China / suzhou20150424

Suzhou's elegant, easy lifestyle beckons visitors

By Fu Chao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-30 07:10

 Suzhou's elegant, easy lifestyle beckons visitors

Picking fresh fruit such as plums in the suburbs of Suzhou is a new experience for many visitors to the city. Provided to China Daily

Friendly, welcoming nature part of local character and culture

A city with a history of 2,500 years and a noted economic boomtown of today's China, Suzhou has much that is unique to offer tourists.

Visitors to the city have the opportunity to experience both the old and new: classical gardens and ancient streets that are part of a metropolis also full of modern entertainment and pleasures.

What makes Suzhou stand out from other cities is its elegant and laidback lifestyle, which has become a selling point for its tourism industry.

"The essence of travel, after all, is life. To find a new place and start a short period of a new life," said Zhu Guoqiang, head of the city's tourism administration.

Zhu said the objective of this innovative move is to let tourists experience authentic "Suzhou life", to present the city as a destination where visitors can share culture and make lasting memories with local residents.

Sustainable tourism

Suzhou is known for its variety of ancient buildings and other cultural relics. Tourism experts say a sustainable way to develop the city's tourism is to renovate old buildings, protect traditional culture and allow tourists to experience the authentic Suzhou lifestyle.

That lifestyle, according to Chinese traditional culture scholars, is one that features classical gardens, ancient streets and tasty Suzhou snacks.

Some 80 percent of residents in Pingjiang Road, one of many ancient streets in the city, are native residents. Urban planners devised a comprehensive renovation plan for the street and its buildings, including even the lighting, to try to maintain the traditions of the local residents.

Just as they would have done 20 or 30 years ago, children play in the street after their school days, and elderly grandmothers sell tea eggs in front of their houses.

Tourists can stay at the Pingjiang Inn, the former residence of a historic figure. Waking up to the sight and scent of spring blossoms in the yard outside their rooms, guests may feel that they are lost in time.

Zhu said that visitors to the city should slow their pace and enjoy every part of Suzhou.

In addition to its ancient streets, Suzhou has classical gardens that appeal to tourists from around the world.

Among its about 60 gardens, the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lingering Garden are listed by the State Council as two of the top four famous gardens in China. Both, together with another seven classical gardens in Suzhou, are on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

Cao Guangshu, deputy director of the city's gardens administration, said the classical gardens used to be private mansions and represent an ideal lifestyle.

Tourists are also drawn to Suzhou for its picturesque natural landscapes, and its healthy and laidback country lifestyle.

The Taihu Lake Scenic Area in Wuzhong district, for instance, has recently attracted many travelers.

Gao said Wuzhong district has the "most beautiful part of the Taihu Lake", with rolling hills, lush foliage and clean, fresh air. Sitting by the lake, enjoying a cup of local green tea, a plate of Suzhou snacks, the region's fresh fruits and the famous Yangcheng Lake crabs, tourists can find the appeals of the location hard to resist.

The Wuzhong Taihu Lake Scenic Area, officially opened in 2013, is a 5A scenic area.

Wuzhong district is also working on developing new tourist routes through villages, to make the district a sought-after resort destination.

While enjoying the sights of one of China's largest and most beautiful lakes, tourists can also experience the rustic life of the area - dining on delicious fish from the lake or picking fresh fruit such as plums in nearby orchards.

A boom in business travel is also boosting the city's tourism.

Suzhou Industrial Park was recognized as the first and only National Demonstration Area of Business Travel in 2010.

The industrial park's iconic Jinji Lake Scenic Area has picturesque natural landscapes and also advanced entertainment facilities.

There is also a business travel festival in the lake area featuring a variety of cultural activities.

The industrial park is home to another two of the city's famous lakes, Yangcheng Lake and Dushu Lake. Each of these is home to a range of unique business and entertainment facilities.

Friendly service

Suzhou's residents are known for their friendly, welcoming nature and the city's tourism includes such warmth in its services.

The tourism administration, cooperating with a local IC card company, has released a travel pass for tourists to the city. Visitors can swipe the pass to pay for public transportation, dining, accommodation and tickets to selected scenic spots with some discounts available.

During the 2015 World Table Tennis Championships from April 26 to May 3, the tourism administration issued a special edition of the travel pass, which is good for several tour routes.

Suzhou has also extended its car rental service since last year. Tourists can rent a car when they arrive and choose their own travel routes around the city.

The tourism administration said cars could be rented at railway stations, major scenic spots and shopping malls.

Visitors can also apply online for the travel pass before traveling to the city. With that pass, they can also receive a discount if renting a car.

The tourism administration has also issued a guidebook for self-driving travelers.



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