A Day in Suzhou’s Famous Watertown Tongli 同理
China is famous for its economic boom and megacities that just seem to pop out of nowhere. However, there are still these picturesque small towns with their traditional Chinese charm so many travelers are looking for. During the 2015 Chinese New Year break, I visited Suzhou and it’s nearby water town Tongli 同理, an iconic place to experience a peaceful day and the real Chinese life, or isn’t it?
Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Tongli!
A Day in Tongli
The watertown has a history of more than 1,000 years and is located on the eastern shore of Taihu Lake, just 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Suzhou City. Tongli is ideal to just spend a day there and enjoy great food and tea at its local restaurants. You can also buy all kinds of different souvenirs from stichwork to tea pots or figurines of chairman Mao.
I spent around 3 hours in this beautiful city and walked through almost all the alleyways but there is always more to explore!
The vital links between the different parts of the town are its bridges. A total of forty-nine stone bridges in a variety of styles connect the seven islands separated by fifteen rivers and five lakes. Each bridge has its own unique and poetic name from Peace and Tranquility (Taiping) Bridge, Luck (Jili) Bridge to Lasting Celebration (Changqing) Bridge some of which date back as far as to the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279).
The bridges can get pretty crowded during Chinese New Year. Each bridge is staffed with a security guard who makes sure nothing bad happens. Be aware and don’t let anyone push you down to the canal!
The city holds a high reputation of “a museum of ancient architectures”, a collection of houses and temples dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These buildings astonish with their carved windows, porcelain furniture, clay bricks and small stairs leading over the rivers.
Since tourism is the main income source for the people in Tongli, they take good care of the buildings in the city! There are also many tea houses, coffee shops or souvenir shops around that are very unique to each other.
Retreat and Reflection (Tuisi) Garden, built by the retired official Ren Lansheng during 1885 and 1887, is the most spectacular in the town. It’s wonderful to wander around the garden and enjoy the green are of the little town. In spring, you can also enjoy peach blossoms there.
The garden of Retreat and Reflection does certainly remind me of the other famous classical gardens in Suzhou city. You can forget the time and stroll around the garden for a while.
How to get there
The easiest way is to take a regular bus from Suzhou North Bus Station located near the railway station. Make sure to purchase tickets in advance during high season. During low season, there are many buses per day so you will be able to get on one very quickly!
The entrance fee for Tongli is 100 RMB. If you purchase the bus ticket at the North Bus Station, however, you can get transportation plus entrance ticket for only 80 RMB!
If you are in Suzhou, don’t miss your opportunity to visit Tongli! Pin it xo