In association with Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism
Are you an expat passionate about food, culture and travel in your adopted home of China and eager to share your adventures on social media? From today until Wednesday 30 September you can enter to win a spot on a free trip hosted by the Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television and Tourism to experience Shanghai's neighbouring city.
Dating back more than 2,500 years, Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the Yangtze Basin. Nicknamed the 'Venice of China', it's full of meandering waterways, classical gardens and historic architecture and has been a draw for visitors both domestically and internationally year after year. A quick half-hour train ride away from Shanghai, it's perfect for a staycation, especially this year when jetting off to far-flung destinations is not an option.
There are the cobblestones of Pingjiang Road and Shantang Street that run along the canal and the legends and lore of Tiger Hill, a landmark as old as the city itself. And yet, Suzhou has also evolved into a glimpse of the breadth of modern China, with its glitzy up-and-coming Suzhou Industrial Park district set against its historic Old Town and picturesque water towns.
While you might know Suzhou best for its collection of gorgeous classical gardens – nine of which have gained recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites – it also offers much more than just greenery. Home to one of the oldest forms of opera kunqu, the storytelling art form pingtan and some of China's finest silk, the lush city is also teeming with arts, culture and history.
Suzhou Museum, designed by architect mastermind IM Pei and a sight in itself, holds a collection of artefacts and artworks with 5,000 years of history while artisan craftsmen in the city still practice the art of fruit pit carving, a tradition hailing from the nearby town of Zhoushan. (Traditions like fruit pit carving are part of the city's 'Intangible Cultural Heritage', elements of local culture that you can experience through Suzhou's five International Cultural Heritage tour routes.)
From noodles topped with fatty slices of pork or sprinkled in fresh shrimp to the iconic sweet-and-sour Mandarin fish at Song He Lou, food is one of Suzhou's strong points – and one that you'll have to walk off with a hike around nearby Taihu Lake, a laidback spot where you can boat or spend the day wandering in its forested surrounds.
Taking place over the weekend of Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 November, the two-day trip will be filled with food, culture, arts, history and the outdoors. On Saturday, you'll take part in a tour of the city's famed noodles and a gastronomic cruise through the canals of Suzhou's ancient town. At Suzhou Museum, you'll make rubbings of engraved stone tablets and later experience an evening at the Master of the Nets Garden. On the second day, you'll tour around Taihu Lake in Wuzhou district – stopping by the ancient village of Luxiang, taking in the historic architecture of Jiangnan and strolling through Qiyuan Garden, a sprawling private lakeside classical garden.
Interested? Applications open today and run until Wednesday 30 September. To learn more and apply, scan the QR code below, follow the Time Out Shanghai WeChat account and send us a message with 'Suzhou, China with Style', your email address and WeChat ID. We'll get back to you with the application details and trip details.