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Suzhou

The day began with hitting a touristy spot - old town Shanghai. With the money that’s coming in, the “old town” is well kept and is pretty new. Aside from the authentic architecture style, the old town is revamped to become an outdoor shopping centre, garnished with two Starbucks locations. Yes, I had a coffee and it tasted the same as any Starbucks on the other side of the world. Next was Suzhou. Home to the Grand Canal, one of the world’s longest man-made waterway (1,794 kilometers), Suzhou is named “Venice of the East.” The fertile land has been a prominent commercial centre since the 14th century. To my disappointment, I didn’t see any 14th century structure but a modernized Suzhou with an industrial park. People living in this area are among the richest in the Province. Compare to 30 years ago where people used to make around $36 a month, people at the industrial park now average about $3000 a month. Living standards also spike in recent years. According to our tour guide, people used to carry an umbrella wherever they go - for rain, for sun, and for bathroom breaks to cover their bottom because toilets have no doors. FYI, I’ve squatted once so far - even though a lot of bathrooms still don’t provide toilet paper. BYOTP. I still haven’t seen much of rural China that matches the mental images I have, like ordinary farmers or an old town of warm, welcoming people. Maybe I’m asking too much from a China that has already caught up with the first world.

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