Suzhou: The Venice of Asia

Trip Start Jul 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 29, 2008

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hey everyone
Me and Pete have just spent the past 3 days chilling in Suzhou, the Venice of Asia (apparently).
We arrived late on the21st after yet another high speed train (its so cheap so it makes sense to travel fast and in comfort). Our taxi driver struggled at first to find the hostel. It turns it its down the back of several alleyways and canals (hence the Venice comparison) and it is in fact an old courtyard (dating back to early Mind Dynasty!).
On the 22nd, we started roaming around the many gardens of Suzhou. We started in the Couples Garden close to our hostel which was pretty cool. We then headed over to the Opera Museum, which was basically an old style Chinese opera house. We then headed for the city center, via the main shopping street to the Temple of Mystery. A strange place with strange statues inside (the Taoist religion is rather freaky) but cool none the less. We eventually wondered over to the Humble Administrators Garden, one of the largest in Suzhou. The garden was massive with several impressive pavilions, lakes and rockery's. After that, we wondered down to the North Temple Pagoda. The Pagoda was pretty big and we got some good views of the city from the top (alot less pollution than Nanjing as the pictures will tell!). We then decided to go to the train station to buy tickets for our final train to Shanghai. Unfortunately, we were told we couldn't purchase them more than 2 days in advance. We were directed to  another street, where we thought we could buy train tickets but it turned out to be a bus station. We eventually gave up and headed back to the hostel. There we met a friendly Chinese guy from Xian called Kelvin. He told us about a ticket office in the center of town where we could buy tickets. We headed over to the ticket office and acquired our tickets with relative ease. We then went to a noodle bar and had a bowl of traditional Chinese noodles. We then headed back to the hostel and chilled out with some beers.
On the 23rd, we headed to the south of the city. We started with the Twin Pagodas (Suzhou like their Pagodas!) which were pretty cool. We then walked over to the Garden of the Master of Nets, which was tiny compared to the other gardens but it was impressive inside. We continued to walk on towards the Blue Wave Pavilion, which was again another garden but very nice. We also happened across the former Confucius Temple which was a bit overgrown with vegetation. We eventually reached the SE corner of the old town where there was yet another pagoda (Ruiguang Pagoda) and another large park with a lake. We wondered around this park and arrived at the only remaining part of the city walls and the last remaining city gate. I even got to shoot another Chinese bow at a small stand near by (the bow was rubbish with plastic string, no sight or even a arrow rest to speak of and the arrows had no fletchings, excuses i know!). We finished the day by taking a taxi back to the city center where there was a silk museum. The museum had a number of displays about the silk road which was interesting. That evening, we couldn't take any more Chinese food so we went for an Indian curry, which was expensive for china (about 10 euro each) but so worth it!
Today (24th), we walked over 2 miles to the western edge of the city to the Western Garden Temple. The temple had some interesting shrines and statues (including one with 1000 arms!) which were cool. We then walked across the road to the Lingering Garden which had some nice parks and lakes inside. When leaving the garden it started to rain. By rain, i mean flash flood style! Within 30 minutes of solid rain, the streets had become rivers. We luckily hid under a bus shelter so remained dry and laughed at all the Chinese people on bikes who were soaked to death!. People were even taking off their shoes to wade across the road! After the rains had stopped, we caught a bus to the most famous garden in Suzhou, Tiger Hill Park. The park was pretty impressive with some cool rockery's and pavilions. At the top of the hill was the Tiger Hill Pagoda, or as it should be called the Leaning Pagoda of Suzhou! The pagoda was leaning over quite alot, by about 2 meters worth at the top. Suzhou appears to be having an Italian theme really with all the canals and now a leaning tower!
Anyways that about raps it up for Suzhou. Were going to chill in the hostel with some beers tonight before getting the final train to Shanghai tomorrow morning.
Hope everyone is well and we'll see you all back in England soon.
Mark and Peter
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