Since New Years day fell on a Tuesday this year, Amy got off both Monday and the holiday which meant a four day break with the weekend. With that we decided to go to Suzhou along with my sister, her husband, and our friend Dan.
Suzhou is touted as being one of the most beautiful cities in China, and contains numerous gardens. It is only about a 45 minute train ride from Shanghai which made it ideal for a short trip. However, since we live on the outer edge of town it actually took us more than an hour to make it to the train station. We laughed at this as it took us longer to get to the train than the train took us to get to Suzhou.
Once we reached Suzhou it was still a good 30-45 minutes travel time by cab to get us to our hotel. Once there we realized we had not purchased our return train tickets, but were relieved to find that the hotel had a service that would purchase them for us. For whatever reason it seems to be impossible to buy round trip train tickets. They also do not allow you to purchase them online, which means that wherever you go you have to buy your return tickets once you have arrived.
We wanted to return on Monday afternoon so that we could celebrate New Years with more friends. Even though there is a train that runs from Suzhou to Shanghai about ever 45 minutes, every single one of them was booked.
It isn't officially the Chinese New Year, but I guess everybody gets off anyways and travels.
We then had to go to the bus station and buy bus tickets. All in all it took us about 2 ½ hours to find a way home. After a taxi to the subway, a subway to the train, the train to Suzhou, a taxi to our hotel and a taxi to the bus station we were exhausted, cold, and hungry. While waiting around to get bus tickets we saw an add for a Mexican restaurant and this became our first real destination on vacation.
The food was quite good. Mexican is relatively rare over here, and it is always a treat to find some. It is never quite the same as what you'd get in an American Mexican restaurant but it is often quite yummy. This place was no exception. In fact I think I can proudly say I had the best tacos ever in Suzhou.
It was cold there. Darn cold. Really stinking cold. Coldest day we've had all year. Much of Suzhou's beauty comes from its gardens. Chinese gardens never come with a lot of flowers and foliage, but in the dead of winter they are pretty much a bunch of rocks and some water.
We went to, what was supposed to be the prettiest garden, and it was lovely, but after seeing it we all agreed that we really didn't need to go to the other half dozen gardens spaced about town. That night we hit up the twin pagodas which are nestled in a nice shopping district.
Then we crashed at the hotel. It was a really nice hotel and quite cheap too.
The next day we checked out Tiger Hill. Obviously it is a hill and on top of that hill lies a leaning pagoda. From the bottom to the pagoda lie numerous ancient buildings all of which made for some interesting viewing.
After lunch we had to head to the bus station and head home. The bus ride was long but they did show First Blood on the TV and that was awesome, even if it was dubbed and subtitled in Chinese.
For the evening we were invited to two parties – one at our friends Buffy and Terry's house, the other at the Canfields. We hit Buffy's first and were embarrassed to find out it was a costume party. Everyone was decked out in their best bling, while me and Amy were bummed out in our travel clothes.
We partied hardy for awhile then headed over to the Canfield's to play a little Wii. I haven't been as excited about a game console since the super nintendo. That baby is fun!
The midnight roared in and we continued to battle each other at tennis and bowling until about one at which point we went home and crashed.