Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a good introduction to the classical Chinese village of ancient yore. Of all the water towns I’ve been to, Tongli ranks on top of my list. I went there to see the ancient waterways, but I got more than that. The bad news when visiting in the summer – and as you can expect in China – foot traffic was at its worst.
Look at this crowd at the main gate. See what I mean?
The whole water village is protected and accredited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a history of more than a thousand years!
Therefore, you have to pay for the entrance fee. I paid RMB100. If you’re a student (local or international), show your student ID and they will honor it.
With such a big crowd, was it really worth it?
Well, I think it’s worth it. My problem was that I arrived there at 2 in the afternoon.
I thought it was just a small area that I could explore in 2 to 3 hours. But, of course, I was wrong!
There are more canals here than the Shantang Jie in Suzhou.
Though the canal traffic is evident, it’s actually a pleasure to watch boatmen avoiding collisions. 😉
Both sides of the canals are infested with bars and cafes.
It’s difficult to choose the best seat! But, wherever you choose – it is the best seat to observe tourist’s life on the water. 😀
And oh, look at these flying creatures! Aren’t they amazing? Unfortunately, I have no idea why they’re there. Are they for sale? Or enticing people to have a photograph with them? Hopefully, none of these two reasons. Let them live free! 😉
Now, don’t concentrate on your sightseeing by the waterways only. Cross old bridges – and maybe – photobomb wedding photoshoots? 😀 😀
They gave me an English map to follow, but I ditched it after 30 minutes of walking. I have no patience to queue in every “tourist attraction”.
I wandered aimlessly on narrow lanes and had the best time exploring away from the mad crowd.
Genuine village life is hiding and waiting for you to find it.
In quiet streets, I had the time to sit down among the local elders. But when one started smoking, I dashed off quicker than a bolt of lightning. 😀
Don’t worry about getting lost in the village.
You can find directions in Chinese and English everywhere.
Just enjoy the walk and imagine life in 960-1279 – during the Song Dynasty!
Suzhou to Tongli by Metro
From Suzhou Railway Station, take Line 4 metro line. Get off at the last stop. That should take almost an hour ride. Take Exit 10 and find the shuttle bus that goes directly to the water town. You might have to wait a little bit though. If you take Exit 2, you will find the 725 bus and get off at the 4th stop.
Buying a Train Ticket Online in China
Buying train tickets at the train station anywhere in China can be confusing for those who don’t speak the language. What I always do is book via TRIP because it’s the most convenient, and they don’t really charge that much for a service fee (RMB20). The money you’d spend going to the train station might be the same as the service fee. And you wasted no time joining the long queue there. However, on the day of your trip, make sure to be at the station for at least an hour and a half. Go directly to the window booth where they issue the real tickets. You have to show the reservation number/s. Train attendants usually allow passengers to check in between 20 minutes before the scheduled departure.
VPN in China
Remember that while most hotels in China have free access to wifi, I recommend that you install your own VPN to access your social media accounts. And yes, there’s no Google here, too. If you have Gmail and other Google products, you have to have a VPN to access them.
Where to Stay in Tongli / Suzhou
Tongli can be visited for half a day – unless you want to spend a night there. If you do, you can find some places to stay inside the water town.
If you want to stay in Suzhou – read below.
Since Pingjiang Lu is a protected area, there is no hotel here. But, Mingtown Suzhou International Youth Hostel is at the heart of this long street. Nearby (15 minutes walk), Suzhou Blue Gate Youth Hostel is another option. Well-rated PACE Hotel Suzhou Renmin is worth your money if you can afford to splurge more. You can book all these accommodations via HostelWorld, Booking, TripAdvisor, and Expedia.
Some of the tourist attractions close to Pingjiang Lu are: Garden of the Master of the Nets, Twin Pagodas, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Suzhou Museum.