The first few people we met assumed my cousin and I were either dating or married. Each time, we corrected them with something akin to: "No. We're related. She's my cousin. We're just traveling together."
These corrections grew cumbersome, especially when conversations began with: "So, how long have you two been together?"
"Oh..." [insert crickets].
We decided that if we pretended to be a couple, we'd effectively remove the awkward conversations altogether. It'd be a fun little game. What could go wrong?
After arriving in Shanghai, we first visited the Lingering Garden.
We met another "couple" who found themselves in a similar predicament with everyone assuming they were a couple. Instead of making a game out of it, this "couple" decided to take the time and correct those making their assumptions. We disclosed our secret to them, and they played along. Before we left the Lingering Garden, "the couple," my cousin, and I confirmed our couple-ness to the onlookers at the Moon Gate.
Suzhou holds the apt nickname of "The Oriental Venice." Our group cruised through the canal while we instead opted to walk around the city.
Suzhou projected this interesting dichotomy of care and neglect. Through our walk, we followed the busted sidewalks and walkways onto a well-preserved "Oriental Venice" bridge. I gazed at the barred windows upon bruised buildings when, just across the street, we found freshly-painted butterscotch walls. Through its archway: a neat, symmetrical courtyard. Inside, delicate hums offered this space a serene sense of peace.
You've never awkwardly laughed until you and your cousin are stuck in an elevator with a stranger who, completely unsolicited, states: "I bet you're gonna give it to her real good tonight." And then nods at your cousin.
I recall replying: "Yeah...that's gonna happen all right. Just like that. Yeah..."
Speaking of bedroom matters, we ate lunch prior to visiting the Grand Buddha. Large jars filled with coiled snake carcasses and a faint amber liquid lined the entrance of the restaurant. An older Chinese gentleman, as he was leaving, tapped me on the shoulder. "This is good," he said as he pointed to a jar while making a muscle. "Makes you strong." This guy, this random stranger elongated and put a suggestive emphasis on the word strong. He smirked and nodded toward my cousin.
Some "couples" just have that visible connection.
It's like we're family.
A few more steps into the restaurant, a woman pointed to another jar and said to my cousin, "Keeps you beautiful. Your skin, your hair. Very Nice. You see the seahorse?"
Chinese medicine suggests that snake wine, indeed, offers many benefits including virility. Snake wine is made with rice wine and snakes as its primary components. Other ingredients include herbs, ginseng, geckos, and seahorses. Snake venom holds the most beneficial properties in snake wine after it's denatured. I could not, however, confirm if these particular snakes were venomous; nevertheless, I took a shot. My cousin and a friend we met during our trip joined me. You can see the video here on LBRY.
Back in high school, an old girlfriend introduced me to Eastern philosophy by giving me the book Tao Te Ching. In college, a friend showed me the work of Alan Watts. Yoga and meditation became a part of my life for some time. Although the Lingshan Grand Buddha felt touristy in some respect, it was still quite remarkable.
In Part 1 of my China trip, I mentioned that many Chinese individuals, in a clandestine manner, snapped photos of my cousin and me. Here, at the Grand Buddha, a lovely couple approached me and asked me if I would join them in a picture. I obliged, of course; however, I also requested my own photo with them. The gentleman initially said no! I cajoled him and shortly thereafter, his wife joined in on the persuasion. He smirked and finally agreed. After all that effort, I blinked in the picture.
We found this area by sheer happenstance.
Quiet and out of the way.
Thank you so much for following us through Wuxi and Suzhou!
Farewell with these budding flowers:
Also, my cousin and I confessed to our group that we are, in fact, cousins. Check out my next post (Pt. 3) to hear the ridiculous aftermath.
Next stop: Shanghai!
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