Suzhou – The Venice of the East.
It was not in our itinerary initially and we were considering to spend more time in Hangzhou (thank god we didn’t). After doing some research on Suzhou, we were intrigued by the dreamy Watertowns, canals and bridges. As the Watertowns usually need an entire day for sightseeing, we decided to allocate more time to Suzhou. We spent 3 days in Suzhou and on the first day, we explored the areas in PingJiang Street and attractions. Second day, we went on a full day trip to Zhou Zhuang. The most popular ones are either Zhou Zhuang 周庄古镇 or Tongli 同里古镇 so you just need to choose one as both are similar. Most of the tours offer Zhou Zhuang as it’s the Number One Watertown in China.
Getting to Suzhou is not difficult. It’s just a 25-min high speed railway ride away from Shanghai. As always, choose the best class for the HSR seats.
We stayed in Hotel Soul in Suzhou. It is clean, modern, and very near to the main shopping street whereby you can find Zara and all the international or local brands. Our first day there was to tick off our bucketlist of the Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lion Groove Garden. If you are wondering how to get there, just use DiDi app and the ride only cost SGD3.
You won’t ever need to worry about eating options as there’s plenty there. We decided to experience the local way of eating and settled for some roadside action. So affordable and good; Suzhou sure knows how to do their noodles right!
Humble Administrator’s Garden
There’s plenty of visitors – perhaps it’s their summer vacation for the kids too. We spent a good 1 hour exploring the garden as it’s really huge. The sight of the massive lotus pond was quite spectacular. Halfway through, we were tired under the hot and dry weather.
Some of the trees were over 100 years old! And we saw a lot of international brands doing their best to blend in. We did not take a lot of photos – because we want to take time to appreciate the place and also there’s too many people around! And with the hot weather, it’s really a challenge.
Lion’s Grove Garden
The Lion’s Grove Garden is somewhat similar to Humble Administrator’s Garden but at a smaller scale. It’s crowded as usual as these 2 attractions are at close proximity and the tours will usually visit both at one go.
Thereafter, we went on a boat ride before the crowd comes out after the attractions are closed at 5pm. The boat ride cost is per trip. So it’s good to gather more people (Max 6) to share and split the cost. For this boat ride, it cost us 40rmb (SGD8) per pax. Comparing a gondola boat ride in Venice which cost around 110 euros, I’d say this is really worth the experience! But having said that, I’ll still do gondola ride in Venice (if I’m there next time) in a heartbeat haha.
Tip: Board the boat last and be seated at the other end from the boat rower. Then you can have unobstructed view of the canal.
The canal boat ride in the water lane is a must! It’s really a good experience to see the lifestyle of Suzhou locals. You’ll get to see the leisurely life at the waterside street and for once, you can sit back and relax.
To further soak in the atmosphere, we chose to have our dinner by the canal. We were early and sat down at this apparently popular restaurant named 妈妈菜馆.
The dish to order is 酸菜鱼 (sour veg fish). The fish was so fresh and the sour element makes everything appetising. If you are wondering whether their dishes are spicy, no it’s not.
And we get our first try of The Alley boba milk tea in Suzhou! Of all places…
The entire canal setting actually reminds me of Amsterdam (Can’t comment on Venice as I’ve not been there). Everything is slower pace and the canal puts you in a good mood somehow. There’s many things to do in Suzhou – shopping at PingJiang Street, tea savouring at those quaint tea houses along the canal, no lack of restaurants and street food, catching traditional performance such as Pingtan Performance and a cat cafe! After dinner, we went for this Pingtan performance while sipping tea at this unique tea house.
Along the street of 平江路, we chanced upon a teahouse which offers a Pingtan performance (Story telling and Ballad singing). This is a term for Pinghua and Tanci, which is usually performed by 2 narrators, with three-string zither and pipa lute. Sit back, relax and enjoy this show on my IGTV.
So that’s Part 1 of my Suzhou 3D2N travel. My next blog entry will be featuring our day trip to Zhou Zhuang, so stay tuned!