Written by Feb 22, 2005 14:02
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The Suzhou City itself

I was not impressed! Not by the Suzhou city.

But if you have heard about heaven on earth, "It is nearby!" Not in the main city but if you visit the nearby towns called Tongli or Si Tang, you will know what I mean!

The Suzhou city was not up to my expectations. At least after seeing Hangzhou which was a pretty place I was a little disappointed. Firstly with the air pollution caused by the diesel buses, and other vehicles. The solid pollution near the train station. Muddy water all around made my black shoes brown.

Then there were touts! They followed me everywhere offering hotels, coffee bars, entertainment and even xiao jies. I was fed up shooing away an old woman trying to make me book a hotel so that she could get some commission. She followed me for almost 7 minutes on the clock.

There were a lot of spitters contributing to the city's cleanliness!


Spitting is a popular sporting activity here. I think it is a useful exercise for the lungs. I dont know but I think so. Otherwise why would so many people spit?

I found a variety of spitters:

Butterfly spitter - Exactly every 5 meters theres a spit (inspired by the butterfly swim stroke)
Dragon Spitter - Makes a huge noise before the spit
Quick Spitter - Tilts the head, disposes the phlegm, back to normal, all in a second
Talented Spitter - This category spitters aim at a spot or an object few meters away and spit. They are highly accurate at reaching target
Long distance spitter - Folds the elbows inward, cocks the head back, holds for a sec, in a springing action spits long distance
Luxury spitters - They are titillated with carpets, tiled floors, rich wooden floors, 5 star hotels and the like

The photo on the side is ZhouZhengYuan (Humble Admin Garden) one of the most famous garden in Suzhou and is a good one too. Except the ticket is a ripoff (50 Rmb) plus the huge crowd on a holiday would not be ideal to enjoy a stroll in the garden. Stroll? Pulling and pushing I must say!

Gardens in China

Ok a garden here does not mean, one full of flowers.
They are more ancient, like rock gardens with a pond, some trees, creepers and maybe a Gazebo or the like. You can also see some structures with ancient Chinese dynasty architectures in the roofs, carvings, paintings etc.

The detailing and the history of the gardens inside the museum is pretty good and has a lot of history. Gardens have a meaning and are actually designed for giving a pleasant feeling! Its just that during the song or the qing dynasty they did not think / plan for the thousands of tourists crowding the gardens in a holiday season present day :)

If you go to a garden in Tongli, you will not feel like coming back!!
It has all the elements of a primitive rock garden plus its not crowded!


Did I mention about Heaven on earth before?

You can find that in Tongli. It looks more authentic and mirrors primitive China!

I met a guy called "Zhong Ming" in Tongli who immediately became my pal, my best buddy as he spoke good english, hes a native of Tongli and helped me book a hotel.

The first thing I observed about Tongli was that it is calm, quiet, peaceful and serene!

When you enter Tongli town the first thing you see on the left is a bridge which is nothing of an engineering marvel but is so pleasant! (see picture)
The bridge is small and simple and pleasant. So is everything else in Tongli. And that makes it more attractive!

Evening in Tongli

Zhong Ming was still with me trying to help me chalk out a plan during my stay in Tongli. Since he had become a pal and he did not have an English name I christened him "Scott" then and there.

He liked the name too.
We went to this Hotel SanLianYuan which had a twin bed room for 180 rmb. I tried my chinese here "wei shen ma?" and immediately the price had come down to 140 rmb!! Interesting haan? Looks like this hotel didnt want to lose the customer and came down with the price immediately.
I checked in the hotel dumped my stuff and off on the street with Scott.

Scott took me to the main square which was a few blocks from the above bridge. Another exampls of small but pleasant spot. Nothing much here but still pleasant. A small building. Some flowers neatly arranged and a stone with some chinese characters on it. Of course some people walking around in a relaxed manner.

It looked like Tongli Town had its own pace of life. I asked Scott if I should call a taxi to see some spot and he updated me that there are no taxis in Tongli town as all the spots can be reached by walk or we can take a boat!

Ahh I was liking this town more and more.

Accidental friends

We started walking in the ancient town around the bank of the canal with some boats carrying people around.
It was late evening and Scott obviously didnt want to miss dinner with his family. We were pretty close to his home and he invited me for dinner. I politely declined and told him that I do not eat meat and might as well have some food ordered in a restaurant.
But Scott was ready to get Veg food cooked at his home itself. Very nice of him. I met his mom and sister at his home and left them have their dinner and I walked back to the city.

I saw a couple of girls and a guy peeping in the crevice of a door while I was walking back. I just sneaked up to one of the girl and scared her from behind. They got a shock initially but realized that I was a tourist and my intentions were more friendly than scaring them we became pally immediately.
Fe Lin Shu was one of the girl who spoke english and we chatted while the others just stared at us.


Fe Lin Shu did a great job of translating back and forth the messages from the curious friends of hers and me. She was least annoyed in doing so and I found her to be a very friendly girl.
Fe Lin Shu and her friends were from Fuzhou and were visiting Suzhou and Tongli. She had done a good research on Tongli and seemed to know the different places in Tongli.
I joined their exploration of the different spots in the night.
She wanted to find the 3 bridges symbolizing Luck, health and divinity.
Since she had done a good research we were able to find the Lucky bridge, the health bridge and the divine bridge. She also told me to walk over and cross the bridge so that I would be blessed with health and luck etc. I told her I do not beleive in them but she wouldnt let me stand there and argue. So I crossed the bridges :)
The bridges looked so lovely in the night!
Fe Lin Shu and friends wanted to take leave when Scott called me. He wanted to know if i had finished my dinner. I told him I had not and he came running to the place I was and took me to a restauarant.

I'd say most Chinese are extremely friendly and Tongli people are even more friendly.


Peaceful night.
With some birds chirping.
A canal beside.
An occasional boat passing by.
Dimly lit atmosphere in the open. Silent breeze not too cold.
That was where I sat for dinner. Open Air by the canal!

An old lady took my order of La Mien. Asked her to make it extra spicy and she did make it spicy enough for my taste buds to savour.

Sitting here I forgot everything else. Scott was not really a talkative guy and let me take in the ambience.
With hot tea, peanuts, la mien for dinner and watching the reflection of the moon rippled by a boat in the moonlight Tongli looked out of earth.

Tongli gets more beautiful by the night. No taxis, no pollution, no computers, no internet, no tech shops what more could a software guy ask on a vacation? This was like a dream!

 More Suzhou Travel Reviews
1. My experience on the Emperors Channel ELCABRON Feb 16, 2005 23:02
2. I have visited most Chinese cities, the Gardens of Suzhou, Chinese people, the hotels, all in all a fantastic experience SOMERVILLE Apr 1, 2004 15:04
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