Trip to China 2019-2020. Suzhou. December 15th.

I have a ticket from Shanghai Hongqiao railway station to Suzhou. I could have departed from Shanghai station as it is closer to the hotel. But, tomorrow I will leave at 8:15 from Hongqiao station, and I prefer to know how it looks in advance.

After getting out of the metro, I find the ticket office in a couple of minutes. There, I choose what seems the exchange window as the purchase windows have a long queue. I show the code that I got on-line and my passport to get my ticket. I have not yet decided at which time I will come back. So, I will purchase my return ticket at Suzhou. I run to the gate, as I am short of time, and get into the high-speed train.

At Suzhou, I take the subway to the city centre. I have a few places marked on the map to start the visit. I am open to change the itinerary. I like to have a place to start.

I see a high pagoda from far away. When I am close by, I decide to visit it even that is not on my list. The pagoda is part of the Bao’en temple. A sign indicates that visitors should circle the pagoda three times clockwise. I oblige. Afterwards, I continue enjoying the rest of the temple. There is a small garden with trees and some traditional buildings.

People should circle the pagoda from the right side. As it goes in “Huayanjing” three circles from the right side. Moreover circle the clockwise for three turns. If people go in the anti-clockwise direction, it will be a great fault instead of merits.

Merits and virtues of circling around the pagoda

I start to walk towards the closest marker on my map. After a few minutes, I decide against it. I will spend more than twenty minutes to get there and a similar amount to get back. So, I will not be ready in an hour. With less than an hour left, I decide to follow the people flow with excellent results. I pass by what seems a historical neighbourhood with traditional houses. The place looks a little neglected, but that is part of its charm.

I enjoy wandering thru this part of the city. It feels like a small town if you forget about the six million souls living close by.

After a short walk, the street opens to a beautiful water canal. Here is where all the stream of people was going. I merge with the flow of families, couples and people shopping and taking pictures. I notice that just a couple of them are western tourists.

When it is time, I enter the Museum. It is of medium size and shows ancient items group by epoch and material. The place has a unique architecture and is well maintained. In the centre of the building, there is a beautiful Koi fish pool with a modern design. I am happy that there were tickets available.

My final stop is the Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园). The garden has as many unique traditional buildings as beautiful views. Water is at the heard of the place with many bridges crossing it in different directions. I spend a long time walking all the corners of the garden. I enjoy the garden as the last place I will see today. It is getting late, and I exit towards the railroad station.

As I enter the Suzhou Station ticket office, I see several long queues. I patiently wait for my turn. After 10 minutes, the clerk says something in Chinese and a second queue appears for my window. I do not get what is going on. But, the rest of the people in my line seems to accept the new situation as normal. Both queues advance slowly.

When I am close enough to the window to see what is happening, I see that travellers are not getting tickets for the trains that they ask for. Many seats are sold out. Sold-out tickets are something I didn’t account for. I hope to get a ticket for 15:34. When I get to the clerk, after jumping in front of a guy from the second queue, I ask for a G train to Shanghai. The earlier one is at 15:55. Not bad. Travelling off-season makes my life more comfortable again. I am happy to have booked all the rest of the high-speed trains of the trip in advance.

I am very tired when I arrive in Shanghai. The trip to Suzhou has been a great idea. I got it suggested by a colleague at work and it has paid off.