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travel talk:
Suzhou Special: Secret Gardens

Most people when asked what is special about Suzhou will robotically tell you that the gardens are great. They do this because like most tourists they take what they read in a dog-eared copy of Lonely Planet to heart. That’s where their research ends, and 99 per cent of the time they couldn’t be more wrong. But, surprisingly, this time the masses have it, at least partly, correct. Gardens are what make Suzhou so special but that is a far too simplistic a description. With literally hundreds of the things dotted around the city, you have to know where you’re going, if you’re hoping to see the best that Suzhou has to offer.

Master of the Nets

This popular garden is one to avoid during the weekends if you’re not a fan of Chinese tour groups and unsavoury-looking gap year students. During the week you can have the whole place to yourself, barring a couple of backpackers and the odd local family. With the perfect blend of water, greenery and rocks, The Master of Nets is as close to the quintessential Suzhou garden as you can get these days and is definitely worth a look during your stay in Suzhou.


Confucian Temple

Not really a garden per se, but it makes the top five because the impressive number of bonsai trees dotted around the courtyard. Understated, and oddly stoic, there is an aura of power around this place. Tourists often skip it, but it’s definitely worth having a look. And the best part… it’s free.

The Cangliang Pavillion

Located opposite the temple, this often ignored, but thoroughly enjoyable garden is a perfect remedy to the stresses of city of life. It’s always first on the agenda when we go to Suzhou. Just off a main road, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a noisy and un-relaxing affair, but this place is a gem. In particular, the bamboo forest is a real treat and something not many of the other gardens have to offer.


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