Tongli – Water Town

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Escaping Shanghai is always a challenge, but as I have highlighted in previous posts, the HSR service heading out to Nanjing is opening up the entire Yangtze corridor.

This time with my manager, Paul, in tow, we headed out on Sunday to Suzhou station, and a cab to take us out to Tongli, a so-called ‘water town‘. While I supposed it would be similar to Zhouzhuang, which I visited last year, I enjoyed that trip enough to warrant another try.

Claiming 1000 years of history, the town is criss-crossed with canals and viaducts. It does not claim to be the largest or most famous of the water towns, and as a result the level of tourism does not quite meet the levels of Zhouzhuang, at least when I visited. And while there are no doubt touristic areas, it’s striking how many people still live and work in the town; it naturally gives the place a different vibe. Unlike many places in China, there seemed to be an uncanny amount of cleaning going on; after a few minutes of shooting photographs, I realised that almost all my photos featured mops or brooms somewhere in the background. Sipping a beer by the banks of the river, we also amused ourselves as we watched old ladies sweep fallen leaves into the river, and then the men fishing them out again to be disposed of.

First of a series of photos I call the 'Mop Project'

As I have said before, I am a sucker for all graffiti in China and Asia.

At first, I thought the piles of wood outside the shops might be for sale, but then I realised these were the shop shutters; rather more charming than electric roller shutters that will no doubt replace them some day.

I call this 'Mops & Shutters'

Afforementioned shutters, before a store opens.

A very fancy blue bike.

Waiting for the end of the day.


Mops were hung, cantilevered, and propped up in all manner of ways.

I really did take a lot of photos of shutters. I like that there are both Chinese and Roman numerals on these boards.

Several times, groups of giggling local girls asked for our photos (convinced we were brothers); we naturally obliged, but not without taking some 'meta photos' first.

Running back to Mamma.

Roofs, augmentation, nice building materials.

I couldn't resist this one. How kind to choose a completely non-matching piece of fabric to patch the hole.

More mops; modern this time.

Waiting for ... something.

Shoes stored neatly away.

I rather liked this non-recycle sign.

Restaurants lined the canals. Perhaps as a result of the cool, sunny weather, I was rather taken with this place.

Back passage.

Umbrellas provide shade in the summer.

If I had been a bit quicker, I would have caught this policeman handling a plastic gun. Next time.

The town was definitely a bit sleepy, but all the more pleasant for it. I wonder if their children, no doubt working in Shanghai now, will return here any day.


This guy was terribly proud of his bird collection, and was delighted that I might take a photo of them.

One more for the road.

One of the local boats, plying their trade on the river.

So that was it – a great escape from Shanghai!

Getting To Tongli

Basically, take the HSR out to Suzhou (about 40 RMB, 24 minutes), run past the hawkers trying to sell trips to the sights in Suzhou, wait in the line for a taxi, take the 30 ish minute trip out to Tongli (about 90 – 100 RMB) and enjoy. We also did not have any problems getting back.


  1. Posted 2011/05/19 at 17:15 | Permalink

    superb pics

  2. Posted 2011/11/01 at 22:43 | Permalink

    I love the shoes the most.Fluffy. :)

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