Discovering new places

I have been living in Suzhou for over 4 years now, but there are still some places that I haven’t been to. For example, I haven’t been to all of the famous Suzhou gardens, only to some of them (all of them look similar, right?). I haven’t been to Baker & Spice or Kamal’s Indian restaurant either (Zhou, don’t kill me). I could go on and on. Seriously, I don’t know what I do with my weekends. But I am trying to change!

A few days ago we had a long weekend for the Mid-Autumn festival. It was cloudy and rainy because there was a typhoon in Fujian, but I managed to move both our asses from the sofa and we went to visit one of those parts of Suzhou that we had never been before:

The Xiangmen gate of the Suzhou city wall.

The Xiangmen gate of the Suzhou city wall.

I had been shunning this place until now, even though I saw it from the car every time we went to the city center, because it’s not old. I love old buildings. This gate was finished in 2012, I saw the construction. So it’s a “fake old”, which is not really my favourite thing about China. The story with the Suzhou city wall is that it was there for two thousand years and then almost all of it was demolished in the 1950s. I wonder if this is seen as a mistake now, but I don’t really know what were the motives given at that moment. Anyway, that is what happened and we cannot change it now. We can, though, rebuild some of the city gates and make them a tourist attraction! And that’s what happened with the Xiangmen gate. I was prepared for the worst, but I ended up loving this visit. The first good sign was the free entry. Some of Suzhou’s touristic places have ridiculously expensive tickets, but this was not the case.

In the ground floor of the gate there is a small museum (also free) that explains a bit about the history of the city walls and all the different gates along it. The pavilion on top is a tea house and it’s not particularly expensive. It has tables and chairs on the outside and there were people playing cards, chatting and sipping tea. And there’s a nice view!

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The small white houses on the left in the first picture are shops and restaurants, and the whole place is a “fake old” street. Walk along it and you will arrive to one of Suzhou’s classical gardens: 耦园 Ouyuan or Couple’s Garden. I didn’t even know there was a garden in this area! I checked and the entry ticket is only 25 yuan, so it’s going on my list of places to take visitors.

The backside of the garden, from the outside. Those boats are manned (or "womanned"!) by local old people. Sometimes they sing while they work!

The backside of the garden, from the outside. Those boats are manned (or “womanned”!) by local old people. Sometimes they sing traditional songs while they work! I am so going to try them when my family visits next year.

 

Keep walking and you will reach a very nice park called 东园 Dongyuan, which simply means East Park, as it’s on the east side of Suzhou’s old town. There are motor boats and fishing rods to rent, dozens of cats that live there, a rose garden, the garden of some old official, a pond full of lotus… and a small amusement park!

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I wanted to ride in the carousel but I arrived one minute after they closed! Grrr! Well, one more reason to go back!

I wanted to ride the carousel but I arrived one minute after they closed! Grrr! Well, one more reason to go back!

 

C. suddenly remembered he used to come to this park when he was a child. The rides are the same than 25 years ago…

The rides do look a bit aged...

They do look a bit aged…

... and check this doll! It's terrifying!!

… and check that doll! It’s terrifying!!

 

At the end of the day we even saw a bit of blue sky!

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I really enjoyed this walk, so I will definitely come back to this park and check the Couple’s garden. I should explore Suzhou more often!

 

Note: I scheduled this post in advance as I am currently on holidays in Europe. Please bear with me if I don’t reply comments or check your blogs! I will be back in a few days.

 

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