Tongli is a very well-preserved water town that is about 30 minutes away from Suzhou. This town dates at least as far back as 1,000 years. Most of the buildings in the historical area of Tongli date back to the Ming dynasty. I read that this water town is relatively new in the tourist list of attractions, but I am sure it has been a place popular with locals for many, many years. Tongli is one of several water towns around Suzhou part of what is know around the area as little Venice of Asia.
Fifteen small river lanes crisscross the town. There are around 49 stone bridges of various styles; locals are very fond of these bridges and use them for family pictures and especially for wedding pictures. Dotted around the water town there are several private gardens now open to the public. The day was another scorcher; about 96F, humid with intermittent periods of sun. We are getting used to bringing small face towels or handkerchiefs with us; unless you like to just be drenched with sweat. Yeah, I know, gross…as my wife says.
A look down what it seemed as the main canal. In a way, the heat seems to have kept the number of people on the low side; good, so much easier to get around. We liked this water town very much. It has a lot to offer so will put it our list of places to bring friends and visitors.
Lotus flowers are very common in Suzhou. We see them all around the city in clumps that look stunning with color and beauty. This single one caught my eye as we were wondering about a small island close the the main canal.
This is the main building in the small island I mentions in the previous picture. You can see more lotuses on the bottom left. The building a traditional Ming Dynasty building with elaborate decorations inside and outside. A very calm place I am sure the original owners treasure as a place to meditate and relax.
This is a view from within another private garden. This one was in one of the many streets crisscrossing the canals. Really like the many shapes the windows in these buildings take. This one looks like a hand fan to me.
Talking about hand fans; like I said, it was a hot and humid day. This lady is among the many residents across the many canal streets that just sits in a shade and enjoys some of the uncommon breezes we felt this day. Many do not have air conditioners, so the had fan and staying under a shaded spot is the best they can do to keep cooler.
After an hour and a half of walking around we were really thirsty and kind of hungry. The building you see in the middle looked like a good place to stop. When we approached it, we saw on the window a good variety of sandwiches, drinks, deserts and even Nestle ice cream. So we decided to give it a try...
... we were pleasantly surprised by the interior of this place. This is the second floor; very nice and a sharp contrast to the many other places we saw to have a drink and a snack. See! You never know what you will find out unless you try it.
As we kept on walking around this water town we came across a small woodcarving museum. They had many striking pieces, but this one took the 1st prize for us. Not sure what kind of wood it is, or where can you get a single piece of wood to make this amazing carving of a lion, but it is quite amazing indeed. Very large, it stood about 5 1/2 feet tall.
One of the private gardens has a stage for concerts and Kabuki theater. A rocking place for sure for some wealthy landlord of old.
In addition to the different shape windows, you also see many different door shapes. Round is very common, but this one you do not see may of.
In the same complex that had the stage, and very near to it, we saw this kitchen. Seems to be a coal stove with three burners and elaborate decorations all around. Clearly one for the rich and famous of that time.
This is it for part one. Hope to see you back for the second and last part for more pictures of our visit to Tongli water town.