Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Golden Lough

SIP skyline

 After a relentless summer, Suzhou is enjoying a spell of really mild weather! Cool breezes, gentle sunshine, and an absolute rarity - clear blue skies! Manasi and I took advantage of the fine day to take pictures around our neighborhood - and then it occurred to me - in this entire year, I have somehow been remiss about writing about our compound and our locality! So here goes, let's take a walk around Golden Lough!

The Chinese name for Golden Lough is Jin Shui Wan - which kind of translates as Gold Water Park. It is located right on Jinjihu lake, and we have magnificent view of the SIP skyline from our side of the lake! Of course, not all houses have lake views - but the lake is only a few minutes walk away! About 200 houses, set in a circle with the main entrance off of Jinjihu Avenue - the Chinese are not very imaginative when it comes to naming roads! - which is one of the main thoroughfares in Suzhou! There's no fancy gate like some of the new developments in Suzhou, but the guard's cabin seems to be security enough!

Main entrance - Golden Lough

As you drive inside, the first impression is of a cool, green and shady haven. Plenty of trees line the little streets and sidewalks, each house has a tiny patch of green out front, and most families have planters with colorful blooms. The houses all look almost identical - brown brick, whitewash, and a faded blue trim with plenty of windows! The second impression - the houses seem to be just a teeny bit shabby. I doubt the exteriors of the houses have been painted in years, and the high pollution and dust also add to the grimy look. Don't be fooled by appearances, though - the interiors of most houses are pretty lavish with marble floors, fancy chandeliers and a lot more!

View of our street from the third floor

Same street - different angle!

What's a compound without a clubhouse, right? Well, Golden Lough boasts of a gym, a swimming pool and also a party area! True, the gym is strictly functional - couple of treadmills, couple of weight machines - but the view of the lake is enough to make you want to workout here! The swimming pool is decent sized - the only drawback is that it is not heated - so can't be used when it starts to get cold! You do need a membership to use the pool or the gym - but the convenience is priceless! For younger kids, there's a small playground with a few swings and a slide! For older kids, the entire compound is essentially one big playground!

The gym

Located within the compound are also other very useful facilities. Need a quick manicure or a relaxing massage? - Lucy's Salon is at your service! Tired of cooking dinner - Bellaboats will deliver a pizza to your house in less that 20 minutes! Run out of milk/eggs/onions/sugar? - Yumway is only a hop, skip, jump away! To be honest, I have never been to Lucy's - Yumway and Bellaboats, however, are both lifesavers! Yumway has a wide selection of groceries - lot of imported foods, a variety of fresh breads and a good selection of wines. Sure, you pay a little more than at Auchan - but again, the convenience is priceless! Bellaboats is fairly new here - they do a really good pizza, and their menu, while not extensive, will be sure to satisfy!

Yumway - our neighborhood convenience store

 Our little convenience shops have a new competitor these days - a huge, huge mall has opened up across the street from us - wait, did I say across the street? Let me clarify - you have to cross a busy intersection with 6 lanes of traffic to get there - whole new meaning to 'across the street'!! Anyway, this new mall - Link City - has a Sam's Club (the first in Suzhou), a host of fast food chains - Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, to name a few - and a movie theater to boot! It really is a fun place to walk around and admire the stores!

Link City

Huge intersection outside GL entrance

Of course, like anywhere else in Suzhou, public transport is available to go wherever you might wish. There are usually plenty of taxis around - although you do have to know the Chinese name of the place you want to go to. Most businesses hand out cards with addresses in English on 1 side and in Chinese on the other. Also available are 'taxi books', which have a collection of all possible destinations in Suzhou! Taxis are metered, so there's no hassle of negotiating the fare! An even better option is to travel by the city buses - there's a bus stop right outside Golden Lough, and a bus comes along every few minutes!

Bus stop outside GL

So there it is - our home in China! To be honest, there are better housing options available in Suzhou - bigger houses, better maintained compounds, duplex apartments with breathtaking views - so why Golden Lough? Stop by any time after 4pm or on weekends, and you'll know why! Kids, kids, kids everywhere!! As I said before, the entire compound is one big playground for the kids! It's perfectly safe for them to be out on their own, riding their bikes, running around or when it gets too cold to play outside, just moving from house to house! In fact, the only time I get to see my daughter is when her gaggle of girlfriends decide to play at our house! And on weekends, our doorbell rings nonstop - all Manasi's friends of course!

There's a ton of activities for adults too! Bus drop-offs and pick-ups are almost social events - perfect time to catch up with the other moms, and to chat a bit! A book-club meets every month, aerobics and yoga classes - always something to do! Of course, it isn't all perfect. Most houses have their own quirks, which can be quite exasperating at times! Landlords, like landlords everywhere, are happy to receive the astronomical rent - but really slow to spend it on any maintenance issues! Simple things like cleaning the glass windows, or getting the garden weeded turn into endless waiting games - very frustrating!

Anyway, watching Manasi play with all friends, Sunny stalking through the bushes - can't imagine living anywhere else in Suzhou! At the end of the day, Golden Lough is home - at least for the next 2 years!

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