Canal in Suzhou

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Cruising the Venice of China

On April 23, we boarded the bullet train for a 30-minute ride to Suzhou at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. The ride was smooth and comfortable, similar to the TGV in France, but without any refreshment services. No complaints, however, since the ride was so short and we’d had a big buffet breakfast in the hotel in Shanghai.

Suzhou touts itself as the Venice of China because of its canals, especially the Grand Canal, the longest man-made waterway in the world.

Marco Polo Bridge and the Town Fortress

From the train, we took a bus to the old part of town and the fortress. I stopped to get some pictures of the bridge that Marco Polo crossed and wrote about. The bridge led to an old fortress that was uniquely constructed to trap enemies inside a small atrium so that defenders could shoot down at them and slaughter them in small batches to prevent them from entering the main entrance to the fortified town.

But before we leave for our cruise down the canal, take another look at the Marco Polo Bridge from a different angle and this panorama of the bridge and fortress out, with Dean in the foreground.

Down Grand Canal

Originally built 2000 years ago to ship silk from the south to the emperor in the north, the Grand Canal (about 1200 miles long) claimed about 3,000,000 lives of the workers who built it over more than 100 years.

Next, we boarded a canal boat for a cruise through the Grand Canal and a side canal. As we putt-putted by, people waved and took pictures of us while we took pictures of them. We got to see a glimpse of the inhabitants’ private lives. At one point, we even came upon a wedding in progress.

Silk Factory

After our canal cruise, our bus dropped us off at a silk factory where we learned how the Chinese make silk from cocoon to spooled thread to finished product.

Evening Performances

After dinner, a bus took us to a beautifully lit complex with different performances in each small room. The first performance featured two men in a short play. Another featured some music and then on to a lovely dance performance. We finished with a solo performance on a horizontal string instrument.

Castle Hotel

At around 9:30, we headed to our hotel, the Castle Hotel, where we spent the night. The next morning, we enjoyed another sumptuous breakfast buffet before boarding a bus and riding back to Shanghai.