The Real Trip Begins – Suzhou

On our first full day in China together, we headed out to a small town close to Shanghai called Suzhou. Suzhou is a very small city with some canals running through it. When Marco Polo explored China, he described Suzhou as the “Veniceof the East.” Let me tell you now, Suzhou is noVenice.

We took the high speed train which got us out there in less than 30 min. First we had to take of where we were going to stay for the first night. I was hoping that we could just show up to the hostel and book 2 beds for the night. What I didn’t take into account was that it was also the last day of national Chinese festival called, Dragon Boat Festival (not really sure what they celebrate though) so there were no rooms available.

Thanks to Becca’s help we were able to find a hotel not too far away. After we checked in we started walking around the city and exploring. We were trying to head to these twin pagodas that were not too far away. The problem was that we got a little lost (getting lost becomes an on-going trend throughout our trip). I blame it on a faulty map while Jen and Becca blame it on a faulty leader (ie. me).

We ended walking for more than 2 hours trying to find these pagodas. But getting lost is part of the adventure and if we hadn’t gotten lost we would never have found a cool Buddhist temple with nun-monks and watch them perform a ceremony.

We finally made it back to the touristy strip, which is very pretty canal street, where we just chilled and had coffee. At that point Becca had to head back to Shanghai, so we said our goodbyes and it was just Jennifer and I.

At night Jen and I went out for dinner on the main commercial drag. After dinner we found this area that had these fairground games. Of course being the natural basketball athletes that Jen and I are, we headed straight for the basketball shoot-out game. I won the first game by 2 points and was feeling pretty good about the victory. But of course we do best of three, so we played again, and Jen won the second game by about 15 points. So it came down to a third game and it wasn’t even close. Jennifer beat me by more than 50+ points.


Suzhou is not only known for its canals but for its gardens as well. So the next morning we headed to Lion’sGroveGarden. Lion’s Grove Garden is a rock garden built in 1342 by Buddhist monks for their master. But right before we entered the garden it started to rain, and I mean pour. So we bought umbrellas and headed into the garden.

Lion’s Grove Garden is a tightly packed maze garden made out of oddly shaped rocks. So you go in and out, up and down of these caves which eventually open up onto a beautiful pond. What became a pain in the ass was having to open and close our umbrellas due to the rain.

The garden was absolutely beautiful and well worth going.


After the garden we hopped on a bus and headed out to Tiger Hill. From Tiger Hill you can walk along a canal all the way back to the city center. Walking through back allies and markets was really cool. Just getting a sense of how people live in Suzhou was a neat experience. And once again it was raining the whole way back.


The most annoying thing about Suzhou was that it is nearly impossible to get a taxi. They say that the only place to get a taxi is at the train and bus stations. So keep that in mind if you ever travel to Suzhou.

That night Jen and I met up with my friends James and Linda. James was a teacher and Linda a TA at EF and since they had a long weekend for Dragon Boat festival they came down toSuzhou. It was nice meeting up with them for dinner.

So that was it for Suzhou. We woke up early the next day and headed to the train station. Next stop Nanjing.


About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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