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Suzhou and Hangzhou

"Heaven above,
Suzhou and Hangzhou below", claims an old Chinese saying.

High praise, indeed; so we checked it out....

Suzhou canals

A typical Suzhou garden

First we took a car from Shanghai to Suzhou, 'the Venice of the east'. Well, Venice needn't worry (about Suzhou, anyway).
While there are many picturesque canals and bridges here, they are relics of the past; attractive but impotent.

No, the real highlight of Suzhou is her gardens. There are dozens.
The Master of Nets Garden and the Humble Administrators Garden are the smallest and largest, respectively, and two of the best.

These Southern Chinese gardens look like they were designed for channel surfers.
Every turn presents a different view.
Buildings, rocks, water, plants, bridges, hills, caves, windows, benches; everything is eye candy.

The maze-like design turns the tour into a Christmas party, as you wonder what the designer will unwrap next.

If Kyoto stands as a monument to the simplicity of the Japanese Garden, then Suzhou can stand as a testament to the creative possibilities of the Chinese Garden.

Suzhou is also famous throughout China for her beautiful women. I didn't see any indication of that beauty, but we did see some very attractive women from Hangzhou.
They performed a dance show at our hotel in Shanghai, and were uniformly tall, thin, and blessed with porcelain skin.

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Hangzhou Beauty

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New Friends on the Train to Hangzhou.

On another weekend, we took a pleasant train ride to Hangzhou.
These women and children shared our section - playing cards and singing to the pop songs on the sound system - as we admired the views of the passing countryside.

When we arrived, we took a taxi to West Lake, the jewel of Hangzhou.
To be honest, West Lake does not compare very favorably with other great lakes of the world.

As a day trip from Shanghai, though, it's very pleasant.
It was also very rainy on the day we went, so we didn't get to enjoy the trip much.

I didn't shoot many pictures in the rain, but I took this lotus shot as almost an afterthought, not expecting much from it.

It's ironic, because the lotus is a very important flower to Buddhists, It shows that something pure and beautiful can grow from impure, muddy origins.
Good can come from bad.
Much like this picture.