One of the latest hot spots to travel is Suzhou China. Suzhou has plenty to offer for families. I interviewed Travel expert Julia Dimon to find out more about Suzhou. Julia is the co-host of National Geographic Adventure’s Word Travels and author of the book Travel Junkie: A Badass Guide to Travel. Here’s the interview…
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – Can you provide a quick history of Suzhou?
Travel expert Julia Dimon – Suzhou China is located about 60 miles west of Shanghai. In terms of getting there, it’s a really easy 25 minute by bullet train. People can fly from all over the United States, direct right into Shanghai. So, Suzhou is an emerging destination. When people plan their trips to China, they’ll often hit Beijing or Shanghai, but I want to put Suzhou on people’s radar because it really is a special place. It’s known as the Venice of the east and that’s because of its elaborate system of waterways and canals. You can actually get a wooden gondola of sorts and you can cruise through the canals, and you can see local Chinese life. And it’s a city that’s rich with history. It’s a 2500 year old city and it’s one of the oldest in the region…. And, today, it’s continued to grow and more and more tourists are coming to visit. The result is this really interesting combination of history and this sort of modern twist. There are tons of 5-star hotels, restaurants, new attractions – especially in the Suzhou industrial park where there are lots of Fortune 500 companies – so travelers here will get a mix of the history and also that fast-paced, cosmopolitan futuristic vibe.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What makes Suzhou China a great destination for a family vacation?
Travel expert Julia Dimon – In terms of families, there’s a lot to offer. I think one of the most exciting things for kids who are little adrenalin junkies would be the Ferris wheel park. This is the biggest Ferris wheel in China. It seats 360 people. I believe it’s 400 feet tall and it’s a 30-minute ride. So, fun for the kids and also beautiful, sweeping views of the city for adults. The same park also has roller coasters, and waterfalls with laser light shows… it kind of has a big, grand, Vegas vibe. Also, some of the gardens. It’s nice, especially when traveling with little ones, when they can enjoy but also you can enjoy it. So, I’m here in the Humble Administrator’s Garden. And, that’s the largest garden in Suzhou… It’s a really beautiful setting to bring the kids to. There are bridges, and ponds, and koi ponds for the kids that they can feed. It’s definitely one of the main spots in Suzhou…In the whole city, there’s over 200 gardens making it very green, very clean city. Another thing the kids might like is a visit to the silk museum because it’s quite interactive. I went yesterday and I held a silkworm in my hands… so kids will learn the process of silk making…from the cocoon all the way to the artists weaving it.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – Can you travel to Suzhou on any budget?
Travel expert Julia Dimon – Yes, Suzhou has a ton to offer to the budget traveler and also to the luxury traveler. So, in terms of accommodations for example, there are very high-end hotels, tons of 5-star hotels. The Lamborghini hotel is one that I think is kind of fun. But, then there’s also more cultural, more budget friendly hotels that embrace the classic Chinese decor and… there you’ll find tons of tea houses, kiosks selling local cuisine which is very affordable, everything from dumplings to noodles and that won’t set you back too much. The city of Suzhou has a lot to offer and you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to visit.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – What is the cuisine like in Suzhou?
Travel expert Julia Dimon – The food is very similar to Shanghai cuisine, although I’m told it’s a little bit sweeter. The philosophy is definitely local and farm-to-table fresh, which is kind of a trend for where we’re from but this is just a way of eating here…. A lot of fresh fish…it’s very different that food we have at home. This is not your typical Chinese food that you order up from Panda Express. Everything is a delight for the palette. You can kind of travel to the country almost through your taste buds.
Lisa LaGrou of Oakland County Moms – Are there any other destinations that should be on the must visit list?
Travel expert Julia Dimon – Yes, absolutely. There’s over 400 different attractions here. I think one of the things the kids would probably really enjoy is a traditional opera… This is where you’ll see elaborate costumes and really bold, wild makeup, traditional folk songs, and it’s a nice way to showcase the traditional culture but also do it in an entertaining way for kids. Some of the gardens… offer nightly performances during certain times of the month… It’s free. So you can take the kids, see the garden, explain to them the classic Chinese landscape design and you can also check out this really unique opera that originated in this region.