Time is ticking. I have set myself the goal to visit all of China’s provinces before we leave China in the summer of 2020. Any excuse is goof and in the case of Jiangsu province , it was a marathon that brought me there - as a spectator that is!
Jiangsu province is located in Eastern China, roughly 130 kilometers from Shanghai - and the city of Wuxi lies on the northern shore of Taihu lake while the northern part of the city lies right by the Yangze River.
My husband had signed up for his third Wuxi Marathon but I decided to leave for Wuxi one day before him in order to have more time to explore the city. When I told a friend about my plan, he laughed and said “explore Wuxi – well maybe there’s a culture street or something but I would’t get my expectations up”. He was somehow right – but still, I believe that a city, in many cases, is what you make of it.
I landed in Wuxi on a chilly March morning and immediately regretted not having checked the weather forecast and hence assuming that it would be nice and warm. I checked into my hotel (strategically chosen due to its vicinity to the finish line of the Marathon) and there was nothing to do there so I pretty much dropped off my bags in the room and decided to take a taxi to the city centre. In the meantime, however, the hotel reception told me that there was an “ancient town” only 500 meters away. I certainly couldn’t miss out on that so after a brisk 10-minute walk, I found myself in the middle of the “ancient town” of Xuntang. With all signs being in Chinese and no guidebook at hand, I gave up on trying to find out if there was anything authentic about this place – or whether it had just been built for tourists. But it was cute and quaint – and took about 15 minutes to visit.
Being in China, I made use of our fabulous Didi App (similar to Uber) and got a car to the city centre. A friend had recommended to get off at the luxurious Nikko hotel and get walk around the area of (mostly western) restaurant and to the culture street on the opposite side of the hotel. Here it was. The culture street. Something every respectable Chinese has. New and old mixed together, new that pretends to be old, old that is actually old but you’re not quite sure – and of course snacks and souvenirs galore.
I only arrived in the city centre at 3 pm so almost all the restaurants were closed – and of all the places I could choose to go, I decided to go to a small mall with a Carrefour supermarket inside. Simply because I was cold and wanted to buy a sweater. I got a bit of take-away food from Carrefour and went back to the hotel.
I woke up bright and early to welcome my husband who landed with the first flight from Beijing. First stop today was the exhibition centre across the street from the hotel. The centre was transformed into a buzzing Marathon-fair and the atmosphere was incredible. Wuxi Marathon is, in fact one of the most important and most well-organized road marathons in China with roughly xx participants. After having picked up the bib number and browsed the vendor stalls at the exhibition centre, we walked up to the little “old village” again. We then took at taxi to a lakeside spot called Taihu Tou and after a stroll by the lake, we went back to the city centre for another stroll in the Culture Street – but this time we discovered the beautiful parallel street which was really quaint and actually old! And that was not the only positive discovery of the day. We realized that, behind hotel Nikko, there was a huge, live street food market which was packed with people. It made Beijing’s Wanfujing Snack Street look like a joke! Despite the wide array of delicious street food, we opted for a very non-chinese sit-down dinner at the Mamma Mia Pizzeria. Hands down the best pizza I’ve ever had in China (though I was probably biased since I hadn’t had bread or pizza in 3 months due to my Keto diet).
Race day for Francesco. I got up late and went to the finish line at around 11 am. As always, the atmosphere at the finish line was amazing and one could hear hundreds of people shouting Jia you, jia you (add oil) from miles away to encourage the runners.
We had planned to go and see the giant Buddha at Ling Shan that afternoon but after the race, neither of us was really in the mood for sightseeing so we checked out and chilled at the hotel lobby until it was time to go to the airport.
Wuxi was actually a nice place to visit though hardly on my must-see China list. My project is about visiting the Provinces of China and Wuxi is clearly only one city in Jiangsu province. But if go and visit the famous water town of Suzhou at some stage, can we make it count please?