Golden week antics
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
The Moon festival holiday approached with unprecedented speed this year, perhaps as due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the children have only just returned to an open school, it feels too soon for them to be home again and school-free. Fortunate to have a husband also in education (as a teacher), I generally look forward to school holiday breaks knowing that at least some of the time will not be a solo-parenting challenge.
My husband’s school had advised against any travel outside of the province of Jiangsu. So, we successfully avoided the typical, minor choice-paralysis episode that we have become accustomed too when planning a trip. This time, we knew we had little choice but to remain for the most part in SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park). We did, however, make a short trip to the town of Dongshan on the south-western shores of Taihu. We stayed at the marvellous Dongshan Hotel, just a convenient five-ten minute walk from both the hills and the lake. Being our third excursion back to the town since re-locating to Suzhou in 2017, there is a certain (unlikely magnetic) pull back to the same area. What is the appeal?
Only an hour’s taxi drive southwest of Suzhou, it is an easy escape from the city grime into the sweet, peaceful air of the countryside.
2. Trail running and hiking
Whether you are an experienced long- distance mountain trail runner or a leisure-walker, the hills of Dongshan offer both challenging terrain and smooth, tarmac surfaced paths depending on your chosen route. The views over Taihu are magnificent.
3. Lakeside walks
For the height-wary, why not stay on the ground and explore some of the lakeside paths and jetties. Watch out for fishermen!
4. Sangshan Island and boat rides
Boats depart hourly from the most western tip of Dongshan across to the island of Sangshan. Try to go in August when the lotuses are in their pink and bountiful bloom. You can get around the island by bicycle, tandem, or quadricycle but be prepared to barter with the local bike hire businesses as you step off the ferry. The children loved the quadricycling experience. Alternatively you can walk the island in half a day.
5. Traditional Chinese culture and cuisine
As Dongshan is somewhat removed from the metropolis of Suzhou, it has a much more authentic, Chinese feel. The distant sky- scrapers fade into a hint of the city left behind. Instead, white- washed walls of low builds, and simple frills and curves of clay roofing punctuate the landscape.
There is little or no foreign investment but no shortage of small, independent cafes and shops. As you will not find western comforts here, it is a great opportunity to try some local cuisine such as youtiao (a long, deep- fried dough stick), squirrel fish (sweet/sour fish cut into a spikey shape) or hong sao rou (sticky red pork).
6. Fresh produce
Dongshan is renowned by ‘Suzhou ren’ (the local Suzhou people) for its mandarin produce, its honey, pomegranates and tea. My ayi was most delighted to receive a cup of Dongshan tea, exclaiming; ‘Dongshan cha youdianr tian. Hen gui. Wo xihuan Dongshan cha!’ (Dongshan tea is a little sweet and expensive. I like Dongshan tea)!