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?

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

The whole water village is protected and accredited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a history of more than a thousand years!

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

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.

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

With such a big crowd, was it really worth it?

Tonglis Suzhou Jiangsu China
The water village has more than a thousand years of history.

Well, I think it’s worth it. My problem was that I arrived there at 2 in the afternoon.

Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
The Watertown is an hour by metro from Suzhou.

I thought it’s just a small area that I could explore in 2 to 3 hours. But, of course, I was wrong!

Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
Tourist Attractions in Suzhou

There are more canals here than the Shantang Jie in Suzhou.

Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
Go there in the morning!

Though the canal traffic is evident, it’s actually a pleasure to watch boatmen avoiding collisions. 😉

Hotel Tongli Hostel
Is this China’s version of Venice?

Both sides of the canals are infested with bars and cafes.

Tongli Things to do
Is this China’s version of Italy’s Venice?

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. 😀

Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
Sit wherever you like along the canal.

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! 😉

Tourist Attractions in Suzhou
What kind of birds are these?

Now, don’t concentrate on your sightseeing by the waterways only. Cross old bridges – and maybe – photobomb wedding photoshoots? 😀 😀

Bridges in Tongli Suzhou China
Tongli has countless high, arched bridges!

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”.

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

I wandered aimlessly on narrow lanes and had the best time exploring away from the mad crowd.

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Ditch the map. Wander and get lost!

Genuine village life is hiding and waiting for you to find it.

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty
Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

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. 😀

Tongli Water Town is a Classic Chinese Village from the Song Dynasty

Don’t worry about getting lost in the village.

Ancient Villages in China

You can find directions in Chinese and English everywhere.

Ancient Water towns in China

Just enjoy the walk and imagine life in 960-1279 – during the Song Dynasty!

Water towns in China

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 for 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 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 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 HostelWorldBookingTripAdvisor, and Expedia

Some of the tourist attractions close to Pingjiang Lu are: Garden of the Master of the NetsTwin Pagodas, Humble Administrator’s Garden and Suzhou Museum.

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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