"Take oooooooff, to the great white north! Take ooooooooooff!"
From some song by some band. Great hunh?
Meg and I decided to get out of town this weekend as we were tired of just sitting around Shanghai each weekend. On the recommendation of a friend we decided to head out with him and another friend to Yangzhou! Yangzhou is a scenic river town not terribly far from Nanjing. Nanjing of course being the other city to stand as the capital of China at points in history. Soooo, Meg and I packed a small bag and jumped on a bus with our friends at 7:45 on Saturday morning and hit the road, eh kind of...
Let's take a minute to talk about road travel in China, on a holiday weekend... What is normally around a three to four hour bus ride took about five due to heavy traffic and accidents. Please reference my last post on crossing streets to get a feel of what the driving experience is like. This was a long weekend in China, because today, as I type, is tomb sweeping day. People venture back to their hometowns and pay their respects to their ancestors. We had hoped getting on the road early on Saturday would be the optimal time to go. In a country of billions, I don't think you get "optimal". Let us also be clear that we went from a city of 20 million people to a city of about 4.5 million people.
We did eventually make Yangzhou by the early afternoon. Trips are all in the planning. Do little and you certainly make things harder. We didn't have a hotel before we left and the bus ride up proved a comedy of it's own as our friend got stonewalled with call after call put into Yangzhou hotels turning us down. Thankfully we had a secret weapon in the owner of a brewery/restaurant in Yangzhou we knew who tracked down some rooms.
I have to be honest, the cab ride from the bus station to the hotel was not inspiring. The sky was a deep gray, and we passed a lot of small fields where they used nightsoil 'cough' poop 'cough' ahem, excuse me. So if you have ever traveled the cattle country of West Texas you can begin to place that smell. We began making jokes about "Yangzhou is for lovers!".
Getting to the hotel turned the whole trip around. First of all we ended up staying in a higher tier hotel which was a little more expensive than we expected but after getting shut down all the way there, we were happy to take what we got. We decided a little forethought was in order so we talked to the concierge about travel back to Shanghai and found out we could nab train tickets for the next day.
I'm writing more than I thought I would for this post so I'm going to cut the post short here soon and let the pictures do the talking. What's important is that Yangzhou is absolutely beautiful city when you aren't in the industrial section. The big draw is a series of gardens that are cut by canals all over. These gardens were absolutely beautiful. The Xiuxi Hu (show-she-who) garden was so large that we barely even saw a full quarter of it. The train ride took a grand total of two hours after a short cab ride to the next city south. Really comfortable seats and a weird moving playing starring Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, O.J. Simpson, Martin Sheen, and Burt Lancaster. Set on a train, overrun by men with machine guns, then crashes and almost everyone dies.... Yeaaaah, great film to show on a train. All in all, we plan to get back to Yangzhou sooner rather than later.