When I first knew I would be going to Suzhou Industrial Park for a work assignment, I was all too skeptical. Since the first 10 results on Google all spoke about how Suzhou Industrial Park was a failure, you can’t blame me for conjuring up an image of Resident Evil street scene in my mind.
After setting foot in Suzhou Industrial Park, my whole conception of this “industrial city” changed. From convenient public transport to clean and safe streets, from a variety of food and shopping to scenic old towns for sightseeing, Suzhou Industrial Park is like Boston of the East.
Poor Suzhou Industrial Park, being the smaller neighbour of its humongous and glamorous neighbour, Shanghai (which was just a 30-min train ride away), was often neglected. When I spoke to my Suzhou counterpart who hosted my team, I grew to realise that this was a place that aimed to learn from both the success of its neighbour and the city who helped build it – Singapore. It was no wonder that hints of both cities could be seen at every corner of the city!
Clean and Safe Streets – Signature of Suzhou Industrial Park
Far from being the dirtier, lowly, industrial twin of Shanghai, Suzhou Industrial Park had wide tree-lined avenues, free from potholes and rubbish. There was no shady characters in sight. Instead, one sees families strolling by every now and then. This was a totally different scene from the apathetic, city rush I got when walking in Shanghai streets.
Due to the low population density, the streets at night was very quiet, but there is no need to worry about one’s safety. Although, I must admit I was mostly walking along the main roads between the shopping district and my hotel. However, considering that Suzhou in general has a very low crime rate, one just need to exercise common sense whenever he is out and around in Suzhou Industrial Park.
The open parks are more crowded in summer than in the colder months, butt that was nothing compared to the mad crowds you encounter when you are in the tourist spots of the old Suzhou town!
Convenience Brought About by Suzhou’s Subway System
The whole of Suzhou, of which Suzhou Industrial Park was a part of, is served by 2 main arterial subway lines. However, since the underground train system was built around the same time the industrial park expanded, the city grew around the line. This meant that many of the facilities were planned around the subway stations.
Considered as the ‘downtown’ of Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou Centre (a.k.a Gate of the East) was right above the station carrying the same name. Suzhou Centre is a mega mall with plenty of offerings in itself, but the community around it also carried conveniences in terms of food and leisure activities (which I will elaborate in another post).
Just one stop away, on the other side of Jin Ji Lake (Golden Hen Lake) that the industrial park was built around on, one can find Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre and Suzhou International Expo Centre (think Suntec City and Esplanade, but bigger). A Clarke Quay like riverside, low-rise casual dining district was built in between these 2 behemoths to cater to the crowds they pull in to the area.
Another station away, one can find Times Square, which is a cluster of shopping and dining centres much like Boat Quay, Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay combined. Further down, there’s another business district supported by the administrative offices of Suzhou Industrial Park. Most notably, that is where you will find the headquarters of the Suzhou Industrial Park Administrative Committee (i.e. City Hall).
When you are going to Suzhou Industrial Park for work, you will most likely stay and work along this arterial line; the rest of the city is mainly residential. This meant that any form of shopping and dining can be found along the line. I also took the same line to visit the heritage landmarks of the ancient Suzhou town, which I will talk about in another post.
If in doubt, just pop by Suzhou Centre and you will most probably find something you want over there.
And did I say Suzhou Centre was like Singapore’s Raffles City on steroids? (p/s: this mall is indeed managed by Capitamall)
Pass Time at Times Square and Moonlight Wharf
As I mentioned, many food choices can be found along the Green subway line running through the main centres of Suzhou Industrial Park. Unless you are one who only eats “authentic” food from “original” food stalls found in dark alleys of a city, these shopping malls can definitely meet your needs. After all, these are also the places that locals go to when they dine out!
Shop and Dine at Times Square (时代广场 Shi Dai Guang Chang)
Times Square is a cluster of shopping districts built around a canal. The most prominent landmark would be that of Taiwanese book store, Eslite. From there, the mainly low rise shopping district fanned out into an array of shopping experience, from Xiaomi store to restaurants.
Food wise, one can find the regular fast food like Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut. These are not bad choices if you just want to find some food in between busy schedules.
When my team and I had some time to spare, we would explore the various restaurants found in Times Square district.
We tried a Michelin-starred Hong Kong / Macau roasted delights restaurants (and I highly recommend their roasted platter) and a fusion Chinese restaurant that was on the pricier side (their Braised Brinjal was super fragrant and the Fried Lotus was great as a dessert).
There were also other food choices, like Korean BBQ and Italian food, for those who just don’t like to eat Chinese food when they are in China.
Get Squirted on the Face with Xiao Long Bao (小笼包 Pork Soup Dumplings)
I also accidentally found this Xiao Long Bao (Pork Soup Dumplings) place, called Wu Xi (无夕 literally means No Sunset), in Jiu Guang Shopping Centre’s basement (the name of the mall 久光 is loosely translated to “Forever Bright”) that served heavenly Xiao Long Bao!
Just how crazy good was their Xiao Long Bao?
When I bit into my first dumpling, the rich soup within burst out and shot into my eye! After clearing my eyes (and with tears still brimming), I bit into the 2nd Xiao Long Bao, only to receive another full facial shot! By the time I finished all 8 dumplings, my face was all sticky and the table all splattered with thick soup.
Talk about foodgasm!
I was so gratified from my foodgasm that I brought my team to experience their first facial shot in their lives!
Of course, they had the sense to also order a bowl of fishball soup. The Xiao Long Bao could get too oily if we eat too much, so the soup could clear the palette.
Enjoy Food and Breeze at Moonlight Wharf (月光码头 Yue Guang Ma Tou)
Like Times Square, Moonlight Wharf was built around a series of canals. The buildings were smaller and the cafes / bistros / pubs were on a smaller scale.
The place really came to life due to the pubs. It was really an enjoyable experience to dine and chat with your friends with the breeze coming in from the lake!
There was also an underground mall, found below the plaza beside the convention centre, which houses a humongous 2-storey KTV. That being said, this mall was less glitzy than Times Square or Suzhou Centre. During my stroll there, I found tuition centres and robot-making schools.
Lakeside Strolls by Jin Ji Lake
Like I mentioned, Suzhou Industrial Park is a safe place to walk, even at night. This was great, especially when there is a great park connecting Times Square and Moonlight Wharf.
Basically, it was part of the park that encircled the whole Jin Ji Lake. However, this particular stretch was particularly lively at night, with people taking leisurely strolls after dinner, since, by walking either way, you would reach a train station that could bring your home.
At night, one can see the city lights of Suzhou Centre business district glistening over the horizon, or the ferris wheel that towered over the park. The scenery was so amazing, couples were taking their wedding photos there, at night!
In the day, one can see the pagoda perched on the island in the middle of the lake, or brush shoulders with the many joggers in the park!
Suzhou Industrial Park is a Liveable City
I actually found Suzhou Industrial Park to be a liveable city, since it enjoyed the convenience of a metropolis like Shanghai, minus the negatives of Shanghai. It is also connected to the old part of Suzhou, making it super convenient whenever you have an urge to immerse yourself in ancient culture.
Even better, you can drop by Xie Tang Zhen 斜塘镇, which is just a 10-minute taxi ride away, which offers a more intimate experience of China in the Ming Dynasty, away from the suffocating crowds found in Suzhou old town’s tourist spots.
The public spaces in the industrial park was also very well landscaped. Like Singapore, most roads were lined with trees and parks could be found at every corner. In fact, there was a park just beside my hotel at Novotel. At night, it was intriguing to view the lights of the Cultural Centre from the frocks of the trees!
Alternatively, Shanghai is a 1-hour car ride away and connected to the financial hub via high speed rail (the station is in the industrial park, rather than the old town of Suzhou!). Even better, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport is right smack in the middle of the 2 cities! Suzhou Industrial Park is more accessible to the rest of the world than it sounds.
Get Prepared for Your First Trip to Suzhou Industrial Park
The name of Suzhou Industrial Park does give people a wrong impression. It reflected its origin, an urban centre built around industrial facilities. But after 20 years, a whole different culture grew, giving the city a unique and personal identity.
Coming into Suzhou Industrial Park from Singapore only takes 2 hours more than if we were to fly to Taipei. With both Shanghai and Suzhou old town within a stone’s throw away, Suzhou Industrial Park is also a great staging point for leisure and business trips, not to mention the cheaper hotel stays as compared to the metropolis or tourist trap of Shanghai and Suzhou.
If you are visiting Suzhou Industrial Park for the first time, do not be turned off by the “industrial” in its name. With its accessible subway and modern shopping malls, you will forget you are in a foreign land in no time!
I made this piece of entry because there were limited resources (much less in English) on how to cope with staying in Suzhou Industrial Park, even if it was a short trip. I arrived at the industrial park with barely enough knowledge of the place, other than the fact that it was the result of a collaboration between Singapore and China!
There is a lot more to Suzhou Industrial Park that cannot be addressed by this article. Do contact me if you need more information!
That being said, I hope this piece of entry was helpful in preparing you for your first visit to Suzhou Industrial Park. Remember to Like and Share this post to let your friends in the know! Follow this blog for more out of Singapore travelogues!
Till then, stay wanderlust!