Interested in ancient gardens, Chinese culture including Kun Opera and a Chinese Sex Museum, affluence, gourmet food and the Venice of China? Well Suzhou and Tongli may be right up your canal!
It’s only a 30 minute train ride from Hongqiou Station in Shanghai and is on the way to Nanjing, Xi’an and Beijing so perfect for a day stop in route to those locations. I absolutely advise that you just do a day trip here though rather than stay the night like I did. Unless you like cheap prostitutes! No kidding! See below for the strangest review (the 2nd one) for an accommodation that I’ve read to date on any site and found myself surprised Hostelworld allowed it. It came at a time that I seriously needed a laugh so thank you “male from Japan”!
Getting to the Big Terrace Hostel ($7/night) proved to be overwhelming in 45 Celsius weather with my heavy pack and my ridiculous insistence on avoiding taxis due to being overcharged all over the world in the past. Here, it turns out, the cyclists are the overchargers wanting $50 yuan for a mile (and yes I cut off my nose to spite my face as I refused to pay as he originally said 40 and then 50 thinking I was an idiot and he absolutely was clear about his intentions to hijack me. I may not speak Chinese but I speak facial expressions and body language rather well now!) The metered taxis have been absolutely affordable in China though so feel free to take them. It’s only 17 yuan from the railway station to Pingjian where you want to be so just take one and make your life easier, just make sure it is metered and make sure you ask for a receipt.
A definite must is walking through Pingjian street ESPECIALLY if you are a lover of shopping, great food, canal streets/water towns and culture. It smells like chestnuts roasting here. The sounds include Chinese bong playing, this whistle like instrument and…oh yes…charm. The silk dresses are captivating as is the craftsmanship. Be sure and try the Ice Lemon Mint Green Tea for 15 yuan at Royal Teahouse and try the fruit including the lotus seeds. Unbelievably fresh here in China. And if you (or your dog…haha) need a spa day, get a fish pedicure and get the dog a new hairstyle. (See below photos.)
It’s nice here and getting nicer. There is a lot of construction right now in the Pianjing area but looks like it’s going to be really great here when completed. Perhaps then you can come for an overnight stay but stay at Toan which is opening next month right in the center for 599 yuan and do NOT stay at Big Terrace as you will be sleeping on wood. No kidding! The bunk beds are wood but come on guys what’s up with the mattress situation i.e. that is NOT a mattress. The only redeeming quality about Big Terrace is the rooftop terrace which was nice at night for relaxation and games, a much needed cool breeze, and, if you are lucky, some young Chinese guys staying there who practice guitar and sing like angels! It was lovely and helped with the fact that today was my worst travel day ever.
Why was it the worst travel day ever? I need to learn more about orienting. I think I get hot, hungry and tired and all the things I learned gets “lost in translation” and what I mean is I, of all people, know how to do this despite language barriers, heat, no internet, and horrible conditions but when there is no fuel in my tank, it all goes out the window and I’m lost. I can’t get oriented. I forget my resources that help me find my way both physically and spiritually. My advice – which I always forget myself – comes from Will Smith in the movie called Earth. Take a knee.
Because of my attitude, among other things, I missed the Chinese Sex Culture Museum which is oddly housed discreetly in an old girl’s school campus which allegedly, according to Lonely Planet, is diverse as it “ranges from the Penal (sticks used to beat prostitutes [wooden dildos used on licentious women as well] and Chasity belts) to the Penile (Qing Dynasty dildos)”. The museum is said to be educational rather than arousing which is why I was interested of course! Anytime you get an opportunity to learn, take it. I find liberation in ancient times fascinating. I also find it very interesting the fact that Suzhou is considered one of the only places in China where being openly gay isn’t frowned upon. In fact, you’ve got to support a place like that given you are in Red China and so much is I like to compare each country’s cultures in this regard as well as legal use of marijuana, drinking, etc. I find these things to be good yard sticks for how a country was back in ancient times and how they have moved with the times or rather have not in some cases. In any event, since I missed it, the photos below are from tripadvisor.com (left) and theculturemap.com (right). What else can I say but enjoy 😉
That’s all for now from Suzhou.