“Wuxi, Future City of Technology” declared the elaborate multi-media presentation provided by Wuxi’s local government, as the soundtrack to Jurassic Park played out in the background. It’s difficult to take redevelopment of wetlands and new transport links seriously as I visualise dinosaurs marauding across the newly built parks.
Dodgy soundtracks aside, we’ve had an excellent weekend away in Wuxi – literally “Without Tin” – experiencing both the old (exploring a former silk-trading enclave) and the new (a huge 5-star hotel opened on May 1st). Around 90 miles to the West of Shanghai, set between Lake Taihu and the Yangtze River, Wuxi is a city undergoing a huge redevelopment with the ambition of remaining culturally and environmentally sensitive. The silk-trading enclave on the edge of the lake is being developed into a “retreat” complex, keeping as much of the original 19th century housing as possible.
This all part of a trip away with several other ex-pats from Shanghai, staying in a posh hotel around the lake. Several Germans, Austrians, Belgians, Americans (including our local friend Rachel), Canadians and Irishmen but strangely no other Brits.
34 degrees isn’t my ideal temperature to consider a bike ride, but that’s what we ended up doing on Saturday afternoon, cycling past some of the wetlands around Lake Taihu. A gang of 25 or so Westerners on bright orange bicycles must have been a strange sight for the locals. And a particular apology to the brides and bridegrooms (since there were several*) having their photo taken against the backdrop of the lake; although having a load of foreigners cycle through a wedding scene can surely only enhance one’s wedding photos.
A night out in Wuxi’s drinking district on Saturday night made us realise just how expensive Shanghai can be. Beer and cocktails at nigh-on half what we’d pay in Shanghai made the dodgy bands in nearly every bar just about bearable (but what is the fascination for Glen Medeiros’ “Nothing’s Going To Change My Love For You”?).
During the working week (for that is ostensibly why we’re here), we went out on Tuesday night for Mexican food and Margaritas (Strawberry flavoured) with the Brainchild gang and a few beers with Jacco from WebPower on Wednesday night.
Friday saw the sad departure of Sarah to the USA, but a great meal sat outside in the “Cool Docks” south of the Bund was a fitting way to see her off. Sarah was one of the earliest members of the team out here and will be sorely missed. Although I nearly missed the entire evening after walking head-first into a fire escape (I blame Bronwen – I was following her and she walked under it). Bloomin’ painful.
Speaking of pain – the incident with the non-mosquito bites continues to irritate. Mosquitoes leave little marks that itch like hell. According to the Doctor (there’s a certain point at which the continued spread of infected skin causes one to give up with the application of Tiger Balm and seek medical assistance) the infection on my foot and hand was not caused by a scourge (thanks, Wikipedia) of vicious mosquitoes but instead by spider bites. I didn’t realise normal spiders (as in, not Australian ones) bit. Antihistamine and antibiotics now in effect.
And we have been told that we’ve now reached the end of the plum rain season (raindrops the size of plums). Which sounded like good news until we were told it marks the beginning of the 80 day hot temperature season. 40 degrees, here we come.
*Several sets of brides and grooms, not several grooms. Which would have been weird.