An Escape to Suzhou and Wuxi With Tigerair24 May, 2016
When contemplating travelling to China, most of us would usually think of big cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. However, you should make Jiangsu Province as your next destination to China. Read on to find out why!
It is easy to travel to Jiangsu Province with Tigerair, as they now provide direct flights to Wuxi 4 times a week, in addition to the other 10 cities they fly to in China. We did not have to stopover in Beijing or Shanghai (common flight routes provided by most airline companies) to transit to a domestic flight or high speed railway.
We arrived at Sunan Shuofang International Airport (the airport servicing both Suzhou and Wuxi) at about 9PM, and decided to make the best of our night by travelling to Suzhou, which is about an hour’s drive away. We reached our hotel at 11PM and managed to get ample rest for our exploration the next day.
Suzhou is a city that invests heavily in technology developments. However, this does not mean that there is nothing for us tourists, you will find that even with heavy commercialization, Suzhou retains its natural beauty and heritage. It is known as the “Venice of the East” – you will be able to find plenty of canals and bridges around the city. There are also many buildings around the city with rich cultural history that have been preserved by the government.
1. Lion Grove Garden (狮子林)
First up, the Lion Grove Garden. This residence was built by a group of Zen Buddhist monks for their Abbot. In the residence, one can find traditional Chinese rooms similar to those commonly seen in Chinese period dramas, except that the rooms look much better in real life. This site was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The Lion Grove Garden is known for its classically styled garden resembling what one would find in the Forbidden City. The garden is mainly made of a labyrinth of limestone rocks from Tai Hu Lake. These limestone rocks create a pathway from one end of the garden to another, and visitors climb on them to explore the peaks and valleys of the limestone makeup. We understood why this is labeled as one of the ‘fun’ gardens to explore, as we got lost amongst the rocks and it took quite a bit of navigation to find our way out of the rock maze. Do be careful when you climb up the rocks as they can get pretty slippery.
Address: 23 Yuanlin Road, Gusu, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China 平江区园林路23号
Opening Hours: Daily 8AM – 5PM
Ticket Price: 30RMB per visitor
2. Pan Gate Scenic Area
The Pan Gate Scenic Area consists of 3 different historical structures – Pan Gate, Wumen Bridge, and Ruiguang Pagoda. While most of the area was built within the last couple of decades, there are some original structures left behind from different dynasties. The original Pan Gate was built in 514BC. The government restructured and refurbished the Gate to develop the area as a tourist destination. Given that this is a large attraction, it may take some time to cover the entire area.
Ruiguang Pagoda was originally a 13-story structure built in the year 247AD, and was later restructured in 1125 to the current 7-story pagoda we see today. Walk past the pagoda and you will be greeted by a large pond surrounded by an array of flowers. We took some time to walk around and enjoy the breathtaking scenery the place has to offer. There are plenty of pavilions scattered around, so we were able to take a rest when we got tired from walking.
Address: 49 East Street, Canglang, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China
Opening Hours: Daily 9AM – 5PM, 6PM – 8.30PM
Ticket Price: 40RMB per visitor
3. Shantang Street
Shantang Street is an ancient canal sidewalk that is said to be the first street in Suzhou during the Tang Dynasty when commercial trades were booming. Shantang Street is very popular with the tourists and has been well developed to cater to the tourist crowd. You will spot familiar brands like Dairy Queen and Starbucks, and will also be able to buy local snacks and souvenirs.
However, we prefer the road less traveled: we walked away from crowd and were greeted with a different sight underneath a bridge that is a far cry from the clean and commercialized street we saw earlier. There are no Starbucks or air-conditioned shops, instead only stalls selling staple food to the locals, live chickens in cages and fishes in shallow pails. This is not a sight we are used to, but we felt it truly reflects the locals’ way of living.
Address: Shantang Street, Jinchang District, Suzhou 215008, China
Opening Hours: All day
Wuxi is a small city in Jiangsu Province, approximately an hour’s train ride away from Shanghai. She sits on the banks of the 3rd largest freshwater lake – the Tai Hu Lake, which has an area of 2250km2, 3 times the size of Singapore!
1. Mount Lingshan Grand Buddha
Standing at 88 meters tall, the Mount Lingshan Grand Buddha is one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in China. Hit your daily exercise quota by climbing up the 217 steps to reach the base of the Buddha’s statue.
The Buddha statue may be the main attraction, but it is not the only one you should visit at Mount Lingshan. The other attraction is the Lingshan Brahma Palace. The word “palace” is certainly not an overstatement. To enter the building, visitors are required to wear protective gear over their shoes so as to not damage the marble flooring. When we entered the first hall, we were awe-struck by the grandeur of the interior with its high ceilings and wall murals. As you step into the middle of the hall, look up and enjoy the changing light effects that portray the Buddha’s universe.
Address: Mount Lingshan, No. 1 Binhu Road, Wuxi, China
Opening Hours: Daily 9AM – 6PM
Ticket Price: 210RMB per adult
Children below 6 are entitled to free entry.
Kids from 6 – 18 years old: 105 RMB
Seniors above the age of 60: 120 RMB
Seniors above 70 years old: 90 RMB
2. Turtle Head Islet
The name of the islet came from its resemblance to a turtle’s head protruding out of the water. We took a slow walk around the islet until we reached the lighthouse. This was where we enjoyed the best view of Lake Taihu, and spotted a few junk ships out in the waters.
We managed to catch the sunset on our way out of the islet. It was incredibly captivating, especially in an environment like Turtle Head. Pictures and words simply won’t do the scene any justice. If you have a liking for cherry blossoms, we recommend that you visit this scenic area between March and April to enjoy the very best of the island!
Address: No.1 Taohua Road, Mashan Town, Binhu District, Wuxi 214000, China
Opening Hours: Daily 6AM – 5PM
Ticket Price: 50RMB
3. Nanchang Street
This is the night entertainment district located beside the Qingming Bridge that dates back to the Ming Dynasty. There are plenty of things to do and shop for at Nanchang Street. You can choose to check out a 24-hour book café, or sit down at a bar for a pint of beer.
On the other side of Qingming Bridge, away from the vibrant streets, is an undeveloped residential zone dating back about 100 years. A small group of locals resides there and we were able to get a taste of living in an area that untouched by rapid modernization.
Address: Nanchang Street, Wuxi, China
Opening Hours: Best visited after 7.30PM. Most shops open till 10PM or later
4. Hui Shan Old Town
As one of the remaining and well-preserved old towns in Wuxi, Hui Shan Old Town has more than 118 different ancestral halls. This is where you get to experience the traditional folk culture of the Chinese. If it weren’t for the presence of some modern cafes, it would have felt as if we were transported back in time.
There were street vendors selling handicrafts and local snacks to visitors, as well as elderly people playing cards around tables filled with Chinese teapots and peanuts. The old town street is open to the public all day, so we were free to roam and explore the town. There are ticketed tours that will give you access to historical and cultural halls to explore the town in greater detail.
Address: Tonghui West Road, Wuxi, China
Opening Hours: All day, although the best time to visit would be from the late morning till early afternoon
The rich culture and historical sites at Wuxi and Suzhou remind us that the world has so much more to offer and that we should all get out of the city to recharge from time to time. If you’re planning to fly over for the June holidays, do consider booking your flight with Tigerair, the only airline that flies directly into Sunan Shuofang International Airport from Singapore.
This trip was made possible by Tigerair.