There is a saying in Chinese that goes: Just as there is Paradise in Heaven, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on Earth – 上有天堂，下有苏杭
For the second day of our China trip, we visited Suzhou to find out the veracity of this statement. From Shanghai, we took the train to Suzhou Railway Station, where we took tourist bus one to the Lion Grove Stop. From the bus stop, we walked for another ten minutes to our hotel, Scholars Hotel Suzhou PingJiangFu. Click here for directions.
Scholars Hotel Suzhou PingJiangFu 书香世家·平江府
Hotel Breakfast Spread
After we reached Scholars Hotel Suzhou PingJiangFu, the concierge promptly assisted with our luggage while we proceeded to check in. The staff were all prompt and professional.
The hotel exudes a nice oriental charm with its traditional Chinese architecture and furnishings, complete with manicured plants and koi ponds. It felt like we were staying in an ancient Chinese lodge with modern amenities.
Lion Grove Garden 狮子林园
After washing up, we made our way to the Lion Grove Garden, a short ten-minute walk from our hotel. We made sure to visit this garden as it is allegedly the last remaining rock garden in China.
A Zen Buddhist monk, Wen Tianru, built the Lion Grove Garden in 1342. It was interesting to walk through the garden and look at the centuries-old living spaces.
The rock sculptures were spectacular as well, and we saw plenty of exquisite rock structures along the guided walking trails.
Humble Administrator Garden 拙政园
Next, we visited the Humble Administrator Garden, which is reputed to be the finest garden in Southern China.
The garden is so named because the original owner, Wang Xiancheng was a public servant who had gone through a difficult political career. Hence, he wanted to build a beautiful garden where he could enjoy his twilight years.
I was blown away as I entered the garden.
The beauty and serenity of the garden was palpable. From the expansive emerald-green tranquil pond to the intricate Chinese architecture to the beautiful manicured plants, it was not difficult to see why this garden is world-famous. We spent about an hour here reveling in the beauty of the place.
Yaba Shengjian 哑巴生煎
After visiting two gardens in a row, we were famished.
We made our way to Yaba Shengjian, a restaurant famed for its pan-fried dumplings. We arrived at about 1 pm and the restaurant was already fully packed with a long queue outside. After observing for a while, we learnt that the system was to order first at the counter, before queuing up to collect your food straight from the kitchen.
Yaba Shengjian Food
Pan-Fried Dumplings (8 pieces) – RMB 12
Pork Rib – RMB 8, Noodles – RMB 2
We ordered one plate of Pan-Fried Dumplings (RMB 12, eight pieces) and one bowl of Pork Rib Noodles (RMB 2).
The noodles tasted average. As for the pan-fried dumplings, they tasted decent but the stock and meat could have been more savoury.
Tongli Water Town 同里镇
After filling our stomachs, we caught tourist bus one back to Suzhou Railway Station, and transferred to a long distance bus to Tongli Water Town. After forty-five minutes, we reached the Tongli bus station. From here, we had planned to take a 5 RMB tram to Tongli Water Town, but the driver told us that there were not enough passengers to start the tram. So we walked for about fifteen minutes to reach the town.
Tongli Bus Station
Trams at Tongli Bus Station
Tongli Tourist Centre
As we walked into Tongli, I could easily understand why people loved visiting these ancient water towns.
The place exudes a rustic charm with its stone bridges, well preserved ancient architecture, private gardens, temples and centuries-old houses.
It felt surreal to walk in a town that has a history of over a thousand years.
Retreat & Reflection Garden 退思园
Retreat & Reflection Garden 退思园
The town has forty-nine stone bridges, but the most famous are the three bridges named Taiping (peace), Jili (luck) and Changqing (celebration). These three bridges are treated as sacred architecture by the Chinese locals.
The three bridges are located near each other, and they are supposed to bring good luck if you walk over all three in sequence.
Raevian and I did just that, and I could feel our peace/luck/celebration vibes increasing with every crossing!
Plaque Inscription: Three Bridges of Tongli
One of the many bridges in Tongli Water Town
It was getting dark and we decided to catch a trishaw ride back to the bus station. This was a nice experience. For just 5RMB each, we got a ride back to the bus station while admiring the night view of Tongli from the comfort of our trishaw seats.
Pingjiang Road 平江路
We arrived back at Suzhou railway station after a forty-five minute bus ride. From here, we took tourist bus one to Lion Grove stop, and walked another ten minutes to Pingjiang Road. Click here for directions.
Pingjiang Road is a quaint stretch of street along the riverbank that houses a tidy sprawl of modern cafés, traditional Chinese tea houses, souvenir shops, street food vendors and restaurants.
I was charmed by the unique combination of old and new here: the traditional Chinese architecture represented the old facade of China while the modern cafes and shops reflected the youthful vibe of the younger Chinese generation. It was truly an interesting cultural experience to amble along the riverbank here.
Wafflefun Cafe @ Pingjiang Road
Red bean Matcha Ice Cream Waffle – RMB 26
We had fun cafe-hopping along Pingjiang Road! Our first stop: Wafflefun Cafe. We ordered the Red bean Matcha Ice Cream Waffles. The waffles were perfectly crispy on the outside and wonderful fluffy on the inside. Topped with the sweet matcha ice cream, it was a dessert that had us swooning from the first bite.
Danish Baking Shifu @ Pingjiang Road
Cinnamon Roll – RMB 12
Danish Baking Shifu is a Danish bakery along Pingjiang Road that offers diners a taste of Denmark. The owner is a Dane whose grandfather was a Danish baker.
We ordered the Cinnamon Roll (RMB 12). It tugged at our heartstrings to slice this pretty pastry, but we had no regrets. The cinnamon roll was sweet with a fragrant cinnamon flavour that wasn’t overwhelming.
Momi Café 猫的天空之城 @ Pingjiang Road
Momi Cafe (猫的天空之城) is a café where you can write messages in a postcard to yourself, and the café will post it to you a number of years later. Other than this innovative idea, the café serves great food as well.
After chilling in the cafe for about half an hour, we left and walked back towards our hotel in the cool night air.
Suzhou One Day Itinerary
|8am||Train to Suzhou Railway Station|
|9am||Check in at Scholars Hotel Suzhou PingJiangFu|
|10am||Lion Grove Garden 狮子林园|
|11am||Humble Administrator Garden 拙政园|
|12pm||Humble Administrator Garden 拙政园|
|1pm||Pan-Fried Dumplings @ Yaba Shengjian 哑巴生煎|
|2pm||Bus Ride to Tongli Water Town 同里镇|
|3pm||Tongli Water Town 同里镇|
|4pm||Tongli Water Town 同里镇|
|5pm||Bus Ride back to Suzhou Railway Station|
|6pm||Stroll along Pingjiang Road|
|7pm||Wafflefun Cafe @ Pingjiang Road|
|8pm||Danish Baking Shifu / Momi Café 猫的天空之城 @ Pingjiang Road|
|9pm||Walk back to Hotel|