If there’s anything Kim, Sarah, and I are good at, it’s 随便-ing. (“sui-bian”, aka, “winging it”)
Once upon a time on last Friday night, the three of us decided that it would be a really good idea to watch the movie “The Conjuring” (aka, the scariest movie of 2013). As enjoyable as it was to cuddle up on my bed and completely spook ourselves out, it also kind of.. wasn’t…
Just kidding, it was actually pretty hilarious. But anyways, towards the end of the movie we had some streaming issues, which led us to aimlessly surfing the internet and eventually somehow randomly deciding that we should take advantage of the next day (Saturday) by venturing outside of Shanghai to the nearby city of Suzhou. Suzhou is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East” what with its extensive canal system and gorgeous parks, so we were excited for the prospect of spending the day in a beautiful city a bit smaller and slightly less 热闹 than Shanghai.
Since this was a split-second decision made off of the coattails of moonpie consumption and post-scary-movie hilarity, we hadn’t bought train tickets or anything ahead of time, nor had we planned on where exactly we were really going in Suzhou. But we figured we could leave early in the morning, get there by noon, have a good 5-6 hours there, and then head back to Shanghai around 7 or 8pm.
So the next day at the early hour of 10am (we thought about leaving at 9 and then we thought about sleep, and chose sleep instead), we headed out on the town, taking the subway to the train station. After finally finding the ticket office, we had in our hands tickets for the high speed train that would take about 25 minutes to get to Suzhou. Next thing we knew, we were in a different city! WHOA!
Because we were sooooooo good at planning (hah), we got there and really weren’t sure what to do. We bought a map off of some really obnoxious vendors for 2 kuai and hoped for the best. This proved to be a somewhat complicated decision, as the vendors decided that it would be a good idea to follow us around and try to solicit the crap out of us. We managed to shake them off (which took a lot more than the usual tactics), but after going to the bus stop and waiting for a particular bus for a length of time, we realized that we had no idea where we were going, and that maybe pointing to a random location on the map and taking a rickshaw from the front of the train station wasn’t a half-bad idea.
At first the rickshaw driver wanted 50 yuan (slightly less than $9), and he wanted us to take TWO rickshaws. We were like “hah yeah fat chance we’re taking two rickshaws, no way” and then ended up talking him down to 25 yuan (still a lot more than we should have paid, but whatever, it was an experience). But after the three of us crammed onto the rickshaw, we realized that we may just be giving this poor old man a heart attack. He had to stop two separate times and have us walk as he couldn’t pedal uphill with us on the back.
After arriving at our desired destination, we felt so bad for the poor old man and also found the whole situation so hilarious that we didn’t even bother asking for change back when we handed him 30 yuan. And as we walked away and noticed he was examining his rickshaw (it looked like our weight may have bent or broken something), I think we all felt a little bit better that he had that extra 5 yuan.
After that little adventure, we ate some delicious Suzhou ish food for lunch and then headed on our way to what we were pretty sure was a cool tourist attraction.
After walking for a bit (especially through some cute little touristy shopping places), we found one of the most famous gardens in Suzhou: The Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园). After paying the student price for admittance (half of the original price! awe yeah), we went exploring in the garden.
After enjoying our stroll through the park, we decided to try our luck at 随便-ing by catching a bus and heading to another possibly awesome park with a pagoda. Well. This didn’t turn out so well. The bus we got on was quite possibly the most cramped bus I have ever had the misfortune to be on in China. Each time we stopped (and even though the traffic was horrible and moving so slowly, this seemed to be quite frequently), only one or two people would get off and at least 20 people would get on. After suffering for about an entire suffocating hour, we decided it was best to 下车 and GTFO of that bus.
We ended up walking quite a ways, but found the larger canal in Suzhou thats surrounds the city, and some nice parks and bridges surrounding the area.
Our day winded down by finding a nice dinner of shao cao (basically grilled meat and veggies with lots of spices), and eventually making it back to the train station (although between not realizing that the bus we thought would go there was no longer running, and trying to find a taxi, THAT was an adventure in and of itself).
Tickets in hand, we boarded the 25-minute train back to Shanghai.
All in all, we were pretty proud of our ability to figure out China things for a nice day trip to Suzhou. I’d definitely recommend going! (but maybe do a little bit more homework than we did 😉 )
- Saturday in Suzhou (苏州) (kelloian.wordpress.com)