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Zhangjiagang: East China's hidden gem

( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2018-04-17

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Zhangjiagang: East China's hidden gem

Foreign guests with their Chinese guides pose for a photograph during a specially organized tour of Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province, April 14.[Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

A group of around 40 invited guests gathered in cold and wet weather at Century Plaza in the city of Zhangjiagang, East China's Jiangsu province on April 14. Those present are here to enjoy a special tour of the city put on by the local government, and I am one of them.

During a fast-paced opening ceremony we listen to remarks from various speakers, including the city's deputy mayor.

Several among the crowd quickly notice a group of school children at the front, who, as it turns out, are to be our translators for the day. The group, from Zhangjiagang Foreign Language School, quickly becomes indispensible as they ensure we are in the places we are supposed to be, and provide intelligent and informed commentary during our journey.

Despite the weather, the enthusiasm and excitement in the air is palpable as the group gets on to the bus to our first destination –– Zhangjiagang Museum.

A thousand camera flashes seem to go off as the group disembarks the coach at the museum, thanks to the sprinkling of local press that has come along to cover the tour. Most of us though are focused on getting out of the cold and into the warm.

Inside, we are treated to displays of pottery and relics from China's imperial dynasties, some of them thousands of years old. Excited eyes dart from exhibit to exhibit, mine included. Questions are shouted out, as the visitors demand more information on what they are being shown.

Patiently, the museum staff members try to educate us about their exhibits, with extra input coming from the flawless English of the language school students.

Most of the group has had an early start and talk quickly turns to lunch, which the local government has kindly laid on for us. But first we are in for a real treat –– making our own wontons!

People race to be first to take part in this ancient culinary tradition, with highly-trained chefs from Shazhou Hotel waiting to make sure there are no disasters. My effort, easily the poorest, still earns a polite round of applause.

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