Thursday, May 10, 2012

Suzhou ~ Lingering Gardens, Silk Factory

During our stay in Shanghai we were in a very nice 5 star hotel, but at one end of the 12th floor we could look down on this scene.  It is an old neighborhood that is being demolished for a new building...we saw these everywhere in all the cities we visited.

Yikes, this one is sideways, but you get the picture...

On our last full day in China, we went on an optional day of touring up north of Shanghai in the medium size city (only 8 million) of Suzhou.  It is a huge manufacturing city...1/4th of the world's computers are made here.  It is famous for it's silk and embroidery...empresses of old would have their clothes made in Suzhou.

In the morning we went to one of the top five gardens of China.  You would think you could get tired of going to gardens, but they are much more than gardens with beautiful rooms, ponds, flowers....and this one had a humongous collection of bonsai trees and bushes...probably 150 or more.  Just was over 300 years old.  It was called Lingering Gardens and you did just want to linger...

Our local guide, Jackie, who has been with us in Shanghai is from this city and grew up growing silkworms as a kid.  So, we went to a Silk Museum where Jackie walked us through the process.  It was an amazing experience.  After his demonstration of the life cycle of the silkworms we went into the factory to see the machines spinning the 8 strands of very fine silk together from 8 cocoons.  Each one has nearly a MILE of silk in one long strand.  We were in the room for several minutes and they had about 50 different machines spinning...and I didn't see one strand break.

Here the women are pulling the silk into big squares for quilts.

Of course, the museum turns into a store/showroom and this one was as big as a department store with a men's and women's department with shirts, pjs, robes, jackets, blouses, vests, pants ~ everything all silk and very soft.  Then they had pictures, bedding, linens, scarves, bags and just went on and on in a very modern well lit store.  The Chinese have really figured out this tourist/commercial business. 
We were at museums for pearls and jade as well earlier in the tour...all with nice sales rooms, too.
This museum also had a very nice cafeteria across the street.  We had lunch and then noticed they had Breyers ice cream bars, so we all bought one for dessert...tasted really good!

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