by Roaming Panda
The next stop on our great China adventure puts us in Suzhou. It's a city near Shanghai and famous for its canals and waterways, but I appreciate it as the only city with a hotel that had cold air conditioning and working WiFi. Like Hangzhou, Suzhou is an ancient city with a lot of history and mythology. We arrived in the late afternoon and our first stop was some village on the water. I wish I could provide the name, but honestly, half the time I had no idea where I was. My aunt and uncle would tell me where we are but that doesn't register in my head with an English translation. My best guess is that we were in Pinjiang Road. I tried to research it online, but I couldn't match up the images on TripAdvisor and Google to the pictures I had taken. I think there are a number of historic towns on the water that look similar so if anyone out there can identify where I was specifically, let me know.
Pinjiang Road or not, there was a lot of character and charm to this water village. Our group took a small boat through the canals and into the heart of the village that many locals still call home. As you walk through, there are a number of shops where you can pick up different trinkets and various home-style restaurants with full spreads on display to entice your appetite. You can really get a sense of what life was like hundreds of years ago since the look of the village has remained largely untouched. Even with all the available modern amenities, residents here have chosen to live a much simpler life away from the chaos of the modern world. Personally, I enjoyed the stroll through history, but I'll stick with my Netflix and PlayStation.
Day 2 in Suzhou brings us to the Lion Forest Garden and Tiger Hill. The Lion Forest Garden is home to an extensive and intricate rock maze that guests can scurry through. The garden was built in 1342 by a group of monks as a tribute to their master. How these monks built this garden and welded stone together into a garden maze is beyond me. Maybe aliens.
The garden that day was absolutely packed. I was only able to climb through a small portion of the rock maze as the better parts were littered with people. We were shoulder to should for the most part just trying to get through to the exit. I can see why Lion Forest Garden is regarded as one of the most unique and beautiful gardens in China. You can see similar rock structures throughout China but none compare in scale to what you see in Lion Forest.
We only spent an hour or so at Lion Forest before we moved on to Tiger Hill. Named for the "crouching tiger" shape of the hill, I didn't see the resemblance but I'm sure it's hard to tell from ground level. Atop the hill sits a leaning tower called the Yunyan Pagoda. You can really see how severe the lean is as you get up close to it. This tower is over a thousand years old. Over ONE THOUSAND! I didn't appreciate that when I was there and only now as I'm reading the history of these landmarks do I truly get a sense of how old China is. It has withstood the test of time, the forces of nature, and countless wars through the ages. Forget the lean, to think this thing is even standing is impressive. The entire surrounding area was very well kept with beautiful gardens and walking areas. One of the more interesting spots we came across was the Sword Pond which is said to be the burial ground of over 3,000 treasured swords belonging to the Wu King.
I love history, it's always been one of my favorite subjects in school. It's so humbling to stand in a spot or see a landmark that has been around so much longer than you and will continue to be around much longer than you. There's no shortage of places like this throughout China and you can really see and feel the history in Suzhou. To check out the rest of my pictures, click HERE. Our next destination will be Shanghai.