I must admit I’d never heard of Suzhou in China before Suzhou Tourism approached me to help promote a contest they are running (open to North Americans only.)
With its intricate system of canals snaking through the city, it’s not too difficult to see why Suzhou has earned the nickname “The Venice of China.” CNN also called it China’s “paradise on earth.” So with accolades like that, they must be doing something right.
Located just west of Shanghai, there is bullet-train service to Suzhou from Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) — approximately a 50-mile, 30-minute trip. Other airports in the area also offer easy transportation options.
Since this 2500-year old city has over 400 attractions it would be hard to list them all here, so here are some highlights that caught my attention.
The canals throughout the city link to The Grand Canal, a 1200 mile river way that stretches from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou in the south. It was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. and although much of the waterway is no longer in use, the citizens of Suzhou make the most of the canal, inhabiting a series of Water Towns that can be toured along a 50-mile stretch. That’s in addition to the city’s own twisting system of canals.
Souzhou Industrial Park
With a healthy dose of hotels, restaurants, and shops Suzhou Industrial Park (or just SIP for folks in the know) is the centre of modern Suzhou. SIP also sports its fair share of attractions, including Jinji Lake, the largest inland city lake in China, the Suzhou International Expo Center as well as the largest Ferris wheel in Asia. And who doesn’t like a good Ferris wheel?
Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, the modern Suzhou Museum is home to more than 15,000 pieces focusing on ancient paintings and calligraphy, porcelain craft, and unearthed relics. It’s also Suzhou’s largest comprehensive museum on local culture.
It’s hard to miss the cultural symbol of Suzhou, the Yunyan Pagoda (also called Huqiu Tower) — a thousand-year-old pagoda famous for its menacing lean. Some guidebooks even call it the Leaning Tower of Suzhou for its similarities to the one in Pisa, Italy.
According to legend, in 496 B.C., three days after the King of Wu buried his father atop this hill, a white tiger appeared and guarded the tomb — hence the name Tiger Hill. Visitors can also take in the spectacular Sword Pool, believed to be the king’s final resting place. Not for him or course, but for his swords.
Humble Administrator’s Garden
I love the name. But a quick gander at the place you’ll see that there’s not really that much humble about it — it’s pretty spectacular.
This famed garden (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) dates back to 1509, and is considered one of the greatest examples of quintessential Chinese landscape design. The garden’s romantic water features, ancient relics and pristine pavilions jockey for attention as you walk through a series of interlacing bridges. Travellers can finish their visit with a stop at the museum to get the garden’s complete history, then savour a cup of traditional tea at the garden’s teahouse.
Suzhou Tourism is giving the chance for a total of 18 North American travellers (9 winners plus one guest each) to win a trip to Suzhou. The winners will receive a quintessential Suzhou experience with a sample itinerary including visits to a selection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden and Lingering Garden, as well as Tiger Hill, Suzhou Museum, Pinjiang Road, Silk Musuem, Tongli, and authentic experiences at iconic restaurants such as Songhelou and Deyuelou. Trip includes airfare, hotel, most meals, and transportation within Suzhou.
To enter, go to http://bit.ly/travelsuzhou
from September 21 through October 23, 2015. Full terms and conditions of the contest can be found there as well.
This sweepstakes promotion is a project with Visit Suzhou to help promote the contest, but sadly, I have no say in the contest outcome.