blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Under the umbrellas

Southeast corner of Xi Hu, in the rain
It was cooler on Saturday, but the rainy season had now begun; between this first weekend in June and the end of our stay in China we had a great many wet days and so will forever associate Hangzhou in our minds with umbrellas.

It was a holiday weekend in China, the Dragon Boat Festival, a three-day break for Chris although he had to do a day's work in total hours in our hotel room in order to meet his contract equirements. Whenever he took a break we went for a walk in the rain. The true Hangzhou atmosphere, misty, wet and mysterious. When I closed my eyes at night I saw thousands of dark, wet leaves with rippling water in the background, and thousands of umbrellas bobbing up and down in a variety of pastel shades as people moved along beneath them. From a distance, a line of umbrellas slowly moving over the bridges, which would have made a lovely impressionist painting.

June 4th, Saturday

was a recovery day for me, although for the sake of fresh air Chris insisted on our going out twice, the second time catching the bus downtown. We wandered along by the lakeside, getting soaked but not cold, and sheltering in pavilions for ages with the friendly crowds. At the end of the afternoon I remembered having seen an Indian restaurant on the Nanshan Lu, Haveli. We had a delicious supper there––onion bajees, creamy chicken saag, basmati rice (an agreeable change from sticky rice), naan bread and tea, slowly drying off in our window seats with colourful cushions and satin and velvet napkins.

June 5th, Sunday

We had made an over-optimistic mistake on the Sunday, leaving our umbrellas behind (the one I'd brought from Canada plus one that had been lent to us by the hotel staff), so had to buy a couple more on Gushan in order not to become objects of pity for the natives. In fact we were shamed into buying the umbrellas by the number of people who gallantly offered us the use of theirs. The Solitary Mountain wasn't as solitary as all that. About 100,000 people were crossing the causeway to get there, but surprisingly Chris and I did find a little pavilion in the woods on the hill which we had to ourselves for a few minutes before a friendly chap came along to join us and talk to us in his language. We had also had a ride in a gondola during which the nice girl sitting on the seat opposite had chatted to us as well and had grabbed the spare paddle so as to hand it to Chris to have a go, once she discovered out we were Canadian.

Where we heard the bird singing
Continuing towards Lotus Swaying in the Breeze, a part of the lakeside I particularly wanted to share with Chris, barges carrying the lighting equipment for the Son et Lumière show sailed past us. We reached yet another pavilion by the lily pond, stopping to watch the fish and listening to a very musical bird singing on and on, some kind of nightingale perhaps. This was another China moment that we'll not forget.

On the "mainland" we walked back round the northeastern corner of the lake (along Beishan Lu, behind which are some eye catching, older than usual houses, to Hubin Lu) to find a restaurant for a salty supper in wet clothes, avoiding the option of Snake that we found on the menu. With dripping umbrellas we caught the last bus of the day from the Jiefang Lu terminus. A beggar whom we'd seen before was playing the flute in a shop doorway; a slim girl got onto the bus in bare feet.


Emma said...

"once she discovered out we were Canadian"

is that how you define yourselves now? Interesting!

Alison Hobbs said...

In the previous blogpost you may have noticed that I wrote, "I was always at the back because, being British, I don't push in front of other people." It seems I'm still confused about my national identity.

Sometimes, in China, I felt as if I were an ambassador for the whole of the western world!