Off to Cixi

Wow what an amazing French buffet of pastries, cheeses and savory entrees. Tops off this stay as Best Ever! Bus departure is 8:30 but we are waiting for a few—was a late night of festive fun at the ball!

Temperatures are mild. The traffic is amazing—not sure where and how everyone gets anywhere on time. We make our way to the open road and journey towards Cixi. On a map it does not look far, but it will take us several hours.

We approach the city of Jiaxing which is the sister city of Valparaiso. It’s the world’s largest port that ships 20 million containers per year. It is also the base for the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, the second longest suspension bridge in the world.

The last time SSO crossed this bridge was shortly after it opened in 2009. That trip began with freezing temperatures, quite unusual for Shanghai and the Zhejiang province. What awaited us then was a major traffic accident at the top where ice on the bridge caused a major pileup of cars, trucks and other transports. Our buses were held back at the base of the bridge over two hours while they cleared a path through the wreckage. It was a sight to behold.

This time mid day, we breeze through and appreciate the sea view and enjoy the 20 mile length as it connects several islands and curves to allow for the tidal flow. There is even a conference center tourist stop in the middle. It was quite an accomplishment taking a decade to plan and build! However it is not the longest bridge in the world anymore,–that distinction is now in Northern China. That was done in only four years.

The landscape over the bridge turns to more rural between towns and cities. We start to see the contrast in the traffic—pedaled vehicles laden with all sorts of items from food to scrap metal as well as motor bikes weaving in and out of our path. Our buses negotiate it all on the more narrow roads to our Cixi destination.

Arriving at the hotel we experience traffic at its noon hour rush. We experience our first major U-turn in a bus through 6 lanes of traffic.- quite a spectacle when done by a second bus in tow. Major construction along a sunken level green space and canal next to the hotel makes it difficult to cross the street anywhere making a walk about later to scout out some shopping, pretty daring. During the walk we note many are checking us out—we must look pretty out of place!

The concert hall is old and will add here very COLD! Not sure there is even heat! Many of the musicians tonight decide to wear coats during the performance. It’s the Cixi People’s Hall and it looked like it may have been grander at another time. We note that youngsters come in and walk about the stage as we are getting situated. Someone tells us it’s very much a community space. With evidence of past props stacked in the corners we also note there are lots of suspect wiring connections preventing us from being able to record tonight’s performance. One groupie declares it as maybe not the safest to explore noting a lot of tripping hazards and other obstacles.

However after the entire group hovers in the only heated “green room” sampling the pre concert snacks the concert begins at 6:45 to accommodate an audience that may be on the way home from work or school – many kids with parents. We play with no intermission. Afterwards they are very receptive and come up to the stage and snap photos with musicians while the musicians share greetings and cards with autographs.

Dinner is served back at the hotel and then we gear up for another long day to go south to Fuzhou by bullet train early in the morning..