Thursday, September 25, 2014

Suzhou Taihu One-Day tour Up Piao Miao Peak

Suzhou, popularly known as the garden city, city of lakes etc etc (and of course they always say city full of pretty ladies - I would not comment on that).  So what to do over the weekend there? Ideas of visiting the Gardens, the Tiger Hill etc popped up, but in the end we decided to head for the 2nd highest peak in Suzhou - Piao Miao Peak at the Xishan National Park area, which is an island in the middle of TaiHu.  Although it is the 2nd highest peak, Piao Miao is only at 337m above sea level.  The manager and I wanted to do some adventure and sadly this was the most adventurous climb we could find...
The day started real bad - gloomy cloudy with light rain and drizzle, which made the going tough.  Took the subway all the way to the end of the tunnel, alighted at Mudu station and waited for taxi to take us all the way there.  The thing I dislike about travelling in China sometimes - public transport/coaches/buses are hard to get to reach these places of interests.  They are far out from the nearest public transport station (in this case about 30-40km away) and buses don't usually go there, or if they do, be prepared to take 3H to get there.  Taxis are hard to get, and you have to rely on private cars to drive you there where they usually quote exorbitant prices, in this case RMB130 for a one-way ride of about 45mins.  It is not much for sure, but I just get the feeling that that in itself is too high a price for the journey and definitely would not do it on my own. 
It being a rainy day, of course it was hard to get transport, and after 45mins we reached the foot of the so-called mountain and the driver had to wait for us as it would seem difficult for us to grab a return ride that day seeing how deserted it was. 

No 1 peak in TaiHu

The tea plantations

View from close to the top
Then the entrance fee - RMB60.  Yes another exorbitant amount for that small little mountain.  I hiked so many mountains in Korea for FREE and they were a lot higher and more scenic!  And they had to make us take a tourist bus within the compound for RMB20 each because as they said - the hike up is a very long walk - as if it is a crime to even think about walking up!  I have no idea where they get the idea from, but it is VERY common in China for places of attraction to have tourist buses to ferry you from point A to point B and EVERYONE takes them!  I would have much preferred to walk (same goes for the manager) but 1) we have a driver waiting 2) they seemed reluctant to tell us how to walk.  So we got the tickets and hopped on the bus which took us almost all the way up.  Small chat with the driver revealed the fact that the walk up the driveway was about 3KM and he too seemed reluctant to let anyone walk up (evidenced by the fact that NO ONE was walking) - apparently the buses go in a loop and will drop you off at one point and carry on.  Whatever.  So we got up to almost the peak and had to walk up about 500m of steps to the very top where due to the bad weather, everything was shrouded in mist. 
At that point, we discovered the hiking trail and decided to walk down instead of taking the bus.  It was a nice walk down, albeit slippery and I was in my running shoes - no traction whatsoever.  But we made it, all of 3KM downhill to the base, where we had to catch the bus again to bring us back to our starting point where our driver waited.
Not saying that it was totally a waste of time and money, the place was nice but would have been better if the weather cooperated a little and we would have been able to really see a lot more.  Also, then we wouldn't have had to pay the driver to wait which would have given us time to really walk up the mountain and leisurely walk down instead of taking that stupid bus.  Sure I complain about having to pay the entrance fee, but that is sooo common in China, and I do pay them to visit places of attraction and I'm not saying I regret visiting the place, I just don't get why they are charging so much and for every single place!  I would still have gone to Piao Miao (but maybe not on my own) but I guess I'm trying to think why the you have to pay entrance fee for every place including gardens and parks!  If it's UNESCO i get it, but this is apparently very obviously NOT UNESCO.  Like those parks in Shanghai, even those obscure ones charge you RMB5 per entry, it's not much but it's a park! 
That being said, I'm still glad I went, at least I could say I've been to Piao Miao, not many tourists go there I suppose, most heading to Tiger Hill or the gardens within the city premise. 

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