Today was yet another adventure in the crazy country of China. A few of the study abroaders decided to take a day trip to Suzhou, a city near Shanghai. A few late birds and unplanned pit stops caused us to run behind schedule… At about 20 minutes before our train would leave for Suzhou, we were still on the metro, many stops away from the train station. We decided to grab a taxi in hopes that we would make it in time.
We got into the taxi, and told the driver that we were running late for the train. He expertly weaved in and out of traffic, and I could tell he was trying his best to get us there on time. Every 5 seconds we would all check our phones to see the minutes quickly pass by. When we reached the train station, we BOOKED it out of that cab without even waiting for change because we still had to get through security and find our gate. At this point, it was about 9:05 and our train left at 9:10. My roommate led the pack as we ran to the front of the security gate and told the guard that we were about to miss our train. It surprised us all when he stared at us, gave us a look of disapproval, but let us cut in front of about 50 + people. It was fucking crazy. After that, we began running again, although none of us knew which direction to go. What a funny scene it must have been for the hundreds of people in that train station. From afar, I suddenly spot the gate so I yelled out “IT’S OVER THERE!” as I started sprinting in that direction, almost running over a kid in the process. 2 other girls followed me while the other 5 ran the complete opposite direction. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING!?!” I remembered yelling, but at that point it was too late. The 3 of us dashed to the gate where the guard hurried us through without really checking our tickets. We bolted down the stairs, ran into the train, and when the three of us looked back, no one else was there. Not quite sure whether we should get off or stay on the train, we all stared at each other for someone to make a decision. Then, the doors closed and the decision was made for us. Thankfully, the five others were able to catch the next train and arrived only an hour after us. My morning felt like an episode of The Amazing Race. My two buddies and I were the victors.
When we finally found the right bus into the old Water Village of Suzhou, we walked around a bit, exploring the cute street shops before paying about 20 RMB to enter one of Suzhou’s famous gardens. Pictures don’t really do it justice; there was an amazing rock garden which felt like an adult playground with its caves and stairs and places for climbing and a beautiful coy pond next to a patch of lily pads. If it were not for the ample amount of tourists, that garden would surely be a place of relaxation.
While the garden was great, the highlight of the visit was definitely the boat ride through the canal, basically China’s version of Venice. A cute old man sailed the boat for us, singing songs and telling us the history of the canal. He also told us a little about his life and how he made only 1000 RMB every month as a sailor and lived an extremely simple life. It was a very enjoyable ride, and most of us drifted in and out of sleep because the rocking of the boat was so calming.
We finally returned home around 9PM after being up since 6AM. Our day had been filled with nonstop walking besides our short 40 minute boat ride. It was such a long and tiring day, but totally worth it. I can’t wait for more day trips to nearby cities in China.