SUZHOU: A PHOTO ESSAY OF THE VENICE OF THE EAST

About a month ago, in April, I returned to Suzhou near Shanghai with a few other influencers to get a better look at the city I’d only managed a quick glance at a few years back. This second outing revealed a lot more of the city than its famous gardens. I have a full pipeline of articles I need to write about Suzhou: tell you more about its culture, its cuisine, the things you should see in town. but with my birthday and a bloody awful cold, it’s hard to gather all the information I need at the moment to provide you a respectable article which might be of use to you in your future travels.

Instead, I’ve decided to try and inspire you, to give you a taste of Suzhou through photos of the three days I spent in town, mixing in all those things I loved about the city, its neighbour Tongli, and its diversity. I’ve talked already about the gardens but it wouldn’t be fair to not include them here as they do make for a lot of the charm of the town. So I hope you’ll forgive the lack of articles, they will be coming once things settle a little, and enjoy a few photos and explanations of my Suzhou trip this April.

Suzhou: A city of canals.

What makes most of the unforgettable beauty of Suzhou certainly resides in its canals and its architecture. Water plays an important role in it’s life, architecture and food, and the canals might be the best examples of that.
Tongli is shaped by it’s many canals, bridges crisscross the town, and trees link up above the water producing the most beautiful views while navigating on boats, but Suzhou isn’t left far behind. Streets like Pingjiang Road and Shang Tang street are a charming mix of traditional architecture and modern life, making them some of people’s favourite places to go for a stroll in the evening.

Pingjiang Road is probably one of the trendiest ones, offering amusing foods like rainbow cheese toasties to satisfy the appetites of the Instagram generation, as well as more traditional places like tea houses with Kunqu Opera performances.

Suzhou : Renowned Chinese cuisine.

Shame on me, I didn’t know when I first visited the area that Suzhou has one of China’s best known cuisine scenes, one of the main four (that also includes Sichuan cuisine). What makes their food so different from the others is the sweetness that seems to permeate everything, sugar holds a very important part in this cuisine and so do the seasons.

While a lot of fish was introduced to us (which was to be expected with so many canals), every single vegetable dish was seasonal and, most likely, grown locally (let’s not forget that China is one big country!). With shiny glazes on lotus roots, restaurants turning to vegetarian options, it’s fair to say that the city seems have one of the prettiest and most environmentally friendly cuisine I’ve seen in the country so far. ( not that I disagree with the food you find in other areas, it’s important to remember that Suzhou is a rich city by Chinese standards, and that other provinces dishes can be limited by what is produced locally, which sometimes mean more meat than vegetables in arid climates.)


Suzhou : Gardens bonanza

I’ve said it before, it wouldn’t be a Suzhou photo essay without pictures of the local gardens because, after all, with nine of them being a part of the Unesco list, you just can’t miss visiting them and understanding their important part in Suzhou’s history.

The city harbours plenty of them, small, large, ancient or new, chances are if you get lost in Suzhou, you’ll end up tripping over the entrance to a garden. Some are well hidden and make the find worth it, some so popular that walking through them might be a little tricky, but coming to Suzhou and giving them a miss would be a shame.
I won’t say much more about them since we have an article dedicated to them, so if you’re interested in a visit, give it a read!

Suzhou: The Wu Culture

The city has been known for being the cradle of Wu Culture and there is no disputing that when passing by. Famous for its silk embroidery, there’s also a lot more about Suzhou: jade carving, Kunqu Opera, calligraphy, even Bonsai trimming, all of these are important cultural aspects of the Venice of the East.
When visiting Tiger Hill, chances are you’ll get a view of their hundred of bonsai (including one over 400 years old) , all perfectly trimmed. In Pingjiang Road you might end up managing to get a peek at the mother of Chinese Opera: Kunqu Opera. Of course if you’re here to spend, you’ll find some of the most refined silk embroidery at the local workshops and could get some of the best jade too.

Suzhou : The old and the new.

Suzhou also has a delicate mix of old and new that you will find around town. With the modern SIP and the famous “trousers” building, you’ll find the more modern part of the city lighting up at night to offer a cityscape that, sure, isn’t as impressive as Shanghai but still hasn’t got anything to be ashamed of.
Inside the old town, Panmen and Tiger Hill boast other Unesco sites like one of the original gates of the city and a leaning tower that might have a little bit of lean on Pisa itself.

There’s so much to say about Suzhou but there’s also so much to see. While I work on other articles to give you more details on it all, I hope the few photos I’ve combined for you might make you want to visit.
I wanted to, once again, thank Ctrip for inviting me there as well as the Suzhou tourism office. Next time I’m in Shanghai, I might pop over to Suzhou to get away from the city!

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