As a final adventure before starting a family, my husband and I connected with our roots and explored Eastern China; it was one of the best decisions we ever made. It was a trip of a lifetime, and certainly not a journey I would have attempted while lugging around a stroller!

Here’s the first installment of my China travel guide, covering two ancient cities: Suzhou and Wuxi.

Suzhou, China

Rich in academic history, Suzhou, China is home to incredible works of art and cultural relics. The tour of this manor (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) gave us a crash course in the art of classical Chinese gardens and architecture.

Beautiful Chinese architecture in Suzhou, China

Tour Tip: Next time you step through the threshold of a historical Chinese mansion, be sure to turn around and look back at the door! The interior side of entrances are commonly decorated with fine art, reserved for the eyes of its wealthy residents and their guests.

Intricate carvings on doors in Suzhou, China

Here’s a closer look at the remarkable detail chiselled into the frame of the front gate.

A classical garden and pond in Suzhou, China

The various rooms of the property wrap around this enormous pond, forming a beautiful private garden in the middle of the residence. Walking around the pond, you’ll notice a different picturesque view from every angle—a key characteristic of the art form.

In fact, classical gardens are taken so seriously as art that windows around the garden are used to, quite literally, “frame” the work. An example of such window can be seen in the photo, to the right of the gazebo.

Boats in a canal in Suzhou, China

Canals spread through this region, so boats and bridges of varying sizes make up a lovely view. Does Suzhou, China remind you of Venice, Italy?

Read about how to travel with food allergies.

tapa house in suzhou, china

tapa house in suzhou, china

Taking a brief break from antiquities, this charming tapa house caught our attention; it’s impossible to miss!

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Wuxi, China

Rural village in Wuxi, China

Just a mere hours drive away from Suzhou, we explored a small, but immaculately preserved, rural village in Wuxi, China.

Waterfront homes in Wuxi, China

How’s this for waterfront property?

Wood columns raise homes off the ground in Wuxi, China

To protect structures from deterioration due to flooding, wood columns are raised off the ground in and outside of the home.

Shop in Wuxi, China that produces handmade fabric

Walking through this village was like stepping back in time, or right into a period film. Here, we visited a small shop that produced handmade fabrics.

Handmade leather bags being made in Wuxi, China

hand-stitched leather drying in the sun in Wuxi, China

Dried and almost done! Hand-stitched bags and various products can be purchased from this shop in Wuxi, China.

An old pharmacy and restaurant in Wuxi, China

Dining tables in an old restaurant in Wuxi, China

This is an old pharmacy and restaurant. Having grown up watching Chinese period films and TV shows, these are familiar views for me; however, I never thought I’d see them in real life!

Door handle with Chinese symbols in Wuxi, China

Chinese culture has an obsession with symbols and word play (I love it!); this humble little door handle is a perfect example. Starting with the most obvious imagery, you’ll notice a bat hanging from the handle. The use of bats is a common visual pun, as the word ‘bat’ is homonymous with ‘happiness’.

Secondly, the circle with a diamond in it is the shape of ancient coins. This simply represents fortune. And finally, the two pairs of squiggles at the top and bottom of the plate are clouds, symbolizing longevity. Piecing the 3 items together, we get: happiness, fortune and longevity—otherwise known as Fu Lu Shou, the three Gods of Blessings.

I loved the challenge of uncovering these hidden symbols and puns! Just one of many reasons I’d love to go back and spend more time exploring China.

I hope this China travel guide helps you narrow down which cities you’d like to visit.

And remember, out-of-country medical insurance is vital when you’re travelling to China. If you get sick, your medical insurance company should be able to communicate directly with the Chinese hospital, saving you the trouble of overcoming the language barrier.

Happy travels,

Liz

Liz, Travel Blogger, TuGo Canada

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