Hi from Suzhou – my little yellow bicycle‏

Welcome to part 4 of my updates from China – the story of my little yellow
bicycle.

Where’s part 3 you ask (the story of the rampaging monkeys) – it’s back in
my hotel room. Usually I write what I want to send, so then I just type it
out when I find an Internet cafe. But it’s been a while since I’ve had time
to access the Internet, and I just came across this one while going for a
walk, so instead of hearing about monkeys I’ll tell you about my bicycle.

The tour finished on Friday night with dinner, drinks & dancing.  Sandra the
quiet Swiss girl was the surprise packet, she really knew how to dance.
Although I thought my dancing on the bar was pretty darn good.

We really had a great time together.  I don’t think I’ll find a group of
people who are so much fun to travel with again.  It was a wide range of
ages, but we just seemed to gel.

Some statistics for you:
– Number of people who either lost the keys to the locks on their bags or
who accidently changed the combination of their locks:  3 (including me)
– Favourite beer:  Snow beer – I can even drink it warm.
– Number of times I missed the bus:  once (went out to the Summer Palace in
Beijing and got stuck in a traffic jam coming back, so missed the bus to the
Kung fu show.  Spent almost 2 hours standing squashed on a bus. Train system
in Beijing is good, but in terms of cars it is one big parking lot.)
– Number of times I used my umbrella:  once to get from the bus to the
hotel.  It has only rained twice and both times we were sitting on the bus.
I think I’ll be coming home with a slight tan.
– Amount of weight I’ve lost:  zero – I think there may be a slight gain due
to the increased consumption of ice-cream
– Number of things I lost down the drop toilets:  zero (but there were a
number of close shaves).  I actually grew to love the squat toilets and it
appears that I wasn’t the worst at using them.  We discovered towards the
end of the trip that Garrith (one of the UK lads) was fully taking off his
trousers whenever he needed to squat, as he couldn’t work out how to go to
the toilet without getting his pants dirty.

Okay enough of that.

My plane from Beijing to Shanghai was delayed by several hours.  We could
see parts of the plane sitting on the tarmac.  I didn’t know whether to be
concerned or relieved that they appeared to be doing maintenance.  As a
result of the delay I didn’t get to my hotel in Shanghai until 7.30 at
night, and one of Neil’s contacts had organised for someone to meet me and
show me around the city at 3pm.  The poor girl had sat in the hotel lobby
for over 3 hours waiting for me before leaving me a message and going home.
I called her when I finally got in, and she then insisted on coming back and
showing me around the Bund at night.

The next day I went shopping in Shanghai before catching a train to Suzhou.
Here I met another of Neil’s contacts who helped me hire my little yellow
bicycle, and for the last two days I’ve been riding around, visiting the
city’s beautiful gardens and just veging out before I catch the plane home
tonight.

My little yellow bicycle was a girl’s bike (where the handle bars are higher
than the seat) – don’t think I’ve ridden such a bike since I was about 8.
It had a seat that was very uncomfortable and which I couldn’t seem to
raise.  It had a basket on the front and a bell that didn’t work.  Oh and it
didn’t have gears and the brakes didn’t really work – my feet were more
effective.  And no helmets over here either.

Have you got a mental picture yet?  Now just imagine me pedalling along
singing “riding along on my push-bike honey”.  Okay – I think that completes
the picture.

I had a ball!  I couldn’t think of any better way to finish my holiday.

I’m still not entirely sure of the road rules, but the Chinese were quite
considerate and would honk their horns at me whenever I was in their way.
Which ended up being quite a lot.  At one stage I almost found myself on an
express way.  I didn’t know how to cross the road (too busy), so I had no
option but to turn around and ride in the opposite direction against the
traffic.  It was peak hour for bikes, and I as I turned my bike around all I
could see was hundreds of bikes heading straight for me.

At some of the main crossings they actually have a guy that directs the
traffic and another dude who controls the bikes.  And at some places you
actually pay someone to look after you bike (even though you also lock it).
Another funny thing that happened is I received some local adverts in my
basket.  I had stopped at one of the gardens and when I came back to my bike
I had all these flyers for the supermarket in my basket.  It was almost like
when you get flyers put under your windscreen wiper.

Mum – if you are reading this – don’t panic I survived and the bike has been
returned.

Suzhou has been a cool place to hang out.  It is an old canal city, but is
quickly becoming quite industrial.  There are still parts that have a lot of
charm, and the gardens are lovely.

Anyway, that’s all from me.  I have to dash back to the hotel and check out
before noon, and then catch a train back to Shanghai.

Back tomorrow, and back at work Thursday.

See you.

Lots of love
Alison

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