Perfect Weather

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Suzhou, Jiangsu, China
So far the weather has been perfect, no rain in Warsaw and Moscow, brilliant sunshine in Siberia, overcast but warm and dry in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. Today was our first rest day with nothing planned and it rained so nothing lost either.

The leaflet of Tongli where we are staying describes the town as;

"Tongli is small but the lane is very circuitous, deep and quiet . The geography of cultural and historical relics also complicated, in order to make tourists who visit here for the first time enjoy themselves".

We have avoided making fun of the rather odd translations on signs as we are extremely grateful for all the effort made to make foreigners like us feel welcome, but the above was on a leaflet given to hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, you would think they would get someone English or American to check it (there are several pages of mis translation).
So far we have got by without any knowledge of Chinese by using gesticulations and pointing, we have been lent a magic machine the size of a calculator into which you type a sentence in English and it displays the translation in Chinese, however I always think of the Monty Python sketch where a simple sentence is translated into something rude or inappropriate so it has only been used once so far to ask for orange juice.

The Tongli guide goes on further to describe the food options:
"Compared with other similar towns in the South River Land, Tongli does not have many resplendent and magnificent restaurants, however we are often pleasantly surprised by these intelligent people"

Armed with this advice we went looking for intelligent people for our dinner last night and found a nice lady selling food at canal side tables (it is warm enough to eat outside) . The kitchen it came from looked very scruffy and the speed with which Gills knuckle of pork (a local delicacy) arrived suggested it had been hanging around for some while. My chicken bits (the bits that are left after the real meat has been cut off for a posh customer) came about 15mins later and the rice to accompany them arrived just as we finished the last bit of meat. We have not cracked getting food an any logical order, starters, mains, soups just arrive when they are ready, that just seems to be the Chinese way. The food was very tasty, we did not have any nasty effects in the night and it cost less than £20 including several beers. The local beer is called Tsingtao, it is all you can get in Tongli, I think this must be a local bylaw, it is only 3.9% proof so there is little danger of falling in the canal after drinking a couple of bottles. The locals either drink tea without milk (not the sort of tea we are used to but ok) or a 55% proof spirit which we have avoided testing as yet. They don't seem to drink beer or wine which seems only available in city centre restaurants.

Yesterday we noticed a lady from the back of a restaurant cleaning the dishes in the canal, today we had some nice dumplings for lunch and then realised....... yes the same place.... Oh dear lets hope our immune systems are working well.
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Tsingtao is a reasonable beer often have it here in the restaurants though always nice to see it is a proper beer as opposed to a pseudo beer like some if the others.