Where to Go:
789 Hot Pot
Rainbow Walk 1F
102 Hubin Ave. (near Xinggang Street)
Chinese-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, Jiangsu, China
Chinese-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park
Where to Stay:
Chinese-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Crowne Plaza Hotel Suzhou
168 Xing Gang Street
Suzhou Industrial Park
Commission: 10 percent
Jin Ji Lake Grand Hotel, Suzhou
168 Guobin Road
Suzhou Industrial Park
Commission: 10 percent
Whether you are a first timer or a frequent visitor to China like I am, Suzhou is a city that continually surprises both visitors and locals alike. Located south of Jiangsu province, about 50 miles south of Shanghai, Suzhou is known as the Venice of the East. Famous for its delicate gardens, sumptuous silk and the numerous canals that run throughout the city, Suzhou is a highly recommended destination for clients traveling to China.
| Though Suzhou is known for its scenic canals, there’s much more for clients to experience.|
If your clients want to avoid some of the typical tourist sites, however, I would recommend some personal favorites that will deliver a taste of both the old and the new.
For a glimpse of traditional Suzhou, clients should stroll through culture-rich Shan Tang Street, a quiet place to wind down in the middle of the city. Or, if they want a change of pace from Suzhou’s classic scenery, a visit to Chinese-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), venturing into the outskirts of the city, delivers a dynamic encounter with the more developed, cosmopolitan side of Suzhou. These two locations, which are easily accessible and free of charge, showcase the best of both worlds. Here, travelers will get what they expect and much more.
Old World Charms
Though not as ancient as Tiger Hill — one of the most popular attractions in Suzhou — and perhaps not as frequently recommended by agents or tour guides, Shan Tang Street is one of those rare, unpolished gems that is definitely worth the hunt. Nestled between one of Suzhou’s numerous canals and a spread of beautiful antique homes, Shan Tang Street is a charming little cobblestone lane that runs for about 1½ miles from Tiger Hill to the downtown Shi Lu shopping district. A perfect representation of classic Suzhou scenery, a stroll down its narrow paths on a warm afternoon is a relaxing way to enjoy the beauty of Suzhou, without feeling overwhelmed by crowds.
This amazing snapshot of old Suzhou is easily accessible by taxi or even local public buses. And, after passing through the busy intersections around the crowded shopping district, there is a wide bridge that provides a great photo op before tourists inevitably get sidetracked by the souvenir carts along the side of the road.
Entering Shan Tang Street on the left-hand side, at the bottom of the bridge, clients will get a great view of the canal, which looks as through it were straight out of a Suzhou
postcard. Populated by traditional architecture and authentic Suzhou handicrafts, travelers will feel like they have stepped into the past. Clients will also pass a row of houses built along the canal before reaching an open area where a dragon boat is available to take tourists for a trip down the canal. If clients pack a picnic, they can sit at the stone-made tea tables in the open area beside the canal to slow down and take in the sights of locals going about their daily activities. The area is also ideal for an after-dinner stroll when the street is beautifully lit up by glowing red lanterns hanging along the antique homes.
When seeking out newer sites in Suzhou, travelers will ultimately arrive at SIP. Quickly becoming a bustling international business port, SIP is home to many international citizens who work and reside in Suzhou. SIP is also the place for clients to seek out a taste of home, whether it’s at an authentically American Cold Stone Creamery or a German steak house.
A few generations away in design compared to the intimate spaces of Suzhou’s gardens and antique homes, the Jin Ji Lake Waterfront District boasts a spread of parks and promenades of urban designs with traditional elements. Encompassing the natural beauty of Jin Ji Lake and accessible to all the surrounding neighborhoods, the waterfront district is one of the major attractions of SIP. As tourists stroll along the promenade, they’ll feel a breeze from the waters, taking in all the fresh air from the surrounding greenery. There is a wading pool, a water park, a playground, fishing ponds, miniature docks, a lighthouse and endless interactive stops along the way.
When they want to relax, clients should consider stopping at the lakeside teahouse for a hot cafe latte or an ice-cold lemonade on the large patio. And, to burn more calories before stopping for dinner, they can rent a tandem bike and test it out on the boardwalk. On Friday and Saturday nights, clients should be sure to stay for the spectacular fountain light show which is accompanied by traditional music that streams from the shallow amphitheater at the water’s edge.
Adjacent to the promenade, clients will also find a spread of delicious international restaurants inside the Rainbow Walk plaza. Among its numerous choices, 789 Hot Pot is my favorite — the perfect place for an interactive meal of healthy and delicious foods. Clients should try to nab a red velvet booth that will make them feel like royalty. The restaurant uses convenient checklist menus (also available in English), and its do-it-yourself condiment bar gives clients an intimate experience. The best part about eating at 789 Hot Pot, however, is the individual mini pots of bubbling soup base — everyone gets to pick and choose their own. With such exquisite flavors and decent prices, it can’t be beat, and there’s even a complimentary dessert at meal’s end to cool you off from the heat.