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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.
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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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.
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China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.
Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.
The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overnight boats connect Suzhou with Hangzhou, not the fastest trip but certainly a memorable one and popular among travellers.
The Suzhou Metro is currently under construction and will consist of two lines: a north-south axe and a east-west axe.
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.
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.
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.
|Ming Han Tang International Youth Hostel||Guangji RD, Xiatang 61||Hostel||71|
|Mingtown Suzhou International Youth Hostel||No.28 Pingjiang Road||Hostel||83|
|Suzhou Joya International Youth Hostel||Daxinqiao Lane 21-1 Pingjiang District||Hostel||74|
|Suzhou Watertown Hostel||#27 DaShiTou Lane,RenMin Road||Hostel||73|
|Taohuawoo Youth Hostel||No.158,Taohuawu Street||Hostel||72|
|Suzhou Lohas Youth House||Baita East Road 26||Hostel||-|
|Suzhou New City Garden Hotel||Shishan Road||Hotel||-|
|Scholars Hotel||60 Yu shan Road SND||Hotel||-|
|Scholars Inn - Jin Men||No.366 Jing De Road||Hotel||-|
|Traveler-Inn Gusu Hotel||Xiangwang Road No.133 Shiquan Street||Hotel||-|
|Royal Garden Inn||No. 33 TongGuiQiao ShanTang Street||HOTEL||71|
|Pingjiang Lodge||No. 33 Liu Jia Xiang, Ping Jiang Qu, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province 215005, China||Hotel||-|
|Hi Inn GuanQian||No.22 YinGuoXiang||HOSTEL||71|
|FX Hotel GuanQian||No.938 East Ganjiang Road||HOTEL||-|
|Boutix Hotel Suzhou Amusement Land||No. 379 Changjiang Road Suzhou New District||HOTEL||-|
|Hi Inn New Guanqian Branch||Alley Jiyou 58 Pingjiang District||GUESTHOUSE||74|
|Suzhou Water Front International Youth Hostel||No. 3 Shi Quan Street Nan Pi Lane||HOSTEL||-|
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.
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.
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.
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