If you’re tried of the bright lights of Shanghai or Suzhou, you should definitely head to Tongli. It’s one the region’s ‘canal towns’. Just a short bus ride from either city. Make sure you don’t pay a cab to drive you from the bus station to the old town…just turn right. We, on the other hand, got off the bus looking very confused about which way to go, there was no map or sign! The cabbies noticed our look of distress and offered us a ride to the old town for 10 Yuan, which wasn’t so bad since we shared with a Spanish traveler we met at the Suzhou station. All was fine until we left the old town and tired to get a cab back to the bus station, because the ride on the first cab seemed pretty long and we were tired, not wanting to walk. This cabbie looked confused, pointed behind us, but the language barrier caused him to pull a u-turn, and boom, we’re at the bus station! It was right there! The first cabbie just drove us all around the city before dropping us off at the old town. The second cabbie was nice enough to shoo us out of the cab without paying the 8 Yuan start of trip fee. It was really just something to laugh about, since this was the only scam we got in China, and only 5 yuan the worse, it wasn’t so bad!
But back to why you should visit Tongli.
People actually live here! They all looked a little worse for wear. Little shack houses, canal-washed laundry hanging out right beside the meat hung to dry. Plus it’s full of historic homes, gardens and art. I really enjoy the old residences of government officials or army personnel. They’re full of open buildings, winding hallways and random gardens. Lots of rooms for receiving company and meditating by the pools. I can only imagine how their lives must have been. Very full of ceremony (and cold, due to the lack of walls/doors!).