Upon arrival at the Suzhou North Rail Station, meet your English speaking guide to the hotel. After settling into your accommodations, you'll have a private Pingjiang Road and Canal Cruise Tour.
Pingjiang Road is a historical stone road located in the northeastern Suzhou ancient city. The picturesque road follows the path of the river with traditional bridges crossing the river and idyllic houses with white walls and black roofs built alongside. This scene reflects traditional Suzhou local life, and you'll find paintings in many of the shops that capture this placid setting. This road is not only well-known for its long history, but also for its cuisine. Take time to sample some of the featured food in the street markets. Afterwards take a relaxing ride along the beautiful canals of Suzhou, where the old heritage buildings will provide a contrast to the more modern areas of Suzhou and Shanghai. Gaze at the ancient buildings and streets as you pass by, crossing under ancient stone bridges and stepping back in time to the daily life of past generations.
After breakfast, meet your guide for a private tour of Suzhou. You'll visit the Humble Administrator's Garden, the largest and most renowned of Suzhou's famous gardens, covering nearly 13 acres of land. Its unique design, ethereal beauty, and enduring cultural significance has made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built as the residence and garden of a Tang dynasty scholar, and has retained the sense of serenity and refinement envisaged by its original owner.
Sometimes the smallest spaces can contain the most wonderful architectural delights, and the Garden of the Master of the Nets is a prime example of this. It's the smallest of the Suzhou residential gardens, yet the most impressive because of its use of space, creating the illusion of an area much greater than its actual size. Even more impressive than its architectural feats is the feeling of tranquility and harmony that it instills upon all those who visit it.
You'll have time allotted for lunch at a recommended local restaurant before continuing your tour. Afterwards, you'll stop at the Suzhou Institute of Embroidery, which is dedicated to the production, research and training of Suzhou embroidery. It has among its collection some of the most valuable pieces of embroidery ever made. On display are several imperial robes from Emperor Qianlong, and other priceless court gowns once worn by members of the royal family. The institute also houses a training facility and workshop where you will see the artists creating exquisitely detailed embroidered works, often using silk threads much finer than human hair. Some of these handmade works of art take years to complete, and consequently a genuine handmade embroidered work can command very high prices indeed!
Our tour ends at the Suzhou Museum, the last design of I. M. Pei, the famous Chinese-American architect best known for his glass and steel pyramid outside the Louvre Museum in Paris. Unsurprisingly, the Suzhou Museum bears all the hallmarks of an architectural master. Completed in 2006, it contains over 15,000 pieces in its collection, including paintings, ceramics, calligraphy, and more, and dating back to the Song dynasty (960-1276 AD).
After a leisurely breakfast, meet your driver for a private transfer to the North Rail Station and on to your next Avanti Destination!