We arrived in Suzhou on Day 5 of our G Adventures ‘Ancient Empires’ tour. After having spent the night on a sleeper train from Xi’an, the early check in and shower were much appreciated!
Suzhou was one of my favourite cities that we visited in China, and it was relatively small, compared to Beijing and Xi’an, with a population of only 2 million people living. We only had one day to enjoy Suzhou, but I feel like we certainly made the most of it.
Master of the Nets Garden
The Master of the Nets Garden is regarded as one of the finest gardens in China and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The garden was first constructed in 1140 but ownership was only passed to the Suzhou government in 1958. Upon researching for this post I found out that according to Famous Classical Gardens of China the Master of the Nets Garden is considered the best representation of all classical Chinese garden art.
To be honest with you I didn’t know any of those facts when I actually visited the garden and I’m not going to pretend to know much about Chinese garden art… but I can wholeheartedly agree that this garden was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The calmness and serenity that you feel while wandering around was really special, it was the perfect escape from the chaos of China’s streets. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here because of the crazy heat. But it was just enough to appreciate the tranquility the garden offered.
Suzhou Canals & the Old City Centre
Suzhou has been dubbed the “Venice of the East” because of the ancient canals that wind through the city and the amazing architecture that dates back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
We spent our evening in Downtown Suzhou or the Old City Centre where there were bustling markets and tons of food stalls all on streets lined with beautiful red lanterns. This was one of my favourite places we visited during our entire trip to China! I loved the atmosphere! Despite there being a lot of people, they were all calm and happy and just enjoying themselves. It was one of the first times I felt that kind of vibe whilst in China. Mum and I enjoyed a boat ride down a canal as the sun was setting, and then we wandered through the markets, picking up some delicious yoghurts for dessert and being stopped by some lovely Chinese girls for a lot of selfies!
On our walk back to the hotel (after dark and still dripping with sweat from the humidity) we stopped to watch a community group who were doing partner dancing in a park and they were having a blast! Some of us wanted to join in but the dances were a little tricky to pick up and my feet were already wrecked from days of walking, so we just enjoyed watching from the sidelines for a while.
When I reminisce about my trip to China, this night in Suzhou really stands out as one of my favourites! I highly recommend adding this to your China itinerary, and if you have the time definitely spend more than just one night!
Traffic – Be careful! I don’t know what sort of traffic laws they have in China, if any, but I am extremely surprised we didn’t see an accident every time we were out and about. Also be extremely careful when crossing the road. Just because the green man is flashing doesn’t mean the cars/scooters will wait for you. If anything the drivers will get angry with you for being in their way despite it being your turn to cross. It was really confusing!
Heat & Humidity – The heat and humidity really kicked up a notch when we arrived in Suzhou and we certainly got used to our constant layer of sweat. Though it was a small price to pay while exploring Suzhou and I would definitely do it again. FYI – loose cotton dresses are ideal!
Buy a fan – not only does it make a beautiful souvenir but it’s extremely practical in 40° Celsius heat. I picked up a beautiful fan at the Old Town Suzhou Markets, near the canals for only 10RMB (<AU$2). You will thank me for this tip!
Take a moment to stop and relax – Often when doing tours like this one you are moving non-stop trying to fit everything in, we were averaging around 20,000 steps per day! And we forget to rest or we feel bad if we stop because we could be missing something. However, at this point in our trip I realised that it’s so important to take a break, even if it’s just stopping for half an hour at a coffee shop to rest your feet, enjoy the air conditioning and caffeinate for the afternoon. You can’t really enjoy your time exploring if you feel exhausted. So personally I would rather waste an hour or so to rejuvenate and then really get the most enjoyment out of my exploring time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences in Suzhou, China and maybe got some ideas or tips for your own adventure. Up next on the blog will be all about our adventures in Shanghai! Can’t wait to share with you!
Thanks for reading x
All photos by me.
This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own.