If you find yourself in Shanghai and feel you want to see more, why not venture out to one of the two nearby towns? The perfect day trip, you could overnight in these amazing towns or else be back by dinner. Hangzhou is home to the famous West Lake, where in the early hours of the morning the elderly gather for tai chi and chi gong practice. SuZhou is home to China’s most magnificent groomed gardens, where you’ll be amazed at the presentation and variety of foliage. If you only have time for one, here are a few tid-bits about these great towns to help you choose.
Hangzhou is a beautiful town about 45 minutes away by fast train from Shanghai. In Hangzhou you’ll find West Lake. The lake alone is worth the trip. Many famous photographs from Chin are from this lake, with Chinese pagodas stretching on long, winding bridges into the waters, with weeping willows surrounding the lake and swans milling about making the entire scene seem surreal.
Hangzhou is also famous for silk, and is said to be where the silk industry flourished in China’s earliest dynasties. You’ll find silk factories, silk tours and silk museums in HangZhou that testify to this history.
The city is consistantly ranked one of the happiest places to live in China, and has amazing, tree-lined streets and international cuisine to feed the large groups of tourists who flock to the city daily.
One possible disadvantage is that the city has become so popular that it is often crowded. Unless you arrive at West Lake early in the morning, you’ll be bumping into tour groups all day as you circle the lake.
One major advantage is the new bullet train that cut the two hour journey into a 45 minute one, making the city as close as a whim allows.
SuZhou is located to the north of Shanghai and is famous for its alluring gardens. SuZhou is near another famous water town called ZhouZhuang, where many celebrities have visited and a handful of Hollywood films have been shot. A tour of both is a reasonable undertaking for a single day trip, and while the gardens of SuZhou are fascinating the intricate waterways of ZhouZhuang are a great balance.
Suzhou is often called the ‘Venice of the East’ because of the maze of waterways that feed the many gardens. These gardens managed to survive despite famines, droughts and political upheaval, and many plants and trees can trace their origin to the city’s founding which predates the common era.
Plans to link the city by high speed train are underway. At present, the fastest way to reach SuZhou on your own is by slow train or bus, and many tours will link a visit to this town with ZhouZhuang, which is highly recommended.
Whatever you decide, a day trip outside the metropolis of Shanghai will remind you how massive the city really is. The largest city in China, Shanghai can be daunting and a feeling of craving nature is common for tourists and locals alike. Nearby SuZhou, HangZhou and ZhouZhuang all offer the escape you need.