Summer's finally here and that means heat in Suzhou. Temperatures are consistently in the 30's, and with the kind of humidity that only comes with a city permeated by canals, it can be difficult to be outside for a few minutes before you start to sweat. Locals debate whether the worst month is July or August, since August is the hotter month but sees more rain. Either way, it's impossible to live here in the summer without a few tricks for staying cool.
Cold sour plum soup. Photo: grist.org
The easiest solution of course is to stay at home with the air conditioner on, but this is a costly method. There's also the issue of air conditioner sickness (空调病kongtiao bing), which is commonly blamed for colds in summertime. It may or may not be true, but some people claim that too much time with the air conditioner on can give them a scratchy throat. Either way, there are better ways to spend the summer than in your apartment, even if it's a little hot outside.
Suzhou actually has a water pretty good water park. It's attached to the Lion Mountain Amusement Park, and while it might be a little smaller than water parks back home, it does afford the occasional dip in the pool and some fun too. It's got one large waterslide and a few small ones, a wave pool, but a lot of people like to rent small toys for the large swimming pool in the middle. Tickets can run 140 RMB but give access to all the attractions except the hot springs.
Add: 162 Yushan Lu, SND, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6871 7107
Opening hours: June 22-30, 09:00-17:00 (trial opening); July 1-Aug 31, Mon-Fri, 10:00-22:00; Sat-Sun, 09:00-22:00
Price: 100 RMB/adults; 80 RMB/children
Getting there: Get off at Subway Line 1, Suzhou Amusement Park, Exit 4, and go in the entrance to the right.
2) Public pools
If you're in the mood for some real swimming, or just don't feel like going to SND, you might try one of the many public pools in Suzhou. These places can get pretty crowded on the weekends, but on most weekdays there actually aren't too many people. Admission is usually quite low. The most famous one is the Xinghai Swimming Complex in SIP, which has a vast, Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as other sporting amenities like ping pong tables and badminton courts. There's a good chance your neighbourhood has a smaller public pool, too.
Another idea is to try some of the city's 5-star hotels, like the Sheraton or Shangri-La, which sometimes allow the use of their pools, although the fee can be as high as 80 RMB.
Xinghai Swimming Complex 星海游泳馆 View In Map
Add: 528 Xinghai Jie, SIP, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6257 6301
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 12:00-21:30; Sat-Sun, 10:00-21:30
Price: 35 RMB/visit; 550 RMB/month; 1980 RMB/year; 3480 RMB/annual family card
Getting there: 26, 68 100北环, 100南环, 109, 120东环, 120西环, 148, 156, 158, 219 or 261 to Xincheng Lingli Zhongxin stop
3) Cold sour plum soup
An ancient local tradition is to have a bowl of surprisingly refreshing cold soup, most commonly with sour plums (酸梅). It's served at Suzhou-style restaurants or from little carts on the street. It's sour, a little sweet, and does wonders to bring down the body temperature during a long summer walk. It's sometimes made with other fruit or red beans.
There are also a lot of carts that serve cold marinated noodles in sauce (凉拌面 liangban mian) that isn't a native Suzhou tradition but remains an excellent cool-down solution. The best place for these is along Jinji Lake.
4) Iced milk tea and fruit juice
These days you can't go outside in Suzhou without seeing a little drink stand offering milk tea or a fruity drink concoction with a few pieces of ice. Some are disappointing, but there are a few chains that have gained a reputation in town. The argument about best place in town is between Coco and Happy Lemon, which are both plentiful and have English menus. Another choice is Fruit Juice, which has fresh squeezed juices. You can find them in every large shopping area in town.
5) Xinghai Square MallView In Map
Although conventional wisdom says it's not a good idea to spend too much time under an air conditioner, a visit to one of the new subway system's best attractions, the underground Xinghai Square Mall subway stop, can do wonders to help you forget the weather outside. Equipped with the usual accoutrements, like a Starbucks and KFC, this growing labyrinth of shops and restaurants is a nice way to get out of the sun for a bit. There's even a foreign food store and new stores opening all the time.
Add: 200 Xinghai Lu, SIP, Suzhou
Getting there: take Subway Line 1 to Xinghai Square station or take bus No. 4, 26 or 206 to Dushi Huayuan stop
Really, there's nothing wrong with ducking into anyone of the classically air-conditioned amenities around the city, just for a couple of hours. There are plenty of malls – like InCity and Rainbow Walk – and movie theatres that offer both cool temperatures and reasonable prices. Hopping on the subway or an air conditioned bus can be another break from the weather. Finally, don't forget places like Cold Stone and DQ: if you really want a classic way to cool off in summer, there's nothing like good old fashioned ice cream.
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Keywords: Suzhou summer activities traditional Suzhou drinks and juices things to do in Suzhou staying cool in Suzhou good pools in Suzhou
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