhou to figure out what I'm going to do tomorrow. I'm going to attempt to see 3-4 gardens (they're much smaller) and Tiger Hill. I would also like to check out 2 temples. Most of these gardens are close together so it'll basically come down to how slow I walk through the gardens. If I stop every 2 minutes to take a picture then I'll probably only see one or two things tomorrow.
After dinner I watched a movie (again) called the Black Book. It was a war movie based in WWII about a Dutch woman's experiences in the last few months of the war. Her and her family were trying to escape Germany but they get caught and everyone dies (except the woman of course). She flees and joins a resistance against the Nazi's and finds herself having to infiltrate the Nazi army by working for them. She ends up falling for one of the generals who discovers her secret and keeps it a secret (since he loves her too). Turns out there's a guy in the resistance that's actually working with the Nazi's so her resistance buddies mostly end up getting massacred and her general get's hunted down as a traitor. I didn't quite understand the second half of the movie but from what I gather she got away for a bit until she got caught by the English/French and gets tormented until some other general saves her and tries to kill her and she ends up going back to the traitors resistance or something. The entire movie was in Dutch and German with very little English. There were Russian subtitles but that didn't help me. I can recognize the name Alice written out in Russian now. All in all the movie was pretty good and I'd really like to see it in English to fully understand it.
I also had some fun chatting it up with one of the staff members. I was telling him about the student who was learning English and the staff asked me if he asked certain questions and laughed when he got them all right. Apparently these odd questions are what their teachers tell them to ask. We then had a lovely discussion on alcohol (since he was drinking a huge bottle of beer). I told him some drinking games (which he loved and can't wait to try out) while he explained to me how guys hit on girls in bars. Apparently they pull off the label of their bottle and pass it to the girl if she gives it back it means she's not interested. I thought that was pretty interesting. I wonder if that works in other countries or if it's just over here? It's not something I plan on finding out any time soon though. It's just cool to know.