Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where in the world?

Does anyone of my generation remember the computer game "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"  I loved that game!  A good friend suggested that I post some information on the city we are moved to and include a map of the city.  So where in the world is Suzhou, China anyway?

Suzhou (pronounced "Sue joe" or "Sue cho") is west of Shanghai, on the eastern coast of China.  Beijing is to the far north and Hong Kong is to the far south and west.  It takes about 1 1/2 hours by car to travel from the airport in Shanghai to Suzhou.

Look to the left of where it says "East China Sea" and you'll find Shanghai.
Continue looking left of Shanghai and you'll she a huge lake, that is close to Suzhou.

Here is a close-up of the area between Shanghai and Suzhou.
Suzhou is on the eastern side of the large lake.
If you look on the northern part of the lake you'll see Wuxi (pronounced "woo-she") where Jamie will be working.

We are living in the part of town called SIP, which is short for Suzhou Industrial Park.  SIP is a joint venture between Singapore and China and is located directly on Jinjihu Lake.  Suzhou has an extremely large expat (expatriates are those living outside of their home countries) community.  There are several people from Korea, Germany and other countries in town.  Jamie's company has approximately 30 families in Suzhou with other employees in other parts of China.

This is a close up of the SIP area.  On the upper-left corner of Jinjihu Lake is the Crowne Plaza Hotel where we stayed during our home-finding tour and now during our first few weeks living in Suzhou.  Around the corner to the northeast from the Crowne is our apartment complex, Horizon.  The area to the west, surrounded on four sides by water, is the old town.  In between old town and SIP are the shopping complexes and wet markets that we'll be using on a weekly basis.

Suzhou has anywhere from 6-9 million people.  It's hard to have an official count because the population is always shifting and changing as companies bring in new employees and transfer others.  Because of the large ex-pat community and the influx of western companies, it is possible to find Wal-Mart, Auntie Anne's pretzels (LBean is thrilled), KFC, Cold Stone Creamery, Subway, Papa John's pizza, Mexican & German restaurants, and Starbucks.  This doesn't mean that Suzhou feels like central Illinois, but there are some comforts of home.

The currency for China is the RMB (also known as the yuan) and the current rate of exchange is 1 yuan equals .1545 US dollars.  China is mostly a cash-based society and it is very typical to pre-pay for things such as your cell phone.  For example, an iPhone is about $800, but then the monthly fee is very, very low.

We've been told that the weather is very similar to South Carolina.  Milder winters with some snow and very hot and humid in the summer.  June is the rainy month and when we told people in Suzhou that we were moving in July they gave us a slight smile.  Most ex-pats leave Suzhou in July and August because it is so hot and humid.  I guess we need to experience it at least once!

I told someone here is Suzhou that being here in July and August is like going to the state fair every's hot, humid, crowded and you have to stand in lots of lines, but you might get to have some fun adventures along the way and eat good food too.

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