After a few weeks in Shanghai we decided to take a day trip out of the city. The previous weekend we’d been stuck at home due to a typhoon, so were anxious to get out and see something. We had our driver take us to Suzhou, which is a small (for China) city west of Shanghai. Suzhou is known for its beautiful canals and gardens and is sometimes called the Venice of the East.
We did some quick research on the car ride over and picked a restaurant known for its fried dumplings. Our driver knew the place, and offered to stop and get carry-out for us, since it was small and didn’t offer much seating. Before we knew it, he was back, and said that the line was about 40 minutes just to order. So, we went to plan B – drop us off and we’ll find someplace on our own. There were lots of people on the streets – hanging out, offering rides, and selling food and souvenirs. We thought about getting dumplings from a street vendor but saw a crowded restaurant down an alleyway and decided to try it. It was cafeteria style, so everyone found something they liked. Looking around, we noticed almost every other table had the same whole fish dish, which we had passed on, so maybe we’ll try that next time…
Our hometown is a sister city to Suzhou and has a Chinese garden that was built by workers from Suzhou. We bought tickets to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the biggest and most famous in Suzhou, and entered, along with throngs of other visitors (we think everyone else was feeling cooped up from the typhoon too!) There were definite similarities between the Suzhou garden and Lan Su (our hometown garden), but a few major differences:
1) The Suzhou garden felt about 20 times bigger. You could easily get lost here.
2) In China you get to climb on the rock sculptures, which the kids thought was super fun. They confessed that they’d always wanted to climb on the rocks in Portland, but they are always blocked off with “DANGEROUS” signs. The rocks here were wet and slippery and there were no hand railings, and nobody seemed to care.
3) You can buy lucky pet crickets at the China version. We’re trying to keep insects out of the house, so decided against a pet cricket.
4) When you exit the Suzhou garden you are forced through a long alley of street vendors selling souvenirs. This is pretty typical for any tourist attraction in China.
We all loved the garden and would like to see more gardens on our next trip to Suzhou. Towards the end of our visit, we got caught in a torrential rainstorm and had to make a quick exit. What do you do when you’re stuck in the rain in China? Head to Family Mart (the local convenience store) and buy snacks along with about 100 other wet people, then huddle under umbrellas until your driver appears. It was a great visit, but too short, due to the rain. We will have to go back.