Teaching in Suzhou
Suzhou ranks highly among China’s most livable cities, largely because of its wealth and beauty, and was voted the best ‘tourist city’ in 2011. Whereas some other medium sized cities are known for their pollution and crowding, Suzhou is famous for its historic gardens and canals, as well as its place in Chinese art history.
History Meets Technology
Of course, like all cities, Suzhou has not gone untouched by modern developments. The Lonely Planet might try to sell you an ancient paradise, and indeed Suzhou has its peaceful parks and old architecture, but it has developed and grown along with the rest of the country. Its high-tech industrial parks are the envy of the world, and produce more laptop computers than any other place on earth. It seems that the old and new are always vying for attention.
Tourism – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Still, for teachers living in Suzhou, there is plenty to do. The main attraction is the Classical Garden, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are dozens of other relatively well known gardens, too. The canals are also a big draw for tourists and teachers alike, as are the stunning temples and beautiful pagodas that are littered about the city. Fans of Chinese opera will be delighted to known that Suzhou has a huge Opera Museum that is extremely popular on weekends.
Suzhou also has a vibrant foreigner community, with plenty of information to be found online for the newcomer. There are several Western restaurants and foreigner bars in the city, and it is easy to meet up and join in activities with local expats.
Location and Transport Links
Getting around is relatively simple too, although the city’s notoriously narrow sidewalks can be crowded and chaotic. It is possible, however, to walk around most of the tourist attractions as they are largely found within the downtown area. Taxis are cheaper than in Shanghai, but more expensive than in neighbouring provinces. As usual, make sure your destination is written in Chinese (ask one of your students or Chinese colleagues; they’re used to this) or else you won’t get far.
Suzhou is an easy city to visit. It doesn’t have an airport, but it lies halfway between Shanghai and Nanjing, and is served by numerous fast and slow train services. It is also close to Wuxi, which has a small airport. Its proximity to these great cities means that even once you have exhausted all the sights of Suzhou, you are never more than a few hours from another wonderful tourist attraction!