Published: June 4th 2012June 4th 2012
'I got the hottest girl in the park to take this photo'
This past week, I spent a couple of days in Suzhou. I plan on going to a different city every month up until October, when I go home. This month it’s Suzhou, next month Hangzhou, then Nanjing, and finally Beijing. Suzhou is only 40 minutes on the train from where I am now, and I believe it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of china. I had heard a number of different quotes describing the natural beauty of the city. My favorite goes something like this, ‘above there is heaven, below there is Hangzhou and Suzhou.’ So you can see why I was so eager to visit this city.
I stayed at a hostel named ‘The Waterfront’. The last couple of hostels I stayed at were proper phenomenal, with modern restaurants inside and rooftop bars, so this one was quite a change. Yet it was just as nice and made for a very pleasant stay. It was really old, and the owners’ dog and cat were part of the furniture. It had a nice wee courtyard to sit and relax. As mentioned above, this hostel didn’t have a bar; but this does have
its advantages. In previous hostels, drinks haven’t been the cheapest in the world. But here it was only 5rmb for a massive bottle of beer, which is roughly 50pence in UK money.
Unlike before, when I visited shanghai and the like, where I had a massive list of all the things I wanted to do; here I just wanted to walk around and enjoy the city really. I knew in my head the two touristy places I wanted to visit so I didn’t need a plan this time around. I arrived in Suzhou around 12pm and the Humble Administrators Garden was the first placed I wanted to go. I’d heard it was quite big and would take a good few hours to see it all, so seeing the whole place was my sole goal for the day. I think it’s one of the top end Gardens in the whole of China. It cost 70rmb to get in, which I thought was a tad expensive. The garden really is amazing though. There are pools, bridges, pavilions and islands everywhere. Then on top of that there are sections dedicated to the history of china. There was even a section
Me and a Rickshaw
'Changzhou should have these'
solely for Bonsai trees, which was really cool. I spent the majority of the day here, so afterwards I just went back to the hostel and got drunk on those 50p bottles. Oh, Rickshaws are a popular form of transport in Suzhou so I got one of them back to the hostel. I’m pretty sure I got over charged by the driver but I didn't care.
The next day I was planning on going to Zhouzhuang water town, which is about an hour outside Suzhou by bus. But I ended up staying in bed instead and by the time I got up, I didn’t really have enough time. I came back the following week however and had a proper look around the town. It’s a bit of a nightmare to get to though. I took the train from Changzhou to Suzhou, then a bus from Suzhou to Zhouzhuang station, then a shady motorbike ride to the old town. The whole thing must have taken about 3 hours, but it’s worth the effort. The town is really cool. It has small bridges connecting both sides every 20 meters or so as well as temples and little
rented boats taking people on a tour of the town. I especially liked Shen’s house, which is basically an old house that used to be occupied by an important fellow during the Ming Dynasty. In it, you could rent traditional Chinese attire for wearing around the town. An option I decided against after some hard thought. The place was also filled with sculptures, old musical instruments; all of which were really cool.
The town was a lot more touristy than I had imagined. Every two steps you meet a market trader or a restaurant worker trying to lure you into their establishment. The one good thing about going on your own is that I had my Ipod in, so I could pretend not to hear them. I also had a wee go of the local cuisine. There are restaurants everywhere and they all seemed to sell the same food: pork hock, eel, and steamed tortoise. So after a while of walking I decided to give it a go, and I have to say I am now a big fan of eel. It was really tasty. I thought about trying the tortoise but I just couldn’t imagine that
on my plate.
One thing I will say about the town is that for the price paid (100 RMB), there isn’t that much to do I didn’t think. It is really cool just to walk around and take in the beautiful scenery, but after about two hours I was a little bit bored if I’m being honest. So I just had a wee walk to the bus station and went back home. Walking through the town was a bit strange. Like in the touristy bit there are tons of people but everywhere else is a bit of a ghost town. The walk to the bus station took about 20 minutes and at the most I seen 20 people.
There are more photos below