Why not China this Summer?
Wuxi and Suzhou offer picturesque lakes, a historic canal, landscaped gardens and ancient temples.
It is that time of the year when parents start looking for a destination to get away for a few days with their children. For those attending local schools, the holidays have started and soon international schools too will close their doors for the summer holidays. By now many would have visited tourist destinations in the region. But this year, how about going a bit further but not too far and explore a couple of cities in China?
The two cities are Wuxi and Suzhou. Known as the “little Shanghai” of the Jiangsu Province in China, Wuxi is everything but little. It is home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue, majestically standing tall at 88 meters and has the third largest fresh water lake in China. With acres of scenic gardens, tourists flock here annually to capture the beauty of the Cherry Blossom Festival held in mid March and April. I got a taste of what these cities have to offer when I was part of a group on board Tigerair’s inaugural flight to Wuxi. Wuxi and Suzhou are important cities in the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone separated by a distance of less than 50km.
SUZHOU’S STAR ATTRACTIONS
Our first stop was the Lion Grove Garden, a historical site built by a group of monks. Situated in the city, it is buzzing with tourists. I got a bit lost walking through stone canals, but came across a stunning waterfall that was hidden in the garden. Other points of interest are Pan Gate, an ancient city wall that surrounded and protected Suzhou and the Jinji Lake, the largest inland city lake.
The highlight of the day was entering the Hanshan Temple and monastery where one can write a wish on a red ribbon and tie it to a tree branch in the temple yard. To end the day, Shantang Street has good quality arts and crafts and I wish we had spent more time here.
WUXI’S MAJESTIC BUDDHA
As we neared the Lingshan Grand Buddha temple, we were greeted by the majestic Buddha from a distance. Before arriving at the temple, there are several attractions on the 74-acre park including a musical fountain and a Brahma Palace that has a good vegetarian buffet. Wuxi is home to Taihu Lake – China’s third largest freshwater lake which boasts scenic views.
Travellers can also get a glimpse of an ancient world while cruising along the Grand Canal. The historical canal, which runs from Beijing to Hangzhou, is the longest in the world and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Wuxi is one of three greatest places in the world to capture the beauty of the cherry blossoms. We were excited as we headed to the Turtle Head Park, an internationally famous spot for viewing this natural delight, but unfortunately, the season had just ended. We did capture the beauty of the sunset against the backdrop of the lake.
FRESH STREET FOOD
Most main dishes include freshwater fish and despite the fancy options available at restaurants, the most exciting for me was eating at street corners and local vendors. You will not get butter naan, paneer or tikka chicken here, but you certainly won’t go starving as there are plenty of food options for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Many choose to live in Wuxi and travel to work in Shanghai by the high speed rail, which takes an hour.