A strategic camping spot left us in prime position to go straight to a delicious breakfast of tangbao, jiaozi, baozi and doujiang. Today saw us aim south east to the town of Suzhou. The way was littered with canals, great and small, carrying barges full to the brim all around the various towns and building sites. It never really felt as though we left town at all, constantly surrounded by factories, skyscrapers and motorways, but we headed off the beaten track a bit to follow the Grand Canal, a great feat of Chinese engineering dating back as late as 498BC and joining up huge chunks of the eastern coast.
En route, we passed by a famous ‘old town’, which Chinese tourists all adore. Suitably decorated by huge quantities of flowers, and stuffed full of restored architecture, the village is only filled with shops and tourists. A quick five minute walk through it told us all we needed to know about the architecture and whether we wanted to hang around. As we continued further south, we stopped at a yummy noodle joint (the Muslims really do it best, wherever you are in China it seems) and cycled by the third largest freshwater lake in China.
For anyone who read the Suzhou praise in the previous blog, I am afraid we found it to be a little outdated – a few hundred years, no more. Other than fancy bus shelters and lots of small rivers crisscrossing under bridges, the town itself has little to offer other than tourist traps. If you delve behind walls into the paying gardens, however, there are some remaining pretty landscapes: our exploration of these was limited due to the sun going down! No doubt a more thorough visit was required.
One hundred kilometres or so to our destination. Keeping our eyes open for any drivers on the rampage…