After our visit to Hangzhou we took a bus towards Suzhou, where we stayed for two days. We had heard about the city and its canals, and since it’s on the way towards Shanghai, we decided to stop over. Between Hangzhou and Suzhou we had a 90-minute bus ride (for 73RMB~10€ each) and the journey was nice!
Where to sleep in Suzhou ?
This time, since the city was cheaper, we chose a real hotel (oh yeah, a real one!). We stayed at the Hi Inn Guanqian Branch, which was basic but perfect for us. Ensuite bathroom, WiFi access and TV in the room. We liked it, but if we had to point out something negative, the staff was completely unable to help us with anything! We asked them about bus connections to Shanghai and they kept saying it was only possible to go there by train! So either they wanted to make us pay more or they just had no idea. Luckily for us, we could find all the info ourselves!
During our stay in Suzhou we wanted to take it easy. We decided to reduce the number of tourist places and take our time to walk around and discover the city, especially after the two weeks we had spent in China.
What to see in Suzhou
These are the activities we did during our two-day stay in Suzhou:
Museum of Suzhou Gardens
Walking near Suzhou Museum we stumbled upon this lovely museum (plus it’s free!). It’s a little hidden between Suzhou Museum and the Garden of the Humble Administrator. The Museum of Suzhou Gardens explains the different styles and construction processes of the gardens of the city. Even if the information was not really interesting, the compound is beautiful and nice to discover!
It’s a big museum (and also free!). The number of visitors is limited so you may have to queue up for a while before coming in – hey, welcome to China! The museum holds several galleries with different themes: pottery, porcelain, painting, etc. but it’s not very dynamic to our taste. We saw a thousand objects but the explanations are not really interesting, so we quickly got bored. The most interesting part of the museum (and also the least visited) is located after the modern part of the building. The old part is a compound of beautiful patios and wooden buildings. It’s a nice place to get lost for a while!
Generally speaking, the museum is nice, but there’re so many people that we couldn’t even concentrate in reading the explanations. If you want to see it, try to avoid the weekend (remember it’s closed on Mondays).
Walking through Pingjiang Road and its canals
Inevitable in Suzhou, Pingjiang Road is the most typical street in the whole city. It’s surrounded by canals where traditional boats offer short tours. Here we understood why Suzhou is often called “the Chinese Venice”! On this road you’ll find many shops, cafés and restaurants. However, watch where you walk: even if it’s a pedestrian street, scooters are allowed to circulate here! And they don’t really drive carefully (we got almost driven over a couple of times!).
Garden of the Lion Forest
There are many famous gardens in Suzhou (the Garden of the Humble Administrator, the Garden of the Master of Nets, etc.). We wanted to visit just one and decided that the Lion Forest would be ok because of its reasonable price and its size. We liked the place, with all its dreamy rocks, the canals and the lake. It’s a lovely place, such a pity that the number of visitors is not controlled!
Guanqian commercial street
Our hotel was located very close to this pedestrian street, so we decided to go have a look at the things they sold. There’re international shops like Zara etc, and many others we didn’t know. We stumbled upon the Taoist Xuanmiao Temple. We took some pictures but didn’t go in.
A little further on the same street we found a little market where they sold Chinese specialties. All the vendors wore the same blue traditional dress, it was lovely. We bought some sesame sweets, they were delicious!
It’s a little like the snack street in Beijing: a street full of stands where you’ll find a thousand things to eat. In Suzhou they sell more traditional food than in Beijing, lots of meat and not so many vegetables. We had roasted potatoes for the first time in China! Yep, promised! We ate them with pleasure for a change from noodles and rice! They were sauté with some garlic and spices. They were really tasty but just a little spicy (not much, though). We were also surprised to see what Chinese people eat. In Beijing we thought they sold some things just for the show and the tourists, but here in Suzhou we saw local people eat surprising things like chicken feet (with nails and everything), tiny ducks (with heads and beaks) and many other things! We were happy to have our potatoes, though!
Suzhou was a lovely stopover during our trip around the world, but if we had to do it again we would prefer to stay longer in Hangzhou. We believe Hangzhou is more charming and has much more to offer. But a daytrip to Suzhou would be nice on the way to Shanghai!
After some days in Suzhou, we headed towards Shanghai, where we finished our stay in China!