China Chronicle – Day 5 (Suzhou and Zhouzhuang)

      Today we are leaving our groups and taking a separarate excursion to Suzhou, a city to the west of Shanghai which is famous for its classic Chinese gardens and the manufacture of silk, and Zhouzhuang, one of the "water villages" southwest of Shanghai. These water villages are noted for their canals. I had planned to do this excursion totally on our own, taking a train or bus and then walking through Suzhou, stopping at leisure at several of the gardens. On second thought, and after speaking to the Concierge at the hotel, we decided it would be safer and less stressful to simply take a packaged tour.
     Suzhou is a wonderful place — a fairly compact city center that is very attractive with tree-lined streets and interesting architecture. We went to two gardens – the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the largest and best known of all the gardens, and the Lion’s Grove Garden, a very different type of place which uses rocks as focal points and as backdrops. The classic Chinese gardens are not filled with flowers but are rather landscape gardens. Walking in is like entering a different world, a place of peace and tranquility.
     We also visited a Silk Factory and saw the entire process from growing the worms to the finished product. It was fascinating. Suzhou is the major silk-producing area of China.
     After lunch we headed for the top water village in China, Zhouzhuang. A water village is a town with numerous waterways which are used for transport and commerce – they are much like Venice except on a much smaller scale. Zhouzhuang is adorable, although very touristy and crowded with tour groups. However, our boat ride along the canals was incredibly pleasant and tranquil.
    We returned to Shanghai too late to link up with our group for dinner, so we met them at a theater where we saw an unbelievable acrobatic show. The performers were all young boys and girls and were incredibly versatile and flexible, doing all sorts of routines using various props. It was truly special and capped a splendid day perfectly.


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