This is not my first time in Shanghai, Suzhou or Hangzhou but it is the first time I am here on holiday instead of work. In my previous trips, I did not have the opportunity to see 3 cities. But on this trip I made it a point to visit a few of the famed places. The place that left the greatest impression was 田子坊 in Shanghai. Next was 豫园 also in Shanghai. The third has to be 周庄 - one of several water towns around Shanghai.
周庄 is about 100km to the West of Shanghai and in the Southeast of Suzhou. This is the oldest water town in China. We were warned about the crowd in 周庄, especially on weekends and about the touts that gave this place a bad name. Although we visited on a Sunday, the streets in the water town were surprisingly quite and I spent a good 3 hours in the town without a single incident of a tout behaving badly. It could just have been my lucky day.
Being in the water town gave me the feeling that I was in Venice. It is no wonder that all the water towns in China are dubbed the Venice of China. Shops are aplenty but it was the number of food stalls selling pig's trotters that really capture my attention. I found out later that this is indeed the famous Wansan's Elbows or Wansan's Hoofs which originated from the Wansan Shen's family in the Ming Dynasty.
I decided to go to the original restaurant - Wansan's Family Feast Restaurant - to try this local favourite and I wasn't disappointed. I love pork - especially pork knuckles - and this is simply the best.
Moving on, the two places that I will single out in Suzhou are the Lingering Garden (留园) and Guanqian Street (观前街). The former is a beautifully maintained garden while the latter is a food and shopping street like no other. I will recommend you try the "Manual" Tarts for street food and for lunch or dinner, 得月楼 (老店).
A visit to Hangzhou cannot be without a stop at the world famous 西湖. Although it was raining, this was not a scene to be missed. In fact, because of the rain there were hardly any visitors walking along the famous Bai Causeway. The 梅家坞 tea plantations are another worthwhile place to visit. Despite the beautiful scenery in Hangzhou, it is an old restaurant - serving traditional Hangzhou cuisine - that left the deepest impression. The food at 杭州周记 was cheap and delicious.
Overall, this was a wonderful trip for me and my family and I must also mention the great service provided by our coach captain - Mr Cao. He was with us for 3 full days shuttling us from Shanghai to Zhouzhuang to Suzhou to Hangzhou and back. He was extremely patient waiting for us when we walked and took in the sights. Special mention must also go to my Travel Advisor - Vivi Chen - who spent 3 months fine tuning and customising the tour details with me over emails. I will definitely recommend China Travel to anyone who is looking for bespoke tour arrangements in China.
Peter from Singapore
This email is to commend on Vivi Chen?s exemplary service.
Since our first email contact on 25 Sep 2013 Vivi had shown tremendous patience in attending to my every query and request. Admittedly, I am a very difficult customer and I am only satisfied if a travel advisor is able to demonstrate that she is knowledgeable in her field of work.
Vivi has shown that she is not only knowledgeable but more importantly very proactive in anticipating my every question. I am very happy with the service she has provided thus far. From tomorrow and for the next few days, it will be up to your coach captain to continue this level of service. I am looking forward to my trip.
Thank you very much for your help and advise. Upon my return, I will share some photos with you and a short write up of my trip. And YES, I will definitely visit Guilin one day! There are so many places in China that I want to visit. More importantly, if you are traveling to Singapore, please let me know.