Panmen Scenic Area (Suzhou City Walls)

As a general rule, you should always be cautious of places in China calling themselves ‘scenic areas’. Usually it means that one interesting attraction has been bundled together with many dull ‘attractions’ so that a higher entrance fee can be charged. This is the case here. Coiled Gate (Panmen) itself is quite interesting (though if you’ve seen city walls in other cities it doesn’t have anything new to offer). It’s distinctive for having both land and water gates and was supposedly first built back in the 5th Century BC. Of course, the present gate is a fairly modern recreation. Also of interest on the ground is Auspicious Light Pagoda, a brick and wood structure whose origins date from 247AD (the present tower was constructed in 1004) that stands 53m high (additional ¥6 to enter the pagoda). But everything else on the grounds here is boring, and compared to Suzhou’s classical gardens, the grounds themselves seem kind of ugly.

Admission: ¥25. Open: 7:30-18.

Address: 1 Dong Dajie. Tel: +86 (0512) 6526 0004.

Directions: The Panmen Scenic Area is in the south-west corner of the Old Town. Show a taxi driver the Chinese above, or take tourist bus Y2 (from Tiger Hill, the Railway Station or the Humble Administrator’s Garden).

Show the taxi driver: 请带我去盘门,谢谢。 (Please take me to Panmen Scenic Area. Thank you.)