Saturday in Suzhou

Leica M6 photos are included now…


Agenda for this weekend started with another attempted trip to Nanjing. The last time, the bad weather stopped the trip, and this time I didn’t want to risk the lack of return ticket coming back. At least here in Shanghai they dont have seats on the train back till Monday! Two days! I’m sure there are more stock of tickets in Nanjing itself or I could take a bus back. But the weather is great today and Suzhou it is. Its a quarter of the way to Nanjing anyway.


Taking train number N482 with standing room ticket in hand, its time for another travel report in China (probably the cheapest ticket at 15RMB to Suzhou). The particular train I’m in, 7:45am to Nanjing stopping by plenty of stops on the way, was packed to the brim, passengers standing from the front of the carriage to the back. You could get a seat ticket, but you will have plenty of natives standing against your shoulder staring at what you are doing. Its amazing in this condition you can still get the tidbit carts working! Amazing. This train will eventually end up in Nanjing, but trip to Suzhou is only around an hour and 90km away, which is not really that bad to be standing. But still, maybe the long distance bus would have been a better idea since I’m guaranteed a seat. So, apparently a train that starts with a N is the normal train, T is for the fast express train (not T for Turbo for sure), and D is the new bullet train that goes up to 200km/h.


On the equipment front, will be going relatively light today. In my Think Tank Speed Demon waist pack I have a D2H set on RAW as always with voigtlander’s 40mm ULTRON f2 lens attached, and a second camera, the Leica M6 with a Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH with no hood for portability since the two camera has to stick into the Speed Demon. And its pretty snug. Was tempted to bring a 105mm AIS but will take the risk. The M6 currently has an expired Provia 100F loaded, should be ok since it has been sitting in the freezer all these while. In a standard Eastpak backpack, I have 1 Provia 400F (RDPIII), and 2 rolls of Kodak 400TX ready.Usually I shoot 1 roll per day but those were just precaution in case there are more things to shoot than planned. And as usual, blogging live with the Nokia E61.

So on to Suzhou…


1011hrs: Waiting for my dozen pork and vegetables dumplings for breakfast in a shop next to the North Temple Pagoda here in Suzhou, while taking time to memorize the map of Suzhou from my new Lonely Planet guide and wondering if I could walk the whole city. Usually I travel with a google earth printout and the location of the sights I want to visit pre-entered into my Garmin GPS. Its just the start of the day, and I have bought a return ticket on the fast CRH train for 1945hrs tonight. My intuition is correct, there are some tickets allocated in Shanghai for the return trip, but when you’re at the destination station, there are much more tickets on offer on the same day. I should have enough time to walk the whole city it seems. Will take the chance.




1307hrs: Sorted out the first garden. That would be the Humble Administrator’s Garden next to the Suzhou Museum. Not going to talk too much about it, its in the guidebooks. Right after that, walked 2km due south and I am now at Suzhou’s very own copy of Nanjing St, complete with those annoying electric people carrier with loud 8 bit music to announce their presence. I think its called Guanqian Jie. Only thing new here is that shopgirls clap their hands to attract shoppers into their shops. Not that it seems to be working, shops are mostly empty, but they are loud… Arrgghhh! Another 8 bit electric car!!! Dammit.


1358hrs: Seemed to have gone around in circles. Back to a road i recognize although that was not in the plan. I think instead of going south towards my next destination (Master of the Nets Garden), I actually went North, a little slight misjudgement in direction. Too lazy to have the GPS on, and I’m now 2km in the wrong direction and now in the opposite side of the city. To save some time, will be taking a taxi. On to the fisherman’s garden to the south of Suzhou.




1504hrs: The Garden of the Master of the Nets is a small garden. Less of a garden, unlike the first one, and more of a house with a lot of open corridors with natural stone in the shape of anything strange. There are some ponds etc, but small and cozy. I’m sure the owner of the place used to get lost in here. Finished my first roll of Provia 100F there. The sun is still up and the skies are blue with just a little bit of cloud, will put in the Provia 400F for the remainder of the day since there’s still a lot of sun left.


1540hrs: The southern part of suzhou seems to be the hidden gem of the whole trip. Unexpected to say the least. The rest of the city looks either full of tourist or like any other dirty part of China, but not here. What looks like a large canal runs east-west, and is punctuated by large arch bridges, I can see 3 right now. Its peaceful here too, if you can filter out the noise coming from the road, but its rather muted. The locals here don’t seem to be as noisy as in the rest of Suzhou. No street peddlers selling whatevers to tourists. Are tourists that bad? They have to be quite sellable for them to continue peddling it. On my way to the Pan Gate near the Ruigang Pagoda. Sounds like an ancient canal lock, but will see in a while. This is one shot I cannot take with the 40mm on the D2H. Will need a telephoto, but dont think I will be missing anything. Sun is starting to set here in Suzhou.


1701hrs: Pan Gate was a letdown. Ok, i have no idea if it really was one since I didnt go in. Cover charge was 50rmb and since it was getting dark, I didn’t think it was worth it. 10rmb maybe. Went shooting sunsets across the canal instead. I’m now at a local rice shop having an early dinner: meatball, 3 vegetables, soup and rice for 19rmb. Thats a meal for someone with a big appetite. Can’t fault me, have been walking the whole day. Damn restaurant blaring with pseudo-techno music of the 2-unlimited kind, but with lyrics from some chinese song. Most times the beat is inappropriate for the song. Time to listen to some Cedric Gervais on the ipod…. So far, just a little more than 400 shots on the d2 and into my second provia roll on the m6. Overall, clear skies, clearer than what you could hope for anywhere in China. Which explains the number of shots. With the reputation this city carries, I guess b&w just dont fit. Anyway, I’m midroll on the Provia and swapping it with a roll of tri-x is not on my mine. Maybe my next trip here will be b&w. Getting cold outside. Its jacket time and I’ll take a walk back to the station, all 5km of it. Guided with a digital compass and just have to keep walking up North and take pictures of street scenes with the Provia 400F in the Leica.


1844hrs: Just got to the train station. It gets dark here around 5pm and theres not too much more to see at that time. Took a little more than an hour to get here, and there were a few unexpected twist and turn, but the gps tells me I’m going the right direction. Lucky I had the coordinates of the train station entered, kind of like a second nature to me now. First thing to do when I get somewhere is to determine the gps location, then to get the ticket back. At night, nothing special here in suzhou, looks a little like the back lanes of Shanghai. Couple of night markets which is just a carpet on the ground and some goods for sale. Yellow melons seem to be the seasonal craze here. The train D445 departs at 1745 and should be the CRH bullet train, but there are only 2 waiting rooms at this one, so every one waits for their train either in waiting room 1 or 2. On the board there are 7 trains waiting in the room I’m in. And should be back in Shanghai before 9:30pm.


One last picture I took on the street… this one above has a hollywood movie feel to it… if only if I can get the trash on the road to fly up in the wake of the police car!


And lastly, some film photos taken with the M6 to end the posting, all with Fuji Provia 100F film…

A stroll in the backlanes…


 Winding the cranks to start the engine to a little bulldozer…


And on the heel of the smallest little restaurant I have ever seen. It was good that I saw this guy below since a couple of hours later, when I was lost I came back to the same guy…



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