Monday, May 11, 2009

I thought it'd be smaller with more canals.

I slept in a little on Sunday morning and it was rather enjoyable. Martha and I had a quick breakfast before heading out for the day. We had several museums that we had wanted to visit so we had a pretty full day ahead of us. We decided to go to the furthest museum first and work our way back to her apartment. It also helped that the other ones were all located in pretty much the same area. Our first stop was the Silk Museum. Yes another silk museum, except this one was actually a museum and it was really good. There were a bunch of artifacts and tons of information the history of silk which was really neat to see. It didn't take us too long to visit so we decided to go to the aquarium next. We walked the distance and it took a while mostly because I stopped every minute or so to take a picture. We were walking along a very beautiful area filled with trees and water and flowers and it was gorgeous.

We did eventually make it to the aquarium. It was pretty tiny and I felt bad for a lot of the animals kept there since their living conditions didn't seem really good. There were a few that looked really sick. I did get to see some more penguins but the glass they had in front of them was horrible to get any good shots. I also saw some seals and they were adorable! There were tons of them stuffed into the same small shallow tank which made me feel really bad when they looked up at me with these big eyes in a pleading manner. I just wanted to reach in and pet them. We didn't linger there too long because I felt too bad for these animals.

After the aquarium we went off in search of lunch. We stopped at a beautiful India restaurant. We weren't too sure if it was open or not so we walked in since the doors were open. We were seated at a table next to an air conditioner, which was so nice since it was in the 30's (felt like 40 something outside with the humidity). We were so hungry we ordered tons of food and had a bunch of leftovers which they gave to us in nice plastic containers. Microwavable plastic containers. I was pretty impressed. Plus the staff spoke a bunch of English so that was awesome.

We spent the afternoon in search of another museum and eventually came across the international coin museum. We browsed through it quickly before moving on to the next one. We ended up walking down a pedestrian shopping street and window shopped for most of the way. We did walk into a lovely clothing store and Martha bought herself a gorgeous skirt while I got myself a top. Her skirt is made up of several different patterns all in the green shades and it has pockets! It looks really nice. I saw a reddish one and wanted to buy it but they didn't have my size. My shirt is black and is meant to be worn over a tank top. There's two yellow patterned triangle strips at the front of it. It looks a little ragged but it's awesome. I also got it on sale, so there's a bonus. After a little more wandering we decided to head back home. It took us a long time to get back because we had started to wait for a taxi and couldn't find one so we went for the bus. It wasn't showing up so we started to walk again in hopes of a taxi and once we were too far the bus did show up so we decided to go to the bus stop for a different route. We eventually did manage to get onto the bus and walked in her door at around 6.30.

Since it was late enough in the day I tried to call home using Skype to wish my mom a happy mother's day. It worked at first but then I got disconnected and the internet kept going down on me. I then tried to chat with her online but I kept getting kicked out of MSN. I apparently do have really bad karma since whatever I tried to do on Martha's computer crashed on me. It was rather unfortunate. At least I got to chat with my mom for a brief few minutes.

I woke up nice and early Monday and got ready to leave as Martha was getting ready to leave for school. I grabbed my things and went on my way to the bus station to get some tickets for Suzhou. Buying the tickets, boarding the bus, and finding my hostel was really simple. The lady selling the tickets looked tired and annoyed at people but when she saw me there she smiled and was really friendly. She explained where I had to go and what the numbers were on my ticket. When I made it to the waiting lounge there was a another lady (I'm guessing some business woman) that spoke nearly perfect English so she told me when they announced our boarding and explained thing along the way to Suzhou. The driver stopped half way through the ride to let people stretch their legs. I hadn't known why we stopped so she happily explained it to me. The ride took a total of 3 hours but we got caught in 2 traffic jams. That's not too bad. I might take the train back.

My first impressions of Suzhou hasn't been the best so far. I was expecting the city to be a whole lot smaller with way more canals and a more traditional appearance. It's definitely not like that at all. I wasn't too fond of Shanghai when I first arrived but I ended up loving the place so I'm open minded enough to give this city a chance. It does look gorgeous it's mostly the hostel that I'm not enjoying… I guess you get what you pay for.

At first glance the hostel looks like a really nice place. It's a traditional style house, really nice dorms, great lounge but I'm not 100% convinced that this hostel is amazing. The hostel does have some of the cheapest drinks I've seen so far, for instance a can of coke costs only 5 yuan (everywhere else is 10) while the orange juice is also only 5 yuan and normally I see it for 10 or even 15 yuan for a bottle so that's really good. The lounge is awesome. There's a bunch of really comfortable chairs plus it's all well lit. Those who know me know I dislike dimly lit rooms. There's also a little fountain pond thing in the lounge. It appears to have once been an outdoor courtyard but they built some extra walls to make it the indoor lounge. There's an upper part where you can watch some DVD's and there's a fairly decent library. There's also a policy to keep a little quiet after 11 which is nice. Most places stay loud late at night.

There are a couple of smaller things that I can deal with if it was only that one thing but there's a few of them so I'm either thinking of shortening my stay or seeing about changing hostels, assuming there are other decent hostels nearby. I feel bad about doing it since chances are I'm not going to be getting the money back for the nights other nights I've paid for. I paid for a total of 4 nights, I'll definitely be staying the first night and maybe the second but I don't know about the other two. I'll see how I'm feeling then and I'll decide if it's worth switching or leaving early. I just need to settle in and get used to the flow of things here. I'm sure this place will grow on me with time. It's just different.

The first issue is the toilets. The website stated that they have Western toilets but they don't have any. At all. Anywhere in the hostel. I've searched this entire place. I've decided that the Western toilets are hidden in the private rooms. 50-70 bucks a night isn't worth paying just for a Western toilet. I have been trying to avoid using the squat toilet but I guess some things can't be helped. I knew I would at some point but the longer I avoided it the better it was. I almost had it too if it weren't for this hostel and it's lack of Western toilets!

The second issue is the reception. The website once more boasted about how they speak perfect English. The lady who was working there spoke some English but it was really difficult to have a conversation and figure out what she was trying to say. She was really nice and helpful though. It's just a little frustrating. It's something else that I can easily deal with and accept. I've been getting along just fine without people speaking English so in the end this isn't really an issue.

Third, the showers. They claimed to have hot water. It was cold. I can deal with cold water. There was a sign outside of the showers that said if the water was cold, turn it off and wait a few minutes. It will be warm. It never did, my shower took me almost 40 minutes since I had to get used to the cold water and then the showerhead was broke. In every single stall (there's a total of 3 of them). The water basically sprayed everywhere. I can deal with the showerhead not being hung up or there not being any place to hang it up but when water sprays out from the cord leading to the shower head it makes for a difficult shower. Thankfully there was a curtain to hide the clothing so at least that didn't get soaked.

Fourth, the beds are rock hard. I think I'd be more comfortable sleeping on the stone floor because at least then I probably won't boil at night since there's no window in my room! There is a window but it leads into the common room where people are allowed to smoke so opening it would be a very dumb idea. I'll have to search for a remote to use the air conditioner since I've seen the box for one. I may also pull out my sleeping bag and use it for extra padding. On the bright side I only have 2 roommates. At least there won't be too much body heat if we can't figure out this air conditioner thing.

Now, as I've mentioned already individually these are all small issues and things I can deal with. A combination of two of them are okay too but all of them together is a little irritating. I can't complain too much since I am paying about 5 bucks a night to stay here. I know that when I leave this place I'll be laughing at all of those things but for now it sucks. I guess my hopes were a little too high for this place. It's an experience. They do have a wifi connection with decent speed, I just needed to get the password to access it so that's good. I wonder if there's actually a laundry service or if the location really is almost next to the gardens. I've really no valid reason to complain. It's a clean hostel, no bed bugs, and it appears to be in a safe neighborhood. It's just really different from the other ones I've been to on this trip.

I am excited to check out the gardens and the surrounding area but I think I'll wait until tomorrow and basically just relax for this afternoon. I went to bed a little late last night and was up fairly early this morning. I'm sleepy and I have to go through some memory cards to hopefully make some extra room on them in case I can't find a place that sells them in Suzhou. I'll also have to check out Hangzhou when I get back and if I still can't find them there then I might have to take a day trip to Shanghai for these cards. It is one of the biggest shopping cities in the world.

Lunch at the India restaurant:

Spinach and garlic (the white chunks being the garlic)

Garlic paan

Spiced potatoes.

Some deep fried battered onion type food. It tasted amazing.

I can't remember what these are called but they're good even if they were a little spicy.
Images taken in Hangzhou:

Shirts hanging off of a tree in the street. It was a little random to encounter so I had to take the shot.

Seals! They were within arm's reach. I was soo tempted to pet this little guy.

Some pretty leaves.

A gazebo along the way near the West Lake

Another section of the stream/river that Martha and I walked along to get to the aquarium

A mini waterfall that we discovered on our way to the Aquarium.
Hostel in Suzhou:
My bunk! It doesn't take me long to settle in. My camera bag stays in the bed with me (against the wall) while my clothing goes on the floor next to me. It leans up against the ladder.

Here's a squat toilet for those of you who aren't sure exactly what one looks like. This is the one located in the women's room of the hostel.


  1. Holy Bejesus. Book and a half. Well, good to hear from you and still wishing I was with you. Those potatos look so yummy!

    /point and laugh at the squatapoties.

    Beautiful scenery as always, keep taking them shots.

  2. I hadn't realized how much I had actually typed. >.< I also had 2 days worth in it.
    Luckily the squatapoties aren't as ackward to use as they first were.
    Thanks! Everything here is so pretty, totally worth the non-Western toilets.
    I shall keep taking shots! I'm actually on a mission today to buy a new memory card or two. The owner of the hostel is into photography and gave me the name of a good store to buy some cards. He even drew me a map! Said it was about a 20 minute walk from the hostel which isn't bad.

  3. Hi, Vama-chan! Sorry for the delay, I've been having one hell of a week, I'm exhausted...
    Oh, my God... I didn't know what squat toilets were, so I googled the term. I came across a Wikipedia article that even gives you instructions... O_o I'm so creeped out... (does that term even exist? Ah, neologisms... :P )
    Hope Suzhou got better! I'm moving on to read your next post now, see you there! :wave:

  4. Heheh, luckily my hostel keeps the toilet clean and they provide toilet paper! My hostel in Shanghai didn't really provide any. Squat toilets are very unfortunate and it hurts my knee! I've had knee problems before so it really doesn't help my situation.
    Yes, the term creeped out exists. =P
    Suzhou has really nice gardens. That's about it. lol