Suzhou 1: Tourist Trapped and Nearly Snapped

This post has been updated, mainly with photos. It is part one of two.

We went to see Suzhou, a small (only about six million humans) city in China’s Jiangsu province, a historic centre that bustles and builds ambitiously in the shadow of nearby Shanghai. I’m half a world away from my mother’s grave, so there was no visiting her on her birthday. At a certain point in the day, though, I took a moment to talk to her. It was much better than the dark muttering I’d been doing.

With a break in a busy schedule, we had come to the Venice of China — or, as one chamber of commerce-type banner had it, the “Fragrant Venus” — which has a reputation as, among other things, a city that helps ex-pats feel they’re getting away from China, just a little, you know what I’m saying, not that we always need this, but the place can wear on you, especially if, like me, a person’s prone to mentoring Chinese drivers from the side of the road, or thinking that over a decade of educational habit can be magically transformed by a semester of unconventional instruction from an idealistic white guy, so yes, “getaway” sounded good. (I get tired sometimes.) Travel Girl had made the plans, and Son the Fourth and I were relatively willing to be led to new pastures, or at least along different-coloured pavements. First impressions of Suzhou were pleasant, we arrived to the homely hospitality of a (young) old friend from Canada and his wife and even newer toddler, and what could go wrong?

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