Last Day in Suzhou

Hours, days and months went by fast. Two years and one month, has gone by since my first posting on this blog. That means our China assignment has ended and we are back in the US. But I still have a couple of blog posts I need to make before I can say farewell Suzhou. I learned very quickly to love Suzhou and its people. I will miss so many things it would be hard to list them all. So what can we do on our last day in Suzhou? Well, that was an easy question for me; visit Tongli. Tongli is a wonderful water town about 40 minutes away from Suzhou. I like it the best because it has a very local feel, is very large and full of fun stuff to see and photograph.

We invited our Suzhou friends Ali and Nastaran to come along and share our last tour with us. Additionally, we asked John, our driver, to join us and take pictures with us (he has become quite the photographer). Some of you may remember Tongli from two previous posts in August 2011 – link to those are post One & Two. If you are interested in Tongli’s background visit post One.

Below we share some of the images from our last Tongli visit.

You do not seem to see many foreigners in Tongli. That is one of the things I like about it. However, as Chinese become more affluent you do see many Chinese guided tours for those coming from other areas in China. This lady seems to be in very familiar grounds as she enters Tongli with her daughter.

I have visited Tongli around five times. Every time I visited this vendor always yelled at me if I tried to take his picture. I think he did that to everyone, but I could not be denied this time. Waited until he was distracted with his lunch and took one to remember him. Have no idea what he yelled at me, but he seemed mad each time he caught me. I like him for being consistent.

In the center, you see Nastaran and Ali (brown hat) looking for bargains. There are a large number of small stores selling a huge variety of knick knacks. We never left this place empty-handed; my wife loved it.

One of the vendors with a great face – I had to capture him for sure.
Wonder how long has he been selling in Tongli; maybe all of his life?

I am not sure if this lady was a vendor or a Tongli dweller having a relaxed knitting time as the crowds go around her. She was definitely focused on her knitting, she did not look away once from it.

A beautiful youngster making his first Tongli visit perhaps? Love the hat, he was very intrigued with my camera.

A picture of Nastaran and my wife for old times sake. We will miss you (Nastaran & Ali), but we will see each other again; that is the plan.

Spring time at Tongli. This was one of the few trees that had already started showing signs of life. In a few weeks Tongli will be a beautiful sight with many full trees and colorful flowers all around, blending with the beautiful old stone bridges around the area. If you are in Suzhou- Tongli is a must visit.

Young love at spring time – taking a stroll around Tongli on a Saturday morning. Ali asked them if we could take their picture and they were agreeable, but the young man seemed uncomfortable.

One of the 55 bridges in Tongli, with many dating several centuries back — this is a view of a traditional home in Tongli. Many people still live here, but there is a good number of homes where the first floor has been converted into a business and living quarter have been moved to the second floor.

John (left), Ali looking for photo opportunities as Nastaran tags along. Notice the relaxed atmosphere in the background; people just relaxing sipping some tea and chatting probably about the crazy tourists walking around.

John’s photography has come a long way since he bought his first DSLR. He is an avid reader of books and magazines covering photo techniques and many of his recent pictures shows he is learning a great deal. We are keeping in touch and will exchange pictures for mutual critique.

My crazy buddy Ali. Mr. Photo Bomb himself…he is such a fun guy and loves to have his picture taken… can you tell?

Suzhou people I find very friendly. This is one example of a complete stranger; will miss their wonderful smiles.

A very popular water town activity is taking your picture with old traditional costumes. In this picture you see a mother and her boy doing just that? Empress and prince…?

Another guy who only allowed his picture taken by customers. No, I did not buy anything, had to sneak this one as he is making his candy.

Our second visit to a rice wine factory located in Tongli. Ali wanted to buy a gallon of the stuff; and he did. Quite good actually, very mild and pleasant flavor. Here you see some stills, fermentation and storage clay containers. Was told that the process dates back many centuries. This place seems to be the most famous in town.

Always love taking pictures of mature people such as this. This group seemed to be having a lot of fun telling stories to each other. The lady with the cane was the most animated of them all. The one to her left was less than agreeable when I tried to have my wife take a picture of her and I. She had no interest at all and told me very clearly (at least her body language was clear to me).

On the spot next to the group from the previous picture, we have this as stark contrast of the times. This young lady will eventually join the ranks of the well matured, wonder what her story will be by then (the boy in the orange shirt to her left was with her, more than likely her son).

These two wonderful young ladies asked my wife to take pictures with them. They took quite a few and were thrilled my wife accepted. Here they are as we bumped into them an hour later.

Tongli is one of several places that has been given the name of “the Venice of the East”. In this picture you can see a young lady wearing a mask so similar as the ones we saw when we visited Venice. Love the eye contact on this one.

Yikes we will miss Suzhou’s dumplings and dim sum a great deal. I know that you can buy them in the US, but they will not be nearly as good as the favorite one we have come to love. No, we did not buy them here; we have our special places.

Kids love this wonderful happy lady. She sells the hot candy wrapped on two sticks and kids love eating and playing with it at the same time.

The ever-present fried crab on a stick. They still look like bugs to me; we also passed.

I remembered reading a few years back that Chinese did not like their picture taken because they believe you could take their soul away. While I think there is plenty of superstition going around in China, this one I could not confirm. In fact,I found the opposite for the most part. This is one fine example.

One more to prove the previous one was not a fluke. I found the people very happy to pose for you and show their pearly whites…

It was a pleasant surprise to bump into an old friend of mine, well sort of a friend. You see, over a year ago we visited Tongli and this fine gentleman was selling duck eggs and flashing his lack of teeth to all who cared to look. In this picture he seems to be taking a break or may be he retired and is now just hanging with the locals. Regardless, it was good to see one of my favorite subjects; to see the picture I took of him selling eggs please click HERE. You may notice that he seems to be wearing the same hat in both pictures. I hope the B&W gives you as good a feel as it did me when I took it. Really like people photography.

This little tank of a baby was having fun with his grandmother. Have to love those cheeks. I am very familiar with hand dimples in babies hands, but must say I do not remember seeing many in adults….see grandmas’ hand

Yes, the Venice of the East, with Chinese style gondolas and all. Tongli is surrounded by canals and for a small fee you can tour it in these gondola style boats.

As we exited Tongli for the last time we saw this family looking at us. The little one waved goodbye as if she knew something we did not want to say.

As of this post we have already left China. The next post will be on our farewell to Suzhou, China and its wonderful people.

Thanks for visiting.

Cathy HeiseyMarch 25, 2013 - 1:38 AM

Carlos,

I love how you can capture the expressions of the people in Tongli/China! You reach into their souls! Treasured memories that I will always hold near and dear to my heart! Thanks for capturing with the lens!

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