Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou

For Chinese New Year, the roomies and I joined 700 million travelers throughout China. We headed south to Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou, spending a night in each city before returning to Shanghai for the Superbowl. The trip was everything I could have imagined: canal rides through Suzhou’s gardens, strolls along Shanghai’s Bund, and bike rides around Hangzhou’s West Lake. Nevertheless, I found the most memorable and fun parts of our trip were the cheap, down and dirty activities such as our 13 hour seated overnight train ride (not so much fun at the time), Chinese tour of Suzhou, 6:00 am Superbowl celebration, and afterhours tour of Hangzhou’s bars. Not to mention the cheap eats. We probably had fresh-made ¥8 la mian (translates to “pull noodle”) more than once a day.


The tour of Suzhou was the most educational cross-cultural experience I’ve had in China. Our guide, dressed in a leopard jacket and high heels and wielding both a loud speaker and a flag, led us through Suzhou’s main attractions. The only drawback was the hour-long stop at a silk factory store, where we were expected to buy comforters and leisure wear that were modeled in a fashion show half way through the tour. We were the only white people to join them all day, and therefore considered another attraction. We made a lot of friends.

Hangzhou Tea House

Hangzhou was more relaxing. We spent the majority of our 24 hours biking around West Lake, reading in parks, and sampling local restaurants. In the evening we were befriended by some expats who took us bar hopping. The journey led us to all corners of Hangzhou and concluded at a small American bar, the likes of which I wish we had here in Beijing.
We spent our first day in Shanghai walking across the city to the Bund. Upon our return, we dedicated our time to the Superbowl, old friends, and the Jade Gardens, each as spectacular and exciting as the next.

On the train

Our 13 hour trip back home was spent in chairs that did not recline or offer leg room. Luckily, however, our seats were right near all the action: the bathroom. And since the lights never dimmed, I barely missed a minute of it. I spent the moments between sleep shooing away smokers who freely lit up in the windowless train car and listening to a man seated atop the sink yell indiscernible words at no one in particular. I’m glad I can say I’ve spent a long-haul in a train seat, but next time I’m getting a bed in a sleeper car.

If you want to see more pictures, take a look at the following slideshow.

Chinese new year vacation


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