My time in Suzhou came to an end last night when I arrived in Huangshan at 1am. The past couple days I wandered around Suzhou and checked out the classical gardens there. The Humble Administrators Garden was perfect for the new wide angle lens I bought in Hong Kong, and it made me very glad I bought it. The day I walked around there was hot clear, although you can't call the sky blue, it's more greyish from all the pollution. The gardens themselves are immaculately maintained, and are very beautiful. Walking along you can see many people painting and sketching pictures of the gardens. Speaking of that, Jin Jiang Road (where I was staying) is a magnet for photographers. The most common sight on that street is SLR cameras, then models in Chinese dresses. Per capita, that place must have one of the highest rates of photographers. Seriously, you couldn't even go into a cafe and read a book without four or five people wandering around taking pictures of random shit. Another funny thing was when I was walking around the main shopping area, after I had bought a train ticket out of Suzhou. It was a big plaza area, full of shops and fast food restaurants. What stood out most was the smell: it smelled like a plant I used to spot rail cars at down at the docks in Vancouver. A fat rendering plant. Where they render dead animals into processed tallow. You can imagine how foul that smells. That's how this shopping area smelled. I have no idea why.
The train ride was my second attempt at taking a chair car. I did so on this one because it wasn't an overnight train, just a simple ten hour journey that started in the afternoon. Now during this ten hours, I have to kill some of it, so watching a movie on my netbook is the best way to do it. As soon as I break that thing out, I'm a magnet of interest for everyone in the car. I watched the Kite Runner and two episodes of the Pacific with an old guy in the seat across from me. He didn't speak any English and couldn't possibly understand what was being said in the movie, but he was digging it nonetheless. He even supplied the movie snacks: sweetened rice crackers. Before I broke out the cinema, I had an interesting time watching the scenery we passed on the train. It reminded me of scenes from old movies like Slap Shot or the Deer Hunter, scenes of old midwest mill towns; working class houses (apartments in China's case) set against a background of a giant steel mill. It was like looking back thirty years. Very interesting in my opinion.
Now I'm in Huangshan, and tomorrow I'll attempt to hike the Yellow Mountain, supposedly the terrain that gave James Cameron his idea for the floating mountains in Avatar. I've heard good things and I'm pumped, but unfortunately the rain is threatening to, well, rain on my parade. With some luck it will break tomorrow and give me an excellent-view-filled trek.