Published: November 18th 2010November 14th 2010
It is a fact that whenever something is called the something of something else it’s not, otherwise it would just be known for what it is.
Suzhou is famous for its networks of canals, stone bridges, old white washed buildings, and plentiful gardens. There are two times it is recommended to visit, Spring and Fall. The first so that one can see all the blooming flowers in any of the dozens of gardens throughout the city and the later to see the typical fall foliage colors. We were happy with the later since we had been living in Southern California and most recently Southern China and neither of which have any well defined seasons.
We headed out to the Hangzhou North Bus Station after Elyse’s last class on Friday afternoon. Suzhou is in the neighboring Jiangsu province and is only a two hour bus ride from Hangzhou. Suzhou has been an important city for China in the silk trade and established its prominence during the Song Dynasty around 960. The Grand Canal runs though the city and has been properly named as it is the world’s longest canal running over 1,100 miles from Beijing to Hangzhou. The oldest sections
Love her Chinglish shirt
holding Flat Madison for my cousin's 8th grade class project
of the cannel date back to as early as the 5th century. This construction is absolutely amazing to me since it is roughly same length as the Colorado River and was constructed all by hand.
We stayed at the Mingtown Hostel, which is situated on a pedestrian street that has a canal running down the middle of the street creating a two lane road. Shops, restaurants, art galleries, and small hotels lined the road making it an ideal setting to take a leisurely walk to take in the sites. Simply because it is called a “pedestrian street” doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep out of the way of all the locals cruising by on their scooters, and the occasional car, who think that they own the roadway.
The first evening we walked around close to the hotel and had dinner. The guy at the front desk said there was really nothing to do at night in Suzhou and recommended a boat tour on the Grand Cannel that showcased 30 bridges. We thought about it and decided that we really had no other competing options.
We make it a point to avoid tours or shows in
Pingjiang Pedestrian Steet
looking out from our hostel
China geared towards visitors as they tend to leave us disappointed.
The hotel booked us on a Chinese only speaking tour which lasted for 70 minutes and featured a boat employee singing (very terribly) traditional Suzhou songs. We sat on the outdoor rooftop deck of the boat and headed down the canal trying to block out the singing which was being broadcasted over speakers from below. It was cold but pretty enjoyable looking at the parks that lined the shore and the old bridges that were all light up at night.
After 25 minutes or so the boat made a u-turn and headed back towards the docks. Five minutes later all the bridge lights and parks lights were turned off. Apparently the city shuts off all the nonessential public lighting at 9 pm. Elyse and I must have had the same thought at that exact moment as we looked at each other and smiled as she said “and now I remember why we avoid these types of things in China.” Keep in mind that this little boat tour was the same cost as the price for one night at our hostel. Let me now say thank you Tour
Boat Company for not simply starting that tour 30 minutes earlier and avoiding the lighting restrictions.
The next day we woke up to prefect weather and had breakfast at the hostel restaurant. The bikes at the hostel required a 400 kuai deposit to rent them so we opted not to rent the bikes. For one we didn’t want to get more money out from the ATM, and second we knew that the bikes cost at most 300 kuai brand new. The woman at the counter told us to go to a nearby street where we could rent bikes but of course there were none to be found.
We had a map and decided that today we would take a walking tour of the city. Looking at the map we outlined our day and decided that we would finish at Tiger Hill and take a cab back from there. By chance we selected two of the most popular gardens to visit since they were the closest. The first was Lion Forest Garden and the second was Humble Administrators Garden. I’ll let the pictures do the talking for what was found at these gardens.
Something that struck us both
Grand Canal Cruise
before the lights went off
as quite humorous was when we were headed to the second garden and decided to make a detour to a free Suzhou Folk Museum. At the museum entrance a Chinese man was yelling at the top of his lungs at two guards that escorted from the premises. For nearly three minuets the man continued his tirade as everyone nearby stood and watched. We were baffled as we walked through the small museum and guessed as to what the man possibly could have done to merit being thrown out. It shall remain a mystery.
At the first garden we witnessed a middle aged man craw under a rope barrier and sit in a centuries old antique chair within one of the pagodas so he could take a picture. I asked him in Chinese whether he could read and why he would ignore the sign.
After touring the second garden we visited another free museum before heading by cab to a different section of town. It was a great opportunity to grab some lunch and rest our feet while we took in the canal scenery. It was the first time that Elyse and I had eaten at a Chinese restaurant
since the first week of our arrival in August. We have been cooking all of our meals at home and when we do go out, which is rarely, we eat at non-Chinese restaurants.
Tiger hill is a man made hill that has a towering pagoda at its top. This is the most popular tourist attraction within Suzhou. The tower leans over 12 feet from its base similar to the leaning tower of Pisa. We climbed to the top and took a nice walk around the park. From there we decided to head back to the hostel for the night. We had to take two busses and a small walk to get back to our room. We were exhausted and called it a night. The following day was raining so we opted out of touring the nearby city of Tongli. We got up at 8:30am to watch the Oregon Ducks football game via Google Chat with my brothers in LA (great fix to watching football) After the game (Another Ducks WIN!!!) we had lunch before we headed back to Hangzhou.
There are more photos below