Surrounded by the canal from three sides, the OuYuan is the Couple's Garden Retreat.
The housing complex is located in the middle and the Garden is on the East and West side.
The East Garden has a dominant "mountain" rising from a pond .The pavilions,terraces and towers are centered upon the mountain.
The West Garden consists of studies, pavilions and garden courts.
Simple, succinct Suzhou
"Day trip from Shanghai"
Suzhou makes a nice short day trip from Shanghai.
Just take the train from the Shanghai South Train Station which is along one of their main subway lines, if I'm not wrong, it's line 1?
Anyways, you can get the ticket on the spot for the day itself -- there are a number of trains that will go to Suzhou each day -- just a matter of whether it's a direct or indirect train.
However, peak periods like Spring Festival, Qing Ming Festival and the weekends and holidays etc will definitely make getting tickets more difficult. My advice -- either buy the tickets early or stay clear of the crowds.
I went to Suzhou on a Saturday of the Qing Ming Festival.
It was swamped!!
I usually like to buy my tickets beforehand, even if it means it's an additional trip to the station. I also buy the 'Ruan Zhou' or Soft Seat tickets. It's a small premium but I won't compromise on comfort...
And it doesn't cost a big difference in price -- not like train ticket prices between first and second class in Europe!
Suzhou's just slightly more than an hour away from Shanghai and nearby, there are other delightful places like Zhou Zhuang -- a water-village: think Venice, where the village is intersected by many, many water canals and main transportation mode is on a boat -- a place that I would have loved to visit... but didn't have the luxury of time to do so...
Definitely next time!
There are many of such historic houses where the rich once lived... Entire households that lived in a huge, sprawling mansion...
This one we visited was one such house belonging to a famous family.
It was amazing.
They'd have 2 separate halls -- one for the women and the other for the men. This separate space was just partitioned by a partial wall but of course, the embellishments were different.
As expected, the men's hall was more ornate and well decorated with the better view of the courtyard.
The women's one -- simpler and more sombre and discreet...
A clear indicaton of social and gender segregation.
They had an amazing maze inside their house, from which one could get "lost" in. The trick, as with most mazes, was to keep turning in one direction -- this one, turn to the left to find your way out. It was entirely made by stone and the picture you see is a view from the top of the maze.
Isn't it lovely?
"Best time to go Suzhou!"
Between Spring Festival and Qing Ming Festival would be a great time to visit Suzhou:
1. It's after and before the mass exodus of people visiting Suzhou for the family festivals -- won't be too crowded.
2. It's still Spring! Weather's cooler and flowers are in bloom.
I found Suzhou less developed and a lot dustier than Hangzhou. I think it could be that it was in the midst of development, so that's why the general amount of dust...