Mitch and I have realised that this semester at school in China is going to fly by. As such, we need to make the most out of being here. It’s safe to say we’ve explored Hangzhou a lot (there is still more to see as it’s a big city), but we’ve enjoyed all the main attractions and delights the city has to offer.
For our weekend adventures, we now turn to those places we can reach easily on the train or bus, and spend a day and a half or so there on a weekend. Suzhou is one of those places. East of Shanghai, it hosts the ‘Grand Canal,’ which runs from Hangzhou to Beijing.
We only spent 1 day there but I think you could easily spend 2 or 3 days. There are many gardens and small streets to explore, but one day gave us a feel for a town, and to see some of the highlights.
We had the joy of staying near the canal and Shantang historical street. Around this area, there are are many old houses lining the canal, full of charm as their backdoors literally have steps into the water. Cafes and and small shops now dwell in these buildings for all of the tourists, but the houses still remain full of charm.
On Saturday morning we walked away from the historical part of town towards the local market, where you can buy everything you require for a weekend of eating: live chickens, killed and cut for you right there, a vast array of cakes and treats (we tried some lovely pumpkin cakes), many vegetables, fruit, and recently caught fish. Most of which a treat for the eyes and nose, apart from the stinky tofu!
We stocked up on various food for breakfast and enjoyed the authenticity of the market, other areas of the city are very touristy so it was great to start somewhere local.
After getting a little lost, we finally found our way towards the North Temple Pagoda. I think it’s actually closed for some construction work but we still managed to wander in. When the temple is officially open you can go up the top, where I’m sure you get a lovely view across the city. It’s good luck to walk clockwise 3 times around the temple so we did so, and then headed further into the tourist territory.
You’ll know when you get to the main part of town as you will be asked many, many, many times if you would like a boat ride or a tour guide. There are only so many ways in Chinese we know how to say ‘No, thank you’ or ‘no want’ or, by the 20th time, just ignoring them.
They are trying to sell you their personal tour of the ‘Humble Administrator’s Garden’. One of the most impressive gardens in Suzhou, it’s 70 RMB (£7) to enter but well worth it, especially if it’s the only garden you visit whilst in the city. A labyrinth of paths amongst lakes, rocks, buildings, trees and nature. Quite a sight to see, with lots of different routes to explore. You could easily spend an afternoon there, relaxing in the sun and on a patch of grass. We strolled around for about an hour and enjoyed the surroundings.
As the afternoon got later, we walked down Pingjiang Street; a beautiful street lining the canal. The old buildings are full of touristy shops but on a sunny day there is a great atmosphere. I highly recommend stopping at the shop which makes egg waffles with a whole host of different toppings. Mine was the rainbow one and came with ice cream, a marshmallow and fizzy sweets. A true delight for a sweet tooth!
A wonderful day. Mitch and I said we should go back in the summer and sit along the canal for a few drinks one afternoon. If you have time when in China, add Suzhou to your list of places to visit.