Frankly, Suzhou was a bit of a disappointment. The Chinese refer to Suzhou as one of two 'heavens on earth', the other being the lake city of Hangzhou. We went there expecting something more like a village than a town, with quaint waterways everywhere as shown in the guidebooks and the many paintings of the area. Suzhou has a population of more than a million people! As you can tell, we hadn't done our homework for Suzhou. We soon realized that its real claim to fame is its various ancient gardens, which we did quite like.

The waterways are almost without charm (this photo is about as good as it gets). The locals claim that their city is the cleanest in China and it might just be true (it's not much of a claim). The canals only stank of sewage in a phew places..

According to our trusty Fodor guide, Suzhou's gardens 'fall somewhere between sculpted artwork and playground maze, exhibition hall and romantic refuge'. This was the first garden we saw, the Garden of the Humble Administrator.

And this (below) is the Lingering Garden.

We did the usual tourist tour, finishing with the Garden of the Master of Nets. (I'm not sure which garden is in this photo or the one above).

The Sheraton opened just recently and is the only luxury hotel in Suzhou - we warmly recommend it (if you absolutely have to go to Suzhou, that is).