Suzhou #2: Tiger Hill Scenic Spot and the Suzhou Museum

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October 8th 2016
Published: November 30th 2017
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8th Oct: Since we had the whole day ahead of us, we decided to head in a different direction to yesterday. Instead of going to the main area, which has all the gardens in it, we took the subway in a different direction, near to where the Tiger Hill Scenic Spot is. Looking on the map, we figured out that we could walk there via Shantang Street, which is another walking street, similar to the street we had been on the day before. I had expected this street to be more like the one we had visited, however it surprised me as it was quite different. While the street yesterday was definitely geared towards tourists, this one was more for the locals. The shops sold normal everyday things and we able to get some fruits and cookies for breakfast. I think my friend and I were the only tourists there, everyone else was just a normal resident going about their normal routine.

As we headed further up Shantang Street, it got quieter as the shops gave way to more and more residences. There were also a few cultural attractions, so we stopped to look in those. The first place we visited was Yifeng Garden. This was a small, peaceful garden. There were only one or two others about. We had a nice stroll around the garden. There were some unusual statues in the garden. Pretty much next door to Yifeng Garden was Pufu Temple, so we headed in there next for a look. The temple has undergone extensive restoration and the grounds are quite big with quite a few different rooms for us to explore. The temple had lots of different exhibits that one would normally associate with a temple, such as the more contemporary paintings and sculptures as opposed to the usual ones of the Gods. The grounds of the temple were also immaculate and we saw one of the groundskeepers working hard to maintain their beauty.

After a while, we finally came to the entrance for Tiger Hill. One reason that Huqui (Tiger) Mountain got its name is that Fuchai, Emperor of the Wu state buried his father, Helu there and that three days after the burial a white tiger appeared and was crouching on the tomb. Another legend says that the hill got its name from the tomb resembling a crouching tiger. We headed up to the main area and saw a big crowd of people, so we headed over to see what was going on there. Some kind of show was in progress, so we joined the others watching it. Even though I didn't have a clue what was going on, I enjoyed watching it. There was a good variety of drums, dancing and acrobatics. It was interesting and I'm glad we got the opportunity to see part of it. From there, we headed over to Swords Pond, Jianchi. Legend has it that 3,000 swords are buried beneath this small, rectangular pond and that King Helu of the Wu Dynasty was buried next to the pond's wall. The pond was quite unusual as the walls were really steep and it was a long drop to the water below from the bridge above where we were standing. The water was also a really unusual colour. We continued to walk around the grounds as the path became elevated, we got to glimpse out at the views of Suzhou. We came to Yunyansi Pagoda, which is at the top of Tiger Hill. Construction on the pagoda began in 959 AD and was completed in 961 AD during the Song Dynasty. The pagoda is 47.7 metres high covering seven floors and has eight sides. The pagoda also leans to one side. I really wish we had been able to go up the pagoda, it would have been cool to look out from the top. We then took a walk down the other side of Tiger Hill. There was a tea house that we dropped into. We were going to order some tea, but it was all pretty expensive, so we decided to skip it. At the bottom of the hill, there was a performance taking place. I think it was some kind of opera. We started to watch it, but it was a bit boring as there seemed to be a lot of talking and we didn't have a clue what was going on. I think we gave up on it after about ten minutes and headed to the exit.

There was an area just next to the exit, which was filled with little stalls selling food. We decided to have some lunch there. Tofu and potatoes, a favourite street food dish of mine. I love it because it is cheap, filling and spicy. The perfect combination. After we ate that we headed back the same way we had come. However, we crossed one of the many bridges so that we could take a walk on the other side. This side felt even less touristy and more like a normal neighbourhood. We wandered into the part that sold all the wedding dresses. One of my friends had told me about this place, so I was intrigued to look around. Luckily, the shopkeepers didn't mind a couple of foreigners wandering around looking at all the dresses. I loved the red coloured wedding dresses. Red is a lucky colour in China, therefore women wear red dresses to bring them and their future marriages good luck.

As we were walking back to the metro station, I was totally overcome with exhaustion. All I wanted to do was go back to the hostel and rest. Luckily, my friend was down for this, too. We made our way back to the hostel and I crawled into my bed and crashed hard for a couple of hours. When I woke up I felt much better, so we decided to head back to the Ping Jiang Road area to explore some more. However, as we were walking up Ping Jiang Road it it started to rain. It wasn't too bad at first, so we kept walking to the top of the street, we had thought about visiting one of the gardens nearby, but the rain started to come down heavier. We popped in and out of a few shops, more to escape the rain than to look at what was on offer. Since we really needed to be inside we decided to go to the Suzhou Museum as it was just across the street from where we were. However, it appeared that every other tourist in Suzhou had the same idea. The queue was massive. It went all the way up the street and around the corner. Since most of the queue was uncovered, we decided to skip it as it would mean waiting in the rain. We headed back to the hostel instead.

Since it had stopped raining, we headed out for the evening. There was a place that my friend wanted to visit as she' found it interesting online, so we took the subway there. It was a little far from where we were staying. We came out of the station at Moon Bay and were greeted with lots of construction. The place had a bit of a ghost town feel to it. There were lots of big, wide roads, but the roads were either blocked off or there were just very few cars about. We saw some big buildings with lights on, so headed in that direction. We came across a restaurant/shopping complex but nothing looked appealing. Instead we took a walk around the area. There really wasn't much there. The big hotel we passed didn't look too busy. We walked along by the water listening to it lap against the shore. The tall buildings nearby were nicely lit and their reflections looked nice on the water. After about an hour there, we decided to head back to the city centre. In hindsight, I think that we went to the wrong place, and that we probably could have found the livelier area, if we had spent more time looking online for the right subway stop.

Since we hadn't found anywhere that had looked appetising for dinner, we headed back to the shopping area near where we were staying. It was getting a bit late by Chinese standards, but we managed to find a place that was open that still had lots on offer. It was a help yourself buffet style place. I love these places as it means I can try a few different dishes. I got some fried rice with egg and ham, a tofu dish, and some veggies. The food was good, but the portion size a bit too big for me, it's not often I get to say that, so it must have been pretty big. After dinner, we just headed back to the hostel to get our stuff sorted for our departure the next day.

9th Oct: Our train wasn't leaving until the late afternoon, which meant that we could spend the morning exploring a bot more of Suzhou. Since we had been unable to visit the Suzhou Museum earlier due to the huge queues, we decided to try and get there as early as possible so that we could make it inside. We stopped on the way to get some street food as we needed some breakfast and there was a stall which had some kind of pancake. I got one with an egg in it, it was delicious. We needn't have feared as the weather was better today so there was no queue. We walked straight up to the museum and inside. There is no entrance fee for the museum, that is always nice!

The museum was really interesting and I enjoyed the couple of hours we spent there, strolling around the exhibits. The museum was originally started in 1960, but the building it is now in was opened in 2006. It was designed by I.M. Pei, a Chinese-American architect, who spent his childhood in Suzhou. He is an extremely famous architect and is probably best known for designing the Louvre Pyramid. The museum houses a wide collection of pagodas, artwork, calligraphy, ceramics, and other treasures from the Wu dynasty. I really liked the small statues/figurines that were on display. It was also nice to walk in the museum's grounds, which were simple and elegant.

After the museum, we took a look in some of the small shops that we had looked in yesterday. I went back to one place that sold lovely embroidered pictures of Suzhou to purchase one. I could have bought more, I really wanted to buy a whole collection of them, but just don't have anywhere to put them. We then headed to the walking street, Ping Jiang Road, in search of some lunch. We found a cute little place that had looked a bit like a tea house, but offered a selection of food. I really liked this place, it was small and really nicely decorated. They even had a really nice bathroom! Always a bonus in China! We ordered some tea and a small selection of different foods. I quite liked the flaky turnip cakes. the tea also warmed me up a treat as I was felling a little cold.

We made our way back to the hostel and collected our things. We had arrived into Suzhou North Station, but we would be leaving from the normal station in Suzhou, which was a lot more central. We still left early though because it was still the holiday time and we were worried that the station would be rammed. We needn't have feared the station was busy, but not too bad. I think we have been pretty lucky as my friend said when she went to Hangzhou at the start of the holidays, the stations were mental. The journey home took about three hours and was uneventful. I was gutted when I got home to discover that the gorgeous picture I got of Suzhou was missing from my bag. It must have fallen out on the train or in the taxi on the way home. I will have to go back and get another one, it will be a good excuse to return to Suzhou.

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