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Published: November 29th 2010
We made our way from Shanghai to Suzhou on the high-speed train (our first one in China, actually first one ever for both of us). It was super comfortable with tons of leg room and we were impressed with our top speed that reached 250 kph. More on high-speed trains in our next blog entry...
For some reason we had convinced ourselves that Suzhou would be a nice small town ("charming" in the words of our guide book) to relax for a few days. We must have overlooked the part of the book that stated a population of 5.7 million. Our first clue was the length of time it took to reach the train station after we entered the outskirts of the city. On the plus side, once we navigated the bus system, got off several stops too early and walked a kilometer or two, we did find the location of our hostel to be quite charming. It was right along a pretty canal that was colourfully lit up at night. This is probably as close as Suzhou gets to it's nickname "Venice of the East" but there are also several small canal towns within short bus distances from Suzhou.
We spent a morning exploring the town of Luzhi which has some lovely canals and bridges but doesn't quite escape the large packs of Chinese tour groups following thier flag-bearing guides. Still, it was well worth it to make the trip out there.
Also in Suzhou we treated ourselves to some guilty pleasures... We passed a great DVD shop where you can buy all the latest new releases (some still in the theaters) for less that $1 each. They were so tempting but we had a slight problem. Our netbook does not have a DVD drive. Problem solved: we discovered a giant brand new four-level shopping mall that was home to a Best Buy. We bought a couple DVDs to test and headed to the mall where we purchased an external USB DVD drive. Next stop was Starbucks where we successfully tested both DVDs. Yeah, movie night!
We also found a great hot pot restaurant that we ate at twice because the food was so good. A hot pot is kind of like a fondue except that the broth/oil is flavoured with spices, chile, peppers, etc (normally very spicy). You toss in a bunch of meat and veggies
into the oil and then fish them out with your chopsticks when their ready. Soooo goood! We rounded out our time in Suzhou with another visit to the DVD shop and going for walks along the canals.
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