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If you're thinking of getting out of Shanghai there are two obvious choices. There they are on the map, barely a stone's throw from the city, right next to a bunch of lakes and maybe even some trees.

Hangzhou and Suzhou are, if Chonghampton is too progressive, the best ways to get wholesome value from a change of scenery. They've got some old stuff, some water and cab fares that start at 9RMB. Triple Rainbow.

We smacked the Hangzhou Half Marathon a while ago so it only seemed fair to give Suzhou a turn. There are basically three and a half reasons to come to Suzhou. After running the 21k race route around the lake I'm relegating that to two and a half. Go to Hangzhou if you're in the market for bo expanses of water.

The first reason is the cobbled grid of streets around PingJiang. Set alongside a network of thin canals, the streets are a delight of one-off shops and street-side restaurants. There's an air of peacefulness not often found in China, something that the Yunnanese flagships of Dali and Lijiang don't quite have... this isn't a population who've bet their lives on formulaic tourism but experimental young professionals injecting originality.

And it totally works. Around every corner is something new for the camera to soak in. It was hard not to be captured by the "suzhou post office" where you can buy one of a million post cards, sit and write it in the cafe and have it delivered in the future by putting it into a dated pocket on the wall. Excruciatingly cute. Square + Triangle. Repeat

The Second reason is I.M. Pei's Suzhou Museum. After spending two years on his very familiar and comparatively subtle CEIBS campus, this is an upgrade. It's entirely clinical, almost japanese-clinical with some beautiful attention to detail and restrained use of eastern emblems.

What gives away that we're not in Japan are the hordes of kids wiping their hands on the exhibits and not-so-tidy external surfaces where the materials of dubious quality have dripped and stained.

Half a reason goes to the walled gardens. To me they're like temples in Japan or mosques in Istanbul. You've seen one and you've seen them all. The biggest is itself almost repetitiously boring with about 15 buildings full of mahogany furniture next to 15 concrete courtyards with ponds or stone objects in them.

Yeah, we get it - they had a room for every entertainment and tried to make their guests feel prestigious and trivial at the same time. Point taken. The best walled garden and conveniently, our hotel.

Actually, the best of the gardens was our Hotel, the PingJiang Lodge. A beautiful collection of rooms around a series of open spaces it was quintessentially ancient, warming and right in the action. Definitely worth staying the night for.

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