Suzhou Gardens Expedition

We set the alarm for 7:15. So doesn’t feel like vacation when you get up that early. Ate breakfast in silence. Left hotel at 8:45 for 10am train to Suzhou.

Train departed from Shanghai Railway Station. We subwayed up there on the 4 line from Dong An Lu station. 4 line is the fastest but still took us 30 or so minutes to get there. The train station is not connected to the subway so we had a trek outside, find the entrance, using our tickets to gain entry through turnstiles, and go through security there. Took about an hour door to door.

By the time we got to the big train board listing trains, ours was boarding so proceeded straight to the waiting/boarding area. We went down the escalator to the train platform. Ran to the back of the train which is car #1. we have seats 45 and 46 which are the opposite of near each other in separate rows on different sides of car.

Luckily we are on the super fast train and arrive in Suzhou in 25 minutes. The train station looks nice. Though the taxi line is intense.

Moving fast but HOT! 25 minutes until we get a cab. Guidebook says check out lesser known gardens so we head to Ou Yuan.

Taxi ride is straight out of a car chase in an action movie. Cab driver routinely beeps and almost runs down an assortment of characters. Grandmas, kids, girls, motorbikes, other cars. He doesn’t discriminate. He’s letting nothing interfere with his mission of getting us to the garden.

We arrive in one piece and enter the garden. Upside not crowded. Downside the Chinese tour guides love their microphone headsets with box loudspeaker when giving a tour to 4 people.

It was a very pretty garden. Nothing mind-blowing and a bit less than Yu gardens in Shanghai.


Ofc, Suzhou is further inland which means no breeze. Sticky like steamed rice. And hot like sweating a pint of water every 15 minutes.

And it’s that time of the month which means using dun de toilets for tampon changes. Fun fun fun. Btw, dun de toilets are squatter porcelain holes in the ground. No toilet paper. No soap for washing hands. Yeah awesomeness.

We ofc can’t find anything to eat in garden since it’s less touristy. So we wander.

I eat my chips from Thailand. Thank God I brought them. Garden is nice to visit. But we are so uncomfortably hot.

We decide to walk back toward town and catch a cab. Wandering through the area reminds me of old Beijiing.

OL grabs chips at local mart because we fear we’ll never find food. We finally catch a cab as the rain starts. I tell him take us to the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Then rain intensifies so I switch to Silk Museum.

Cab driver starts swearing about the road being closed. In Chinese. I can’t follow him. He takes us to Silk Museum which is decorating (read redecorating) the entire entry hall and back rooms. Lol.

So we wander through exhibit. See real silk worms eating mulberry leaves.

Interesting exhibit. Bad giftshop. Though probably because it was being redone and what they had was temporary.

OL eats his chips during a short movie about making silk. By the time we finish the exhibit the rain has lessened. We walk by Beisi temple.

Snap some pics but decide to find food. Walk down Renmin Lu. No restaurants worth going to. We worry about eating in empty ones and getting bad food. Plus OL not eat eggs and that is difficult to work around.

Walk toward Guanqian jie which is supposed to have lots of food. It has a McDonalds thank God. We go to enter and OL holds the door for me when a Chinese guy cuts me off and lets the door slam in my face. Then OL tries to let him pass on the steps and the guy won’t go past him. Clearly he wants to be with OL.

Disgusted I walk around them and cut up the stairs. OL follows. I go to order. Suzhou no one speaks English. Ugh. So I order and OL gets table. I try to order two double cheeseburger meals plus an additional burger for OL. Omfg, the waitress refuses to accept that I know what I am saying in Chinese and makes me repeat myself 5 times. Still don’t get correct order. I get sunshine drink instead of diet coke. Lol.

Correct everything before go to table. Frustrating to the nth degree. I’m using Chinese and they think I don’t know what I’m saying. I use English and they don’t get what I’m saying.

We finally sit down to eat. And annoying Chinese guy from the stairs comes and sits beside us and says hello. We both nod head and clearly indicate not interested in conversing. He decides to keep talking. When we ignore him, he speaks Chinese to us. Clearly he’s mental and obsessed with foreigners. OL and I get creepy vibe and move table.

Since we are near the Suzhou #1 department store we decide to browse. Don’t find much. We see the Hermes and high end mall. Think maybe have toilets but nope Dunde. I go in to change tampon, leaving OL outside with my parasol and camera.

It might be just me but before you buy Hermes shouldn’t you have proper plumbing in place?

I come out and OL asks me if he looks like a rent boy. Because a guy circled him slowly smiling like he wanted to buy him. Ew. Gross.

We attempt to catch taxi back to the Humble Administrator’s garden, Zhouzheng yuan. The street setup is absurd in Suzhou.

You have lanes for cars and trucks, separate lanes for bikes and motorbikes, and sidewalks which should be for pedestrians but are used for bike and motorbike parking. Also the underpasses beneath streets for pedestrians are used by motorbikes. Infuckingsane.

In addition, pedicabs are insistent and try to force you to take them for the sheer pleasure of ripping a foreigner off. We’ve already been warned by guidebooks and tripadvisor about how they agree to one price and then pretend the language barrier caused you to mistake what they said. No freaking way. But we have to pretty much scream no for them to leave us alone.

So with the bike and motorbike lane catching a taxi is next to impossible. But OL does it again. We taxi to the garden. Find super cute touristy market shops with much better prices than Shanghai.

Got a gorgeous embroidered wall picture for 49 yuan. Starting price was 250 in shanghai. Picked up some handkerchiefs for souvenir gifts. 5 for 10 yuan. Got some fans 10 yuan each. Realistic prices. Also got prayer bracelets for 25 yuan for 2.

We loved zhuozheng yuan. OL and I go picture happy. It is stunning. The best garden. Perfect way to end the day. We stay inside for over an hour. Marveling at all the vistas.


Then we wander outside. We check out a tea pot shop. The saleslady is so eager to sell she demonstrates how she can stand on the pots. That’s how well they are made. I buy one with blue flowers on it.

OL catches our last taxi of the day back to the train station. I get a soda and donuts and eat while we wait for train.

Nervewracking minutes. We only get to board ten minutes before the train leaves. I’m really worried we won’t get on train in time. But we stand in middle of platform and when it arrives (3minutes before it leaves), we rush to car 1. This time, we get on train and sit together.

Ride back takes 30 minutes. Smooth. Xiaojie offers coffee. Super clean comfy nice train. 40 yuan tickets.

We arrive back at Shanghai train station and subway back to our stop. Get home around 8. Go to dinner at 9:30. Eggplant and chicken dish. Both great. Love them.

No a/c at our fav dinner place though. Sticky sweaty hot. ANd smoky. Because despite the sign saying no smoking, the Chinese still smoke cigarettes indoors in restaurants.


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6 Responses to Suzhou Gardens Expedition

  1. Candice says:

    Wow, the whole thing sounds like a real adventure 😮

    No wonder why everyone tries to get a taxi when the drivers are so dedicated to their job LOL

    Too bad there’s no pics of your friend on the blog, the fact that everyone seemed to be hitting on him kinda made me curious :o)

    • It truly was. I’m lucky to have OL as my travel partner. Yeah, the pedicab drivers are intense to deal with. Sadly, OL has a no photo of me on your blog rule. I try to respect his request. Though I have many adorable pics of him in private collection. 🙂

  2. berry says:

    Trip is tough. Chinese seem mean and thieves.

    • Shanghai was the best part of mainland China. I think the shopping was a bad idea. Then again who doesn’t want souvenirs from a trip. And sometimes we got deals like in Suzhou. But othertimes, not so much. The key is deciding what something is worth to you and not paying a yuan more for it. Despite what their starting price is. People opened with 180 for a tshirt and I refused to budge from 35. But tbh a Chinese person probably could get the tshirt for 20-25.

  3. Elle says:

    I think my parents would disown me … I’m chinese and i can’t bargain anywhere close to you!!! 🙂 LOL

    • It’s tough and so unfair. They look at you and decide how much they can take you for. I mean scarves–their opening prices in street markets were equal to $200 american dollars and they were worth maybe $10. Insane. It’s just about deciding what to pay. Seeing what others pay and then refusing to move above that price. 🙂 I am so glad we have fixed prices in the U.S.!

Any thoughts or reactions or favorite foods you want to share?