Despite having been in China for more than a year, I still had not had the courage to venture in Suzhou alone. Whenever I went to visit some ancient town, or some World Heritage site, Chinese or Mauritian Friends would accompany me. I think I was too scared to go out alone. I was afraid of getting lost. Moreover, I was not fluent in Chinese. I could understand only basic Mandarin Chinese. However, this year, I decided to take a step forward and visit places on my own. I decided to just set out one morning and just visit places, on my own, well kind of.
The first place I went to was 同里-Tong Li. It is an ancient town found on the outskirts of Suzhou. I woke up early one morning, and I knew from the eve that one of my friends would be going to Tong Li that day and I decided to join her. However, it was more as if she joined me.
My friend and I did not live near each other, and I live nearer to Tong Li than her, so I reached there much earlier than she did. Unwavering in my steps, I walked to that place, bought my ticket and set off on an adventure. And visiting a place alone was quite a scare. You have no one to follow. You are the one to take decisions; do I go right or left from here, or do I just continue straight?
During one of those crucial times, I took a left turn and came in a small alley in the ancient town. I had already seen the three bridges , and I had visited some of the halls, the buildings where some famous Chinese people lived, made decisions and worked. At one intersection, I found an arrow pointing towards the Pearl Tower, which I read was beautiful.
The lane was deserted, but for a few Chinese people and a dog. Now, for all those who know me very well, they would know that I do not particularly like dogs, especially fierce-looking barking ones. (I like animals, so long as they stay away from me.) I decided to be brave about it and just deal with the situation. I recalled to my inner, scared self that I am an adult who is much bigger than the dog but this barking dog which continued to approach me as I came further down the lane, did nothing to uplift this courage. I thought about the advice that my father gave me when approaching a dog; NOT to be scared of it, and just ignoring it and pretending it is not here. However, as I got nearer to it, I saw its sharp teeth as it opened its mouth slightly and growled. That was it. I turned around and went back.
I tried to find another way to get to the Pearl Tower, and I found ancient houses. Tong Li is preserved as it was long ago, but it also contains residential houses.
Finally I managed to find Pearl Tower (by accident), after feeling lost by the confusing arrows.
The Pearl tower is not really a tower though. It is a model made of pearls. Moreover, as in all other classical Chinese architecture, there are huge rocks serving as stairs.
Finally, at the end of my visit of Pearl Tower, my friend came and we continued on visiting other places within Tong Li, for instance the Jiayin hall, the Tuisi garden, the retreat and reflection garden, and Luoxing Zhou.
It was a day, when there were moments I felt afraid, anxious, unconfident, uncomfortable, but also when I felt awestruck, amazed and stumped by the beauty of Tong Li’s various beauties.