Can I have a pet? 15th September 2014

WARNING DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EATING/DON’T LIKE PET SHOPS

As we walked past a pet shop yesterday (Sunday), the above words were uttered from Eleanor. What she had seen were two, albeit, lovely looking puppies. Thankfully she didn’t see beyond the cute puppies. I did, and I had seen more of that in the Flower and Pet Street in Suzhou (Pishi Jie) during Friday’s walking trip in downtown.

The street is tucked away off the main walking/shopping street by the metro station, Lindun Lu. I had expected an onslaught of smells but at 9.45am as I walked through, my senses were relatively unscathed. I was also not harangued to buy – either by the sellers or by Eleanor, who was safely in school. The street was more like a market place tightly packed with animal cages. Cages side by side and stacked high featured birds including chickens and other smaller birds – parakeets etc, rodents, squirrels, kittens, cats, puppies, dogs, terrapins. Then there were boxes on display – like an earring box containing what looked liked flies, deep trays contained fish and more cages containing pigeons – were they to eat or be kept as pets, racing or carrier? I doubt they were either. On top of the pigeon cages there were eggs also for sale.

The cages didn’t really vary in size. If the animal was small then the cage would have plenty squeezed in. But in one cage there was a sizeable dog that had no room to turn around in. While a lovely dog, its sale value wouldn’t have been much as it grew older – didn’t have the cuteness factor. There were also two kittens having a rough and tumble time, but they were in a carrier meant for one. Was I tempted to buy? Of course – rescue them. But the life span of these animals is notoriously short and the vets bills would have been a fortune.

So the two puppies that Eleanor saw, are still in their cage and Eleanor has been given a reason as to why we aren’t going to have a pet in China. Also 14 floors up, holidays to go on etc is not conducive to having pets. I won’t be hurrying back Yet I did about a year later to buy some fish… lifespan – 3 weeks!) 

Up until now I have avoided giving detail about the delights of Chinese toilets. Most of them are squats. Eleanor is great and doesn’t complain about the hassle, dirtiness of smell of them. I avoid them where possible. Not only do they stink, but due to the lack of proper sewage pipes, the toilet roll can not be put down the toilet, so the only option is to put them in, an often, open topped bin beside the toilet.

Locks on toilet doors are mostly optional. Yes they are fitted with them, but ladies don’t seem to use it. And if there are no locks I used to think it was customary to at least put a handbag or press your hand against the door to provide resistance to someone checking if the toilet was occupied or not. Doors also open outward, so there is no tentative pushing at the door to see if it is occupied. Also I don’t put anything on the ground anymore not in a squat – people’s aims at the bowl vary…

Yesterday at a water town, Tong Li, I went into a disabled cubicle. Let’s take a similar cubicle in the UK – it is usually big enough to lie down. Yesterday’s was not even big enough to turn around in. It was tiny.

As mentioned we ventured out of Suzhou to go Tong Li, a town with many connected canals and of course many pretty bridges, a garden and a hall. Probably the closest thing to a National Trust property. The town is similar to Clovelly in Devon in that you have to pay to enter, but once in, you can stay, eat, shop, go on boats, get your hair cut and, for a fee, have your photo taken in traditional dress.

It was lovely, and while busy, there were times when we managed to take photographs with no one else in them. We even managed to see the Pearl Tower (not the one in Shanghai) without jostling for position – it is made of pearls and stands about a metre tall. We managed to order lunch at one of the busiest restaurants and also avoid the “chicken feet” restaurant. We were approached to go to another canal side restaurant but no one was eating there, so we did what we have been advised to do – go where there are lots of people.

Eleanor also had a fish pedicure since the restaurant also doubled up as a spa. The verdict for her was that it tickled.

Having got to Tong Li by taxi, we then turned our attention of how to get home. I knew that there was a bus that would take us to Suzhou railway station, but we wanted minimal hassle. Eventually we found the bus station, 2 tickets at 8RMB each did not break the budget, but Eleanor had to sit on my knee. I think we can safely say that the next time we do it, we will pay the bus fare for Eleanor as neither of us enjoyed it the experience.

The bus also took a more direct route to the station than the taxi took getting us to Tong Li. Parts of the road that the taxi took was still under construction! I had the pleasure of sitting in the front and watching the journey – sometimes it is easier to close your eyes and not think about or see the mad driving here. Taxis and buses are no longer needed to get to Tongli now – as there is now a metro route there. And when we have gone to Tongli we have taken friends so have used a private driver. The roads have also been completed. 

We have also sorted out most of our Christmas getaway. Flights from Shanghai to Hong Kong have been booked and then we fly to Hainan, China’s tropical island, for New Year.

The weather is most definitely getting cooler here, but at 28°C the temperature is relative, as I know I would still be boiling in the UK.