The next day we ventured to the bus station and to Zhou Zhuang and Tongli about an hour and a half away, two smaller canal towns which were interesting to see and you could see how many of the previous generations of Chinese lived in these towns.  Unfortunately the toilet facilities in some of the older rural towns and in some of the out of the way train stations are interesting to say the least with troughs and some partitions if you are lucky. There is no room for modesty and even in some of the facilities where there are doors people don’t always close them! These contrast sharply with the automatic, seat warmed toilets in the more upmarket hotels.  One Chinese woman tried to disuade me from using the one in Zhou Zhang at the station but sometimes youu don’t have that option.

 The many shops along the narrow streets are structured twoards the tourist but do show how traditional arts and crafts were handcrafted. Along the way there are major contructions of very upmarket gated communities and all along the highway there are kilometres of sculptured bushes and trees planted in beautiful formations. Just as well they have thousands of workers dedicated to topiarying? the bushes!

We had our best coffee yet at a lovely coffee shop where the counter was made up of multi coloured small books all stacked on top of each other. Very effective.

We went into a few of the historical houses in the area as well which are all large with beautiful gardens and large white rock formations which they all love. We think they are ugly! One garden in particular had bamboo groves all around it and when they rustle in the wind they have a really cooling effect and sound lovely.

It was nice to stroll down the canals. There are a lot of small bridges dotted along the canals and we read a sign that said that in your 66year you should walk over the 3 bridges in Tongli to remain young and agile. Maurice managed only walked over two of them so no hope for him!

We are still stared at a bit but most people smile back when you smile at them. When Maurice takes of his hat in the bus and people see his white hair he usually gets a seat and conversely if we give our seats to an older Chinese person they beam at us or say in very good English “thank you very much”.

There are an incomprehensible number of appartment high rise blocks being built or newly built and lower rise buildings by the thousand as well in every city. They usually build a commercial park and then appartments opposite the park and a shopping complex nearby.

It is just hard to get our minds around the scale of construction here in China.

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