By Kristi Rogers and Michelle Lau
Wednesday 29 May 2013
On Wednesday, we got on the bus, with a new tour guide in tow and drove three hours to Wuzhen, which is an old fishing town in Zhejiang province. The first thing that we did there was take a small boat ride through the canals from the entrance to the other end of the town. It reminded us a lot of Venice, but more rustic, and Chinese. Then we moseyed our way back to the entrance. Along the way we saw a rice paddy shaped like a dragon, and drying racks for the textiles that they dye in the village. The village also had the nicest public restroom that we’ve ever seen in our lives, which was sweet relief because most of the public restrooms that we have encountered thus far in our travels have been less than pleasant. This restroom had an indoor waterfall, a river inlaid in the floor, and a bridge to cross the miniature river. Josh said that he wants to get married there!
That night, we stayed in a very nice hotel in Wuzhen, and we learned something new about Chinese culture: it is apparently common practice to have glass showers in the bathrooms of Chinese hotels. Yes, glass, as in see-through, as in one giant glass panel acts as the wall between the bedroom and bathroom. It was surprising and awkward at first, but we all managed in the end.
Thursday 30 May 2013
We kicked off Thursday with another three hour drive, this time to a city called Yiwu, which is the home of China’s largest wholesale market. We lunched at the hotel next door to one of the entrances to the massive buildings that house the market, and then were set loose inside to explore. It’s difficult to describe the scale of this place. We are told that there are over 40,000 “stalls” in the five districts of the market, and the buildings are connected and sprawl out over miles of space. It was warmer inside than outside, which made sense after the first minutes of walking around – there are floors upon floors of hallways lined with units that are crammed to the brim with goods, most of which are cheaply made plastic products and knockoffs. There’s an entire floor of bags, from suitcases to backpacks to purses. There’s an entire floor of personal hygiene and beauty products (actually, although the sign only designated one floor for these things, we definitely saw two). We could go on listing all the kinds of products that we saw, but the point is that this place is filled with STUFF, just sooo much stuff, and it’s all there for Walmart or other similar large companies to buy and bring back to us in the US. Professor Sheehan was looking for a pair of headphones for his godson, and Elisa bargained herself a new purse and a few pairs of earrings, but for the most part, we left empty handed because most places only sold wholesale. By the end of the day, we were all actually pretty tired and disappointed/disgusted by what we saw at Yiwu. It’s not a tourist attraction, and it arguable whether it’s really worth seeing in one’s lifetime, but ironically, Yiwu market in good old communist China taught us a lot about consumerism and capitalism.
After Yiwu, we drove another hour to our hotel in Hengdian where we spent two nights. Again, glass showers…
Friday 31 May 2013
On Friday, we visited Hengdian World Studios, which is the Hollywood of China. Basically, the entire town is the studio. There are thirteen lots, each of which recreates a significant time period/location in Chinese history, and each lot is huge (measurable in acres). Everyone who lives in the town works for the studios or for some kind of correlating tourism industry. We got to see three out of the thirteen sets – it would be impossible to enjoy visits to all of them in one day – and we watched two live performances at each of them (except for the last one where we watched one performance and rode/watched a theme park ride-esque 4D film). The first set was intended to mimic 1930s port cities in China, the second was a Song Dynasty city (we got to watch a very exciting acrobatics performance there!), and the third was a recreation of the capital city/palace of the Qin emperor (aka the set of the film Hero). The studios are essentially a giant theme park; they draw lots of tourism, mainly from native Chinese people (who all gawked at us foreigners and took pictures of us without asking). It was a very hot day, but we all had a lot of fun!
Saturday 1 June 2013
The next day, we drove yet another three hours, this time back in the direction toward Shanghai, and stopped in Hangzhou, which is a garden/lake city in Zhejiang province. We first had lunch and then took a walk through a park along the side of West Lake. It was raining pretty consistently, which was quite a relief from the heat that we’ve been suffering through, and the air quality in Hangzhou also seemed to be fresher because of it. After our walk, we visited the National Tea Museum, which I was quite excited for. The museum is surrounded by a tea plantation, and Hangzhou is renowned for it’s Long Jing (Dragon Well) tea, which is not grown anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, because we had another three hours of driving to get back to Shanghai, we didn’t stay very long.
When we got back to Shanghai, we were all very tired, but the experience has been well worth the exhaustion. We hope that all of you readers have enjoyed travelling with us! See you next time 🙂