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suzhou: city of gardens: the next silicone valley

Suzhou Travel Blog

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suzhou

David and I took one of the days and rode the train to Suzhou.... city of gardens.    We bought the train tickets we accidentally got tickets to Yangzhou.... huge mistake....hours and  hours from where we wanted to go.  Luckily the train did not leave for a few hours so we decided  to have a coke.  We walked across the square and got a couple of cokes and settled down to wait.   We were the center of attention in the cafe we chose although we sat at the side area.  

We started looking at the guide book to pinpoint what we would do in Souzou.

Three of Suzhou's famous gardens set to classic Chinese music...hope you enjoy!
  I told David for a town with such great gardens isn't it weird they didn't have it in the book.  Then we looked closer  (David actually looked closer and discovered it... I handed the book to him...) and realized the mistake.   We ran back to the train station and  got a refund and new tickets.   the refund was very easy.... Our new train  was leaving in just 1/2 hour.  We were so lucky.   

We found the track and got onto the very  clean double decker train .... we were very pleased to see that our seats were upstairs.  We had never sat upstairs before.... People openly stared at us.  It was so funny the man in the seat in front of us sat backwards on his seat on his knees peeking over the back at us.

doesn't this invite you out?
....I smiled and said hello and he popped down then came up again to peek....I wish we really were soooo interesting....... the ride was very short  (I think about an hour or so)

Suzhou was so great. It used to have thousands of gardens but now has 69.  In the train station there was a huge poster that said  the town will be the next silicone valley.   Much more than we could have imagined.   We understand that there has been a bit of a struggle in the town...... development vs the people.

When we first got to the train station I walked to a lady with a motorcycle taxi:  David, in the meantime stopped and hired an unlicenced guide.   It was awkward for a moment when David and I saw each other.

suzhou garden
.... I gave the lady a dollar bill and she was happy.   And so......we hired an illegal (unlicensed) guide  who was really wonderful  ...( until the last 2 minutes when he decided to change his price.   We argued and he backed down quickly. )    We got into the ugly van and the man (he was around 24 or so) had a friend in it.....  We agreed upon a price by pointing a photos of gardens and nodding.  and agreeing verbally on a price..   He began to drive and drove quite a ways.  

He drove up an alley way that looked like a dead end.   It was run down and dirty looking.  the perfect place to rob two Americans..... yikes..... David and i looked at each other and started looking for weapons.

looking down at the boat and the canals in the suzhou garden
... I decided on my backpack with the camera in it and David did the same.... We clutched them and waited....the driver  walked around and opened the door and gestured us out...  He indicated up the alley a short ways....  It was the back entrance to a garden... geez....  We agreed to come out again in 1 hour.   We walked through the wonderful garden that was also a residence.   Each garden was connected to the room through large glass doors or large windows.  The windows had stained glass  edges sometimes.... it all flowed from room to room.   The gardens were not large but each one was totally different from the others.  There were benches and surprise alcoves with garden doors that lead from bamboo gardens to rock gardens to flower gardens.
isn't this lovely?
... There was a small reflecting pool.  We met the guide outside and drove the second garden.

The second garden was a huge area with several huge pagodas, a system of canals and part of the old city wall.   We knew they were closing soon and were hurrying.   We went into a room and sat down as we thought there was some kind of explaination of the  gardens..... Uh, no.   It was a little operetta performance.   We really didn't have time for it.  But beings we were the only guests it would have been horrible for the performers.  So we sat and clapped and smiled.  and hoped it ended soon! 

Finally it ended and a lady went over and knocked on the door and it was unlocked from outside by an attendent.

This lady started out singing & pushing us along... she went to the end then back...then....(this is sad) the dock people had us come in & they refunded our money: we didn't get to do the rest of the canals..i tipped her & thanked her in chinese.
  Oh my.... we didn't know we were locked in....   We thanked everyone and ran down to where the canal was.  We paid for the canal ride and a lady took us under the old city wall and poled the craft down the canal.  She sang as she poled.   We were beyond thrilled.   It was beautiful, Great music, we were on water and surrounded by flowers and plants.  Perfect.   At the end of the Canal she poled us back the way we came.  We were a little surprised to see our driver on the bank calling to us.  What's that about.....  We thought he said hurry they are closing soon.....  Then before we could go into the main canals the lady was summoned to the dock.  They handed us our money and said they were sorry.  I gave the lady a tip she didn't want to take it as the ride was interrupted.
this was in the garden with the canals. they did a cute little skit with wonder singing .... it was getting late so we were lucky to see it
... but i sang the tune she sang and said thanks in Chinese and she finally took the money....  (probably to make me stop singing.....lol) We took the scenic route to get to the driver.... through the gardens snapping pictures as fast as we could....  then..the driver yelled to us from inside the garden (darn...they let him in) and we rejoined him to go to the last garden....

The last garden was in the middle of thee town and it was lit and open after dark.    Many of the paths were lit and pagodas were lined on the top with lights.  There were colored lights on the rocks and plants.  It was really pretty to see.  In the middle of the garden a large group of men were having dinner.  A lady was playing a traditional instrument and singing.

sylvia crossing the water....
  we stood and peeked at the show until some of the men saw us and began to stare at us instead of listening to the music... We moved back and continued to listen to the wonderful song and instrument.  We hung out and nearby enjoying the music and gardens.... It really added to the atmospere... all in all it was great and we were glad we did it.    It was late and we were hungry at this point....

 ..... so  ....  we saw 3 AMAZING gardens with pagodas and canals and many windowed gardens  (the round windows are my absolute favorites.)   .    As we left the garden there was a wonderful wedding dress store next door.... I took some pictures of them. 

We could smell food so we walked up the street until we found a restaurant.

this is called the old man
   First we were given a menu that was translated to English.   But what did they look like ?    The waitress brought us another menu that was all chinese and had lots of pictures.   We pointed  pictures in the menu and had a fabulous meal.   We were the only westerners there and everyone lined up in the large door way to watch us eat.   customers, waitresses, and of course the cooks and dishwashers and their mothers.  I worked on postcards a bit and one waitress walked over and leaned over my back to watch me write.  It was funny yet awkward having her so close in my space.   You can bet the people who got those cards saw some very careful, nice writing....  I wanted to impress the waitress.
garden
   

The meal had a wonderful presentation.  I took photos of the plates. We had some stir fly things and some wonderful dim sum dessert things that were doughy inside... Such a nice presentation too.  They were like works of art in food.  There were roses made of salami ....  Everything was really well done...    

One thing that happened that was funny was I had never eaten sugar cane.  I took a bite and it quickly turned to wood in my mouth.....  crap..... how did Chinese swallow this stuff.   As I chewed I looked around and was lucky enough to see a guy take a bite of his sugar cane ..... then  ..... he spit out the wood.

inner city garden.... we all want to know what the heck george washington was doing there.... and that's why i took the picture...
......  OK....... I did the same and beings David was chewing some  told him so he didn't get as worried as I did....   Fabulous meal......  We were carefully watched as we ate.  It was really funny.  When the bill came the owner came over to meet us.  She spoke no English but we mimed how wonderful it was and thanked her in Chinese.   We shook hands with everyone and thanked everyone as we left  (LOL....this took  little while)....  

As we walked up the street we saw some people with a hula hoop.   I stopped to try it but it was too many years ago and I couldn't remember how.  I even took off my money belt to see if it made a difference.

Suzhou: the gardens with the canals
  nope.   But we had some good laughs as the kids and I tried to do it.  David just shook his head when we offered him a turn....  He was probably smart.....  but I did have fun!

When we got back to the train station we couldn't find the ticket office and a nice young man came up and helped up.   (honestly, everyone looked like they were interested and wanted to help but... the language problem)  He told us where to go for the tickets,  ....  then when we went to another wrong place collected us again (this place is huge)  and lead us to the ticket lines.  300 meters AND around the corner......    he then stood with us and ordered the tickets for us.  It was fun chatting with him.
me at Suzhou garden
  Very bright young man.   His name was Hawker.   (Great name)  He left us in the immense waiting room. At the very end,  he told us we were his first western friends he had spoken to.......     He really did well in speaking so we didn't guess.   

We found two chairs together in the immense waiting room. We sat next to a lady and her fussy baby.  I played peek a boo and funny faces with the baby for the 1/2 hour of wait time.  David got a kick out of it because he said everyone within 100 feet was intently watching me but I didn't notice....  I guess I made everyone's wait go a little faster.....  besides: being watched is nothing new here....

this was a neat rock. from some angles it looked like a lion
.. I'm the blond American with my tall husband....  we don't blend.  We try to smile and say hello a lot as we feel like we are ambassadors for our country and we want people to see that we are friendly.....  (I say ni-how (hello)  fluently ....)

aswold says:
Thanks for sharing. I've enjoyed your blog. I'm going to Shanghai and Beijing this coming June.
Posted on: Apr 03, 2012
kamja says:
thanks for such an exhaustive story. You' re better and mor credible than any guidebook
Posted on: Mar 03, 2009
Koralifix says:
Great entry and pretty photos! Next time you have to sign autographs ;)
Posted on: Feb 23, 2009
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suzhou
suzhou
Three of Suzhou's famous gardens …
doesnt this invite you out?
doesn't this invite you out?
suzhou garden
suzhou garden
looking down at the boat and the c…
looking down at the boat and the …
isnt this lovely?
isn't this lovely?
This lady started out singing & pu…
This lady started out singing & p…
this was in the garden with the ca…
this was in the garden with the c…
sylvia crossing the water....
sylvia crossing the water....
this is called the old man
this is called the old man
garden
garden
inner city garden.... we all want …
inner city garden.... we all want…
Suzhou: the gardens with the canals
Suzhou: the gardens with the canals
me at Suzhou garden
me at Suzhou garden
this was a neat rock.  from some a…
this was a neat rock. from some …
suzhou....  a little garden that w…
suzhou.... a little garden that …
a neat little screen
a neat little screen
Corner in Suzhou garden
Corner in Suzhou garden
looking across the reflecting pond…
looking across the reflecting pon…
a corner of the garden....suzhou
a corner of the garden....suzhou
isnt this amazing... suzhou garde…
isn't this amazing... suzhou gard…
looking down the canal from the ol…
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Isn't this a neat picture with th…
one of the round doors in suzhou
one of the round doors in suzhou
davie at suzhou
davie at suzhou
suzhou    a huge lake in the middl…
suzhou a huge lake in the midd…
bridge/weeping willows
bridge/weeping willows
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This is at the top of the city wa…
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A lovely little place to eat or h…
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a beautiful building with reflect…
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the shop owner said.... the best …
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pagoda: suzhou
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We, of course, headed towards the…
Suzhou gardens
Suzhou gardens
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chinese garden
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artsy picture
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rock garde
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through the lattice
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looking out from inside the house…
rocks and quaint shelter
rocks and quaint shelter
this window looks out at bamboow.
this window looks out at bamboow.
looking out at the garden and shru…
looking out at the garden and shr…
a reflection pool
a reflection pool
an amazing room in the suzhou gard…
an amazing room in the suzhou gar…
our guide ..... nice guy....
our guide ..... nice guy....
the city wall
the city wall
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along the canal
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view across the garden
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these stones are placed in rivers…
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david in the garden
david in the garden
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pavillion decoration
pavillion decoration
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garden ...  sidewalk with my Keen …
garden ... sidewalk with my Keen…
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garden / david
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Bride store in Suzhou
Bride store in Suzhou
Store in Suzhou
Store in Suzhou
Taipei Saro ~ Suzhou
Taipei Saro ~ Suzhou
wedding dress store in Suzhou
wedding dress store in Suzhou
Our meal in Suzhou
Our meal in Suzhou
Suzhou
photo by: sylviandavid