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Suzhou is the garden city, the ‘Venice of the East,’ and a common day trip from Shanghai along with a number of other ‘Water Towns.’ I find these mostly underwhelming. If you loved Yu Yuan, though, you can take a short train ride, as fast as half an hour, and be in Suzhou with numerous gardens. Trains depart from the Shanghai Railway Station, (not the South Railway Station), and ticket buying can be an experience (look for the windows marked for English service), but the new trains are fast and comfortable.
In Suzhou there are many gardens, the most popular is the Humble Administrator’s Garden. The I.M. Pei-designed Suzhou Museum is nearby. My favorite of the gardens is the small Lion Grove Garden, while Garden of the Master of the Nets is sometimes argued as the great masterpiece. Tiger Hill is popular and more varied than the gardens.
Suzhou is the center of the silk industry. Those on tours will not escape this industry. Those independent can consider a stop at the Suzhou Silk (Gift Shop) Museum.
The Taoist Temple of Mystery is the old and current bazaar of Suzhou with lots of shopping and dining options.
Taxis are best for getting around Suzhou. No subway and the buses are difficult for non-Chinese speakers.
Suzhou has all range of hotels for those wanting to stay overnight. Note that hotels frequently change brands, so, for example, don’t spend time for looking for the once-popular Sheraton Suzhou. That gem is now the Pan Pacific Suzhou.