Mea Culpa, $12.50 and No Corkage

(Ed. Note: Let me begin by offering my most profound apologies to Ken and Barb. To Ken: Please accept my most sincere apology for not remembering that on January 1 you were, indeed, our first guest blogger (Shanghai Calling and a bit of Jaixing, too). Clearly, my memory is not what it once was (at least, what I think it once was, but perhaps I don’t remember what it once was). But I digress, I think. Now where was I? Oh yes. In my defense, though, since I post a blog for you almost every week (when you remember to get it to me) it is almost understandable that I would forget. Nevertheless, my apologies.  To Barb: Please accept my most sincere apology for getting you all excited and then pulling the rug out from under you. I know how disappointed you must feel about no longer being the first guest blogger, but take heart – you are the first (and maybe the only) blogger  to add 22 photos to your posting! Now to the two of you – you are lucky that I didn’t add an ie to Barb’s name in the first line…).

Moving on. Yesterday Bruce, Kim, Lawrence and Steve had an adventure. I am sure that Bruce and Kim will regale you with the tale of getting here from Shanghai and their interpretations of Jiaxing. (See The Carabines Conquer China). I will just say that I admire their perseverance at the Hongqiao Railway Station. However, when they finally arrived they were hungry and thirsty so we had our 4:30 hors d’oerves and accompanying wine early and then headed out to show off Jiaxing – on a lovely mostly smog-free day. We started on the roof of our apartment, where we discovered that some people think it is good place to leave their dog for a while (no “leftovers”, just an actual dog wandering around). From there it was off to show them Terry’s school, where they all offered the usual platitudes about Terry’s office etc. We got on the No. 28 bus to head downtown. Now there are only 3 stops from where the 28 starts its run and the school and so it is usually almost empty. Not yesterday however – it was half full and on get 6 white people. Unfortunately, I was busy paying and didn’t get to watch the faces of the passengers, but I can assure you that there would have been a lot of looks!

Back Row: Terry, Steve, Bruce, KimFront Row: Lawrence, Unknown, friendly young woman

Back Row: Terry, Steve, Bruce, Kim
Front Row: Lawrence, Unknown, friendly young woman

The young woman sitting in front of Bruce, busily ignoring us was quite funny. At one point I said to the group that I wanted to learn how to say “I understand Chinese you know” and she started to grin. Bruce told me how to say it and the woman sitting across from me (not in photo) turned around and smiled. Then the young woman started to chat with us a little. Poor Lawrence. He can’t stand taxi drivers here and is RELUCTANT to get in one, so he travels by subway in Shanghai – but in Jiaxing, only buses. The drivers, according to Lawrence, are just one step above the crazy taxi drivers, but at least the bus is big enough to withstand most accidents. He was white-knuckling it for the first while of the ride!

We went down to the Chinese Communism Museum, but didn’t go in, electing to leave it for another day when the inside temperature of -12º is more acceptable (well, maybe it isn’t -12º but it sure is cold in there). We headed off to South Lake for the ride to the famous junk (talked about in previous blogs). (Ed note: On the way I bought a couple of pineapple on a stick treats for us – there are people all over Asia selling these things. It is approximately 1/4 of a pineapple on a skewer. I paid 10rmb (1.60) for the two of them. On Terry’s bike ride the other day she paid 30rmb ($5.00) for one. She said to the guy that he was charging downtown prices but to no avail. Memories of a shoeshine on Christmas Day, anyone?)

After a sail on the lake (I don’t know who took more pictures – Bruce, Kim, Lawrence and Steve (combined) of the lake, the islands, the building and the junk or the Chinese people of these 6 white people – all in one place at one time -could be a toss up), we hopped on a bus back to our end of town to go to – you guessed it – Krabi Thai for dinner. But first the check-in at the hotel. What a show.

Daisy had made reservations for us – 1 room with a queen bed for the Carabines and 1 room with 2 singles for Lawrence and Steve. Simple, right. Not so much. Took the desk clerk about ten minutes to get it – then he gave Lawrence a key that wouldn’t open the door and put B and K in the room with the two singles. Bruce was back down at the desk trying to explain with pictures and arrows (Alice’s Restaurant comes to mind. BTW for those of you who know/remember Arlo’s song, I REALLY encourage you to listen to this version. It is a recording he did in the mid 1990s and it has a great ending) and after 5 minutes of trying to explain what he wanted, was about to give up when Lawrence came back and said that they had the queen bed. Ahhh Jiaxing!!

Off to Krabi. I must admit, I was a little nervous. Krabi is usually great – but every restaurant has off nights. We have extolled its virtues so much that Bruce and Kim were salivating at the opportunity to dine here. There was no need for nerves. It was fantastic. I have no idea how many dishes we had – but we were stuffed when we finished. (Terry’s ed note:  we had 10 dishes including grilled squid and mussels, beef tamarind salad, chrysanthemum salad, baked mixed mushrooms, green curry, vermicelli noodles with eggplant, green beans with pork,  beef stir fry with hot peppers, and another baked dish that was fantastic but I don’t remember what it was called–had chicken or pork and lovely baked yam or something like yam; and rice.  When the bill came, Geoff took such a long time looking at it that I was getting nervous.  Finally he looked up and said, “It’s $75.  $12.50 each!”   Amazing!)

Our Favourite Philippino Singer (along with Charley, of course)

Our Favourite Philippino Singer (along with Charley, of course)

We have talked before about Charley and the band. Last night I chatted with the woman singer. She is lovely. She’s 39 married and lives here – her husband lives in Lafayette, Indiana and her 18 year old son lives in the Philippines. Her sister, who worked with the band until a month or so ago, lives now in Hongzhou (60 miles away). She works in a bar and is about 23 and also very lovely and doesn’t drink. She keeps getting hit on in the bar. It is very sad and my friend at Krabi was very closer to tears talking about it. When I look around at what other people have to do in order to survive, we are very lucky to have been born and have we have in Canada.

We also learned a number of less philosophical things last night:

  1. It is okay to bring your own wine – and no corkage fee to pay!
  2. If you order cold water, they bring you a tea pot of hot water and a bucket of ice cubes.
  3. They close just after 8 and if you sit there too long after that, they will turn off the lights and stand by the door to make sure you leave.

Anyway, as usual at Krabi there was singing and dancing. The band always sings “Unchained Melody” to Terry and we always join in – much to the other diners delight. I particularly enjoy the high notes.

Then Bruce and Terry got up on the dance floor. Terry’s partner Charley taught her Swing and Bruce’s partner sang her song the whole time they danced. I give you a  snippet of the action.

Sadly, today it is raining and our tourist activities were seriously curtailed. (Ed. note: I started off my dreary day with my first two cups of Kona coffee which Michael had brought a couple of weeks ago. Thanks, Michael. BTW, Michael, the chocolate macadamia nuts are LONG gone :-)) After meeting at Starbucks for coffee we came back to the apartment to drop off the luggage. Kim, Bruce and Geoff sat around chatting while Terry, Steve and Lawrence went for a walk along the Jiaxing Greenway, then up to the ticket office to purchase return tickets (Lawrence and Steve were stunned at how quickly and easily that was), a stroll through RT Mart and then the amusement park at Jiang Nan Mall. We put them all on the 1:00 bus to the train station and our days of hosting were suddenly at an end. Sad. However we have just cheered ourselves up by having two of the best mangoes ever. We received a box of ten from the school on Wednesday and boy did they ever get it right! They are fantastic.

Enough for now. Time for a nap.

(Ed. note to B., K., L. and S. – please send us some of the photos you took. Thanks)

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