5 Things To Do in ‘Venice of the East’

Have you ever heard of “Venice of the East”? And no, I’m not talking about the one in Italy. Located just Northwest of Shanghai, Suzhou was nicknamed “Venice of the East” mostly for its beautiful watery towns. If you take a high-speed train from Shanghai to Suzhou, your arrival will be guaranteed within 30 minutes!

The city is a popular tourist destination with 2500 years of history. It also has a brilliant cultural heritage given its long history and a reputation as a “heaven on earth” according to one famous Chinese saying.

Curious about this oriental version of Venice? Let’s take a closer look at the city life and explore 5 things to do in Suzhou.

Classical Beauty

You can’t say you’ve been to Suzhou if you haven’t visited its classical gardens. These refined architectural designs were officially listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Indeed, people in Suzhou know where to look for peace of mind. Why not take a walk in Humble Administrator’s Garden when lotuses all bloom in the pond? Or have a cup of tea with your friends in the cleverly manicured tranquility of the Lingering Garden? My all-time-favourite is Lion Grove Garden, in which many rocks are said to be lion-shaped! Of course, you may need a bit of imagination.

Humble Administrator’s Garden | via Travel Suzhou
Humble Administrator’s Garden | via Travel Suzhou

Modern Lifestyle

I think Suzhou is one of those Chinese cities with the best mix of old and modern. The modern part is represented by the Suzhou Industrial Park, an area jointly developed by both the Chinese and the Singaporean government. You can easily find a good place to party, shop, or watch a movie. On a weekend, I would like to fly a kite and have a picnic by the Jin Ji Lake, until the golden sun sets.

China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, China | via EDI Singapore
China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, China | via EDI Singapore

Into the Watery Towns

The watery towns are interesting. All of them seem to have similar features such as houses on the river and stone bridges, yet they are different in their own ways. If you go into them, you may discover wonders.

Tourists taking Water Taxis in Zhouzhuang.| via China Odyssey Tours
Tourists taking Water Taxis in Zhouzhuang.| via China Odyssey Tours

Tea-house Opera

My Slovenian friend and I once found a tea house on Ping Jiang Road that shows Kunqu, the oldest Chinese opera still existent today. We were so excited that we bought our tickets instantly. As we were having tea and waiting for the opera, one actress was just getting ready next to us, putting on her makeup and styling her hair. We asked if she could take a photo with us. She smiled and said, “Yes of course! I’m not even wearing my finest gown. You will see, it has Suzhou embroidery on it…”.

Selfie with Kunqu Actress | Freya for Independent Skies Magazine
Selfie with Kunqu Actress | Freya for Independent Skies Magazine

The Signature Dish: Squirrel Fish

Suzhou cuisine is known to be slightly sweet in its taste. The Squirrel fish is basically fried Mandarin fish shaped as a squirrel. This dish tastes soft, crisp, sour and sweet. It is deeply loved by Suzhou people as well as international tourists.

 Squirrel Fish | © Ye Jun | via Chinadaily
Squirrel Fish | © Ye Jun | via Chinadaily

To be honest, I don’t know if people of Suzhou really like their city to be nicknamed after Venice. After all, Suzhou is a completely different place from Venice and to those who see it as their beloved hometown, Suzhou’s beauty is second to none.

Freya Ziyan Lu

Featured image credits go to VisitBeijing.com

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