Friday, June 13, 2014

Suzhou - not quite Venice

Suzhou is deemed "The venice of the Orient" by guidebooks. We had the opportunity to take a day trip here from Shanghai, and as an added bonus we got to stop at the Masters of the net gardens on the way.

 The garden was beautiful, but was very similar to the Yu Garden we had seen the previous day while visiting the market. We did get some spectacular pictures at this garden, so it was all worth it.

masters of the net garden suzhou
Beautiful Masters of the Net Garden

masters of the net garden suzhou
Plenty of photo ops in the garden!

We stopped for lunch, then headed to the canal for our boat ride!

The boat was on the smaller side, low to the water, and exactly what you would expect it to look like. The water was calm, but was a dark brown color and had the slight stench of a sewer to it. I can see why the comparison is made to Venice, as we rode through the town down narrow waterways, shops, homes, and restaurants lining the path. However, having been to Venice before, this is where the comparison ended for me. I couldn't help but feel sad for the people that live along this water because it was so obviously polluted. Unlike Venice, Suzhou also has drivable streets, so the canal is no longer the main means of transportation in the area. On the day we were there, it seemed to be primarily used as a tourist attraction.

suzhou canal boat ride
Our boat for the canal ride
 It was an interesting perspective to see the local homes up close and personal, decorated in the red oriental lamps that we have all seen so many times on TV and in pictures. Some locals even had their laundry hung up.Chinese tourist eating at waterfront restaurants waved as we went by. It was overall an enjoyable experience once you overlook the color of the water, and a great contrast to the modern city of Shanghai that is less than 2 hours away.

Suzhou canal
These red oriental lamps lined the canal

Suzhou canal
Narrow alleyway in the canal

suzhou canal
Not as pretty as Venice, but still an enjoyable ride

Brian and I really enjoyed seeing how extremely different each city was from each other, all wrapped up into a single country.. From the historic and somewhat run down Beijing, to the old but up and coming Xian with it's bustling nightlife and crowded streets, to the ultra modern Shanghai with it's big business and designer stores -each stop changed our view on the country. Just when we thought we had things figured out, we would arrive at the next city and see a whole new way of life. We were thrown out of our comfort zone more than ever before in our lives, between the cuisine, non western bathrooms, and the haggling of the street vendors, but we are really glad we picked China as our first journey to Asia.

We highly recommend seeing China - the good and the bad! Take advantage of one of the many travel zoo deals out there, and make sure to include all 3 cities - Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai in your visit!

So, What countries should we see next year??? Leave us some ideas in the comments section!

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