May 30

Day 6: Tongli

Today…like all other days, we had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, packed our backpacks and boarded the bus for Tongli…an ancient Watertown.

On arrival at Tongli, we went straight to the boat cruise, where we shared a boat with Paddy and were escorted (gondola style) around the canals (sort of like streets of water). We passed people’s homes, shops and passed under old stone bridges. It was beautiful. The locals kept calling out Ni hao and we’d reply…but also added in G’day, Hello etc.

After the cruise, we headed to some gardens in Tongli, where we toured through an old home and learnt that bonsai is actually Chinese…the Japanese learnt the art from China long ago, but China went through a period of time where they locked themselves away from the rest of the world – whereas Japan still encouraged visitors and people saw the bonsai there for the first time. We walked through round stone doorways and into gorgeous gardens with ponds, large coloured carp swimming and ornate rockeries. Absolutely stunning!

We had lunch in a restaurant in Tongli, looking over the canals. We had a large selection of foods and cold Sprite or Coke (with Chinese branding) to drink.

After lunch we had a few hours of shopping – wandering the canal streets buying all sorts of items or experiencing interesting activities like buying a freshwater oyster (quite large) and cracking it open to see how many pearls you got. Some children and staff got up to 40 pearls – which you could have made into earrings, bracelets and rings. Some children chose to have a fish foot spa too – basically a fish tank where you put your feet in and little fish nibble away the dead skin. At the end of the day, everyone had bought new things to bring home.

On the way home, we went straight to dinner, which was in old Suzhou. The Squirrel Fish was the most popular option on the menu. the spicy hot green beans were the least popular.