Colors of Pudong

Venice of the East

Due to its many canals and water roads, Suzhou is called "Venice of the East"... According to an old saying, "Paradise in Heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth." I can't wait for it to be Spring!

About 100 km away from the vibrant city of Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the oldest towns in the Yangze area. (I can't rewrite history... but you can read about it HERE.)

Today, was slightly warmer than the past two weeks...
A friend and I decided to go explore the Old Town of Suzhou.
After a 45 minute bus ride we finally arrived and to my surprise, even the old part of town is huge! I thought we could just walk around and see it all in a day... haha! Well we did walk A LOT but probably only saw a fifth! Not all of it is actually "old"..
We walked along what I now call the "wedding street" (a block with all you need to prepare for a wedding), the "place to go if you need a tool street", the shopping street... and "come here if you are craving KFC street" (seriously, it seemed like there was a KFC on every block).

This bridge was definitely the highlight of our day. Not far behind it is another bridge, called Wumen Bridge. That's the one we were originally headed to...
I guess there's a reason it's called the Panmen Scenic Area!

Along the canal, older men were doing Tai Chi (I think...)

I've been trying to take pictures of people, but I don't want to upset them and the whole language barriere makes it hard for me to ask if they're okay with it...

This driver was honking even when pushing his bike accross the bridge!
Notice the designed area for pushing bikes and motorcycles up and across?!?

One thing is true, there are bikes and motorcycles EVERYWHERE! oh and the motorcycles are electric (electric-cycles?) so you don't hear them.. which makes them quite dangerous... especially when the pull out of nowhere!!!
More about that another day.. :)

Hanyu - Lesson 1

"Hanyu" means Chinese Language.
I am a level 1 student which means I'll be using the pinyin spelling.
There are 10 levels. Being able to speak fluently starts at level 3.

In Pinyin there are 21 initials, 36 finals and 5 different tones! Oh the tones are what make it really fun! At first it seemed like I was taking a singing class.

Verbs are not conjugated and the adjectives don't change from femine to masculin. (Somewhat like in English... but it makes a huge difference compared to French, German, Spanish, Greek, Latin..)
And sentences are structured in the following way:
WHO - WHEN - WHERE - HOW - DO (action) - WHAT

I've learned how to say some practical things such as :
Wo bù chi roù (I don't eat meat)
Shifu Nihao. Wo xiang qù ... (Hello Taxi Driver, I want to go to...)

But of course, like always when learning a foreign language, I've learned things like:
Wo de baba shi hanyu laoshi (My dad is a Chinese teacher)
Ni xihuan baisè ma ? (Do you like the color white?)

I don't know why we learn such sentences... but I guess these make more sense than the one I learned when I took German..: I see a UFO in the sky! (Wow, as if that's the first thing I need to know how to say!)

Chinese classes have be fun so far! It's like we're little kids learning how to read. We were taught the difference between the sound "P" and "B". Apparently, us Western people, don't differentiate the two...

ps: i'm still not able to upload pictures.
Also, I know I don't know much about China and Chinese...
what I share here is just what I've learned so far or noticed..


I'm watching the official welcome ceremony of President Hu Jintao to the White House on BBC and... I was able to understand a few chinese words!!

(In Pinyin) "Mei guo ren" means American people
and "Zhong guo ren" means Chinese people.


More on Chinese language another day...
Wan an !
(Good night)

See for yourself

Yay! For some reason I'm able to upload pictures today!

"Rice and Vegetables"

"Rice and Vegetables"
(another version)

Lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Shanghai.

Donuts... ;)

About the food

Ordering is an adventure in itself. We're never quite sure what we might end up with. Most restaurants have pictures that you can point to but even then... it's sometimes hard to recognize anything familiar! I usually ask for rice and vegetable, and I get something different everytime, depending on the restaurant! But it's all been good so far.

Being vegetarian adds a fun twist to it all.
I try to ask if there's any meat... the waiter answers "yes yes" with a big smile.
Then I try to communicate the fact that I don't want any meat... the waiter answers "yes yes" with a big smile. I like how the meaning of a chinese "yes" varies!

Yep, the have Oreo's and KFC. They also have a wide variety of there own cookies. The ones I've tasted so far are good :)

Ahh Barilla Sauce! The supermarket here (which is the French Auchan) has an "International Food" aisle... with pasta, tomato sauce, italian cookies... but still, I haven't been able to find salt. I usually add way to much salt to my food, so right now I'm craving pure salt!

I also miss bagels from San Francisco State University!
And milk.

Suzhou SIP

About 6 million people live in Suzhou. And another 4-5 million commute to work here everyday. This small town is an hour and half away from Shanghai by car and about 20 minutes away by train.

(Canal Street Downtown Suzhou)

It is famous for its silk, gardens, canals... It is said to be one of the most charming cities in China!

(On my way to school)

I live in SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park) where many universities are located.
On the other side of town is another industrial park, with compagnies such as Canon, L'Oreal...

(Humble Administrator's Garden built in 1513)

And somewhere in between is the Old Town of Suzhou, with its beautiful gardens.
I heard there is also a Modern Town of Suzhou, called Time Square where the largest LED screen in the world can be found.

This place is huuuuge !

Let me take your picture

I love photogenic cities and places in general... Shanghai beat my expectations!!! The new city of Pudong stood beautifully under the blue sky -which I believe is quite rare. Luckily for me a friend here has a camera but doesn't like taking pictures. I like taking pictures but still don't have a camera. We made a deal.

(Unfortunately, I can't upload more than these two pictures... it just doesn't work. )

Shanghai surprised me. I didn't really know what to expect but I liked what I saw.
It felt so good to be in a big city again. People, activity, colors, noise, smells... Ah!

Shanghai, from what I saw, because I can't say I know the city after spending 2 days there, is a good mix of traditional and modern, Chinese and Western... Makes sense when you know the culture here is all about balance, Ying & Yang.

The train station, the metro, the infrastructures, Pudong... New York doesn't even compare!
And then there is the Chinese architecture, the small shops, the overloaded bicycles, the decorations for the New Year... that remind you that you're not just in any major city of the 21st century.

Starbucks, Burger King, Mc Donalds, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Paul, Zara, H&M, Sephora... A Western blend with a big splash of China.

I think travelling now is easy or easier... From one country to another, from Paris to New York to Shanghai, shops & restaurants are the same or at least similar. If you're really starving and don't like the local food you can always find a Mc Donalds. You can walk into Starbucks or Sephora and be in a comfort zone.

I'm glad I can travel now... while cities still have a little of their own touch and culture. What if in 10, 15 or 40 years all cities come to be exactly the same all over the planet?

I'm glad Shanghai is close by. I know I'll be going there again soon!