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Suzhou Excursion, China

Suzhou is a city with over 2500 years of history. Following completion of the Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty, the town grew and prospered from the trade that passed through its gates. Much of this wealth was channelled into the creation of hundreds of beautiful Chinese gardens, many of which still exist today, and which have given Suzhou the name "The Garden City".

It is possible to visit a number of these gardens and to wander amongst the sculpted ponds and rockeries in contemplation, much as the merchants and officials, their original owners, would have done years before. The Humble Administrators Garden, The Garden of the Master of the Nets, The Garden of Harmony and the West Garden Temple are the most well known, though also the most visited. Many also hold fine Bonsai collections.

Beyond Suzhou’s gardens, the city also has rich history in the production and weaving of silk. By the 14th Century Suzhou had become China’s leading silk producer and quality silk and brocade is still available at reasonable prices today.

A guide can take you to the station in Shanghai and assist you to board the train - a journey of around 45 minutes. You are then met on the platform in Suzhou by your guide and driver for the day. After visiting one of the top gardens, the famous operational silk factory and the narrow streets around Pan Men water gate you continue onto the small town of Tongli by car.

Tongli is just one of a number of water towns located around 2 hours drive from Shanghai, and is perhaps the least touristy. The town is built on a network of small canals and the best way to watch the water-side way of life is from the comfort of one of the numerous punts that drift through the narrow waterways. If you are lucky, you may also be able to witness the cormorant fishermen at work in the canals, although this may only happen for a small fee!

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