Changshu is a fun little day-trip from Suzhou. I went on a Sunday in between two weeks of working. It’s a small city about 50km northwest of Suzhou, and you can get there easily on a long distance bus which takes an hour. The name 常熟 is a bit funny: it means something like “often ripe”! Anyway there’s three principle attractions: a pagoda, a big hill, and a classical garden. There’s also a scenic lake a little way out of town but I didn’t have time to visit.
It’s quite a long walk from the bus station to the “cultural” area – maybe it would have been better to take a taxi. But anyway, this is the pagoda, called 方塔 or “square tower”, presumably because all the levels have a square shape rather than usual octagon shape. There are some surrounding gardens to wander around, but there are better classical gardens to visit in Suzhou, and indeed in Changshu.
You have to pay around 10元 extra for a going-up-the-pagoda ticket. I think I’ve written before about my disappointment in pagodas where you’re only allowed to go up to the third or fourth floor, but in this one you’re able to go to the very top! Though you can’t go outside above the fourth floor.
The next attraction I visited was the huge hill to the west of the city called Yushan 虞山.
On top of the hill
The walk up to the top was surprisingly long and with little of interest apart from the old city walls. The view from the top was quite good though. The Wikipedia article claims there are “18 scenerys” that can be seen in the area. I don’t think I counted that many, but there’s some tombs, a large temple, and this observation rock.
The land around is all very flat, being in the plain south of the Yangtze river. The hill seems to be a bit of a geological oddity. It’s a shame the day was so hazy, otherwise you could probably see a very long way.
I took a taxi back down to the city because I couldn’t be bothered to walk, which turned out to be a good idea because the driver told me I ought to visit another attraction I had previously overlooked, 燕园 “Yan garden”.
It’s another classical Chinese garden, but a very nice example of one. It was very quiet in the late afternoon, which made it peaceful to walk around. Best bit was this rock formation in the centre with little tunnels you can crouch through.
I took the scenic route back to the bus station, past these old houses next to a canal which are typical of the traditional architecture in the area.
Heading back to the bus station