Suzhou & Zhouzhuang
|Master of the Nets Garden|
A couple hour's drive west of Shanghai is the city of Suzhou, home to about 10 million people. As the first part of a day tour, I went to one of the city's many ancient gardens, the Master of the Nets Garden. This garden was originally constructed in 1140, and it was the first of three traditional Chinese gardens I visited on my trip to China (followed by Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai and the Imperial Garden in Beijing). There were many fewer people in Master of Nets Garden than either of the other two, which also made it much more enjoyable.
After the garden, we stopped at a silk factory, where we were able to experience every part of the silk-making process from the silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves to layering silk to form blankets. We were forced to spend time in the factory's store at then end of the tour, but once we were finally able to leave, we continued across the street to a restaurant for lunch.
Following lunch, we took about an hour's drive west toward Shanghai to visit Zhouzhuang, one of the many water towns in the region. These old towns consist of narrow pathways and canals between buildings. Zhouzhuang is designated by the government one of the top scenic areas in the country. For as historic and scenic as the town is, it is highly commercialized, with stores and restaurants lining almost every foot of the canals. We boarded one of the town's boats for a 30-minute ride through the canals before once again walking through the narrow streets back to the bus.
Overall, the day trip to Suzhou and Zhouzhuang was an interesting experience, though I felt time could definitely have been better managed.
Other posts about this trip to China:
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