Tongli and its Canals
Although Suzhou is supposedly famous for its canals it is the town of Tongli that should be a must-see if you are interesting is getting a glimpse of what a Ming area water town must have looked like. Tongli was really quite pleasant surprise for me. I had been in China for a month and rarely got to see much of its historical past condensed into a reasonably walkable area as I did in Tongli (another example is Pingyao).
The town dates from the Song Dynasty however most of the buildings that you visit are from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The town is actually a cluster of seven islands connected by supposedly 49 bridges some as old as 700 years. Because it has so many historical monuments and few modern buildings, the town is frequently used by Chinese cinema for historical dramas. It has recently been discovered by the tourists world and full of bus groups during my visit.
Tongli is located 18km southeast of Suzhou and is basically a suburb. Unlike much of Suzhou, it has not been torn down to make way for progress. What also surprised me about the town is that there was quite a bit to see around the town other than the old canals themselves. There are several interesting old halls and gardens that rival those in Suzhou. There is also the famous sex museum that will raise a few eyebrows. It took me a day to see everything that Tongli had to offer.
Han Shan Si (Temple in Chinese)
An ancient temple built in the 5th century and is re-named with Han Shan after one senior monk called Han Shan visited in Tang Dynesty. There is a poem written by a poet in Tang Dynasty making this temple popular in China.
Suzhou- Mid-Size City Famous for Gardens & Canals
"Entrance to Old Part of City"
Shops, food, vendors. Walk along the canal. If you are in Suzhou you must come here or else you won't see Suzhou. They charge about $2-3 to enter the gate but I argued that if they charge me I won't go in (which wasn't true), and if they don't charge me I will go in and buy things and spend more than the $2-3 and everyone will be happy. She seemed to like the idea and let me in. I made sure she saw all my packages on the way out so she felt she made the right decision.
I only had 3 small bags but I heard her friend say 'wow, he DID buy a lot'. Lol.
Not the cleanest of water but a boatride would be nice I suppose. I didn't take one but really liked walking along the canal. It isn't as picturesque as Tongli but you don't feel like you're walking in a living tourist trap either.
Some of the delicasies of Suzhou. I guess I'm not adventurous enough to try some of this stuff but can appreciate other people's tastes. They also had live frogs (the biggest I have seen), snakes, and eels. I didnt take a picture of them as I was told it was illegal to sell them (though officials line up to buy them anyways) and the vendors were a bit edgy about me taking their picture, just in case.