Above there is heaven below there are Suzhou and Hangzhou goes the famous quote, I haven’t been above yet, but they did a great job below. Suzhou is a monument to China’s amazing growth and modernization, the new areas of the city display some of the best city engineering there is, with modern architecture, wide streets and beautiful gardens all around. While the old sections have been preserved and restored to serve as first class tourist & leisure for both visitors and locals alike. Here is an action packed day to take you through the old, the new and the “looks like old” China style.
Luzi Water Town (1.5 hours)
A typical water town on the road from Shanghai to Suzhou. Take a boat and hear the rower sing as you go through the canals.In the old times water canals where used for transportation of people and goods. Visit the Baosheng temple, it has been around for over 1500 years, boosting artifacts from the Tang, Ming, Song & Qing dynasties. Walk the narrow streets, stop by the local vendors and check out street food. Don’t be afraid to taste foods you don’t recognize, it’s all in the experience.
Luzhizhen, Wuzhong, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, 215127 (Link to map)
Humble Administrator Garden (1 hour)
A world heritage site and one of the most famous and beautiful gardens in China. It was built originally in 1510 by Wang Xiacheng, an Imperial Envoy and poet of the Ming Dynasty. It subsequently changed many hands and even was split up at some point (early 1600’s) to be divided to 3 parts.
The garden was turned over to the Chinese government in 1949, it has been open to the public ever since. Named a UNESCO world heritage in 1997, the garden contains a maze of water ways, bridges and halls. Take your time and walk through as you appreciate the beauty.
The garden takes on a different look in each season, my favorite time is the fall as strong colors of red & gold present themselves making the garden beautiful.
Local Tip: The Suzhou art museum is right outside the garden, entrance is free, definitely worth a short visit.
Humble Administrator Garden, Gusu, Suzhou, China, 215000 (Link to map)
Lion Grove Garden (1 hour)
The region is known for its unique rocks, known as Taihu Lake Rock, also resembling Lions (hence the name). Built in 1342 by Zen Buddhist monk, Wen Tianru. The center of the garden is filled with the stones creating a maze, find your way through the maze to discover the gardens most beautiful spots. Let yourself get lost a bit, climb the rocks and find the shortest route to the beautiful pond in the center of the garden, filled with lotus flowers.
23 Yuanlin Road, 平江区 Suzhou, Jiangsu, China (Link to map)
Guan Qian St. Suzhou (1 hour)
This wide pedestrian street is full of shops and places to eat . The Yellow temple in the middle is nice to look at, but not much going on inside (you can skip entering, unless you are really into shrines). If you are looking for tea to bring home, there are a few great tea shops along the street with a huge variety.
Local tip: When buying tea, make sure you also get the right utensils to make Chinese tea properly.
Guanqian St, Gusu, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, 215000 (Link to map)
SIP – Suzhou New City (1.5 hours)
The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) is the new part of town. Built as a joint venture between the Singapore government and the Suzhou government, where all the design was performed by the Singaporeans resulting in an uber modern city with wide roads and an enormous amount of shopping malls for all price ranges and tastes.
The time square mall is a huge construction housing the worlds largest LED screen (Look up on the roof) and a shopping center to match.
Walk around, have a coffee in Starbucks and watch how the young and rich embrace the western culture. This is part of what China is going through these days, as the old makes room for the new and some of the tradition is sadly lost.
Local tip: In town on the weekend? Make sure you catch the light show at the rainbow board walk for a spectacular show of light, fire, water & sound. The show plays Fridays, Saturday & Sunday at 20:00 sharp for about 20 minutes.
Suzhou Shantang Street (1 hour)
Great pedestrian St. with artist stands and shops all along. Take a stroll in the evening. This is a great place to get local art souvenirs to take home, especially if you are looking for a piece of rice with your name on it.
During the holidays the street is crowded with many locals out for a nice evenings.
Local tip: Bargaining is acceptable, but not as aggressive as the fake markets. Remember the important rule: if the seller agrees to your price, always buy! There have been some unpleasant instances with travelers treating sellers poorly.
Shantang Street, Jin Chang Qu, Suzhou, Jiangsu, China (Link to map)
Chinese: 山塘街; Pinyin: Shāntáng Jiē
Songhelou Restaurant (1.5 hours)
This is an old Suzhou style restaurant. Very traditional food. The Suzhou style is actually sweet food and plenty of sea food (the local delicacy is hairy crab, a very seasonal dish). Signature dishes include Songshu Guiyu (fried sweet and sour mandarin fish), Xiefen Tofu (braised tofu with crab meat) and Xiaren (shelled fresh shrimps).
If you want real Chinese, this is as real as it gets.
Local tips: Needless to say, stick to the house specials and you’ll enjoy a great time. Don’t arrive too late, dinner ends at 21:00.
SongHeLou Resaurant: No. 198 Shantang Street (close to Guangji Road), Jinchang District, Tel: 0512-65321398