Thursday, October 14, 2010

Suzhou Journal Day 14 Around the Humble Administrator's Garden

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of our China trip! There was still some sun after visiting the Humble Administrator's Garden, so we decided to wander around Suzhou. Pictured below against the setting sun and orange sky, the row of shops that led us away from the garden.A close up of a couple of souvenir shops, hung on the walls were silk scarves, silk blouses, silk handbags etc. Apart from the gardens, Suzhou is also known for its silk products. At this late afternoon hour, some local tourists were still shopping.
Below one of the shops with the most radiant display, it drew me in to browse the store but I did not buy any accessories.
What I was most interested in was the embroidery, I had found some colorful scenes of village life at a store in Vancouver Chinatown, the owner told me they came from Suzhou. I discovered similar style embroidery at this store below and ended up purchasing several more joyous depictions of a bountiful harvest, flying kites, gathering fish... I now have a total of 9 in my collection! The man assumed I was an international student and priced them at wholesale, 15 RMB (about $2 Canadian) per piece.
As the street of shops ended, we came to a bridge that overlooked a river. A couple of tour guides approached us and said the boats were for hire, 40 RMB (about $6 Canadian) per person down the river for 30 minutes. We were very tempted but decided to walk and enjoy various waterways at our own pace.
42% of Suzhou is covered by water, we found many rivers that ran through the city and were absolutely delighted to find Venice in Asia! Floating on a stream by residential dwellings, this lonely tourist boat with the red lanterns was the best looking one of them all.
Just a few steps away, more homes reflected on the gentle water framed by hanging branches of willow trees. I would very much like to call the beige one with the red framed window my home.
On the other side of the bridge, the setting sun peaked through the delicate leaves casting a flaming tint onto the creek.
Further down, another tributary, this one surrounded with low rise residential buildings. We could hear the busy kitchens and smell dinner in the air.
Next to where we stood, some neat rows of potted plants with vibrant flowers, it instantly made us feel welcome. Displays like this were a common sight throughout our China trip.
Across from the show of blooms, a very busy intersection.
It was not as crowded nor as noisy as the ones in Beijing or Shanghai, but we quickly realized this was rush hour in Suzhou.
All kinds of vehicles and numerous people were going this way and that, the ever changing lights were directing their movement, we stood and watched the bustling activity around us.
There were lots of motorbikes, many parents were on their way home after picking up their kids from school.
Not everyone had a motorized bike, this devoted mother and her daughter cycled away from the crowd onto a much quieter street.
Pictured below, the red 3 wheeler in the middle caught our attention, it reminded me of the becak in Jakarta.
A whole row of cycle rickshaws for hire, but where were the drivers?
David suggested riding one of these back to the train station, it was getting dark and we were tired, we also did not know how often the buses ran. Pictured below a successful negotiation took place, the driver quickly prepared the seat for his standing customers.
We decided to explore a bit more and keep an eye out for a free rickshaw. Below manpower in motion, the cart filled with long strips of wood and metal looked very heavy, the driver slowly pulled up to the cement mixer on the left.
Another cart, this one towed by an older lady was full of cardboard boxes.
Yet another one packed with pieces of wood. Just like the one above, it looked crudely built with extra pieces of 2 x 4 nailed together for extra reinforcements to accommodate the hefty loads.
On a side road, a man dragged a cartload of with burlap sacks, he looked very fit, where were they all going?
At this point we spotted a free tricyle and negotiated 20 RMB (about $3 Canadian) for a 10 minute ride to the train station. We had spent only one afternoon in Suzhou but I had fell completely in love with this city, it was one of my favorite spots in our China visit. The Humble Administrator's Garden was a sheer charm, we absolutely adored the peaceful scenes of nature. The city had the most wonderful waterways, it was interesting observing the rush hour traffic.

But what I like the most about Suzhou was its people. Kind strangers helped direct us to the garden, the store keeper I bought the embroidery from was very friendly. Pictured below at one of the crossroads, a comical sight. Two schoolboys noticed me with the camera, the fearless one on the right immediately made a face and continued to do so as he came right up to me! His friend, a much shyer persona, started to giggle and covered his mouth in embarrassment.
I saw this elderly lady walked along the river towards the main street, when she came close I snapped a picture of her and smiled. She smiled back instantly.
Below taken from our hired rickshaw, one last image of the streets of Suzhou.
At the train station, we had KFC for dinner. We promised ourselves to experience only local food while in China but we were too hungry. The chicken was crispy and less greasy, the turnip salad made use of local ingredients, the soft drinks had the right fizz, everything was very good! Tummies filled we rode on the train back to Shanghai.

Join us next week for another episode of our China adventure!


  1. Ohh, it looks so fantastic and exotic to a European like me who has never been to Asia. I wish I could visit there one day.

  2. Jutta: I used to live in South East Asia, but China was a whole different experience, exotic in so many ways and a delight for the senses, I never thought I could visit China but having done so felt like some kind of dream come true. If you have the time (and the funds) I highly recommend it!

  3. What a charming city. You presented it so beautifully, that it does entice one to visit.

  4. Beautiful pictures! I especially like the second boat picture. Looks like you're having a wonderful time.