We were picked up promptly in the morning. There were only five tourists in the mini van which was great. I've seen a lot of postings about Australian tourists; it must be the closer proximity to China. As we left Shanghai, our guide discussed the history of the town and routes along the way. It was great if you could hear him. It was hard to hear the young guide (recently graduated from a university). I would recommend that he used a small microphone or something so that those of us who sat in the back could hear him better especially when we were in congestion and the highway. When we arrived at Suzhou, we went to what was supposedly the most preserved garden. I wished we had time for the largest garden but that wasn't in the itinerary (maybe with a different group). We also had lunch at a hotel called Bamboo something. I was hoping that our lunch would be at a local, unique restaurant but I guess one shouldn't be surprised that you stop at a hotel's restaurant for the convenience. It wasn't a bad meal or anything; you just don't see locals eating there. We did the canal cruise in Zhouzhuang which was nice. Our guide asked us if we wanted the boat lady if we wanted her to sing for 20 yuan per family (there were 2 families). I didn't really care to hear her sing but she went off singing anyway and at the end of the trip, we gave her 20 yuan total. She wasn't a great singer but oh well. LOL. I recommend a guided trip to Suzhou if you can. I had thought about doing it independently by using one of the trains from Shanghai. However, I realized that if I were to make it a day trip, I probably wouldn't have time to see Zhouzhuang which wasn't on my original plan but a pleasant surprise. The convenience of a guide, private transportation, and packing two towns in one was worth it. Our young guide was very eager and excited to tell us about the area. I wished all guides were like him.
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