Our day trip to Souju started at 8:45am when our guide Annie, of Sunny’s Tours met us at our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Unlike the previous two days of touring with Lily and a driver, today we would use taxis, the Chinese version of Uber, and a high speed ‘bullet’ train to get around on our tour.
We first took a taxi to the Shanghai Railway Station, which took a half hour or so with the morning traffic. As we were on the Eastern side of town (newer financial district) and the train station was on the Western side of town, we went thru the tunnel once again, under the river dividing the east and west sections of Shanghai.
Once at the Railway station we took a few photos while waiting for Annie to purchase our train tickets. Next we followed her thru the queue for security screening, which you are required to show your ticket and passport to get thru.
After security, we made our way up the escalator towards our ‘waiting room’ which is designated on the train schedule marque.
As DOS and I would be taking the train on our own the next day to meet up in Yichang for our 4 night cruise, we wanted to make sure we knew where we were going in this massive train station, with signage only in Chinese. Fortunately Annie showed us everything we needed to know, which itself was a real bonus of the tour.
We boarded our train promptly just before our 10am departure, and noted how sleek looking it was – like a monorail shaped vehicle at Disney, but actually a high-speed bullet train, capable of 250 kilometers an hour.
We were seated in what I called coach “plus” as our car seating was arranged in large red seats in a 2 X 2 seating, with plenty of legroom, vs the coach cars which had smaller blue seats, in a 2 X 3 seating arrangement.
The train was super fast, yet smooth, and pretty quiet too, unlike the clanky-clank of Amtrak. The journey to Souju was only 25 minutes or so, and we watched out the window as the scenery changed leaving Shanghai, although there were still many high rise residential buildings along the way.
Once at Suzhou we exited thru an even bigger and more modern Railway Station than Shanghai’s – it was astonishingly huge! We headed out of the train station, and Annie ordered us an Uber which came within a couple minutes. We would use Uber throughout the day as we went to several stops, and like in the US it is so convenient and much cheaper than a taxi.
We had an authentic Chinese lunch at a nice restaurant in Suzhou. (No McDonald’s for me today – LOL!). I say authentic every time, when the menu is completely in Chinese, and they have photos of the items.
I learned from Annie that the Chinese beer is only 3.2 percent; quite low, while Tiger (Asian beer) is 5 per cent, same as Budweiser. Note to myself for Happy Hour tonight – have a Tiger beer!
We walked around the old town, which is in the process of being transformed to shops, restaurants, bars etc, however many families still live in this old section of town, with tiny apartments built in the stone walls, most looking fairly poor and decrepit. Annie said people are being encourage to relocate, and as they do the former housing units are resourced for commercial use. The Old Town area is right next to one of the canals in Suzhou so it makes for a nice walk in the ‘newer’ part of Old Town, which has been refurbished into shops and dining, and is much more lively and trendy.
After touring Old Town Suzhou, the three of us took a short cruise down one of the canals paralleling the rebuilt shopping area of Old Town. We were in what felt like an out dated row boat of sorts, with the driver in the back wearing a ‘Wok’ hat and steering an rowing with the attached oar. We were careful to be seated opposite each other to balance the boat, and even then it swayed a bit, as we calmly sailed down the canal, like a gondola in Venice!
On the return trip along the boat ride (after the driver had turned around mid-ways) he sung to us in Chinese, like a Gondolier serenading a couple in Venice. We gave him a nice tip after the ride, and got our photo taken with him.
It was quite a nice end to our day to Suzhou, and we then Uber’d back to the train station for our half hour journey back to Shanghai. What a wonderful day touring with Annie in Suzhou – China’s version of Venice.