Monday, March 4, 2013- Suzhou
Today we took a day trip to visit the nearby town of Suzhou with our first stop at “The Garden of the Humble Administrator”. Built as early as 1509 the Humble Administrator’s garden is one of the four most famous gardens in China. The idea for the garden came to the Administrator when he retired from public life, and read the essay by the writer Pan Yue who wrote “to cultivate my garden and sell my vegetable crop . . . is the policy of a humble man”. The stones in the garden are laid out to show the pathway through the garden and are often embedded with numerous figures and designs. This is a poetic, picturesque garden that includes landscapes, waterscapes and exquisite buildings. Our time here was at the end of Winter, so we can only imagine how it will look in full Spring with lotus flowers floating on the water and the flowers in glorious bloom.
After the garden we walked through the city’s small shops where you could buy any kind of thing you want to buy. We were shopping for silk and embroidery and bought some exquisite things.
Ron bought an exquisitely carved and polished teapot made from stone.
We had a delicious lunch in Suzhou with the food so exquisitely presented. With lunch we ordered Chinese tea, and when we ran out we ordered another pot. Only when the bill arrived did we realize that the tea was more expensive than the food!
The afternoon was spent shopping for silk – we visited many shops before we found the right stuff – but eventually our search was rewarded and I bought two beautiful scarves and some silk yardage.
We drove back to the hotel, where we met Lucy, and together the three of us went to eat dinner. We had a whole crab in curry sauce. However, we had no cracker or other utensils so we had to break the slippery pieces dripping with curry sauce with our bare hands and try to poke out the pieces of meat with our chopsticks resulting in a sticky, ridiculous, but delicious mess of food.
One of the most joyful parts of this trip is meeting all the people and sharing food and conversation. If it seems like we are always eating – that’s because we really are. I had anticipated, from my little provincial nest in Vancouver that I would lose weight in China because I thought that the food would be inedible to my western palate. I was so wrong! The food we are being offered is beautifully prepared, artistically presented, and extremely delicious. Being served in the round table style means that you can eat as little or as much of any one thing as you like. Eating here is so much fun.