Shantang Street in Suzhou is your go-to for something that resembles ancient China. The courtyard houses there will definitely give you a glimpse of what life was like eons ago. The street is your “Window to Wu Culture,” they (tour guides) say.
If you are into Chinese architecture, you might find this place interesting, and perhaps, a paradise for your passion.
The locals call Shantang Jie as the Seven-Mile street. It has a
Shantang Jie is one of China’s protected “National Historical and Cultural Street.”
Yes, it’s a touristy area, but as a sojourner here, the ancient houses surprised me.
Look at its windows, eaves, doors, and roofs.
They can obviously tell you that they’ve aged over the years.
But they aged gracefully, beautifully…
Treading the narrow cobblestoned streets was akin to time traveling in the past.
The red lanterns hanging outside the shop windows gave me that feeling of being transported into a different time.
They are your viewing platform of life in and along the canals.
Guidebooks dub Suzhou as the “Venice of the East,” because of its canals.
Though there are boats that go up and down the canal, they mainly transport tourists for a ride
As I was there during the October Holiday, humans were everywhere. It was an elbow-to-elbow experience. And at times, bum-to-bum. 😀
Going into shops, washrooms, restaurants, bakeries, and museums was a struggle. But most of all, shops selling food cram the ancient streets.
It was even a challenge to take a selfie from my phone without someone in the background. 😀
I was told that at night – when all the red lanterns illuminate – the place reveals its true beauty.
I did go there at 8:30 in the evening, but I only lasted for 4 minutes and I went back to my hostel. The crowd was too much, and I worried about my safety. Not to mention those inconsiderate chain smokers I couldn’t stand.
However, I woke up early and went back to Shantang Jie the next day – to beat the crowd. Unfortunately, it rained but nothing could stop me. I was armed with my umbrella and a light rain jacket.
Looking for an affordable hostel in an ancient street? The Mingtown Suzhou International Youth Hostel at Pingjiang Lu is a nice place to stay. Nearby (15 minutes walk), Suzhou Blue Gate Youth Hostel is another option. Well-rated PACE Hotel Suzhou Renmin is worth your money if you can afford to splurge more. You can book all these accommodations via HostelWorld, Booking, TripAdvisor, and Expedia.
Remember that while most hotels in China have free access to wifi, I recommend that you install your own VPN to access your social media accounts.
Buying train tickets at the train station anywhere in China can be confusing for those who don’t speak the language. What I always do is book via TRIP because it’s the most convenient, and they don’t really charge that much for service fee. The money you’d spend in going to the train station might be the same for the service fee. And you wasted no time joining the long queue there. However, on the day of your trip, make sure to be at the station at least an hour and a half. Go directly to the window booth where they issue the real tickets. You have to show the reservation number/s. Train attendants usually allow passengers to check in between 20-30 minutes before the scheduled departure.