Tongli, while not as popular and commercialized as Zhou Zhuang, is already tainted with the beginnings of a very touristy feel with plenty of Chinese touts positioning themselves around the town. Unfortunately, I believe that in no time, this little town would lose it’s charm. However, while most of the young people have moved to the new side of town, there are some older generation that still stays in the old side of town, resisting urbanization and change.
If you travel in to the heart of old town Tongli, especially after 4pm when all the tour buses has left, you’ll realized that this little water village is still very real and the locals do have a traditional way of living. Taking a ride on a gondola down the river, watching the willow trees sway while images of sampan boats get reflected in the river gives a general calm feeling I love whenever I’m out of the city. People rely on the water for everything! Transport, food and unfortunately, they also do their washing and business in the canals. I really don’t want to think about the food I had for lunch! Argh! But to be fair, I didn’t get a tummy upset or anything. And I guess that’s their way of life as it has always been for a thousand years now.