Sorry, Nsowon, I didn't see this thread until now.
The social scene in the SND is evolving faster than I can keep up with it. You're stuck an expensive cab ride away from downtown and the SIP, where the large social scenes are, but the laowai population vastly exceeds the number of venues out there, so you're likely to find foreigners sitting in all kinds of places. I'll mention Morgans, a formerly Canadian-owned bar down near Bin He Lu: heading towards the stadium along Shi Shan Lu, you hook a right at the red sculpture traffic circle, then a left at the first light, then keep your eyes peeled for the first neon sign on your left. Usually foreigners there, usually on the main floor, although it never hurts to pop upstairs for a peek.Downtown, mostly ShiQuan Jie
The next place you want to check out is the Bookworm. You'll find it listed in What's On in Suzhou and most of the other local magazines, complete with address to show the cabbie. This is the center of my universe- if they installed a shower I'd move in. It's an English library, bookstore, restaurant, cafe, and, after dark, semi-pub. In the daytime you can order food (BITCHIN' Western breakfast), find a book on the shelves and lazily order a beverage as you peruse your book or surf wireless. At dinnertime the place starts to fill; there's never a dead evening here. For your first evening foray, come on Wednesday: they have live Western music, and at the moment it's really good. They also have a live singer on Thursday through Saturday, but that's more irritating than anything.
One more thing: they order books. Anything. WARNING: I drop about 10 grand a year in this place, so show some restraint.
As to the rest of Shiquan Jie, the clothes shopping is great (but not cheap), the restaurants ditto. The bars worth mentioning: West of the Feng Huang Jie intersection-
The Shamrock, run by our own Babala, whom you will adore
. On Sunday evenings from 6:45pm to about 8:30 we have a swing dancing class. Both Lolochan and I are regulars, plus Babala of course, so if you want to meet/gaze from a distance/learn to dance/serve a warrant, come on down.
Jane's Pub if you like football and can endure the Filipino karaoke singer (worse, the "guests" butchering Beatles tunes);
Nowhere Bar; East of Feng Huang
Pulp Fiction, again if you have a crowd with you (more football, plus foozball, and pool and darts upstairs);
The Drunken Clam, which plays tackle
football- the proprietor's name is Sean, an awesome Canuck dude (forget his Chinese wife's name);
and at the end of the strip, Q's Club. Haven't been in a while, but it's wonderfully laid out for live music, and the bands are laowai, not Filipino cover.
Harry's Bar is up Lindun Lu, almost all the way to the moat, but it's beautiful, draws a good crowd, and features the only Filipino band I respect in China; closer in is the Southern Cross, a "TexMex" restaurant with outstanding but nastily expensive food, and a steady supply of foreign traffic. Dewaele, the Belgian fellow who runs it, is a helluva guy.
On to the SIP. On the corner of Suhui Lu and Xinghai Jie is the largest Blue Marlin in town. I'm not a big fan of German food, the prices aren't great, and the waitresses have a nasty habit of overestimating the number of pints you ordered. That said, the bar side is usually hopping with quite friendly people; the German community here suffers IMO a worse reputation than they deserve. The atmosphere here is really nice.
Next door is the best japanese restaurant in town: Sushi Boy (no English sign- the front is glowing yellow). 198 kwai for all you can eat and drink- yeah, you can get bitchin' sushi on Downtown Street near your home for way less, but this place is worth the journey.
Nearby, but with directions too difficult to try to lay out here, is the Black Mirage. Misleading name: it's a lovely upstairs pub with friendly folk.
You have to explore Li Gong Di, on JinJi Lake. UPscale architecture and view, upsale restaurants and bars, and, um, upscale prices. I can't come close to an exhaustive list of venues, but here are some highlights:
Zapata's doubles as a restaurant. They have a quiz night (although the Bookworm's is way better) on Thursdays, and Salsa dancing classes on Sundays (but come to swing dancing at Shamrock instead!). They have a big spread in every mag in town that will tell you more. Oh, the American DJ's name is Laura, and she's a gem.
Garbo's is a beautiful pub tucked away a bit. High end European beers and incredible food, prepared by your host Lars, an awesome Swedish dude. His wife Jane is great too, but she only pops in occasionally.
If you're looking for a dance club, Scarlett is the biggest, nicest and cleanest. NOT THE ONE ON SHI QUAN JIE!!!! The word "shithole" would flatter it. Stick to the Li Gong Di one.
That should get you started. Remember, Suzhou is a warm town; you only need a few introductions, then your networking will mushroom. It's just a matter of getting started.