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Suzhou

Travel Guide Asia China Jiangsu Suzhou

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Introduction

Suzhou canal

Suzhou canal

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Suzhou (苏州) is a city of about 6 million people on the banks of Taihu Lake near the lower reaches of the Yangtze in Jiangsu Province that was settled in 509 BC. The city has been famous for over the last thousand years of Chinese history because of its amazing silk. It was also a major commercial centre due to its location near the Grand Canal. This brought great wealth to the city during many dynasties. The wealth helped to finance many of the grand palaces and gardens, which are major tourist attractions today.

When Marco Polo visited the city he called it the Venice of China. Some of the canals still exist but most have been filled in to make way for modern roads. Also factories and heavy industry, pushed out of Shanghai, are making there way to Suzhou making it more polluted and crowded. With that being said some of the best Chinese Gardens and Court Yard Homes are still located within the city and are worth the visit, some even being considered UNESECO World Heritage Sites.

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Neighbourhoods

The city is massive but most of the sights that tourists are interested in are located within the moat or just outside of it.

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Sights and Activities

Gardens

The Humble Administrator's Garden

The Humble Administrator's Garden

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It is very easy to overdose on gardens in Suzhou. There are just so many wonderful ones to see! Remember that many of the gardens are like mazes and might take more time to navigate then you think, so give extra time just in case.

  • Master of the Nets Garden (网师园) is considered one of the best gardens in all of China. The garden was first built in the 11th century and is considered to have the best balance of water, stones, plants and timber of all the gardens in Suzhou. If your only going to see one garden this is the one.
  • Lingering Garden (留园) is a wonderful garden first built in the 16th century. It was heavily destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt in 1954.
  • Lion Grove Garden
  • Garden Of Cultivation
  • Retreat & Reflection Garden (退思园)
  • Humble Administrator's Garden (拙政园) built in 1513 this garden is the largest garden in all of Suzhou. This garden is a very good example of Qing style garden.
  • Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty (环秀山庄) is a very nice garden and courtyard home located within the embroidery museum. It is located at 262 Jingde Rd.

Other Sights and Activitiese

Suzhou Wedding picture

Suzhou Wedding picture

© All Rights Reserved JohnVosler

  • City Wall and Moat still remains, although not completely in tact.
  • Pan Gate (盘门) is the site of a gate built over 2,500 years ago. Today's version of the gate was designed and built in 14th century.
  • Tiger Hill (虎丘) has been a popular tourist destination for over a thousand years. It has many sights located within it including the famous leaning pagoda.
  • Xuanmiao Temple (玄妙观) is one of the main Taoist temples in Suzhou and was built in 276 AD. It is located on Guanqian Street (观前街).
  • Huqiu Temple
  • Hanshan Temple (寒山寺) is a nice Buddhist temple located about 5 km away from the old part of Suzhou.
  • Precious Belt Bridge is a bridge built at the intersection of the Grand Canal and Dantai Lake, around 2.5 km southeast of the city. The bridge was originally built in the 9th century and has been rebuilt several times since then it spans 317 m and has a total of 53 arches.
  • Shantang Canal was built in 825 AD
  • Yunyan Pagoda is a 47 metre high tower that has a slight lean to it. It was completed during the early Song Dynasty in 961 AD
  • Ruiguang Pagoda was built in 1009 AD
  • Suzhou Museum is a nice museum designed by Ieoh Ming Pei (I.M. Pei) and opened in its new building in 2006. It houses a nice collection with an emphasis on ancient Chinese art.

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Weather

Suzhou has a warm subtropical climate. Summers last from June to September with average daytime temperatures between 28 and 32 °C and nights between 22 and 26 °C. Most of the rain falls during this time as well, making a visit somewhat more of challenge. Winters last from December to early March, with days mostly around 10 °C and nights a few degrees above zero. Occasional frost and snow are possible. October and April/May are great months for a visit.

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Getting There

By Plane

Located between the airports in Wuxi and Shanghai Pudong International Airport flying into Suzhou is a bit of hassle. It is best to fly into one of those two cities then take a train or bus to Suzhou.

By Train

Located on the main line out of Shanghai pretty much any train leaving Shanghai that is heading north stops in Suzhou. It only takes 45 minutes to reach Suzhou from Shanghai on a T-Train and an hour and half to Nanjing. The main train station is located just north of the city wall. Wuxi is just about 30 minutes away. Beijing is about 11 hours by train.

By Bus

The main bus station is located right next to the train station. It has countless buses everyday to Shanghai and Nanjing. There are also tourist buses that leave directly from Shanghai's south train station for day trips to Suzhou.

Buses to Shanghai take about 1,5 hours and there are also regular buses to Hangzhou (three hours), Wuxi (30 minutes), Nanjing (2½ hours) and Zhouzhuang (1½ hours).

By Boat

Overnight boats connect Suzhou with Hangzhou, not the fastest trip but certainly a memorable one and popular among travellers.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

The Suzhou Metro is currently under construction and will consist of two lines: a north-south axe and a east-west axe.

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Eat

This is a tourist town so watch menu's closely. Make sure to ask the price on everything first when eating in a tourist geared restaurant.

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Drink

There are several bars, coffee shops and tea houses scattered around the old city. There are some night clubs in the southern area of the old city.

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Sleep

Remember the PSB is very strict for some reason in Suzhou. Many of the cheaper hotels in the city still will not allow foreigners to stay in them. If you look long enough you can find some places though, especially ion the southern edge of the old town. An international youth hostel has opened in the city allowing for some more budget options.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Ming Han Tang International Youth HostelGuangji RD, Xiatang 61Hostel74
Mingtown Suzhou International Youth HostelNo.28 Pingjiang RoadHostel80
Suzhou Joya International Youth HostelDaxinqiao Lane 21-1 Pingjiang DistrictHostel70
Suzhou Watertown Hostel#27 DaShiTou Lane,RenMin RoadHostel81
Taohuawoo Youth HostelNo.158,Taohuawu StreetHostel75
Suzhou Lohas Youth HouseBaita East Road 26Hostel-
Suzhou New City Garden HotelShishan RoadHotel-
Scholars Hotel60 Yu shan Road SNDHotel-
Scholars Inn - Jin MenNo.366 Jing De RoadHotel-
Traveler-Inn Gusu HotelXiangwang Road No.133 Shiquan StreetHotel-
Royal Garden InnNo. 33 TongGuiQiao ShanTang StreetHOTEL75
Pingjiang LodgeNo. 33 Liu Jia Xiang, Ping Jiang Qu, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province 215005, ChinaHotel-
Hi Inn GuanQianNo.22 YinGuoXiangHOSTEL73
FX Hotel GuanQianNo.938 East Ganjiang RoadHOTEL-
Boutix Hotel Suzhou Amusement LandNo. 379 Changjiang Road Suzhou New DistrictHOTEL-
Hi Inn New Guanqian BranchAlley Jiyou 58 Pingjiang DistrictGUESTHOUSE75
Suzhou Water Front International Youth HostelNo. 3 Shi Quan Street Nan Pi LaneHOSTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Wangba (联网) means internet bar in Chinese. Almost every town will have an internet bar or gaming center. The best way to spot an internet bar is to look for the 网(ba) character, which means net, and large digitized images of computer game characters. Often, there will be a sign saying Green Power in English at the entrance. Most gaming centers cost about RMB3 an hour. You prepay at the main desk and are then given a plastic card or a piece of paper. Once you are done you return the card or piece of paper and get reimbursed for the money you didn't spend. Be prepared for a place that might be dingy, basic and messy. Internet bars in China tend to get crowded starting in the late afternoon to the late evenings.

Some hotels provide access from the rooms that may or may not be free; others may provide a wireless service or a few desktops in the lounge area.
Also, quite a few cafes provide free wireless Internet service. Some cafes, even provide a machine for customer use.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to China is 86. To make an international call from China, the code is 00.

When making international phone calls it is best to buy an IP card. They typically have a value of ¥100 but sometimes can be had for as little as ¥25. The cards have printed Chinese instructions, but after dialing the number listed on the card English-spoken instructions are available. As a general indication of price, a call from China to Europe lasts around 22 minutes with a ¥100 card. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are advertised to be another 20% cheaper. There is no warning before the card runs out of minutes.

If you already have a GSM 900/1800 cellphone, you can roam onto Chinese networks, but calls will be very expensive (¥12-35/minute is typical). If you're staying for more than a few days, it will usually be cheaper to buy a prepaid Chinese SIM card; this gives you a Chinese phone number with a certain amount of money preloaded. Chinese tend to avoid phone numbers with the bad-luck digit '4', and vendors will often be happy to offload these "unsellable" SIM-cards to foreigners at a discount. If you need a phone as well, prices start around ¥100/200 used/new. Chinese phones, unlike those sold in many Western countries, are never "locked" and will work with any SIM card you put in them. China's two big operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. Most SIMs sold by the two work nationwide, with Unicom allowing Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan usage as well. There is usually a surcharge of about ¥1/min when roaming outside the province you bought the SIM, and there are some cards that work only in a single province, so check when buying.

Post

China Post (中国邮政) is the official postal service of the People's Republic of China, operated by the State Postal Bureau of the People's Republic of China (website in Chinese only), and has more details about price to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. The Chinese postal service is very good. Remember that in more remote places usually only one post office in a city can handle sending international boxes or letters. Also many times it might be worth having the name of the country you are trying to send to in Chinese characters, because small town people might not know what Estonia is in English. Post offices have a striking green logo and can easily be found everywhere in the cities. They are mostly open every day (including weekends!) from 8:00am to 6:00pm, though small offices might have shorter opening times, while the bigger ones in central and touristic areas are sometimes open during evenings as well.

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 31.2370225
  • Longitude: 120.4069161

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This is version 13. Last edited at 7:26 on Aug 21, 13 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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