Students' Secret Suzhou

Mar 13, 2017

One of the nicest things I get to do is the occasional class at a high school here in SIP. I was telling the Year 10 students about this column and asked where I should write about. Well, that led to them doing a mini project in groups on their favourite places in Suzhou that require that extra bit of local knowledge. So, I hand you over to the pupils of Year 10:

Our first group of Maris, Krystal and Minnie decided to tell us about their Wanton and Steamed Bread place. It’s called Tangyan Xin Nian Dian Xin Dian, which they say means a New Year Restaurant with Local Food. Its location is 51 Shantang Street (Line 2 on the metro) in the Tingchang District and they particularly recommend the handmade steamed bread which attracts the older generation from all across the Old City.

Joy and Jerry recommended something sweet: Plenilune Brand Dessert in the shop Ming Yue Lou. This one is harder to find in the Old Town and is at the junction of Sanduo Lane and Shuyuan Lane near the Jinshi River. The speciality here is the ‘double-layer rice balls’ or Shuang Niang Tuan, which are stuffed with red bean paste and sesame syrup. Joy and Jerry say don’t let its rather tatty interior put you off; the secret family recipes are famed for miles around.

Catherine, Rebecca and Aries have recommended a stroll in Lian Chi Hu Park to burn off all those calories. This somewhat unknown park is off the beaten track and near Chongyuan Temple and Yang Cheng Lake. It is famed for its lotus flowers when they are in season and is popular with crab catchers and fisherman. This one is best reached by car or taxi.

Sansa and Mary have returned to the theme of eating with a popular Suzhou restaurant called Taohuayuanji, which has two branches, the most famous being in Ping Jiang Lu, the other in Huiling Square. This cheap and cheerful eatery is the perfect spot to tuck into a traditional Suzhou breakfast of Dou Fu Hua or some homemade dumplings and the more adventurous can enjoy a round of pig’s trotters. Apparently a good feed can be had for about 20 RMB per person.

Elroy, Quentin, Bono and Eric have recommended a small restaurant famous amongst the local population called Xiang Xin Restaurant. This can be found on Jin Fan Road after getting out of Leqiao Station on Line 1. The restaurant enjoys lake views and its signature dish is a pumpkin porridge and maize and mung bean soup. The kids add, “Chicken feet taste great but many foreigners don’t accept it.” Will you?

Now we are being recommended some high culture in the form of the Kunqu Opera, by Ginger, Vikki and Grace. This is apparently one of the oldest operas in China and it still performs traditional music in the local dialect. It is in the Luzhi area of the old centre of Suzhou in the Wuzhong Building, which enjoys spectacular views across the city from its top floor. It can be reached on the 521 bus. Performances last for about an hour and a half and the girls say it costs about 100RMB to go in.

Finally, we have another beauty spot in Yin Shan Lake. This is recommended by Albert, Milton, Cheryl, Zoe and Helen. This is very easy to reach as it has its own metro station on Line 2. This lake has only recently been developed for visitors and you can now do a number of activities there such as fishing, cycling and running along the jogging paths, or just walking along enjoying the lilies. There is a farm with fresh produce and its own restaurant as well as a range of other eateries to choose from.

So there we have it, seven fresh ideas for things to see and do in Suzhou. I hope you enjoy the students’ posters and reward their efforts by visiting at least one of their recommended spots. I have enjoyed nearly all of them; though I’m still not convinced by pigs’ trotters or particularly accepting of chicken feet!

Thanks kids and see you soon.

About the Column

Markus Davis

Markus is from the Isle of Wight in the UK and had been living in Suzhou since 2013. It is his first time living in China and before this he was in London. He has been teaching English all of his adult life and in HE since 2000. He is lucky to have his wife with him in Suzhou and together they are making a new life. His interests include eating out (a lot) and exploring local areas on his ebike. And recently, walking a doggie.

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