Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day trip to Xitang, a Lovely Watertown

18 October: Today we took a day trip to the watertown of Xitang, where the 3rd movie Mission Impossible was filmed. I should have asked William to buy our train tickets, as the station was packed with travelers. I was able to buy tickets to Xitang (actually to Jiashan with a change to a bus) but not for the ride home. I was told that there were plenty of buses for the return trip. The trip was 45 minutes. Upon arrival, I wanted to buy our bus tickets before heading into Xitang. A young woman, Stella, guided us to the bus station, which we would never have found. There were no signs in English and the buses were parked in the back and out of view. She helped us buy our bus tickets and then went with us to Xitang where she lives. She even walked us all the way to the entrance of Xitang. Both Reenie and I really appreciated her assistance.

We spent a few hours walking around Xitang, which is a popular tourist destination. It was a semi-clear day and quite enjoyable after the two big cities of Beijing and Shanghai. Lots of people were taking boat rides on the canal. Many of the residence have shops or food stalls. We picked up a deep fried vegetable fritter for a snack.

For lunch, I picked a place facing the canal, although the tables outside were filled. We had a simple lunch of sautéed sliced purple eggplant and rice. A bowl of edamame (soybeans) was also served. Only one person in the restaurant spoke English and it was very limited. We managed well though. Lunch was 24 RMB. I always enjoy finding delicious foods and meals at deliciously low prices.

We took a mini bus back to Jiashan, which dropped us off at the bus station. The bus ride was a lot longer, but it was nice to sit and relax. Back in Shanghai, I looked for a taxi. A person in uniform apparently saw me looking and said, “Taxi?” Yes! He walked to the street and hailed one for us and made sure we got in, as there were several other people waiting for a taxi. It was really nice of him! We found that the Chinese are very friendly and helpful, even if you don’t speak Chinese.

Reenie wanted to visit the Yu Yuan Gardens but it was too late. She was very disappointed but knew she had to give up some time in order for her foot to heal. We found a place near our hotel for dinner since she had her fill of walking. We enjoyed a braised fatty pork dish with chestnuts and red hot peppers, steamed cabbage with shitake mushrooms and rice. A large bottle of beer was 10 RMB and dinner total came to 60 RMB. The pork was tender and flavorful and the chestnuts were cooked until just soft. It was a great combination.

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