Tongli is a little touristy town located within the city of Suzhou. Even though we live in the same "city," it took around 45 minutes to drive there from our home. This is because Chinese "cities" are more like what Americans consider counties....it's all just semantics but saying something is in Suzhou doesn't really tell you much other than it's west of Shanghai and east of Wuxi.
Mr. Wang took us to a parking lot and pointed toward a building, which was labeled as the ticket office. We asked for "liang ge" tickets and received two in exchange for 200RMB. After that, the clerk took on an inquisitive look and pointed at an English sign that read something like "storage car battery: 5RMB." We didn't know what that meant, so we declined. She nodded and pointed down the road in the direction we should walk.
|These birds dive under water and bring back fish to the owner|
We walked down the road in the direction she suggested and quickly realized we had no idea what was going on. We expected an ancient village and canals lined with cobble stone walk ways. What we found was a modern city that is representative of almost all Chinese cities. Luckily we noticed some green golf carts shuttling white people around, so we followed them on foot for about 2 miles.
Eventually we got to the gate of the ancient part of town where a security guard checked our tickets. Outside the gate was a "storage battery car shuttle stop" where the green carts were dropping people off...and we learned that a "storage battery car" was a shuttle and we should have paid 5RMB to save wear and tear on our shoes.
One of the big Tongli attractions is the China Sex Culture Museum, so naturally we headed straight for that. Well actually we didn't go straight there, it was more of a zig-zag because we didn't know where it was. Actually we could see it on the map, but we couldn't see ourselves on the map.
While it might sound like a pornographic type place, it was actually fairly educational. Inside they had a huge collection of artifacts, artworks and ancient...ahem...tools - most of those wooden.
|Click for more pixels only if you appreciate art|
|Siddhārtha? Is that you?|
The Sex Culture Museum was extremely interesting. It took a while to meander through the displays and I took a lot of pictures even though the signs forbid pictures. But this is China and people here don't follow rules. So many pictures in fact that the camera battery died and we didn't have any juice to take pictures during the rest of our day in Tongli's other areas.
|Best job ever?|
Unfortunately, most of the pictures are a little X-Rated and I shouldn't put them here. So if you're interested, come over and we'll show them....there are a couple really interesting ones.
|Prostitute's bed on the left, sex chair on the right.|
|MJ emerges from the baby backpack cocoon and begins to wake up|
From the seat, we looked out the window and saw a fairly typical sight. This woman was selling random crap that apparently people buy. We see little shops like this everywhere, and we always see little kids playing with those toys nearby. They stand there waiting for people to walk by, and when someone does they pick up a do-dad and demonstrate it's function while yelling.
|Awaiting the next passers by|
Business was slow, so this woman took a moment to clean her dishes in the super clean canal water. And by super clean, I mean not as polluted as the water near our home..
But having an empty stroller provided some humor. Chinese people LOVE to look at white babies and when they see the stroller they always rubber neck to see her. Almost everyone was so focused on sneaking a peak into the stroller, they failed to spot the baby strapped to Shayne. And when they realized the stroller was empty, they were always shocked and sometimes gasped in confusion. "Why are these laowai pushing an empty stroller?"
|These fancy doors where everywhere|
We also visited one ancient residence that had been ruined during the cultural revolution because the government used it as a stable. In recent years it has been rebuilt and restored to "it's original beauty."
|This is the ceiling of a stage, the round part is about ten feet in diameter.|
Tongli is a very interesting place. It's quite large and we spent a day and didn't see much of it - we'd love to go back. Next time we'll pay for the "storage battery car" and we'll leave the stroller at home. We might even pay 20RMB again to use a proper pisser.