“It would be a pity if…”: 02 August 2006 (Wednesday)

The billboard at the Suzhou train station loudly proclaimed the following words of a poet from the Song Dynasty: “It would be a pity if one were to visit Suzhou and not see Tiger Hill”. Chris, Lisa and I had decided to go out of town on an afternoon excursion to see Suzhou. Unfortunately for Lisa, she had left Chris and I in charge of planning the outing. In between the twin vagaries of computer games and the Internet, I think she should have been happy with at least the foreknowledge of what time the train was to leave. The obvious lack of planning was made apparent when we arrived at the train station and only found the ticket office through blind luck. We had not brought the guidebook, Chris had not brought his iPod battery, I had forgotten my MP3 player and my cell phone. Granted the cell phone is not a necessary accessory but we had also planned to meet Sarah at the ticket station. In the end, with our late arrival and unable to locate Sarah, we tumbled into the hard seat double-decker coach for Suzhou.

Despite the crammed conditions, all seemed to be going well and the train did finally motor into the Suzhou train station after an hour of travel. On disembarking and seeing the billboard, we decided that we did not want to be pitied; we would go to Tiger Hill. In a moment of lucidity though we decided to book our onward journey first. Unfortunately (due to our lack of planning) the only train back with seats was to leave in a mere hour. Obviously Tiger Hill was unattainable. What a pity.

Given the little time we had in Suzhou, we decided a cold beer was in order. The first restaurant we tried smelled of dead cat and urine so we found another. The second restaurant smelled nicer but that staff were all asleep inside when we showed up. When we came in there was a sudden hustle and bustle of activity to get us seated and beers poured. Meanwhile in the tank nearby, a fish swam upside down (he was still alive) with blood spilling down its body and a mangy cat rummaged for morsels of food along the floor. Overall, not a place I would recommend for food.

That my friends was my one hour in Suzhou, A piteous time indeed. The evening was a much nicer affair of yet more sushi and an open mic night. Since Lisa had planned all that, I didn’t need to pity anything.


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