A road trip on an e-bike 11th November 2014

Thursday 6th November was about exploring. The College had a professional development day so Eleanor and I got on our e-bike and met with Adrian and his son MJ. Bikes fully charged we left the confines of SIP. Our trip took us over a flyover which had a dedicated bike lane with its twisty incline and decline on either side, there would have been great views had it not been overcast. Was it overcast for the sake of being overcast or was it pollution? One can never quite tell.

Our adventure was to go to another lake, Yangcheng Hu, see Chongyuan Temple and have lunch as a vegetarian restaurant in a monastery. From our apartment it was 21.8kms, so 43km round trip would test my e-bike battery.

We passed through a “town” though it seemed devoid of life at 10.30am. Yangcheng Hu is famous for its hairy crabs and perhaps first thing in the morning the catch has come in, or it is busy in the evenings when the restaurants are full. But the day we rode through it could have been like a scene from a Western with tumble weed blowing down the street. In fact as Adrian and I got back onto the main road, the inhabitants where on the roadside selling the crabs from baby bath tubs. The wares may have been different, but for my blog readers from the west country, or for those familiar with the A303 stretch from Stonehenge to Mere, it reminded me of the strawberry/cherry sellers in the summer months. The crabs are a local delicacy in Suzhou/Shanghai around October/November. My friend, Katie was given a box of live ones from her driver the other day. Wikipedia tells me that the crabs migrate from this lake towards the Yangzte Delta in September/October and the fisherman harvest them. I have not savoured this “delicacy”, and in 2019 I still haven’t had them. Martin has – and he said on truth it wasn’t worth the hassle. There is very little meat in them. 

From the town we crossed over a bridge. At the summit we were confronted with about 7 or 8 cranes by the waterfront. Until that point it had been unspoilt by building works.

The setting of the Temple was beautiful. A pavilion out on the lake, connected to the peninsula by a bridge. It is the highest and heaviest above water indoor Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Pavilion in China. The Goddess, all Golden is about 33m high.

The pavilion is on three levels and in the wall panelling there are approximately 6000 miniature Goddesses, the lower ones are protected by perspex screens.

Lunch was interesting in a good way. Upon arrival in the restaurant we were struck that the menu was ALL in Chinese characters and there was no pictorial or English version. In my best Chinese I ordered rice. They didn’t go rice though. Through sign language we understood that we could have noodles, so we got three bowls of mushroom and noodle soup. Eleanor had most of the noodles and drank the broth. I ate more kinds of mushrooms that day than any other day in my life. As more people arrived for lunch, it was plain to see that the menu had more than noodles, but in order to know what variety they have we will have to go back with a Chinese speaker. Eleanor won’t start learning the characters until year 3.

Sadly even the contemplative settings of the temple wasn’t quite as it seemed. The temple, constructed in 503, is having a new building attached to it at the back. As we walked through the grounds we could see the proximity of the building work close to the temple. I haven’t yet been anywhere where there isn’t the sound of construction!

We made it back home, but we won’t going there again as a family – well by e-bike anyway. The lake has a dedicated cycle path round it, so maybe in the future we will do that.

Shipping… last night we had a phone call from the company to ask for one more document. The document should have been handed to us on arrival in Shanghai. But we don’t have it. No one told us we should have it and so I am now waiting on a phonecall from their China office to see whether we really need it before our belongings are released to us.

On Saturday we got Martin a helmet for the e-bike. His head is of normal proportion so he got a black adult size one – with no cartoons on it. That evening we went to PerBacco, a restaurant that we frequent regularly for Sunday prosecco brunch. The evening is in celebration of the establishment’s birthday. There was no formal invitation and no fee, but there was unlimited wine, orange juice, pizza, cheese, chicken nuggets, crudities etc – all topped off with a tiramisu birthday cake. The generosity was overwhelming and I can’t think of a restaurant doing that in the UK for free.

Today is the 11/11 and I shall be going to Dulwich College for a short Remembrance service. I go every year, and the number of parents making the effort to come is reducing each year. 

On Friday 14th November, there is a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in the Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Piccolo choir which Eleanor sings in is performing. Maybe that will mark the end of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in 3 languages being sung at all hours in our house.