Ever notice how it feels like you can only get one or two errands done a day in China, especially when you’re using public transportation? What once were simple, everyday tasks can easily turn into an entangled web of wants vs. obligations:
“I really should go to the supermarket now that my refrigerator is only stocked with condiments, but I’ve been wanting to go to ZARA to check out their new summer selection… Thought about going to see a movie, but I should find a quiet spot and finish up these work reports…”
Why spend your weekend running madly across the city when you can get it all done in one spot? Here’s a look at Suzhou’s In City Plaza (印象城购物中心), a great hideaway in the middle of the SIP district at the juncture of Xiandai Boulevard (现代大道) and Su Jia Hang Highway (苏嘉杭高速路) that fulfills any consumerist reason you might have to head out the door. The shopping center packs a lot into its modest size, with the layout so simple and uncluttered the various entrances lack markings differentiating themselves from one another. Configured in a basic ‘L’ arrangement, it’s easy to acquaint yourself on any floor after walking around for a few minutes.
On the entry level you are welcomed to In City Plaza by a number of leisurely cafes— including Starbucks, a chain tea house/restaurant called Yi Cha Yi Zuo (一茶一坐), and a little ice cream shop that serves up yummy Italian gelato for 20-30 RMB depending on the flavour—as well as a choice of Western grab-and-go’s like Subway (delivering to nearby locations), Burger King, KFC, and (no joke, but its on the third floor) the pretzel presence famed across USA malls, Aunte Anne’s. Fueled and caffeinated, you can begin to explore the wide variety of retail selections, including H&M, ZARA, Uniqlo (all three located on both the first and second floor) Sephora, Mango, Nike, Levis, Lens Crafter, MUJI (3rd floor), Wal-Mart (basement), along with a sprinkling of random Chinese-brand apparel stores. One important note: Despite ample advertising that, as of this article’s print, is still scattered throughout In City, Best Buy has closed its In City branch (as well as all locations throughout China) for business as of March 25th, 2011.
Moving up to the third floor, you’ll find a great rest stop on your shopping extravaganza at La Finn Spa, which offers a 1 ½ hour complete body massage in a serene atmosphere for 370 RMB, and hour-long facials at 200 RMB or for the more energetic, you can opt for either the arcade or Golden Harvest Movie Theater. Inside the latter there’s a café, VIP lounge, and something called a “music & book bar” where they sell overpriced DVDs, music and slightly crusty ice cream. Tickets are a bit expensive during normal hours, ranging from 70 RMB –110 RMB depending on the flick, but matinee is half price all day Tuesday as well as any day of the week before 10:00 or after 21:00 (the last viewing starts at 22:00).
Bargain pizza at Saizeriya Ristorante.
In the mood for a sit down meal? On to the forth floor for restaurants galore! We recommend Saizeriya Ristorante e Caffee. The Italian restaurant is an amazing retreat for anyone craving Western food while wanting to stay on budget. With a wide selection of personal-sized pizzas (ranging from 18-22 RMB), pasta dishes (between 10-20 RMB), appetizers (such as five pieces of garlic bread for 5 RMB or Five-Pattern Sausages for 12 RMB) and main course platters, you can liberally order a wide selection of food without feeling like you’re splurging! ‘And what about the cheese,’ you ask? Don’t worry, you won’t find the same plastic ooze that shows up on the disappointing pizzas usually found at Chinese-owned Italian eateries; we ordered the Pizza Margherita which comes with extra cheese and were more than pleased with the result! Another quality of Saizeriya’s is their wine selection, featuring a small range of Italian imports that can either be bought by the bottle (36 RMB for a basic Red or White) or by the glass for 6 RMB. Our overall impression of the joint: nothing too fancy, but quite a treat for the price. The psychological comfort of knowing that you are munching on a yummy bowl of spaghetti and meatballs sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for nearly the same prices as a bowl of la mian is perhaps the most splendid part!
On the fourth floor you’ll also find an Impulse Total Fitness workout center. It’s got all the machines and classes you’d expect, but no pool or recreational area. We were told the price for a one year pass is 2680 RMB, but if you ask the sales consultant about the Special Offer (and really, when have you ever been to a gym that hasn’t had a special limited-time-only offer going on?) you can score your one year pass for an even 2000 RMB.
Interested in healthy dining options? On the basement floor there’s a Sushi Express. You know the game: a sushi bar with adequately fresh fish, reasonably priced at 6 kuai a plate. Here’s a tip: Some days, if you get there around 15 minutes before closing (approximately 8:45pm), you can find their wares of the day on sale for half off. They put the leftover little plates of food that rotate around the restaurant on a conveyer belt into plastic serving containers for pickup—we bought a raw fish and veggie combo, put it in the fridge as soon as we got home, and can safely report it didn’t make us sick the next day at lunch. In fact, it was quite a yummy treat—a sizable platter of food too much for two, and only 20 RMB!
Another tip: You can grab your cheap-o sushi after making an 20:30 run through Wal-Mart to pick up some ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ bread or dumplings. Take pride in your spend thrifty ways!
For sure, there are a number of worthy restaurants and shops in In City Plaza that we couldn’t include in this article. Besides the venues mentioned, take some time to explore!
In City Plaza View In Map
Add: 1699 Xiandai Boulevard, SIP, Suzhou (Xiandai Boulevard crossing Sujia Hang Highway)?
Business Hours: 10:00-22:00
Getting there: take bus no. 68, 158, 219, 53, 148, 818, 26, and SIP No. 2 etc. Alternatively, ask the taxi driver to take you to ”印象城购物中心” – they’ll all recognize this location without difficulty.
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Keywords: In city plaza Suzhou western shopping mall Suzhou shopping Suzhou
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