Saturday, July 12, 2008

Arrival in Suzhou, China

After more than a full 24 hour day of travelling we have made it to Suzhou, China for RoboCup 2008. The flight from Johannesburg to Dubai was great as we flew the new Boeing 777-300 on Emirates and the entertainment system was excellent. The flight to Shanghai was an older plane and the seat was raised too high when the seat was pushed back so our feet were dangling which was awful. Customs was surprisingly a breeze, especially after all the emails that were flying around about how we would have to pay X and do Y before we could get Z.

Once we got past customs we were welcomed by an impressive group of RoboCup volunteers who organised us a special bus with a team from Winnipeg. This was the first time we hit outdoors and my word was it a surprise! We heard it was hot and humid, but this was like walking into a sauna!! Taking photos was hopeless as the lens steamed up instantly:

The bus ride was a long 3 hour trip to Suzhou over what I swear must be the most damaged (i.e. bumpiest) roads I have ever travelled on. Add that to the fact that Chinese are possibly the most daring drivers in the world (where else would a scooter try cut off a truck?) and it was a most interesting ride. We eventually arrived at our hotel in one piece. At a measly 37 euros a night for three people it's an awesome hotel:

The first thing (after turning on the laptops) was to run for the shower. The weather is really bad, although we'll get used to it soon. We then went out for supper, which for most was an experience! I had some Chinese duck, which once you got past the bones and the immense spiciness was really good. The others, however, did not have such a good experience. Noodles with large quantities of oil and very little meat. It's all really cheap though, with the meal for six of us costing about R100 with drinks. The RoboCup volunteers spotted us and told us they would show us back to our hotel, even though we were literally on the same block and could see our hotel from where we were sitting. Crazy helpful Chinese, it's what I love about this place!

We finished off the day with a short walk around the area. It takes 40 minutes to get to the city center by bus and that's without traffic, so we skipped that option for today. That should give you a good idea of just how large the city is. Tomorrow we have the day to ourselves with registration from 17:00 to 19:00. Unfortunately though, breakfast is bright and early in the morning at 06:00-08:00.

I'm uploading all photos up here.


  1. I raise your interesting and give you daring. Turkish drivers are going to be the death of me and I'm only the passenger. The scooter cut off the taxis who had cut off the bus.

  2. We're also just passengers here and I swear we've come closer to death than ever before. The one taxi driver was driving down the wrong side of the freeway for about 2km.

  3. Nah - I can beat those both: hurtling down an effectively single lane dirt mountain road, with no barriers on a misty night ... in Peru (with no significant town nearby).