Suzhou, The Wonderful City of Gardens N Dumplings

Trip Start Jan 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,
As usual upon awakening I had still to decide where to go next. 
After chatting to Amigo I decided to head to the water city of Suzhou.  A damn fair sized city with around 5,800,000 people.   After my mornings ElcheapO coffee hit I said goodbye to the happy staff who informed me that my bus station was only about two hundred meters down the road.  Thank god as it was a sticky and humid outside and the less I had to walk before boarding a bus the better!  I caught the mid day bus and the journey took only two hours on my super comfortable express bus. 
The ticket cost 60 Yuan and I think a slower bus would have been around 50 Yuan, maybe 45.
The closer to Suzhou we got the more enchanting the journey became. 
The little villages that dotted the fields were like something out of a movie.  They captured the moment in time they were built and have brought it into the present.  The architecture was all pretty much the same and it was wonderful.  For the millionth time during this adventure my belly was filled with happy butterflies and I couldn't wait to arrive. 
I felt like my destination was Smurf Village!
The city of Suzhou is around two thousand five hundred years old.  Meaning that the Smurfs were around here way back then, built the first Smurf Village and have hung around since. 
The question is, do you believe in Smurfs?
I do, Smurfet is a real Babe!
By the 12th Centaury the city was pretty much the same size as it is now.  A city wall used to surround the central city along with a moat.  Sadly the Suzhou Smurfs knocked the walls down and filled in the moat but thankfully they left many of the canals.  By the 14th Centaur y Suzhou was Chinas leading silk producer and by the 16th Centaury over one hundred beautiful gardens had been established within its walls. 
Happily many of them still remain.
Sadly, sometime between then and now the Smurfs decided there were too many Han Chinese moving in and they all packed their little Smurfpacks and Smurfpacked elsewhere. 
The LP describes Suzhou as the following: Garden City!  Venice of the East, a medieval mix of woodblock guilds and embroidery societies, whitewashed housing, cobbled streets, tree-lined avenues and canals!  Once again I ask myself 'why can't I write something so simple and short!'  I jibber on for a page or two to get such a simple thing written.
Stop now!
Anyhow, after walking around Suzhou's streets for the last six hours I wouldn't change or add a single word.  It really is a wonderful city to be in. 
Expensive, but beautiful! 
So, the past six hours. 
When I arrived at the bus station (north station near the train station) I found a really great set up.  Usually I would begin the Cheap Hotel Boogie with the Tuk Tuk drivers etc but here there were several staff awaiting your arrival.  They weren't pushy at all and asked my price range found hotels and photos of the rooms and once I was happy they put me in a free mini-van and off we sped. 
We didn't have to go far as I chose one at the end of town do I could walk my way everywhere to the other end of town. 
After checking in and dropping my pack off I headed out into the heat of the day and decided to head to the huge pagoda I spotted as we turned off Renmin Lu which runs down the middle of the entire city.  About five minutes walk away I found Beisi Ta or Northern Temple Pagoda.  It cost 25 Yuan to enter and it was very beautiful. 
The grounds are around seventeen hundred years old and the pagoda is nine storey's high.
So the view of the city it offers is excellent!
The tea house out the back was nice but expensive.  If offered a bowl of 3 Yuan noodles for around 15 Yuan.  Why pay that when just out the front and down Dongbei Jie a few steps away is a little Muslim Noodle House who will try to charge 7 Yuan for a bowl of Lanzhou Noodles (Northern Noodles) but I got them down to the normal 4 Yuan after showing them my Gansu ID Card from my school there. 
Suzhou.....expensive canals maybe!
After the temple I headed down Dongbei Jie and found a Dumpling Eatery where I sat for some of the most delicious Joutsa (Dumplings) I've ever eaten.  Man they were so good I had two trays full, one of fried and one of steamed.  Easy to find this place as there is a guy out front wokking up his fried dumplings.  Just the smell was enough for me to cross the road and race to find a seat and order. 
With a much too full belly I zig zagged around the little alleys behind the main road and soon I spotted The Suzhou Fine Arts Museum which is just before Qimen Lu.  There are four rooms full of beautiful 'Fine Arty' things for you to feast your peekers on.  I walked around for well over an hour.  It begins with two huge elephant tusks that had the most amazing carvings I've ever seen on them. 
Yes I know, ivory spells bad but they weren't carved yesterday mate or even yesteryear for that matter. 
The museum ends with an exceptional display of Chinese fans.  In between you have amazing silk embroidery, jade works, paintings, unbelievable paper cuttings and many other 'fine arty' things to keep you happy.  Well worth the 15 Yuan entrance fee.  There is also plenty of English to help understand what you are actually looking at and usually a shot history lesson as well. 
I then continued along Dongbei Jie which took me towards the cities north east corner. 
Soon I came to the cities 'Tourist Area'.  Here can be found bus loads of both foreign and Chinese tourists.  To keep them happy there is a new 'Ancient Village' full of stores offering things you need to buy but will never look at or use again.  This area is right near the Suzhou Museum and the 'Humble Administrators Gardens'.  I was going to have a look at these gardens as they are supposed to be near the top of the list of 'The Gardens to see' here but when I found they had Peak Season prices I decided there and then to boycott any site that has such a stupid thing.
During normal season the price is 40 Yuan but during holiday season it jumps to 70 Yuan.  That's almost all my daily allowance gone in one garden.
Bugger your Administrators Garden Suzhou and bugger your Peak Prices!
I spent the next several hours zig zagging my way south to Zhuhui Lu and then headed back to Renmin Lu to find a KFC for a coffee fix before pointing my feet northwards and slowly heading home amongst the neon streets filled with happy people. 
Beers N Noodles toya.....shane
The soundtrack to this entry was The Dandy Warholes
The album was the brilliant '13 Tales'

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