An alternative idea for a local weekend away from Shanghai.
If your in Shanghai and are looking for a weekend away filled with days of cultured events and evenings of uncultured drinking, your in the right place. I’ll provide you with my itinerary for my Friday-Sunday night trip to Kunshan and Suzhou. This Itinerary features a special first-hand account of Suzhou’s hospital thanks to a nearly fatal accident occurring on the Sunday morning, reader digression is advised.
That Friday feeling.
After a week of teaching the kids the normal materials alongside a few western culture Halloween themed hobby classes, I figured it was time to start branching out and visiting some local cities around Shanghai. A local friend informed me that autumn is crabbing season and that there is a place 20 minutes away by train which is famous for excellent crab, Yangcheng Lake in Kunshan city. I pitched the idea to some mates and we set off.
How to get to Kunshan from Shanghai.
Myself and three other teachers got a Didi to the allotment, dubbed crab Vegas by the locals. (If you get the metro all the way to North Jiading the Didi is significantly cheaper). The Didi was around 1 hour long, split between 4 it’s worth the convenience. When we arrived, we were amazed! No wonder the locals called this crab Vegas! It’s comprised of about 15 different casino looking buildings all selling crab and associated sea foods. After being seated we were presented with some live crabs inside a net and given a menu, we were all a bit horrified as the little guys had no idea what fate awaited them. At this stage my spoken Mandarin was awful so I called my Chinese friend and told them our budget, they kindly placed an appropriate order. I didn’t get a chance to ask what was ordered due to the staff showcasing the netted crustaceans on my left and my friends hollering “did you order beer” on the right.
After a short while, yu shiang tofu (fish fragrant tofu-tofu) and xī yáng cài ( a watercress dish) came to the table followed by 2 baskets of steamed crab with a side dish full of sauce made from rice vinegar, ginger and sugar. The waitress couldn’t stand watching us struggle, she came over with scissors to show us how to appropriately remove the shell. After 20-30 minutes of enjoying the crab, the waitress stopped by in our private room to see how we were doing. She saw my friend eating what must have been the wrong part of the crab and practically slapped it out his hand with a shout. I was vigilant about which part I ate as I knew some parts where indigestible, particularly the greyish gills dubbed “dead man’s fingers” which were probably what my friend had been slurping on (I did tell him). After dinner we explored the local drinking spots in Kunshan, meanwhile my buddy was being sick from his inability to eat the right part. Off to a good start.
The rest of the night saw us go through what was actually a bit of a drinking rampage across the bars of Kunshan. I’m not proud to say we never made it to a hotel and actually we drank right through until sunrise. We ordered a coffee from the local convenience store and I ordered a DiDi to Suzhou on my phone. The 1 hour journey was used as a power nap for the troops whilst I found a hostel on hostelworld.com so we could get a little more sleep upon arrival.
Arriving in Suzhou.
When we arrived, we checked in at Mingtown Suzhou International youth hostel, they let us check in early as it was only 8 am at this point. We dropped for a nap for an hour or two and freshened up, starting our adventure at the humble administrators garden; a UNESCO world heritage site. After enjoying this area, we went to Tiger hill. Tiger hill is home to a leaning pagoda which both out-dates and out stretches the leaning tower of Pizza, which is why it’s been nicknamed the ‘Leaning Tower of China’. Tiger hill is also home to a small pool named “Sword Pool” named due to the famous warrior and sword collector who is buried in its watery depths alongside his most treasured swords. The rest of the day was spent detoxing with some beautiful air by Sword Pool watching the world go by.
Later in the evening we went to a bar and played China’s most popular drinking game “Lar’s Dice” (jǐ gè jǐ, literally "How many of how many?) before being joined by some local experts. The locals had poor English and our mandarin was limited, none the less we managed to spend the evening with them across numerous bars.
Hospital horror in Suzhou.
The next morning, I woke up earlier than my friends to grab a sight of Pingjiang Road, the old town in Suzhou. Whilst I was on my walk torrential rain and heavy wind started, causing the stone path to become very slippery. As I crossed a small bridge, a heavy wind caught my umbrella causing me to tumble 5 feet off the bridge.
I jumped up whilst laughing it off in an embarrassed state. I noticed I was covered in mud, In an attempt to style it out I thought I’d take off my previously yellow now brown hoodie and wrap it round my waist. This is when I noticed the fat hole in my right arm, a steady stream of curse words left my mouth until i composed myself.
A local shop owner ran over with tissues and I used them to apply pressure to my wound. I thanked him and walked a few minutes home to collect my friends so they could accompany me to the hospital. On the way home I called my local friends from the night before to ask if they could translate over the phone at the hospital for me, they declined and insisted on doing it in person.
We checked out the hostel and walked another 15 minutes to the hospital, everyone was looking a little worse for wear.
Upon arrival, Chen Chen, one of our local friends from the night prior had already arrived. I collected my ticket from the first nurse and paid for the doctor to have a look. Whilst the doctor was speaking to other patients, he took a glance at my arm and told Chen Chen I needed stitches. I went back again to the nurse, paid for the stitches to be done and then went back to the same doctor. At this point the doctor used a local anaesthetic and put a fish hook into my arm with what looked look like the matching net. They probably had a supply deal with the crab place from two nights ago.
The process took around 2 hours to get diagnosis and stitched up. Then an additional 2 hours to check for bone damage. I was thrilled to have no broken bones and only 6 stitches in my elbow. Chen Chen had been amazing and accompanied me across the hospital whilst my friends slept helplessly in the reception; she was even there to translate whilst I had a tetanus jab in my right butt cheek, poor girl. After the ordeal we found out it was Chen Chen’s birthday, I insisted on taking everyone for hot pot (huǒguō, literally “fire-pot”) to celebrate before she went to meet her friends. We said our goodbyes and made our way home to Shanghai. The next day i found out i had my Tour de Shanghai cycling race in two weeks time so i was going to work hard on fixing up fast.