By: Daniel Otero
Like in need for a passion fruit. The feeling is the same for the paradise of Suzhou. Town noted first in Chinese history for its physical geography and elite old traditions that began with the Song Dynasty. The city of four million intends to cater to the visitor and people whom live in it alike. And, is there truth to this so called ‘heaven’? Can one say it’s trafficking on reputation and popularity of the UNESCO World Heritage! Then to understand the City with eyes fully open, one has to investigate it in knowing what’s real and what’s not!
Close enough to some of the most important cities in Jiangsu Province like Nanjing and even nearer to autonomous Shanghai. All that come to Suzhou are looking for one particular thing. They may be visitors or locals, these nature lovers come to see the Gardens and its rockery placements. Some are gorgeous and others are just hideous monstrosities. But they’re decorated along trees and ponds of fish. When walking, suddenly nature has taken hold and from a mutated rockery, the Garden has graced at all that’s delicate and beautiful. In green pools, white-ash coloured rocks and black and white architectural pathways. Gardens are for just that: for admiration, view and contemplation.
Noted as the “City of Gardens”, UNESCO declared this town a site in 1997 and 2000. Viewing the City, it’s a show-off for the best through its principal routes.
The need is to begin at “Humble Administrator’s Garden”, where most suggest. Well worth the experience, with simple, but exquisite walkways engulfed in ravines, plants and trees. With bamboo stations all over the area, rattan collections to sit and take images; while it’s to rover and see small pavilions that show the art of this spacious “Garden”. Good fun and with time, well worth an easy walk across the acres and what could be a fast 45 minute walk, turns into a 90 minute stroll to ease tensions and forget stress. Come in and relax for 70 RMB ($11.13 USD), just to sit and contemplate the sites. With plenty of shades to cool down during those intense days of summer or in winter feel the coolness of those crisps winds!
The second stop was the “Lion Grove Garden”. I was insisting and desperately in a harp to see it! Called this way for a rockery that looks like a lion wasn’t all that impressive, for a World Heritage, it seemed rather messy and unfulfilling to the eye. It wasn’t my fancy or ‘cup of tea’. I was honestly in and out, and in truth, faster than I thought! And it was only 30 RMB ($4.77 USD). Don’t be subjected to my words, try it out and see if it’s for you!
The following view before the day was over came on Shantang Lu (Street). Also, Suzhou has been noted as the “Venice of the East”. And yes, this area in its darkness and lights is hypnotic. During the day, an easy walk is okay, and it is better to try one of the boat tours across the slim waterways and canals. Sadly, like all ‘tourist traps’, this one can be seen with a rapid walkthrough and photograph. The impression it gave of being overly commercialized. Noted more for its Western culture in food and bars–than for those traditional beauties of China; leaving out the Chinese culture almost entire, sadly. I mean, I’m one for a good pint and pub by the end of the tour, but not before!
“Tiger Hill” was my orgasm. It blankets the visitor in all forms of nature, waterworks and pagoda. It’s like what has been described, a very old and ancient “Leaning Tower…” Marvelous to see and watch! A miracle in engineering still standing for over 1,000 years and one cannot go in, but still it’s effortlessly and an exciting walk around! Reaching the point of “Tiger Hill” is like walking up to a three or four story site to notice all the buildings, entrances, stairs and smaller bridge. One reaches a level of fear when crossing the ancient stone bridge from the stairs to the Pagoda. If you fear heights, there is something like old portholes [or Double Wells] on the bridge itself and there it’s easy to notice a drop! Happy lions in concrete as in all of China decorate the stairs up and down. “Tiger Hill” is easily covered in a circle. They even have a pavilion dedicated to one of my heroes, Sun Tzu. Once going into the “…Hill”, before or after, there is a Han Han Spring and an old stone to test the quality of swords in ancient times. For both things, they are close together and well worth the stops! For this site a must and do take your time. “Tiger Hill” was well worth the experience at 60 RMB ($9.54 USD).
After “Tiger Hill”, took again the bus in route to “Lingering Garden”. Declared another UNESCO World Site, I thought, ‘let me see’… A little doubt coursed through my system. Then it happened, as I entered through, there was soft-sweet music. It was that, a place to ‘Linger’ and find one’s soul. A walk through the Garden conquered me once and with a floating boat, tainted glasses, ponds to notice the fish, delicate-stylish calligraphy and wood carvings shinning in a brown-glossy colour. I knew I had found my place in Suzhou. The entrance just cost 40 RMB ($6.36 USD), superb to say the least. This was my place and it would become a must see and a return for future trips to this small City wonder in China. This was my heaven to come and linger next time…
How to get to Suzhou:
If you’re not living in China or coming in from Shanghai, take line 11 of the Metro service to Shanghaixi Station (Shanghai West Station). There is also Shanghai Hongqiao Station, for this one it’s as easy as taking Metro lines 2 or 10. Shanghai-Suzhou on the ‘G’ train is 23 minutes, ‘D’ is 37 minutes, ‘K’ is 1:05 and ‘T’ is 1:25. Like the seasons, prices may vary according to the speed and luxury of the trains.
If you already live in China and especially in Nanjing, take the Metro to Nanjing South Station. This is the best way of doing it without the headaches and messiness of Nanjing Railway Station. The trains available are the ‘G’ which will take you in 1:15 or ‘D’ in 1:45 to Suzhou. Not bad and close enough for a grand old experience!