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Suzhou (苏州; Sūzhōu) is a city in Jiangsu province. It used to be the capital of the kingdom of Wu from the 12th to 4th centuries BC, thus, the center of Wu culture. The Suzhou dialect of the Wu language is still considered the standard dialect even though the language is now often called “Shanghainese”.
After spending 5 hours on the speed train from Beijing South railway station (北京南), we got to Suzhou North station (苏州北). From there we took a cap that brought us to the hotel in half an hour. Needless to say that Suzhou North station is quite far from the city centre and thus not very convenient. You can also book a plane ticket beforehand but then you will miss the sceneries that you can see when on the train.
We stayed in a Chinese style hotel (dark purple colors, dim lights and cigarette smoke everywhere) just for a night, but even a night was too much in a smoky room. As for the city itself, the Chinese Venice, as Suzhou is often called, is indeed beautiful. Though not the whole city is beautiful! – some parts are.
Eventually we arrived in Suzhou by evening and were in the hotel at 4pm. Though the hotel left much to be desired, its location was really convenient as right behind it there was a street with local cuisine restaurants – yummy! I even found there a milk tea that I used to drink every day in Malaysia! By the time we had dinner it was getting darker outside and we decided to take a boat trip so we took a rickshaw ride down to the canal. The driver was an old man, cutting the road and almost running into cars as if he didn’t mind not living any more. After this trip my mom claimed she’d never get on a rickshaw again. Aha, wait and see ;) Luckily, we got to a port for tourists safely and took a 7p.m. boat trip around Suzhou which was quite amazing but would have been much better if we could stop and walk around for 10-15 minutes. I wouldn’t say that a 150 Yuan tickets is worth this trip. On the other hand it’s quite interesting as there was a guide on the boat who told us about the history of all the passing-by bridges… in Chinese :P A view from the boat:
The next day we woke up really early to get to the opening of the Humble Administrator’s Garden -拙政园(Zhuōzhèng Yuán) at 7a.m.
But for some reason it was open half an hour later. Nevertheless, we got into the garden being happier than we expected as there were just a few people waiting with us (usually you see crowds in Chinese gardens which doesn’t exactly make you enjoy the time), most of them were old Chinese ladies and men going there for their morning exercises.
One of the reasons why we chose to see this particular garden was… the Mandarin ducks: