Scattered around Suzhou, near China’s Grand Canal, are ancient water towns – communities built within a network of small canals, a bit like Venice or Bruges.
We travelled on the new metro line out to Tongli. With its small classical gardens, canalside walks, over 40 arched bridges and wooden gondoliers, it was a pleasant place to explore, despite the large number of Chinese day-trippers from Shanghai. Is China the first country in the world that doesn’t need overseas tourists to build-up a major tourist industry?
Yet thankfully, with older women peeling nuts on the street or washing clothes in the canals, it was still a bit rough around the edges, all traces of authenticity not lost in the rush for a tourist takeover.
But from the look of the renovations taking place, we suspect Tongli will soon be another Dubrovnik or Amalfi, lovely to visit but not in the least real.