On the spur of the moment Emmie and I decided to spend two weeks in Wuxi, China over Christmas, housesitting and looking after a lovely dog, Sweetie and Pop Tart the cat in a nice apartment about 15 minutes from the city. Wuxi is a big city, about an hour north of Shanghai on the train. Whilst it's now quite industrial it has an ancient charm, beautiful lakes and mountains and lots of nature to enjoy. It's a lovely spot for traveling with kids in China - not too hectic, lots of outdoor activities and it's close to other beautiful towns like Hangzhou and Suzhou.
Housesitting in Wuxi was appealing - we love China, we wanted to stop in one place for a while and we were definitely looking for a break in the weather after being in summer heat for more than 12 months.
We found it super easy to get around, as usual for us in China the people were super friendly, it was easy for us to communicate through basic language mime and smiles, and we just had lots of fun! Read how to get around China when you don't speak the language.
Here’s what we did in Wuxi - definitely add these to your list if you;re planning a visit to Wuxi with kids:
Nanchang Temple and street
Make sure to visit Nanchang Temple in Wuxi, it's in an ancient part of town with wide walking streets, street food and the fabulous canals - the canal boats leave from close by the temple, it's really easy to find. Nanchang Temple is huge and beautiful and inside is a giant golden Buddha to give offerings and prayers to.
A boat trip along the canals in NanchangThese canals are really beautiful - super pretty with perfect oval bridges reflected in the water and old town buildings alongside. TStay until evening and fall in love with the lights along the water, the glowing bridges and delicate projections on the ground.T
he boat trip stops at a local museum which gives some insight into ancient life through an amazing miniature diorama you can walk over - Em loved it!
The canal ride is definitely worth the trip - both in the daytime and the night time if you can do both.
And of course there were some old fun rides to go on alongside the canals. Em had a really good go on this one cause the man operating it just wanted to chat and chat about Australia with me haha. I love Chinese people.
The first few days we were in Wuxi were rainy and cold so we hightailed it to the mall. There is so much for kids to do there - a massive ball pit with slides and trampolines and soft play; a huge obstacle course - harnessed climbing, jumping and absailing; multiple play areas with games of ‘skill’ and other carnival type games as well as rides and shows. We had fun. Plus there’s lots of Chinese and western food outlets, Starbucks, clean toilets (squatters and western) and brand name shops. And we came here on Christmas Day too - it was the most Christmasy part of Wuxi including a pantomime!
We tried local xiaolongbao at a local restaurant and it is defiantly stronger in taste that what we are used to, with a thicker dough. Emmie was thrilled to find a Din Tai Fung (sorry Wuxi) in Level 66 shopping mall where we ate quite a bit. It’ much more expensive than eating local but when your child will only eat a few things and the palate is taking a while to adapt, you go where they are going to eat. This shopping mall also has a great supermarket on the bottom level with western items like Doritos and Timtams!
Huishan Ancient Town
Visit Huishan Ancient Town for a lovely wander through old streets with beautiful textured old walls and paved pathways as well as canals, galleries and shops. It's a short taxi ride from town - 10 mins tops and you can spend hours wandering around here. The frst time we came here was with a Chinese family...these ladies said hello to us in Din Tai Fung as we were scoffing dumplings and asked us what we were doing. When we told them we were going to Huishan they insisted on driving us and then showed us around the town. This kindness and hospitality has been so common in China, the people are really super friendly, kind and helpful to us, all over the country.
We bought two kinds of toffee in Huishan, one hard and shaped like a fish, and one soft that Emmie had to roll with two sticks to make it soft. So yummy and lots of fun.
I also saw an Chinese doctor here who told me I eat too much and have spleen and liver problems, and fixed my sore knee - all identified through feeling my pulse.
Cable Car to the top of Mount Huishan
This is super fun. You can walk up and car down or car up and walk down (like we did) or go the while way in the cable cars. The cars are open and gold up to the top of the mountain where there are lovely views over the park and city. The walk down was lots of fun too, especially saying Ni Hao to everyone walking up, having a giggle together and discovering a random couple who had set up their own karaoke in the park and were singing up a storm.
Scenic Area at Huishan
This park is so great. Like most Chinese parks, it’s pretty and landscaped and has lakes and pagodas and this one had people singing karaoke on BYO mics. Outside the park entrances another entrance to the scenic garden which is a kids dream and so much fun for adults too. This is even more detailed gardens with rocky tunnels that read up to smaller temples and rooms, beautiful gardens and ponds full of fish, circular walkways and lots of hidden places to wander and discover. Our favourite Chinese park so far!
We didn't make it to the giant Buddha as was our plan, Emmie wanted to rest so we did. But it looks like an awesome place to visit and you can read about it here
Ferris Wheel on the lake
We went here for the Ferris Wheel and found a funpark. There are lots of kitschy rides to enjoy but the Ferris Wheel is open only at night so we didn't get to ride it.
We also didn't spend too much time at the lake simply because in winter while it is quieter in terms of people, the smog and fog stays low on the ground so there wasn't much of a view over when we visited the Lake for the ferris wheel.
Walk around and discover the little parks and places all around Wuxi. We found this wonderful gathering of men and their singing birds gathered in a park we walked through on the way back to town from Huishan Ancient Town. It was so great and untouristy (in fact I’m pretty sure they were not thrilled to see us!).
All in all we really enjoyed Wuxi. As we have always found in China, the people were friendly and helpful and so eager for us to enjoy their town. Definitely a happy trip for us.
One thing to look out for though is the air quality. At first we stressed and went out with masks on, but that lasted a day - hardly anyone else was wearing them and it was just annoying. You can look up the air quality online each day.