Helloooo. Yay Blog #2. Like I mentioned previously, in addition to working in the lab in Shanghai, I also have the opportunity to travel a lot while here in China. I want to blog each of these trips to both share my experience and also so I can remember what I did! A few weeks ago I left Shanghai for the first time on a two day trip to the nearby city of Suzhou...
Suzhou Skyline...straight from google images
- Some quick facts about Suzhou before I talk about my trip
- It was established almost 2500 years ago
- It is a prefecture-level city with an official population of 10.5 million (urban: 6 million)
- It is known for its historical significance, silk trade, and gardens (“Venice of the East”)
Day 1 — Tongli
Canal — Tongli
On Saturday morning, Ameen and I got up early headed to Shanghai Railway Station. We were excited to ride a bullet train for the first time. After finding our seats and leaving the station I actually didn’t believe Ameen when told me we were already going 250 kph after just a few minutes. The train was super smooth and after cruising at 300 kph for about 20 minutes we had already arrived in Suzhou. After meeting up with our friends from Hangzhou, we boarded a bus for the ancient city of Tongli. Now a tourist town, Tongli is known for its many canals (hence “Venice of the East).
Restaurants in Tongli
We spent the morning wondering around the streets and going through tourist shops. I got sucked into a small instrument shop and probably spent more than I should have on a ceramic ocarina. I am pretty crap at playing but at least I can take it home (unlike that guitar I bought...).
Learning Zelda music as you read this
After lunch, we visited a garden in the middle of the town as well as some other historical attractions. Most of the historical stuff had almost unreadable English translations so we didn’t really know what we were looking at, but the garden was very beautiful!
Due to rain, the garden was also fairly empty, a nice change from overcrowded tourist areas.
From left to right: Haley, Meghan, Quinn, Emily, Ameen, Kelsey, me, Rene.
Meet my friends from Western! This is everyone I have been travelling with except Mohannad who didn’t come down for this trip. It rained pretty much all day and although we had umbrellas and plastic bags for shoes, still managed get the only pair of shoes I brought completely soaked. After returning to the hotel, Ameen and I spent turns using the hair dryer attempting to dry them (and our socks) before going out again. We had some tasty noodles for dinner and had a few drinks at a small bar before going to bed.
Day 2 — Garden, Silk Museum, Tiger Hill
Circular Door - Humble Administrator's Garden
On Sunday (after hitting up McDonalds for breakfast) we went to the most famous garden in Suzhou, the Humble Administrator’s Garden. We spent about three hours just exploring the grounds, an area of about 12 acres. It’s hard to imagine that one man or family could really make use of such a large garden.
The garden was very crowded that day with almost exclusively Chinese tourists. Although it wasn’t uncommon for locals to sneak pictures of me or even to ask me to take a picture with them, this was the first time where crowds started to gather all wanting pictures with the foreigners. At first we embraced it but eventually had to practically run away as the crowd never seemed to get smaller!
Me with my adoring fans
There was also a super rad part of the garden with tons of bonsai trees. I tired to take a picture of like every one but my friends seemed to be less keen than I and tried to move on.
Came across a path that was flooded so we broke some rules and climbed all over the rocks.
Quinn, Emily, Haley, me.
After having a normal Chinese lunch, a few of us headed to the silk museum. Silk production has always been important to Suzhou’s economy and at one point Suzhou was a central part of the silk trade. We got to touch some live silk worms and also see some very large silk looms in action.
Very large loom
After that we ended the day at Tiger Hill, a site that has been a tourist destination for hundreds of years. It’s basically a very large hill with a leaning tower on top. There are some other historical parts including the Sword Pond which is said to have up to 3000 swords buried beneath it. Overall, it was nice to spend a few days outside the massive urban metropolis that is Shanghai and really begin to explore some of the history of China!
Tiger Hill Pagoda