After busy three days in Beijing we flew to Shanghai and immediately drove two hours to the beautiful city of Suzhou to begin our swing through three historic cities. While we hadn’t heard of these places before our trip, we learned that they are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and each are home to millions of people.
Actually, this part of the trip was as much about the propaganda shopping as it was about the sightseeing, but we knew this was part of the bargain when we signed up for this tour through Groupon.
Our theory is that these bus tours are underwritten by the Chinese government. It was pretty inexpensive, and the low price is subsidized with stops at “factories” where we are given a presentation about a traditional Chinese product (jade, silk, tea, pearls, etc.) and then offered deals that are really not deals at all. Many in our group spent a lot of money but we didn’t buy a thing. Still, the presentations were interesting and helped us understand a little more about this mysterious place.
In addition to our factory tours we visited some interesting places. In Suzhou we loved the beautiful Lingering Gardens. The private estate is now a tourist attraction and shows off the opulence of old China.
After a 90 minute drive went arrived in Wuxi, the home of the Lingshan Grand Buddha. This large park honors Buddhism’s history in China and contains some beautiful art and artifacts.
In Hangzhou we went to a theme park based on the 900 year old Song Dynasty. It was pretty wild to mingle with thousands of Chinese, who were enjoying shows, games, and attractions that didn’t make any sense to us. The main attraction was “The Romance Show of Songcheng.” Through dance, acrobats, and theatrical effects we learned about the history and legends of Hangzhou.
After three days, we headed back to Shanghai.