Suzhou, then on to the Expo

25 05 2010

Hi everyone. Sorry I/we (but mainly I) haven’t been updating the blog lately. I don’t have an excuse except that I’ve been super busy. *AHEM COUGH, LIAR COUGH*

So last weekend we went to the lovely garden city of Suzhou. Suzhou, or as the Chinese call it, 苏州, is a “small” city of about 4 million people located about half an hour outside of Shanghai. This means it was a little further – about 90 minutes from Nanjing, but nonetheless, a nice weekend away. So despite the rain, we decided to make the trip.

The first day we visited Tongli, one of China’s famous water towns in the area. It’s located on the Grand Canal and is said to resemble what life in the area was like before, I don’t know, 1 billion Chinese people were born, I guess. But it did offer quite a bit of really cool architecture and wasn’t quite as crazy as we’ve grown accustomed to with Chinese cities. In addition to visiting a couple of small gardens and a “museum of beds” we visited the China Sex Culture Museum, which is every bit as fantastic – and more – as you might expect. The museum had a variety of exhibits on prehistoric sex up until present day, and there were quite a few statues and … appliances on display. To top it all off, domesticated bunnies in the courtyard! After walking around for a few hours, we took the 1-hour train ride back into Suzhou proper where we went to the Silk Museum. The museum was underwhelming, but it did have live silk worms eating mulberry leaves, which was pretty cool. But overall, don’t bother.

The next day we got up early, had a mediocre hostel breakfast and then headed out. I guess I should mention the hostel. It’s called Mingtown Youth Hostel, and it’s a beautiful place located right on a small canal in Suzhou. Old building with high ceilings and nice courtyards – it was quite pretty. Unfortunately, the service was mediocre, the bathrooms didn’t have doors. Or screens. Or anything. And there was no central hangout spot, which almost defeats the purpose of a hostel.

So anyway, we left and walked to the Shizi Lin (Lion’s Grove) Garden. On the way, we stopped at a cute fair trade coffee shop. The area around the hostel had a bunch of nice little cafes and coffee shops. So the Shizi Lin garden is famous for its rockery, the Chinese penchant for filling some of its gardens with giant columns of rock. The guidebooks we read seemed to suggest that it was boring for westerners, but we liked it a lot. It was sort of like a giant, beautiful playground. It was also a zoo, packed to the brim with Chinese tourists, even though we hadn’t had any previous warning that it was super-busy. After viewing the garden we caught a bus down to the Wangshi Yuan (Master of the Nets Garden) bus stop, then enjoyed a pleasant stroll about 15 miles out of the way thanks to my failure to check road signs properly. I did know where we were going, I just didn’t know where we STARTED FROM.

Anyway, the Master of the Nets Garden is generally acknowledged as one of Suzhou’s loveliest. It was also considerably, considerably quieter and less tourist-infested than the other garden we went to. We liked it a lot. It had the added bonus of a super-cheap little market street we could buy trinkets at, including my cool new Obamao shirt. Can’t wait to see it, can you? After the garden, we had lunch near Shuang Ta (Twin Pagodas), another park in the area. In China, there are very few examples of twin pagodas, which are more prevalent in other parts of Asia, though don’t ask me which. The park was great. Completely empty and overgrown, which is always a perfect venue for jumping photos – not that those aren’t fun with an audience as well.

And that ended our visit to Suzhou.

So anyway, this coming weekend, we’re heading back to Shanghai. We both feel like we need to have one more nice weekend in Shanghai, since it’s such a fun place to visit, and I display my dork
credentials by visiting the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition. Now you know how I lasso’ed her, fellas. In addition, we’ll see the World Expo, which means, as always, lots of great photos.
See you soon!

-Jeremiah

Pictures:
1. Canals and boats!
2. Twin pagodas!
3. Rockery!

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2 responses

25 05 2010
Margaret

Love reading about your adventures, when do you return?

26 05 2010
Gingy

I really enjoyed the Master of the Nets Garden, to. I wonder why they think Westerners won’t like the gardens? All of us did!I agree about the silk museum. We saw a much better demo when we were in Shanghai.

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