Noilly Prattle

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

China - Spring 2018, Hangzhou – 2 an 80-year-old Doctor

in the taxi to the clinic

     We had breakfast earlier than usual and got into the taxi that the hotel had arranged around 9 A.M. The hospital was quite a bit farther than I had imagined. It took at least half an hour to get there.


one of our caretakers . . . 
. . .  the other caretaker
       The hospital people were warm and friendly. They practically took us by the hand when we arrived, looking confused and uncertain, and shepherded us around for our examinations and blood work. They treated us like VIPs. Our liaisons were a lady and a man both of whom spoke English and Japanese. They brought us to the doctor who examined us. He had exquisite bedside manner, friendly and smiling and efficient. It turned out that he was 80-years old (I asked). Then we went to another area for blood work. I normally hate blood work, but I was amazed at how quick and efficient it was. I hardly felt anything and before I knew it it was over.

our 80-year-old charmer -
and I don't think his hair is dyed
herbal medicine
       While waiting for the blood work results in our liaisons' office I realized I had lost my reading glasses. The man backtracked, looking for them, but didn't find them. I was resigned to doing without them when we returned to the examining doctor's room for the blood work results and the lady asked about my glasses again. The old doc smiled and produced them, having found them behind the examining table where they had fallen out of my breast pocket when he examined my abdomen. I was so relieved. The good doctor prescribed some Chinese herbal medicine and throat lozenges. We took our first dose in the liaisons' office then the lady kindly helped us hail a taxi back to the hotel. We were really impressed with our treatment at the hospital and the efficiency and competence of the professional staff.


tourist map of West Lake and surroundings
Lingering Cold on Broken Bridge
       The weather was still uncooperative—cloudy, windy and very cold—when we got back to the hotel, but we decided to go out and walk along the Northern [Bai] Causeway of West Lake anyway and take our chances. We planned to take just a short walk to the first stone bridge—poetically called “Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge” (although it isn't broken)--one of the scenic spots around the lake. But, once there, we said what the hell and decided to keep on walking to the end of the causeway—about one and half kilometers.

Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge
duet at Broken Bridge

wind in the willows

 smart phone trio
smart phone solo
       The strong cold wind was biting and unpleasant. I felt chilled to the bone and the damp cold was affecting my hip a little. Thanks to the weather and the lingering cold it was not a really pleasant outing, but we soldiered on. After traversing the causeway it took a while to find a bus stop to take us back to the hotel, but we finally succeeded. It cost 2 Yuan (about 39 cents ) per person—more than reasonable. After settling for a KFC and some not very fresh food we returned to the hotel and into a nice hot bath to heat up the muscles and bones. Although the weather could have been better, the outing was better than sitting in your room all day, cold or no cold.

Hangzhou on the eastern shore of West Lake

Chinese restaurant - what else?

excursion boat

Western [Su] Causeway -
mountains on the western shore of West Lake

Wenlan Pavilion  along the Northern Causeway

Thursday, May 3, 2018

China - Spring 2018, Hanghou – 1 High Speed Train to Hangzhou

I tend to think of this short (2-week) trip as a “watertowns” tour. This area, just east and southwest of Shanghai, is dotted with lakes, rivers and canals. It contains many beauty spots with a water theme—either man made or natural. I have already written about Suzhou and its lovely landscape gardens built around ponds or canals.

Hangzhou, next on our itinerary is a bustling metropolis built on the eastern shore of West Lake, a large natural feature of the area that has been landscaped with stone bridges and long tree lined causeways that are perfect for strolling and enjoying nature. We spent seven days exploring the points of interest in the area.

Our last stop, a short three days, was Zhujiajiao, an old town built along a canal that used to be used for commercial transportation, but is now plied with innumerable boats offering rides on the canal for tourists.

Suzhou Railroad Station waiting area -
only half of the concourse shown
High Speed Train
     We checked out of the Suzhou Soul Hotel on Monday, March 19 and took the hotel shuttle to Suzhou Railway Station to board a high speed train to Hangzhou a ride of a little over two hours. The concourse and waiting area is cavernous. The train departed on time (12:36) and arrived in Hangzhou around 14:45. We had a little drama at Hangzhou Station. I leaned my crutch against a column while we consulted our map for finding our hotel, the Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale, before setting off on foot. Then we proceeded through the wicket and, while in the men's room, I realized that I had forgotten my crutch. I backtracked the short distance and saw my crutch still leaning against the column. I flagged down a station security man and explained (mostly by body language) my problem while pointing at the crutch and myself, saying: “That's mine!” He caught on, retrieved my crutch, and gave it back to me.

Wyndham Grand Plaza Royale
our upgraded room
        Relieved, we followed our map and soon found the hotel after a short walk, maybe a kilometer or so. We had booked an ordinary room, but when we checked in we were given an upgrade. We were first time guests staying for seven days, so it's good marketing to upgrade and encourage new guests to stay again. Our upgraded room was a spacious business suite very elegantly decorated and very comfortable. Since we had both come down with persistent colds the spacious room was perfect for resting. A little tired after a day of traveling we decided to stay in and enjoy our room and have dinner in the hotel. We chose a Thai Restaurant that was well reviewed on TripAdvisor and decided to give it a try. It turned out to be a good choice as the food and atmosphere were excellent.

nicely folded napkin
Here's looking at you, kid!

mixed meat kebabs
rape greens and stuffed pineapple


        The weather took a turn for the worse the next day—very cold and raining most of the morning. After the hotel's buffet breakfast the weather was still overcast with a low cloud ceiling and poor visibility. We decided to postpone a walk along the northern causeway and went swimming in the hotel pool instead. We needed to keep the body in some condition to fight the cold, so the weather was a good excuse to do some swimming.

        Towards late afternoon the rain had stopped and we decided to walk along the lake shore and look for a restaurant. The wind was very strong and icy cold even with three layers and a windbreaker. We should have brought warmer clothes. We were unwise to come without our down jackets. Walked about a kilometer along the eastern shore of West Lake, passed by a famous tea house that charges 180 Yuan (about $30) for a cup of tea and some sweets. Imagine!

bronze group sculpture depicting
common people thanking
a beloved administrator on his departure
famously expensive teahouse

West Lake - from the eastern shore

it was steaming so it must be some sort of kettle
        We were both feeling under the weather and running a bit of fever so we decided to call our travel insurance to arrange a visit to a doctor. The insurance company arranged a doctor's appointment and, with the help of the wonderful hotel staff, reserved a taxi to take us to the clinic—all covered by the insurance, including the taxi fare. Although the weather was uncooperative we got quite a lot accomplished in our first two days: got some physical exercise, got oriented within the area of eastern West Lake and got an appointment to see a doctor the next day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

China - Spring 2018, Suzhou – 3 Canglang and Pan Men

The Canglang Pavilion

Canglang Pavilion and its canal
     We spent only two full days in Suzhou. The second day, much like the first, was occupied with visiting two other gardens in the city. Our first stop was The Canglang Pavilion.

small interior garden 
       We took the metro from the convenient stop not far from our hotel to The Canglang Pavilion. After getting off the metro the garden is just a short walk and a right turn down a canal lined street. Parts of the garden are on both sides of the canal. As before, I was able to enter the garden free of charge since I am over 70 and Road Buddy got in for 50%.

small pond and simple buildings
lovely etched glass chandelier
     The Canglang Pavilion 滄浪亭 (Great Wave Pavilion) is an older, smaller and simpler garden than the Humble Administrators Garden, but it's interesting for the contrast. The relative simplicity of the garden has a kind of rustic charm in comparison with the more lavish Humble Administrator's Garden. The scale is also much smaller. The garden was built in the 11th Century AD by a poet of the Song Dynasty named Su Shunqin. It is the oldest classical garden in Suzhou recognized by UNESCO.

 lotus themed open air window

interestingly curved building and walkways around the pond

moon gate into the small garden
the lotus pond
       After visiting the main garden, you can cross the canal and enter another garden through a moon gate. This smaller garden is dominated by a large lotus pond. With its drooping weeping willows just sprouting new leaves it was especially charming and serene.
fine lattice work on the covered curbing walkway

doors have different unusual shapes, this one like a vase

sensuous Red Camellia

Panmen Scenic Area

statue dedicated to a heroic ox that worked hard
to build the site and died when it was finished
Ruiguang Pagoda 
     The second stop of the day was the Panmen Scenic Area. We had intended to use public transportation, but, due to various complications, ended up walking a couple of kilometers, stopped off at a local dumpling shop for a light lunch, then walked the rest of the way until we spotted the entrance the the park.

large scale landscape garden blooming in early Spring
Pan Men - the  "Land and Water Gate"
the main canal
       The Panmen 盤門 Scenic Area is what remains of the old city wall, the southern gate, and the park adjacent to it. The Pan Men or Pan Gate is located in the southwestern part of the Main Canal that surrounded Old Suzhou. The original structure is estimated to be around 2500-years-old. The southern gate is especially interesting for its water flow system. With an ingenious floodgate system it had the ability to control the flow of water in the main canal. Due to its use as a gate for the flow of water as well as a gate to the city, the Chinese people call it the "Land and Water Gate".

the floodgate (not shown) is raised and lowered by means of winches on either end 
a pond full of goldfish
and, of course, lovers in Spring
       The scenic area is noted for the "three landmarks of Pan Gate": the Pan Gate itself; the 7-step Ruiguang Pagoda, the earliest pagoda in Suzhou built in 247; the Wu Gate Bridge, the original entrance to the Pan Gate and the highest bridge in Suzhou at that time. The Ruiguang Pagoda is constructed of brick with wooden platforms and has simple Buddhist carvings at its base. The entire scenic area is a large scale landscape garden built with the traditional elements of water, stone, plants and wooden structures.

Wu Gate Bridge
      Our visit to the Panmen Scenic Area was the last stop on our itinerary in Suzhou. Next stop is West Lake in Hangzhou a couple hours by high speed train south of Shanghai.