Suzhou is technically split into two parts- the historic Suzhou, and the Suzhou Singapore Industrial Park (SIP). The old Suzhou is still very much a tourist town with all the historic gardens and canals. Whereas Suzhou SIP is more of an expat haven that feels like being in an affluent part of the U.K. or the U.S.A.. In the SIP area there are famous International schools such as Dulwich College Suzhou, and there are MANY expat shops, restaurants, and bars selling imported European and American food. Suzhou SIP itself is perhaps the most beautiful, cleanest, and spacious city I have been in China.
Prior to my arrival in Suzhou, my impression of this city was somewhat limited to one that most non-residents have, and that is of an ancient and historic Suzhou with period architecture and lush greenery blended in with canals (hence why it's known as the Venice of the East). I never imagined that one day I would be living the life of an expat in this city. It is quite a privilege to be able to witness the beauty of Suzhou as a 2nd tier city, and also how rapidly it’s growing, both economically, and geographically.
I have really enjoyed living here, and I am going to miss it a lot. It really is a fantastic place to live in. In the SIP area, you can go to Jinji Lake, Times Square, and around Ling Long Wan to do shopping and eat delicious Korean and Japanese food. Suzhou has a large Japanese and Korean expat community. Then there is an assortment of Americans, British, French, Spanish and other European nationalities, Indians, and of course, Singaporeans.
In fact Suzhou is not as expensive as, say for example, Shanghai, Shenzhen, or Beijing, but it is more expensive than most 2nd tier cities such as Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Tianjin. For example, the house prices in Suzhou vary from around 1300RMB a month for a 45 Sqm 1 bedroom home (in downtown old Suzhou), to 35,000RMB a month for a 150 Sqm 4 bedroom home (Suzhou SIP area). I live in the SIP area, quite close to Kunshan and so the house prices in this area are competitive for the expat luxury market.
It may be frustrating sometimes that the roads in Suzhou SIP are EMPTY 90% of the time, where the streets in downtown Suzhou are BUSY 90 of the time! That's the remarkable beauty of this amazing. There are also two railway stations- One in the SIP area (more modern but quiet and empty), and the main Suzhou station (Very BUSY). Overall, Suzhou SIP feels like a ghost town because the roads are all empty 24 hours a day (photos below)!
Having lived and worked here, I also feel that the people of Suzhou are more oriented towards their career and are more serious on maintaining a long term job security than people, in say, Shenzhen (where most of the people are migrants).
So, with a very heavy heart I say goodbye to Suzhou. On the other hand I am very much looking forward to relocating back to Guangzhou (I used to live in Panyu for over 2 years before coming to Suzhou and Shanghai). Here I have included some images of life in Suzhou. There is a good mix of the old and new Suzhou.
Amidst the sad feeling of missing good friends, and my home for the past 11 months it's time to face the facts and move on in life. That's the way the stone rolls. The rock tumbles...the cookie crumbles. Ciao Ciao Suzhou. :-(