How Not to Visit Suzhou (Part 2).

23 Mar

My last post might have left you thinking that I’m some headless chicken traveler, but I’m not really. I actually like to be quite organized and get a bit stressed out if not. But sometimes I throw all caution to the wind – I know, crazy – and then stuff like taking 8 hours to get to a city that’s just over 100km away happens. Other times, my laziness takes over. And I decide to leave my Lonely Planet at home.

I know so many people that hate travelling with a guidebook (“Gawd, you might as well join a tour group and wear matching hats!”) but I like having an overview of what a destination has to offer and I particularly like having a map handy. However, have you ever seen the Lonely Planet China? It’s huge and weighs as much as a small child! (I’ve got the Rough Guide to China as well, which is of similar proportions.) And given that I was only going for a day it seemed silly lugging about a book with me that weighed more than my luggage. I did read through the Suzhou section and made a mental note of recommended sights and the location of our hotel. (Funny that I didn’t remember to make a note of the address. Yes, funny.) And besides, Kim, Marc or Meg would surely have taken one.

But they hadn’t.

Which proved to be a problem as soon as we decided to leave the hotel. The plan was to sightsee Suzhou’s nightlife and then do more touristy, cultural stuff the following day.

Uhm, so which bar to go first? Well, with no guidebook, no internet and generally No Clue our only option was to ask the receptionist of the hotel: a twenty-something year old whose English was fairly good (bonus!) but who just looked at us perplexed. Here, I have to add that we were staying in a mid-level “Chinese hotel,” i.e. geared at Chinese businessmen and probably not often frequented by thirsty Western tourists. So even our imitations of drinking didn’t make her understand (so classy!). She did, however, give us a map and circled out the downtown area and a restaurant street.

So off we went, walking through the exhaust fumes of Suzhou’s rush hour. The restaurant street turned out consist o only a handful of small Chinese joints but we wanted something a bit more Westerner-friendly, where the booze selection included more than lukewarm beer and baiju (Chinese distilled liquor that apparently tastes similar to paint thinner).

We walked into the main centre where we saw this busy take-away place that was apparently so busy it hadn’t been able to get a new sign:

After walking around for nearly an hour we saw a dodgy-looking Mexican restaurant (that was also an Indian restaurant?) but since there were big neon signs advertising margaritas it didn’t take us long to take a seat. After 2 Margas and a plate of nachos it was onwards and upwards. A friend had told us about a WHOLE street of bars to the east of the centre so we headed into that general area.

After a 30min walk we finally came across a little hole-in-the-wall, which I wouldn’t have considered under normal circumstances but this was not the time to be picky! We then decided to have a drink in every single bar we crossed.

Wow, this was going to be the saddest pub crawl in the history of pub crawls.


Because we crawled into the grand total of four pubs!

Yes, four.

In more than 6 hours.

After the afore-mentioned hole-in-the-wall we had to walk another 30min to find the next one. This one, however, was located in a bar street, though I might need to reconsider taking advice from my friend because all the bars were girly bars. So lots of blinking neon, old Laowai men, chirpy hostesses and the odd “massage” place.

Our walkabout through the more boring of Suzhou’s streets had ultimately produced 4 bars and 7 drinks and at 1am, we decided to call it a night.

Lesson learned: if you’re visiting a new city and want to enjoy a couple of drinks and don’t know where you’re going, make sure you either speak Chinese, have speedy internet on your phone or take that bloody Lonely Planet!


2 Responses to “How Not to Visit Suzhou (Part 2).”


  1. How not to travel to Suzhou (Part 1). « Ningbo Nights - March 23, 2012

    […] back soon for the Part 2 of this post: How not to visit Suzhou. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailTumblrLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. Suzhou Part 3: Touristy Stuff. « Ningbo Nights - March 23, 2012

    […] a failed attempt at getting drunk in Suzhou, we got up the next day and faced a similar problem when we tried to find a place that served a […]

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