We had taken the overnight train from Xi'an to Suzhou a totally unique experience....not one I think I would jump at to trying again.
At about noon we got to check into our hotel. It is really shabby, questionable if it's clean, but we needed showers and to be able to change after the train. Unfortunately not every room had hot water. The Starway Hotel was lacking in most amenities. After we left for awhile and returned, cards from "ladies of the night" were slipped under the door. Overall the hotel arrangements with G-Adventures has been good - with this one they have slipped up.
Ricky our tour guide/task master gave the layout of the area. He knows where every bakery is, within miles of every hotel we stay in. When we go to a market or tourist location he gives direction to every bakery and restrooms with walking area and tells us which one is best. He knows where to find the best local food. Ricky gave us 1.5 hour before we were to meet in the lobby for another adventure.
We walked to a restaurant known for its dumplings. Ricky even explained how many we should order. I ordered beef and pork - they weren't my favorite. Then we were off to the gardens.
The Master of the Nets Garden is a 800 yr old garden. Suzhou, China has three other gardens but this one is the oldest and has combined living quarters with the landscape gardens. For many years this was a private garden: it is now owed by the government. It is built around a fish pond and surrounded by roofed walkways, pavilions and living quarters. Although it is considered a small garden it can be confusing as it feels like a maze. Given it is February the flowers are limited, but with the rocker, pond and trees it was a very beautiful place. Generally this garden is only open to tourists from late March to October.
The living quarters as well as the garden were exquisite. Beautiful doors, windows, libraries, etc. It was hard to stop taking pictures. I needed a picture for every view. Even the paths we walked on were elaborately designed.
In the evening we walked to the market place to see the cannels and do some shopping. Suzhou known as the Venice of China. Gondolas were available for rides but we didn't take the opportunity but we shopped and walked checking out the local sights and markets. Suzhou was a pretty community during the day and it lit up to be even more beautiful at night. Again we saw some fireworks.
In the evening we went to Pizza Hut. Some of us needed a break from the local fare. Although eating real Chinese food in China is really amazing, I was craving pasta - not noodles.