An Impromptu Holiday to Changshu, Jiangsu Province

Unplanned holidays are still the best. They generally don't leave you with too much time to plan so you tend to focus on the most important bits. For me that means: packing light. I occasionally tend to over-pack so this time I didn't have the time to over-think the whole mini-break and left with a backpack and my handbag, perfectly enough for a few days away from home.

Labour Day (May 1st) is a popular date for a short holidays here in China. The weather is usually good, it's not too hot and not too cold, perfect for a long weekend away. My days off were almost perfect so when my friend out of the blue suggested for me to come visit, I took the chance and asked for a day off which gave me four days off in a row. I spent the first day in Wuhan honouring some commitments and set off early Wednesday morning. The high-speed train from Wuhan to Shanghai stops in Wuxi which is less than a stone's throw from Changshu. My friend has a car and didn't mind picking me up. I arrived around lunch time and my first thought was that Wuxi was a heck of a lot colder than Wuhan. In hindsight, the platform of a high-speed railway train station is not the greatest place to judge the temperature of the city you've just arrived at. Especially not when there are trains thundering past you left and right.

It is however worth noting that there are about 800-something kilometres between Wuhan and Wuxi and Wuhan is known to be one of the hottest cities in China. Still, it was bearable. After I got off the train in Wuxi, I miraculously managed not to get lost. China's high-speed railway train stations tend to be bigger than China's airports. My friend's direction's were pretty good and I found his car pretty much right away. We didn't linger but set off for Changshu straight away.

Changshu (常熟) is pretty impressive. It looks clean, much much cleaner than your average Chinese city. Compared to Wuhan you can eat off the pavement in Changshu. It's quiet, very green and not very crowded, yet the city has a booming industry. According to my friend the house prices in Changshu are nearly as high as Shanghai (Changshu is only an hour drive away from the financial capital of China) and most people don't shop in Changshu but take their money to Suzhou or Shanghai.

Like any decent Chinese city is has a lake, this one goes by the name of Shanghu (尚湖), the perfect location for a weekend picnic, afternoon stroll or lengthy bicycle ride. We chose to spent the day strolling about the Shanghu Scenic Area which requires the purchase of an entry ticket at the cost of 80RMB in a hall where colourful ancient Chinese umbrellas rain from the ceiling...

There isn't much I can say to describe the scenic area, the photographs I took don't even do the place justice. The place wasn't at all crowded (possibly because most people were still at work, sweating in the heat and looking forward to their long weekend) which was just perfect. I'm used to noisy Wuhan and it doesn't bother me much but everyone needs a little bit of tranquillity every so often. We were surrounded by peace, sunshine, a pretty much cloudless sky, calm water, fish, bridges, trees, little paths, flowers of all shapes and colours, beautiful stone sculptures, little hideaways and small meadows, a temple... Oh just look at the pictures already!

The water all around us was either a deep green or a crystal turquoise with plenty of fish swimming around.

I've no idea what this flower is called but I came across it almost everywhere and I have a thing for purple things...or does this still fall into the pink-category?

A small temple, though I'm sure not real, with gifts at the "altar" and wishes strung up all around.

If you enjoy your stroll and take some breaks here and then it'll take you more than three hours to walk from the entrance back to the entrance.

Following my modelling experience I now tend to pose on every picture.

We debated a good ten minutes about the name of this flower and still haven't agreed on what it actually is.

Beautiful blue-green water.

Clear enough for you to watch the tiny little fish play hide and seek between the rocks, algae and roots at the bottom of the lake.

We founded a little meadow and I decided to sprawl out on my throw for an early afternoon nap.

Amidst a see of flowers. 

Happiness is simple.

I found some wild peppermint growing near this little terrace and plucked a few leaves to carry around with me. The scent of enchanting.

A blue, pretty much cloudless sky, beautiful scenery, sunshine and good company. A gal doesn't need more to be happy.

Came across this beautiful lady but sadly didn't check who she is.

Again, I have no idea what this plant is called but I like the fact that it's neither blue nor purple. It's something of a hybrid right in-between.

Every good day should end with fabulous food and my friend knew just how to satisfy my cravings: fish!!! I have a thing for fish and if I don't get to eat it at least once a week my mood goes downhill. Everyone here in China knows that feeding me fish is the easiest and most fool-proof way to keep me happy.

Mine, mine, mine!!!
Mind you, every other meal we had during my three days in Changshu was also good. There was a seafood hotpot night snack, Chinese pancakes, dumplings, Hunan cuisine, wontons, noodles, Starbucks and fried rice.

Last but not least I got a free porn-show during my last night in the hotel (audio only) for the couple next door to my room where having a lot of fun and she screamed for half an hour straight. I told you, my life in China is anything but boring...