Recently, we traveled to Suzhou which is just outside of Shanghai. You can travel to Suzhou by bus or rail and as of July 1st 2010 by the new speed rail system. We went by the D Train or fast train and it took a little over 30 minutes to get there. The train station is well………..let just say you need to learn to say OOOO (No). You hit the gates and all of the vendors smell fresh meat. One of the saddest examples of pushy vendors was at the top of the street when 2 men dressed as Buddhist Monks tried to get us to purchase a booklet for 10 Yuan. They went as far as to try to put it in our pockets or bags………very sad first impression of the city. Next, we decided to walk to the Beisi Pagoda which was originally built between the years of 1131 and 1162 (freaky huh). It is one of the tallest Pagoda’s reaching 243 feet tall and is one of the last standing wooden Pagodas. Frank and I had the bright idea of climbing the stairs to the top……..uhmm thankfully we brought a little Johnson & Johnson with us. I’m not ashamed to admit I am a frequent user of baby powder. When we started climbing, one thing you notice is all the graffiti on the walls. Of course most of it is Mandarin but sometimes you saw some English. Once at the top, you normally are able to see the city but we had a very hot muggy day and a lot of haze. It was still a very beautiful place and well worth the sweat.
We stayed in the Pingjiang district at a really nice hostel called Suzhou Joya International. The hostel itself is a historical home that used to belong to the Pang family of Suzhou and is in the canal area of the historical area. Our room opened up to the garden area which was really nice in the morning (More about this area later). After settling in we traveled to the Humble Administrators Garden. The garden is a classic example of Chinese garden landscape and is highly revered as one of the best examples of Wu gardens still left in China. The garden covers a approximately 52,000 sq meters or about 13 acres. It is a little overwhelming and as you can imagine extremely crowded. There are lots of group tours with their leaders talking into a bullhorn……….which says traditional Chinese garden to me. There is so much in this garden it is hard to talk about it all. One very important part of a traditional Chinese garden is the view it will create. You will travel along winding pathways and zigzag bridges (good Qi). In one spot, we noticed some of the largest Koi fish we have seen, one of them was a real brute. After walking through the garden, we wanted to go see the Suzhou Museum which was designed by one of China’s most famous architects I.M. Pei but it was closed. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the museum because it is located in the historic area. To me, the design fits in with the surrounding area. It is a very modern building but pays close attention to the historical elements like the roof lines and the use of black and white. Frank is planning on going back with Amy and he did say he is going to go inside. So look for more pictures to come. You may also be wondering who the other 2 individuals are in some of the photos…….they are Su and Reenal and attend Bauhaus. It was a lot of fun to travel with them and glad we all have become friends.