China Peony Festival Tour 2015
April 10th - 23rd, 2015


April 18 & 19

April 18

We left after breakfast for our journey to Zhengzhou where we would take our flight to Shanghai and then on to Suzhou. Jackie our local guide met us at the airport for the journey to Suzhou and we enjoyed dinner before checking into our rooms.

Suzhou Hotel
The Pan Pacific is a wonderful hotel, built like an old Chinese castle with winding hallways and a beautiful garden that you can see from the restaurant. There is another public garden behind that with a beautiful Pagoda too. It is easy to get lost in this hotel as it has many levels. We stayed in the Garden Wing. A lot of the rooms face the gardens so be sure to ask for one of those. I was here with my tour group and all were happy. They do get a lot of tour groups staying here but the two or three times I have brought groups here we have not had any issues as most are not around for breakfast time nor were they around when we checked in.

My room was on the third floor, just off the reception area and easy to find. Very comfortable bed with lots of pillows. There are reading lamps but they are not very bright for reading in bed. There is a chair and ottoman with a lamp that is better for reading. Desk and chair with just one plug in that will take north American plugs but by the bed they have put a set of four plug ins that will also take them so this is fine. Lamps over the desk but not that bright. I like it bright in a room. Big windows and this room had a little balcony as well but no chairs to sit on. Just as well I guess as I didn’t have much time to sit and all I could see were the willows – nice with the birds singing but no view of the gardens. The rooms are a fairly good size but when you have two people in a room it will be snug with suitcases on floor.

TV is a good size and has CNN and CCTV which is English. Bar area with fridge, kettle and tea/coffee. Also two comp bottles of water per day. Closet is lit with safe that will hold most things except large laptops. Slippers and bathrobes, iron and board and hairdryer. Bathroom is quite large with separate shower and bathtub, good size counter and sink. Amenities include shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, toothbrushes, comb, sewing kit, vanity kit, and shower cap – do people still use those for hair? – I use mine to carry nice hand soap in from hotel to hotel or cover my shoes with in my luggage. Large bath towels, hand towels and facecloths. Rooms are quiet, at least while we were here for three nights. Internet – why is it that so many hotels have such crappy internet. Drives me crazy. Also just in case you didn’t know Google and Facebook are blocked in China.

Breakfast is buffet style and includes Chinese, Japanese and American. While the first two are usually steaming away on the tables, I find the American food is not paid much attention to. This is now the second time I have found the hot dishes luke warm and have mentioned it. Staff needs to make sure hot food is hot and cold food is cold. That is the first rule of any food service industry. There was a good selection of food like fresh fruit, pastry, buns, cereal, cold meats and cheese, yogurt and juices.

Outside the hotel there is plenty to see and walking around is quite nice. On the corner there is a great bakery where you can get good coffee and great tasting pastries called 85. There is another restaurant serving Chinese as well. I walked the area for a bit and discovered a few flower shops that I enjoy seeing and right across the street from those is a convenience store – another place I like to visit - to check out what is there and pick up bottles of coffee and some snacks.

English newspapers like China Daily are sporadic. One day they have them and the next they do not.

April 19

Full day city tour in Suzhou..Suzhou, the garden city of China.
Suzhou is a city with many beautiful gardens. Portland's Chinese garden was designed by the Suzhou Garden Design Institute. The buildings
were built in Suzhou, then disassembled and shipped to Portland and if you have ever visited it you will know how exquisite a garden it is.

Huqiu Garden - The famous Tiger Hill Garden. The 48 meter tall ‘Symbol of Suzhou’ pagoda was built in 961 and yes it is slanted a bit more
than two meters off its vertical axis. The gardens are for leisurely strolling and there is much to see. Tucked into nooks and crannies are
many flowers as well as a beautiful Bonsai area.

Humble Administrator's Garden - the largest garden in Suzhou, and has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will have the
delight of being here during the Azalea Festival to enjoy its beauty and historic significance. This garden was built around 1509AD during the Ming Dynasty by the imperial inspector. He was tired of official life and wanted a garden to retire to. He got the name for the garden from an essay called "To cultivate my garden and sell my vegetable crop is the policy of humble man". A lake in the center occupies about one fifth of the space with many streams and hills throughout. The garden is divided into the middle, eastern and western parts an and a house is at the south end of the garden.
Some of the spaces in the garden are: the Hall of Drifting Fragrance, the Loquat Garden Court, the Peony Pavilion, the Listening to the
Sound of Rain Pavilion, the A Pure Mind Thinks Deep area, the Magnolia Hall, the Orange Pavilion, the Hall of 36 Pairs of Mandarin Ducks,
the Hall of 18 Camellias, the With Whom Shall I Sit? Pavilion, the Stay-and-Listen Pavilion, the Pagoda Reflection Pavilion, the Far Away
Looking Pavilion and many more. Many of the areas are named for lotus blossoms. Growing in mud, lotus blooms still keep themselves pure and clean. The farther their smell drifts the more pure it becomes. The lotus is often called "a true person of virtue among flowers." The theme of the garden is to be as pure as a lotus blossoms.

I.M. Pei Suzhou Museum - Suzhou Museum, a garden style museum designed by famous artist I. M. Pei. In the modern architectural field, I.
M. Pei earns a high reputation and is a well-known architect. He is the only world class Chinese architect as well as one of the most
important architectural artists in the 20th century.
His striking designs include the Pyramid at the Louvre, the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, Boston's JFK Library. New Suzhou Museum
is the last design of Mr. I. M. Pei in his career. It is not only a public construction symbol in Suzhou, but also an innovative mark bridging
Chinese architectural culture from the tradition to the future. Prompting the protection of Suzhou cultural heritage, the new museum also has turned a new page for Suzhou Museum. Houses over 30,000 cultural relics including Ming and Qing Dynasty paintings and calligraphy, and ancient arts and crafts. Beautiful Celadon here as well.


DSC07521 – 7720

DSCF0508 - 565