China is big. Huge. There's lots to see, and as an intern in China, you won’t see it all. But at Getin2China, we encourage you to at least try.
Traveling around China is easier than ever before, and transportation is rapidly improving, making it faster and more convenient for tourists to bob around. As a transport hub in China, Shanghai is an excellent base for day trips or other short hauls (and so is Beijing - check out a previous post about short haul trips from Beijing here).
We take a look at two can't-miss destinations during your time in Shanghai: Suzhou and Zhouzhuang.
Contrary to an image of China as one of environmental degradation and cities of concrete and steel, Suzhou, directly west of Shanghai in neighboring Jiangsu Province, offers something vastly different. Known as the 'Venice of the East' for its abundance of canals, Suzhou offers up plenty of gardens for exploration.
The Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou
The Humble Administrator's Garden (拙政园) is perhaps the largest of the gardens - and also one of the more beautiful. Canals, bridges, pavilions and plenty of greenery can be found inside the garden, offering the perfect setting for a relaxing and refreshing walk. Expect to pay roughly $10 (60 yuan) for your entrance fee.
The Garden of the Master of the Nets (网师园) is one of the smallest gardens in Suzhou but also one of the richest in terms of its beauty and stunning scenery. Other gardens include The Couple's Garden Retreat (耦园) and the Lingering Garden (留园), named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Suzhou is more than gardens (although there are plenty to keep you busy for days). For some shopping, or simply to get away from the hectic and traffic-ridden roads in between garden hopping, head to the pedestrian-only Pingjiang Street (平江路). There, you can eat to your heart's content from one of the many food stall windows, and purchase tea from a shop as a gift.
Suzhou is an easy day trip from Shanghai (although you can easily spend more time here). Simply head to the Shanghai Railway Station and grab the high speed (G-class train) to Suzhou. The trip is roughly 30 minutes (some G trains, depending on the time, are a few minutes faster or slower), and costs $6.50 (39.5 yuan).
Another great advantage to living and working in Shanghai is the proximity to some of China’s best water towns. West of Shanghai in Jiangsu Province are a series of canal towns ripe for exploration, including Zhouzhuang.
In this town, which dates back 900 years, many people live by the water and use the canal to wash closes and dishes. Stone bridges can be found throughout, along with plenty of lane ways and alleys. For roughly $15, you can ride a boat to explore the town along the canals.
A canal in the town of Zhouzhuang
Although the city can be packed with tourists, especially on weekends, that shouldn’t you from exploring its charm.
There are a number of departure points in Shanghai that can take you to Zhouzhuang by bus, including at Shanghai Tour Bus Station, Hongkou Football Stadium and the Long Distance Bus station.
You can also hire a driver from Shanghai who will take you to Zhouzhuang and sit idle until you’re ready to return. You can hire a driver for roughly $150.
Your internship in Shanghai shouldn’t be all work and no play. Head out to Suzhou and Zhouzhuang and begin your exploration of China.