Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beautiful Screeching Sounds

So I'm sitting there on the lake front, minding my own business. Trying to enjoy my candy-coated-mystery-fruit-on-a-stickTM and this guy sneaks in from behind, cranks the volume to 11 and disturbs my peace.

What a wonderfully effective method of removing westerners from your personal space. These sorts of sounds are better appreciated from a safe distance.

And once you find out how far is safe, it's really something worth appreciating.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Picture of Wang, and Video of His Work

Meet Mr. Wang, his name rhymes with "long."

Mr. Wang is our driver and I snuck a picture for you to see. He's a really good driver; he is not too heavy on the horn, has a superhuman understanding of exactly how much space is needed to pass a car, and isn't afraid to put the hammer down when presented with open road.  Here's a brief sample of his handy work.

Someday I'll remember to pull out the camera when things get real far I've been too busy contemplating the penalty for a dent on the company's car.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Real Little Real Trees

At Tiger Hill there was a display Clif found interesting enough to feature on it's own blog post. Here are pictures of the little mountain scenes created with stone, bonsai trees and at least one small house.

They were all small enough to fit on a dinner table and had small trees growing on them. Real trees...small ones.


See the small house?

A Trip to Tiger Hill

One major attraction in Suzhou is Tiger Hill, or Hu Qiu Shan as the locals call it. We took advantage of beautiful weather on Saturday and made the short drive.

The site owes it's name to the  legend that when King Helu of the Wu State was buried at the spot in 496 BC, a white tiger appeared to guard the tomb. Yea, I said BC.

Tiger Hill has a rich and lengthy history, it is difficult to wrap your brain around how old the place really is. There are quite a few structures and landscape features, some of which are likely very old. But without a tour guide and the ability to read most signs, we were left with a chance to peacefully wander the garden and enjoy the scene. This blog post will be mostly pictures with few words, but before we get too deep in pictures there are a couple things worth writing about.

First, here is a picture of a sign near the entry gate that shows a map and provides an introduction to the history. Read it if such things interest you...if not you may skip ahead.

Every big show has a main attraction. The star of the show at Tiger Hill is the Yunyan Pagoda, which is also known as the Leaning Pagoda (or many other names.)

The leaning pagoda plays a big roll in the park's first impression

The structure is seven stories and 154 feet tall. It was built in 961AD and predates the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Leaning Tower of Shanghai. This is the oldest pagoda in Suzhou, and was built in brick to mimic wood pagodas of the era.

I've read the tower leans at an angle of around 3.5 degrees. It leans because it was built on a foundation of half rock and half dirt. Also a few interior columns are reportedly cracked, which hasn't helped the situation.

I found it difficult to take a picture that accurately portrayed the angle of lean, there are no good vertical references. The best reference is the people on the ground, who I assume are standing mostly vertical.

I found one internet source that says public access to the top was allowed until 2010. YIKES!

Another feature of note is the sword testing stone. The stone is in two pieces and the legend is this stone was cut in two by a sword of extreme sharpness. I'll let you be the judge:

And without further ado, I'll shut up and let the pictures do the talking.

This would be such a good picture if the camera focused on Shayne's face.

Baby Gerke goes sightseeing

There is a large bonsai garden. It is difficult to take a picture of a bonsai tree in front of a backdrop of other trees, but some of the wide angle shots look pretty good.