My friends and I take a day trip to Suzhou, a city near Shanghai famous for its gardens and canals! We travel to the Couple’s Retreat Garden, the Hanshan Temple Maple Bridge scenic area, and Shantang Street!
Saturday, April 18th, 11:43pm
This Saturday, my friends Yan, Jessica, Gabby, and I all took a trip to Suzhou! Everyone left for the train station bright and early at 8:30am in the morning. We had a little bit of trouble finding each other and buying tickets, but in the end, everything worked out and we all ended up on the train together!
Half an hour later, we arrived in Suzhou! At the train station, we ended up joining a Chinese group tour for the day. All of the tourist destinations in Suzhou are pretty far away from each other, so it was convenient to pay for all our transportation in one lump sum at a discounted rate.
The Couple’s Retreat Garden
We hopped into a van and headed off to the first destination of the day, The Couple’s Retreat Garden. Before coming to Suzhou, I knew that beautiful gardens were some of Suzhou’s most famous attractions. I pictured rows and rows of flowerbeds filled with blooms of every color. In reality, Suzhou’s gardens were light on the flowers and heavy on the history. I liked them for a different reason than I was expecting to.
Once we arrived at the garden, Yan, Jess, Gabby, and I spent all of our time taking pictures! It was so much fun to strike silly poses and take sneaky candid pictures of everyone when they weren’t looking. Photography was pretty much the name of the game in Suzhou. At each place we visited, we spent most of our time taking pictures. I had lots of chances to break out my selfie stick!
The garden overall was very relaxing. People were doing calligraphy, painting, playing cards, and just generally taking a break from life. The architecture was beautiful, and the garden was very nicely landscaped. On our way out of the garden, we took a very short two-minute boat ride. While it lasted, the ride was entirely pleasant. The person that steered the boat even sang us a traditional song from Suzhou.
The Hanshan Temple Maple Bridge Scenic Area
Next stop was the Hanshan Temple Maple Bridge scenic area. We didn’t actually go inside the temple; we just took pictures of the bridge outside of it. I found the stop a little bit anticlimactic, but we still had a lot of fun! We all bought ice cream, we watched kids create paintings of the bridge, and Yan picked up some local candy. Before long we were back on the bus!
Our last stop of the day was Shantang Street, which was basically a hybrid of Shanghai’s Qibao and Tianzifang mixed together. The end result was completely charming: A canal ran down the middle of the street, and small shops selling cute souvenirs and delicious snacks lined either side. We weren’t allowed to spend too much time wandering around because we were immediately led to a dock where we were shuffled onto a small boat.
This boat ride was much longer and much more scenic, but it was also a bit more difficult to take pictures. I was lucky enough to snap a few as we were leaving the prettiest part of the river, but before long I had given up and decided to just sit and rest for awhile. The ride was so relaxing I almost fell asleep! Beautiful scenery, peaceful and quiet. Just what the doctor ordered.
After our boat ride, we hopped back on the bus and (in a very roundabout way) returned to where we’d started. This time around, we actually got to explore Shantang Street, and it quickly became my favorite part of the day!
Since we were starving, our fist order of business was to find food. We ended up at a great little restaurant that served noodles and lots of small snacks, so we each ordered a main dish and got appetizers to share. Yum! Spring rolls, tang yuan, xiaolongbao, and stinky tofu! (It was Jess and Gabby’s first time eating stinky tofu; I don’t think they liked it that much).
After our very satisfying dinner, we looked around the shops some more before leaving Suzhou for the day. I browsed through celebrity postcards, cute mugs, and other knick knacks, and I resisted the urge to buy all the souvenirs!
Once we reached the end of the street, we took some more pictures of the evening lights and then we went back to the train station and headed home to Shanghai!
Overall, I had a great time with the girls today! Was I impressed with the tour? Not really. We missed going to some of the places on my to-do list, but honestly I’m not that disappointed. I went to Suzhou mostly for the company, not the scenery.
I think my favorite aspect of studying abroad is meeting people with a sense of adventure who want to go to new places and try new things! It certainly spices up the semester, and I know I’ll leave China with many treasured memories from my time in Shanghai!
BONUS: Like I said, the girls and I took lots of pictures in Suzhou! Let me know if you have a favorite! The scenery was just gorgeous!