The Humble Administrator's Garden and Suzhou

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Asia » China
May 26th 2008
Published: June 7th 2008
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Unable to arrange our onward train tickets to Suzhou from our hotel in Wuxi, we instead hired a people-carrier to drive us the 90 minutes from Wuxi and were glad of the convenience.

Suzhou grew-up around the 1000year-old Grand Canal and owes its’ prosperity to the Silk trade, but includes a rich mix of cultural sights well worth seeing.

The Humble Administrator’s Garden was our first stop and it is an absolute delight. Pathways lead through a series of beautifully planted areas, water-gardens and elegant pavilions established for contemplation, celebration and tea-ceremonies. It is a pleasure not to be missed.

We ate a delicious lunch of noodle soup, dumplings and fried rice in a restaurant with the locals for £5 ($10) for all of us and agreed it was one of our best meals of the trip so far.

An afternoon trip on a small wooden canalboat, ferried by a singing boatman was pleasant enough until we were taken on the wrong canal for less time than we paid for. Unsurprisingly, the ticket-seller had disappeared after we landed but we did report him and our displeasure was made clear to a local guide who was present at the time of the ticket sale. Be warned - if you come to Suzhou and want a boat trip on the Grand Canal, they only depart in the evenings and do not go from the jetty opposite Suzhou Museum.

In the evening Hilary & I went to experience eight separate performances of traditional Chinese ‘Kun-style’ opera and theatre, each set in a different area of the tea-gardens next to the Museum of Opera & Theatre. It is an evening of charm and wonder in a stunning environment and is a highly recommended experience. Meantime, the boys dined-out on the local delicacy of Hot-Pot, cooking their own food selections in vats of boiling broth over gas on their table-top (did someone say “what about Health & Safety issues”??????)

Our last day was taken-up in the morning with a trip to the Post-Office to send home 17 kg of excess books, souvenirs and clothing not required for the remainder of our trip. This, like many other ‘simple’ tasks in China is a mountain to climb and should not be considered lightly. After you eventually find a Post Office, allow plenty of time and a bucketful of patience. We then visited the pretty Pan Men Gardens and the Beisi Ta Temple & Pagoda - the 9 storey staircase climb is worth it for the breeze alone.

Train tickets arranged through our hotel we set off to the station for Shanghai. Separated once-more in our two taxis (Hilary with map & phrase-book in the departed taxi), Tristan & I sat in a second taxi in the middle of a 4-lane road facing the wrong way eventually managed to confirm our required destination with a chorus of “choo-choos” much to the amusement of our driver!

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