With its centre riddled with classic gardens and picturesque canals, SUZHOU is justly one of eastern China’s biggest tourist draws. Whereas most Chinese cities are busy building themselves up from the inside out, parts of central Suzhou remain remarkably quaint and calm – no mean feat in a city of around six million. As if greenery and waterways were not enough, Suzhou has also long been famed for its silk production, making it one of China’s best places in which to shop for said commodity.

Just forty minutes from Shanghai by high-speed train, many choose to visit Suzhou on a day-trip, though those who stay the night will see the soft light of innumerable paper lanterns dappling the canal sides, whose paved lanes make Suzhou one of those rare places that looks fantastic in the rain. Additionally, beyond the industrial areas which surround the city are several smaller canal towns, and the majestic lake of Tai Hu.

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