Tongli is a little canal town about forty minutes out of Suzhou. We got the bus there from the centre of Suzhou which was quite the experience but we survived to tell the tale. We think in general it is best to spend as little time on the roads in China as possible - a bit of a free for all to say the least.
Tongli looked much more like how everyone says Suzhou is, probably as Suzhou would have been before all the industrialsation. It is like stepping back in time to old China and we get more the Venice comparisons now - obviously the China the government wants you to see. You have to pay to go into the town of Tongli itself as the whole place is a tourist attraction. We got an all inclusive ticket so we could go and see most of the attractions. So we were in and out of old Chinese aristocratic homes and gardens all day. You could get a gondola ride going through the canals in the town and there were millions of tea houses by the canalside to stop and take in the views.
We ate lunch by the canalside and saw some osprey catching fish in the canals like on the HSBC advert. Only in the advert they must edit out the bit where the birds are tied to the boat and their wings are clipped so they can't fly and you can see them choking on the fish until the man forces them to spit it out into the bowl. But was good to see even if it was a bit weird how different it was in real life to the glamourised version.
We went to the Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture as well which was really funny - a very strange location too when you look at the rest of the town. Really worth the visit though and left you with the feeling everyone in Ancient China was a bit obsessed...