CHINA – Suzhou & Tongli (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)

China - Suzhou - Tong Li
China - Suzhou - Tong Li

Summary: Part of a 24 day China tour. Start in Hangzhou, followed by Shanghai and Suzhou. From there to Tunxi (Huangshan) by plane continued by train to Wuyishan. From here by plane to Xiamen with a three day trip to the Tulou Clusters and back to Xiamen. Everywhere spend around 2-4 days to see all UNESCO Sights and all other most important sights.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: Classical Gardens of Suzhou, The Grand Canal (at Suzhou) (see all UNESCO sites here)

Day 1 trough 8 – Hangzhou, Shanghai

See previous posts about the visit to those cities:
CHINA – Hangzhou (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)
CHINA – Shanghai (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)

Day 9 – Arrival, Humble Administrators Garden, Lingering Garden, Grand Canal

Our visit to Suzhou is mainly about the gardens which are on the UNESCO list and the Grand Canal and a visit to Tong Li (see day 10). After arriving to our hotel, Intercontinental Suzhou, we took the taxi downtown arriving around 2 PM at the Humble Administrators Garden. This garden is the largest one in Suzhou and probably the finest in all south China. First build in the 12th century and later in the Ming dynasty (early 16th century) it was build further by a retired Chinese official. Over the centuries it was changed and further developed until in the 19th century it kind of became what it is today. The garden contains a eastern part with a lawn, a central part with three fairy tales islands, and a western garden which is mainly water. There are numerous buildings in the garden for all kinds of purposes. This garden is really like a park, it’s quite huge and not what a western person things of when talking about a garden. Must to see in Suzhou!

After a nice lunch with some dumplings and a local very tiny restaurant we continued to the Lingering Garden, another UNESCO garden. First designed in the 16th century. It was praised by various important persons because of it’s design. Ownership passed from one to another and changes and additions where made. The garden has four distinct separate parts which are all connected by a covered walk. Pond, hills, grottoes and a bonsai garden amongst others make the garden a really nice retreat in a busy city.

Last we visited the Grand Canal in the Suzhou area which is also part of UNESCO Heritage. For a brief description of the Grand Canal see the post when we visited the Canal in Hangzhou here.

Day 10 – Mountain Villa of Secluded Beauty, Surging Waves Pavilion, Gardens of the Masters of the Nets, Tong Li Old City, Lion Grove Garden

Today we got us a car and driver to drive us around all day which was more easy as we got dropped of everywhere in front of the entrance gates. We visited 4 more gardens in Suzhou and Tong Li Old city with also a garden. All 5 gardens are on the UNESCO Heritage List. First stop: Mountain Villa of Secluded Beauty. This is one of the smaller gardens but oh so beautiful. Dating back to the Jin Dynasty when it first was a temple and over several dynasties was turned into a beautiful garden. In the Qing Dynasty it got its current form with the pond from a well and the rockery hill. The small garden gives you really the feeling being in a huge area. The techniques used in gardening are of outstanding level.

Next stop: Surging Waves Pavilion. Waves Pavilion also called Canglang Pavilion was build in the 11th century, Song Dynasty. Currently it still has the same layout as it has back then even with various owners during time. For us this garden, even it was the oldest, was the least appealing. It was a little wilderness, which of course, had its charms too.

Next stop: Gardens of the Masters of the Nets. Where is the garden? To us this was more a house with many buildings and some garden with a pond. It’s a beautiful place and the techniques used to make it a whole are outstanding, everything fits. First construction was in 12th century and passed many owners. The name comes from the fishermen who first build the garden, hence the name Master of the Nets. During the 19th century more things were added to the garden and can be divided in a east and west part. The one part mainly buildings and courtyards and the other part around the pond. All-in a unique garden compared to the others we have seen.

Next stop: Tong Li. Tong Li is a small town about half an hour away from Suzhou and is also called Venice of the East. To my personal opinion that was a bit disappointed. It’s a great town but expected more due to the so positive stories probably. The town is from the Wu period. One of the UNESCO gardens of Suzhou can be found here too: the Retreat & Reflection Garden which was partly under renovation during our visit. The rest of the town is nice with the canals, boats, the old houses and halls, pearl tower and bridges. It’s a nice 2-3 hour to spend there.

We had a little bit of time left for today and decided to also visit the Lion Grove Garden back in Suzhou. The Lion Grove Garden is another garden in Suzhou on the UNESCO list. It’s famous for it’s large maze of rocks. One can really get lost in it even though its quite small. The garden was build in the 14th century. One can find also a stone boat in the pond of the garden.

We arrived back to our hotel Intercontinental Suzhou around 5 PM. Went for some early dinner and headed for the lounge for some great drinks. Off to our next destination!

Day 11 through 24 – Departure, Huangshan, Wuyishan, Xiamen, Tulou

We depart at about 11 AM by train to Hongqioa airport Shanghai to fly to Tunxi, Huanghsan. This kind of went wrong 🙂 Seemed our hotel booked by accident train tickets which were for 2 days later. So, big mess, we got finally a fast private car and the man brought us speeding to Hongqioa airport where we did catch our flight. The hotel refunded our taxi, very nice of the hotel. (will not mention names).
Read more about rest of the trip here:
CHINA – Huangshan Tunxi (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)
CHINA – Wuyishan (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)
CHINA – Xiamen & Tulou (2014.07.07 – 2014.07.30 China Tour)