Living in Shanghai for 3 months was a life changing experience. I met influential and rich people, I met people that are loved by millions of people around the world and I met people that weren’t that fortunate, people that are struggling on everyday basis to earn money for a meal. When I hear people complaining about their poor life conditions I involuntarily compare them with what I saw there (and not only).
One Friday morning I decided to go to one of the not-so-far cities from Shanghai, that seemed to be a nice place to go. Wuxi is just between Shanghai and Nanjing. I remember that at that time (in 2010), Wuxi wasn’t a popular destination among foreign tourists and because of that the communication was bit hard, even so, the locals seemed happy and welcoming to see some laowai walking around and if they knew a bit of English then most likely they will say “hi” or “hello” to you.
I stopped at Green Tree Inn Wuxi Guangrui Road. In the room rate breakfast was included and I took this chance to see how a typical Chinese breakfast looks like. I’m not a big fan of porridge and it seems that this is one of the dishes for breakfast (and when you get sick you’ll be recommended to eat some porridge as well). At the hotel I was given a map in CHINESE! And they politely advised me to take cabs to all the places I wanted to visit….well, that wasn’t exactly my plan! I wanted to walk…but to walk where?! I absolutely had no idea. I almost gave up the idea of seeing something, but I took a deep breath, took my camera and went out to discover this city.
On the map everything seemed so close, but in reality all the places I wanted to see were kilometers away. I had no other choice than take a cab. And my only trip with a cab turned out to be a failure…because the driver took me in the middle of nowhere! haha It’s funny now, but was a bit stressing when I was living this moment. Somehow, I managed to get the driver on the right track and go to the place I wanted to go! Lesson here: make sure the driver knows where he must drive and don’t trust he’s ” ok ok” at your first request, check one more time, before he turns on the engine 🙂
This city has many gardens and parks among which I will recommend Xinhui Park and Tai lake of a beauty that is just breathtaking, it’s pity that you can reach them only by car, cabs or with a guided tour.
The beautiful part of your trip to Wuxi is that you can buy some earrings, rings or necklaces made of cultivated natural pearls! Don’t trust any of the sellers on the streets, though…the chance for you to buy a fake is almost 100%, just trust specialized shops and read, read and read as much as you can about how to identify a real pearl from a cheap and sometimes a more sophisticated fake pearl.
Where to eat?
It may seem an easy question. In China the food is cheap (generally speaking), but I found it a bit difficult in Wuxi. If you’re open to any type of food then you should be ok.
Not far from my hotel was a traditional restaurant. You’ll say good news, but I’ll say that these aren’t that good! The menu was 100% in Chinese and you could choose the food based on the picture you see. When I was about 3 meters away, I saw a woman holding a huge white alive frog that she was ready to cook for some of the clients in that restaurant!!!!! This is why a menu in Chinese wasn’t an option for me, I wanted to avoid eating frogs or snakes or any kind of animals that I’m not used to see in the kitchen. My option was to walk to the downtown and check the restaurants there. And yes, there I could find some nice restaurants, clean and some even with menu in English.
If the streets are very alike with any other city, the downtown is very modern with tall skyscrapers and many shining malls and restaurants. I remember to have been stopped by few high school students for the (usual for laowai = foreigner) photo shooting session 🙂 They put some of the usual questions someone will ask a foreigner visiting their country: what is my name, where I come from, my age, if I have a boyfriend :D, where I have been in China and what I like the most in China, and the list can go on.
After dinner at a restaurant that had few English lines in their menu, I went out to kill my time…and I ended up in a mall doing shopping! So typical for women!!! hehe For me these shopping sessions were more like an observation time : what Chinese women like, what are their favorite cuts, patterns, colors or brands.
Overall impression about my weekend trip to Wuxi is that this is a very vibrant place and if you are in China for your studies, work or tourism, don’t skip this city!
What to see in Wuxi?
Wuxi is a famous cultural city with a history of over 3,000 years and this places it the top ten tourist cities in China.
Some places that are a must here are:
- Garden of Ecstacy (Ji Chang Yuan) one of the leading gardens in SE China and Emperor Qianlong, who made seven visits, had a copy made of the garden at the Summer Palace in Beijing.
- Grand Buddha at Lingshan – One of China’s largest Buddha statues at 88 meters tall. The whole Lingshan area is a tourist attraction, with a musical fountain which plays out the story of the birth of the Buddha, as well as the Brahma palace.
- Taihu – A very large lake with many scenic spots, famous for its fish and freshwater pearls.
- Dong Lin monastery, Lize Hall, by Yong Tang, Oscillation Temple, Road South Temple, Donglin Temple, remain Ming and Qing Dynasty style layout shape and history.
- Turtle Head Isle – Turtle’s Head Scenic Area – a small hill stretching into the lake like the head of a turtle. This scenic area covers an area of 130ha.
- Liyuan Garden – Located on the shores of Li lake the Li Garden and cover an area of 8.2 hectares and according to legend it was built for Fan Li, a prime minister of the Yue State. Is divided into three sections: Man-made hills representing mountains, a long dike and the Four Seasons Pavilions.
How and when to arrive in Wuxi?
I have no idea from other cities, but if you’re in Shanghai you can take the new G-Train to Wuxi. The journey will be about 45 minutes. G-Trains can be boarded from either Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station which is accessible with Metro line 2 to East Xujing or Shanghai Main Railway Station accessible with Metro line 1.
The perfect time to go there is spring and early autumn (September and October) and, most important, during the week. On weekends all attractions tend to be very crowded with local tourists!
Should I say that you MUST keep an eye on your belongings and avoid all friendly fluent speaking English people? 🙂 If you missed my post about scams and need some advices on how to stay away from troubles, click here.
If you like the adventure and twists and turns during your trip to one beautiful Chinese city, this is the place to go!
Travel safe and wise!