• Josh Garman

On the search for Rainbow Toast 🌈

After my trip to an abandoned theme park it was time to leave Shanghai and find somewhere different. The city had become busy to my mind and I hoped to gradually head further out and see some older parts of China. The first stop on my list was Suzhou. I would love to tell to tell you that my love of Chinese history drew me there. That Suzhou had a cultural gem worth discovering but I was actually heading there in search of something rather different. Rainbow toast.

On the search for Rainbow Toast 🌈
On the search for Rainbow Toast 🌈

One evening in Shanghai scrolling through Instagram (which by the way is a very hard procedure to access in China) I was looking around some local areas for some inspiration. I came across a photo filled with colour. A local Chinese girl dressed head to toe in multicolours and highlights running through her hair posed with some toast that she had ripped open. Only to uncover some sort of stringy cheese like substance in all the colours of the rainbow. It was like ever trending food video I’d ever seen (which is not many) and the caption gave some very vague description of a market in Suzhou. I pondered to myself. Curiosity took over and I decided I would head to Suzhou with nothing but a screenshot and see if I could find this place.

I only planned only give myself one day in Suzhou before heading out beyond it once again to the West Lake the day after. I left super early from the Captain hostel in Shanghai saying farewell to my friend Max. Which consisted of me waving at him while he slept. He had assured me that he would wake up to say goodbye but we all know that never happens. So I let him sleep along with the other 34 people in my hostel room sneaking out the door. I had my big rucksack on my bag, camera in hand ready to film another vlog. I took the familiar route from the Bund out towards the main markets to grab the train. I took Shanghai equivalent of the underground out to the main train station so I could get a highspeed to Suzhou. Once at the station it was time for some breakfast before jumping on the next train.

Trains in China are fast. Really fast. You flit by feeling like an aircraft taking off and cover a great distance before you know it. In a blink I was in Suzhou and ready to go on my treasure hunt. There was one thing I had to do first however. I needed some warm clothes. China in Winter brings with it a bitter cold and it had started to eat away at me. My clothes weren’t doing the job so it was time to get some thermals to go underneath them. I’ve always had a small build so shopping for clothes in China was perfect. The average size for mens clothes was tiny and to this day are some of the only clothes that fit me properly. I grabbed some joggers and a thermal jumper are still the warmest clothes I have. They went underneath my other clothes making me bulge out and look like the Michelin man.

I headed back onto the cold streets within my new cocoon of clothing feeling a lot warmer now. I went into my hostel to check in and drop off my bag and felt like I’d found the coolest little spot in China. Coming over to the desk I did my best to lay on the English charm and somehow landed a free upgrade from a 12 bed dorm to a 4 bed. Lovely. I chatted to the woman for a while and asked about the local area before pitching the most important question ‘where can I find the rainbow toast?’ pushing the Instagram photo in front of her. She honestly had no idea what I was on about but smiled and nodded at me before politely telling me to go up to my room now.

I ran up the stairs, threw my bag in, chatted to the other room mates for a bit then headed out to explore. I started dipping in and out of different markets in hope of finding the magical toast but had no luck. I was surrounded by some wonderful culinary inventions such as bubble tea, artwork made from honey and candyfloss in the shape of animals. I looked at all them tempted but refused until I found the toast. I wandered far and wide that day but alas never found what I was looking for. I had gotten a good gauge of Suzhou however. It was a beautiful place, a mixture of young and old like Shanghai and you could notice it beginning to become more rural. Street sellers started to appear here which I loved, something missed within the restrictions imposed in the city.

I headed back to the hostel for an early night ready to go out again on the hunt tomorrow. I was bitten to pieces by mosquitos in the night so had an awful sleep. I used my trusty Chinese remedy, kind of like a green goo you put on the bites that my friend gave me and went for breakfast. I ate spoon after spoon of porridge, fattening myself up for the day ahead. I washed my clothes in a plastic bucket I found in the bathroom and went outside. It was one of those days where you feel so tired that the light hurts your eyes. I went back along the famous market street according to directions from the Instagram post but could still find no sign of the rainbow toast. In my tired state I gave up rather quickly and decided to experience something else instead.

I walked on past some of the local sights including a famous Chinese cat café to check out an optical illusion house. I was the only one inside but had so much fun even on my own. Each exhibit had a mirror opposite so you could see what you looked like and I ran around like an excited child. They had mirror mazes, odd looking statues and hidden doors. Something straight out of Alice in Wonderland. It was a tall building that seemed to stretch forever upwards across multiple floors. On one floor they had rooms that were entirely upside down which made for some awesome photos. I’ll attach the photos so you can understand what I’m on about.

I tried to pay the lady on the way out but she refused, I think because of the shear joy she witnessed of me loving every single exhibit. It was raining now but I felt great. I went back to the hostel grabbing my bag and the wet clothes I hoped would dry out on the line. I packed everything in my backpack and headed to my next destination. I spent some time visiting a local Chinese cotton museum followed by a Chinese temple where I filmed some shots for a youtube video. I talked about how interested the Chinese were in cameras or drones and while talking about it a man stopped in his tracks behind me and started waving. What a brilliant example. My bag was way too heavy but I shouldered it again and went to get my next train towards Hangzhou.

Back through the busy station I got another high speed out to Hangzhou where tomorrow I had the perfect idea for a new video. I was staying at a place that night called the memory palace hostel but was completely lost on what bus to get out of the station. After walking around for ages lost within Chinese symbols and people at the desks who had no idea what I was saying. I began to start conversation with random strangers praying someone spoke English. A few attempts later and after scaring some of the older Hangzhou population I found two girls willing to show me the way.

They were going the same direction into the centre and we took the train together. It was great to chat to them and get a sense of local life round here and ask more questions about growing up in China. They were super friendly, pointed to the stop I needed, grabbed my wechat details and left the bus. I continued on counting down the stops so I didn’t forget the one they told me. Sure enough the bus pulled up just outside the hostel and I thanked them over message.

It had been a long day and it all felt rather stretched. It was time to wind down before heading to the hostel. The rain had picked up once again so I sneaked into a restaurant and somehow managed to order a burger with a bright pink bun. Oh the things you find in China… I checked into my new room laying all of my wet socks and underwear along the side of my bunk bed to dry overnight. From here I headed to the bathroom for a shower and found a huge puddle of urine on the floor, above it a sign in English and Chinese saying ‘Caution, please don’t slip.’ I couldn’t help but chuckle realising how much hostel experiences like this didn’t bother me anymore and jumped in for a shower before bed.

Tomorrow when I wake up I will see what would happen if I walked in a straight for 24 hours. But let’s save that for the next blog, I need to sleep. I never did find my rainbow toast but maybe one day I'll get to try it... Don't forget to sign up in the top right hand corner to comment and receive updates!

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