Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spoilt in Suzhou and Shanghai

How do we summarise a country like China? Everything in super-sized, everything is super efficient, everything is tasty and everything is drenched in centuries old history. Old buildings next to sky scrapers, super rich and extremely poor, unaffordably expensive and dirt cheap, fabulous local cuisine and terrible western food attempts... China is a country of contrasts... And we just LOVED it!

After a few days in Beijing, we took an overnight train to Suzhou where Wiets' cousin Irene, her husband Rihann and their three daughters have been living for the past three years. They spoilt us rotten; driving us around the city, taking us on a boat trip on the canal, taking us to the best local restaurants, treating us to a roast duck dinner and quenching our craving for good red wine. Thanks you guys, we had an absolute blast and we hope that we can return the favours one day :)

Our last nights were spent in a splendid hotel in Shanghai... What a city! This is one metropolis that we would go back to in a heart beat. We meandered along the Bund as the sun set over the famous Shanghai skyline, wondered the bustling streets at night, dined on world renowned dumplings and shopped up a storm. It's a concrete jungle with personality. We adored the wide sidewalks, greener-than-green parks, amazing food, cocktails in the sky and classy locals.

Here is to our imminent second trip to China :)

Our cabin for the overnight train from Beijing to Suzhou. We were super relieved we got a private cabin (buying the tickets was a challenge) and that we didn't have to share with a spitting Beijing local (a terrible habit they seem to have taken up as a sport).

Finally! Luxury after a night in a tent and a night on a train :)

Noodle feast!! Rihann and Irene showed us the ropes on local Suzhou cuisine. Bowls of steaming broth filled with noodles topped with a fatty beef (or pork?) slice and served with condiments like sticky eel, pickled veggies, fresh ginger in soy sauce, nuts and preserved fish - yum!

The Humble Administrator's Gardens. Beautiful pebble walk ways, begodas, Mandarin Ducks paddling on lakes and moon windows :)

Boat cruise on one of the many water-ways in Suzhou.

Roast Beijing Duck dinner with the Marais/Koekemoer clan. The food, wine and company was delightful!

Twins! Rihann gave Wiets some much needed new T-shirts, thanks R!

One of the best meals we've ever had! Irene and Rihann took us to a Sichuan restaurant - numbingly spicy and flavorsome, we gulped down bites of peppered bullfrog, dry fried beef, lotus roots and silken tofu with local beer - wow!

After relentless spoiling and too much wining & diniing, we boarded the high speed train to Shanghai - Wiets likes this pic because it looks like I'm being blow away by the train :)

The concrete jungle that is Shanghai, a city of contrasts that we just loved!

Delicious feast to celebrate 3 weeks of wedded bliss in an old historical French Concession building.

Local Chinese markets are a feast for the senses! Loud, colourfull and overwhelmingly smelly at times, it always amazes us how fresh all the produce is! Not for the squeamish though... Live animals in cages and mesh bags awaiting the boiling pot...

Just one of the stunning parks amongst the skyscrapers.

Dumpling feast! Din Tai Fung serves up some of the most delicious xiaolong bao.

Cruising the streets at sunset with some of the most epic buildings in the world as our backdrop.

Cocktails at Cloud 9 in the Yin Mao building... On the 87th floor! What a view!!

Room service and red wine (thanks Rihann) in our fabulous hotel. Ps We've got the chopsticks thing down!

Boys and their toys :) Wiets was super stoked that we got to travel from Shanghai to the airport in the MagLev at 431km per hour!!
Next stop, Los Angeles America :)

Location:Shanghai, China

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