Although a large city, Suzhou has a few enclaves where you can go to experience its ancient heritage and lifestyle. Beware of the fact, however, that this also attracts many other tourists like you. Suzhou has many beautiful gardens, parks and historical sights, and seeing all of them in one day would be daunting. Instead we did a quick day trip, spending about five hours strolling along Pingjiang Road and ending at The Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan 拙政园).
Getting To Suzhou
From Shanghai you can easily take a 25-minute train ride. When you factor the time spent getting to the train station, waiting, and then getting around by taxi once in Suzhou, it’ll add up to about two hours. As a result, we took two-hour car ride because we have one available.
The starting point for this trip is the south end of Jiangping Road, where it intersects Ganjiang East Road. From there we walked along the canal up to the Humble Administrator’s Garden.
See & Do
Pingjiang Road is a beautiful walk along old cobble stones adjacent to a narrow canal. Flanked on either side are many shops and cafes within traditional buildings. Cars are not allowed, but beware of scooters zipping up and down the path blasting their annoying horns.
A few times along our stroll I’d catch a whiff of stinky tofu. Oh stinky tofu, how delightful you must taste for anyone to suffer the stench. Alas, I shall never know the magic of stinky tofu because my nose will not allow it.
I particularly enjoyed sitting on benches and relaxing with one of the many hand made treats such as smoked red bean paste cakes and lotus seed treats (also known as qiànshí 芡实, fox nut, and gorgon fruit). The red bean cakes are disk shaped with sesame seeds on top and have a slight smokey taste. The lotus seed treats are usually brick shaped cakes, sliced into small pieces. Lotus seeds taste pretty bland, so they are typically flavored with essence of strawberry or black sesame. These treats are a couple of Suzhou specialties that you’ll see for sale in many places. The gorgon fruit is notable because of its importance in Chinese medicine as a remedy for diarrhea and clearing “heat” among a few things. I bought two.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden
A nice garden awaits at the end of Pingjiang Road, where you will see ponds, old buildings, carved rocks and bonsai trees. This garden is quite picturesque to stroll around and enjoy the scenery.
Outside of the garden are many tourist shops to buy trinkets and snacks. Many guides are visible and offer to show you around the garden, but I’m not sure a guide is even necessary. The Humble Administrator’s Garden is very popular with tourists, which are almost as amusing to see and watch as the garden is.