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Tongli Water Town

Apart from the classical freshwater lakes and beautiful gardens as well as amazing courtyard parks, another thing you shouldn't miss when visiting the eastern part of China is the ancient water towns. Among all the top 10 ancient water towns near Shanghai, we picked to visit Tongli Water Town which is very close to Suzhou. 

#1: Tongli Water Town

From Suzhou to Tongli Water Town

By Metro Line 4 (Highly recommended)
Take metro line 4 and get off at the terminal Tongli station. The metro journey will take approximately 50 minutes. Then continue by taking a bus either from;
1) Exit 10, where there will be tourist buses waiting between 8am to 5pm to transfer tourists to Tongli water town scenic area. The bus ride is free if you bought along the entrance ticket which costs CNY88; OR
2) Exit 2, where there are pubic buses there such as no.725 can take you to the Tongli water town scenic area. If you take a 725 bus, remember to get off at the Shi Pai Lou Station (石牌楼站) to reach the scenic area (725 bus station at Tongli station where tourist waiting for buses heading to Tongli water town scenic area).

By Bus
➤From Suzhou Railway Station to Tongli
There are tourism buses departing from the square in front of Suzhou Railway Station. The departure time is every an hour from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day. The journey takes about 1 and half hours. The ticket fare is about 9 yuan per person. If you take trains to get to the Suzhou Railway Station; you can take the bus here to get to Tongli Water Town. It is quite convenient.

➤From Bus Passenger Terminal in Wuzhong area to Tongli
There are many Tourist Special Line Buses departing from Bus Passenger Terminal in Wuzhong area (吴中区汽车站). The bus leaves for Tongli Water Town from here every 20 minutes from 7:50 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. The journey takes about 1 and half hours. The ticket fare is about 9 yuan per person.

➤From Suzhou North Bus Station to Tongli
There are many shuttle buses leaving for Tongli from Suzhou North Bus Station (苏州汽车北站). The bus departs from 7:05 a.m. to 4:25 p.m. The journey takes about 1 and half hours. The ticket fare is about 9 yuan per person.

➤From Suzhou South Bus Station to Tongli
There are many shuttle buses leaving for Tongli from Suzhou South Bus Station (苏州汽车南站). The bus departs every 30 minutes from 7:30 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. in a day. The journey takes about 1 and half hours. The ticket fare is about 9 yuan per person.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 02
#2: The map of a thousand-year water town of Tongli.

Although Tongli Water Town has a history for more than 1,000 years but the water town is still well-preserved and it's worth to explore and experience. True to its famed reputation, Tongli Water Town is indeed one wonderful travel destination where you can spend a marvelous holiday but at the same time, you can experience the traditional Chinese culture. Its rivers, streets, bridges, civil residences, and gardens are integrated perfectly as one, earning it the name of "the Oriental Venice" due to its unique water town scenery.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 04
#3: The street preserves its original style in stone-paved and now, it lined with stores including specialty stores, handicraft stores and snack stores.

Tongli has been open to the public since 1986, and the architectures and cultural relics of the Ming (1368–1644) and the Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, such as pavilions, towers, temples, and gardens, can be spotted everywhere within the water town. Surrounded by five lakes, Tongli is lined with streets and lanes alongside rivers, and numerous ancient bridges built in various dynasties are available. Some bridges still stand as highlights in Tongli, silently telling the stories and legends of the ancient town.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 05
#4: You rent these traditional Chinese costumes for photo opportunity.

I'm not sure whether cause we were there after the lunch time or probably due to the low season which is during the winter time, we hardly spot enormous crowd of tourists here. It's less crowded and not so commercialised which I personally think it's good time to visit where we can leisurely walked around the water town with relax and laid-back pace. Both my mom and I didn't dropby at any restaurants or cafe cause we prefer to shop at souvenir stores instead. And I got myself an embroidery painting with 9 koi fishes on it which believes to be auspicious.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 03
#5: Tongli is rich in rivers and bridges; therefore, it is essential to take a cruise in order to appreciate its ancient beauty.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 06
#6: Some locals took a boat ride along the canal.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 07

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 08
#8: One of the ancient bridges

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 09
#9: Arched roofs, stone bridges and green willows lining the banks can be found almost everywhere in the town.

We spent almost two hours in Tongli water town before making our way back to our hotel in Suzhou. Bear in mind as the journey from Suzhou to Tongli water town takes about an hour or sometimes more, hence it's best to spare at least half a day if you are interested to visit here.

2014 China Suzhou Tongli Water Town 10
#10: Goodbye Tongli Water Town! 
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One Day Suzhou Ground Tour

<<Previous Post: 2D1N in Hangzhou - West Lake & Hefang Street>>

I hardly join or sign up for any private tours but since my mom requested for it, hence I booked "A Day Trip to Suzhou" from the hotel we stayed in Hangzhou. The tour package seems fairly reasonable which costs CNY288 per person and this including hotel pick-up and drop off, entrance fee, tour guide but excluding lunch and tips. And the best part, I don't have to worry about the transportation from Hangzhou to Suzhou cause they will drop us there. 

2014 China Suzhou 1

When Hangzhou is well-known for its beauty classical lakes, Suzhou on the other hand famed for its beautiful gardens and courtyard parks as well as traditional waterside architecture. In order to get to Suzhou from Hangzhou, you can either take trains (both high-speed train and normal train) or bus. Unfortunately I unable to share more details cause all the logistic has been arranged by the private tour we signed with. 

The first attraction we went in Suzhou was the medieval Pan Gate Scenic Area. It's a historical landmark in Suzhou and known for the "three landmarks of Pan Gate". They are the Ruiguang Pagoda, the earliest pagoda in Suzhou, the Wu Gate Bridge which is the entrance to the gate at that time over the water passage and the highest bridge in Suzhou at the time, and Pan Gate. Pan Gate is part of the ancient city wall that surrounded and protected Suzhou. 

2014 China Suzhou Ruiguang Pagoda 1
#2: Ruiguang Pagoda, the earliest pagoda in Suzhou. 

2014 China Suzhou Panmen Scenic Spot 1
#3: Visiting Pan Men includes access to a large and rather lovely garden with ponds and pavilions

2014 China Suzhou Panmen Scenic Spot 5
#4: Pan Gate - part of the ancient city wall that surrounded and protected Suzhou.

Next, we were brought for a boat ride along the ancient Grand Canal of Suzhou. The Grand Canal is the oldest and longest canal in the world and dubbed "Venice of the East". This is one interesting and fascinating way of overlooking the city low down in the network of canals and exploring the lifestyle of Suzhou locals. Most of the Suzhou's attractions are linked by the Grand Canal cruise and therefore, it is an ideal way to take a cruise along the canal.

2014 China Suzhou Cruise
#5: Boat ride along the ancient Grand Canal of Suzhou

2014 China Suzhou
#6: Spotted Journey To The West (JTTW) sculpture. JWWT is one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature.

Once we done with the canal ride, we then proceed to North Temple Pagoda. The pagoda was once eleven stories tall, but was damaged and reduced to nine stories. The peak of the pagoda is Suzhou's most famous and there is a garden and temples are on the grounds.

2014 China Suzhou North Temple Tower
#7: North Temple Pagoda

A trip to Suzhou is incomplete without visiting any of their spectacular garden and courtyard parks. Our last stop in Suzhou is the Lion Forest Garden. It is one of the four great gardens of Suzhou and is admired for the incredible collection of pitted, eroded rocks that were greatly appreciated by classical Chinese scholars. It was originally part of a Buddhist monastery. The gardens are a reminder of the Buddhist story of the lions. The layout of the garden follows many twists and turns. It is easy to get quite lost in these winding paths.

2014 China Suzhou Lion Grove Garden 1
#8: Lion Groove Garden, or Lion Forest Garden is one of the UNESCO-listed gardens.


2014 China Suzhou Lion Grove Garden 2

As for our hotel in Suzhou, it is one of the best hotels I ever stay throughout my entire trips to China. Well, the hotel room actually looks pretty decent and average but what I like about this hotel is that there is a beautiful garden and grove within it. I felt like I was transported into the past. Too bad we're only staying in this hotel for a night. How I wish we could stay longer cause I really love the classical architecture. And the icing on the cake, there is a shopping and food street just nearby the hotel which my mom and I able to shop and eat at night.

2014 China Suzhou Branch All Seasons Hotel
All Seasons Hotel Suzhou Branch
Date Stayed: 23 to 24 December 2014 (1 night)
Room Rate: RM199 for a superior twin bed room (Booked via Agoda)

2014 China Suzhou Night Market

Before I end this post, I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every of you,

"May the year of Rat brings you good luck & good fortune. Happy Chinese New Year!"
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2N1D in Hangzhou - West Lake & Hefang Street

It's my aim to travel with my mom at least once every year. Or sometimes, twice. Most of the times, I like to tag along my mom for a trip during the Christmas time. And so, we chosen to go China for our mom-and-daughter Christmas holiday together. One of the reasons why we picked China is because there are few direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to big and well-known cities like Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou at that particular moment. Obviously, both of us were kinda lazy to transit in Kuala Lumpur. 

Our original flight tickets supposed to be KK-Shanghai-KK with Malaysia Airlines but because the duration of the trip takes about 8 days which my mom found it's kinda long for her, I booked another extra one-way ticket departing from KK to Hangzhou with AirAsia. It's not a bad idea given that I don't have to return to the same spot I arrive in China. Fly-in Hangzhou and fly-out from Shanghai, it looks like a perfect plan at the beginning, but turned out to be disaster towards the end of our trip (I will share more about this later).  

So we burned our one-way ticket from KK to Shanghai and catch our flight to Hangzhou instead. The flight departed around 3.30pm and arrived in Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH) almost reaching to 8pm. I noticed that besides my mom and I, there were no other Malaysian departing to Hangzhou. Almost all the passengers were Chinese tourists. Once we done with the immigration clearance and claimed our luggage, we took taxi to our hotel. Normally I don't take taxi when travelling abroad but when travelling with my mom, I need to consider about her comfort and convenient as well. 

2014 China Hangzhou Victoria Regal Hotel Zhejiang 1
#1: Our stay in Hangzhou for two nights

2014 China Hangzhou Victoria Regal Hotel Zhejiang 2

Victoria Regal Hotel Zhejiang
Date Stayed: 21 to 23 December 2014 (2 nights)
Room Rate: RM196 for a twin bed room with a city view (Booked via Agoda)

West Lake of Hangzhou
With only one full day in Hangzhou, I can only pick one or two top tourist attractions to visit in Hangzhou. And therefore, I chosen to stay the hotel that it's close to West Lake, regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in China. There's one thing I regret the most was I should book the room comes with breakfast cause we spent our time aimlessly looking for the breakfast outside the hotel before heading to West Lake. Not sure whether we're too early or too picky, it seems like so hard to search any shops that suit our tastebuds. 

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 01
#3: Xihu Tiandi, a recreation park in West Lake.

After done with our breakfast, we walked to the West Lakes which is approximately 10 minutes walk. The first spot we arrived is the Xihu Tiandi, where there's lush green recreation park with Starbucks within it. The place is undeniable peaceful, calm and tranquil and the best part, there weren't many visitors there. Maybe due to my mom and I were too early, or probably because it's freezing cold cause it's winter time when we're in China. Immediately both of us took the opportunity for phototaking at every nook and cranny without a miss. 

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 02
#4: Christmas set-up and decorations.

A quick introduction of West Lake. It is a freshwater lake in Hangzhou with countless temples, pagodas, gardens, and artificial islands within the lake. The classical beauty and outstanding natural landscape of West Lakes has made it to be featured in numerous poems and paintings in the past and currently, it has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 03

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 04
#6: Autumn tree with orange and red foliage even during winter time.

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake Pleasure Boat

In order to enjoy the beauty of West Lake, I suggested to take the cruise boat to visit some of West Lake's islands and luckily, my mom agreed with it despite she's freezing in the cold weather. There are many type of boats to choose from, including the large painted boats, small rowing boats, and even self-rowing boats. These cruises are available day and night. We took the large painted boat and it costs CNY55 for each of us, which I found it's pretty affordable. 


One of the spots you shouldn't miss when taking the boat is definitely the Three Pools Mirroring The Moon. This specific spot has been featured on the one yuan bank note. Majority boats will dropby to this site. Once the boat docked here and when we stepped our feet at this small island, I have to claim it instantly took my breath away. I was literally blew away by its beauty and now I understood why it has been one of the genuine world class attraction. Until today, I still find West Lake is the most mesmerising place I've been among all the places I went around China. 

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 06

2014 China Hangzhou West Lake 07

Talking about the cruise, there is no time limit for island sightseeing. Visitors are allowed to stay as long as they want, but make sure don't miss the last boat which is about 4pm. As much as I don't feel like want to leave this beautiful place, I know I have no choice cause I need to catch up with other places. West Lake, you will always in my heart and my mind too. 

Piers to Board for West Lake's Islands:
  1. The First Park
  2. Children’s Palace
  3. Zhongshan Park
  4. Hangzhou Restaurant
  5. Yuefei Temple
  6. Huagang
  7. King Qian Temple (Qianwang Ci)
Opening Hours: 8am to 4pm
Ticket: CNY55

Right after we spent roughly around 3 hours exploring the West Lake, we walked off to other places. This time around, we decided to take public transport instead of taxi since we don't have any luggages to carry with. Hangzhou has an extensive bus networks but because I have difficulty in reading Chinese (bear in mind I can't read and write Chinese), I rather take subway than bus cause on-board announcements are all in Chinese for public buses. At least for subway, there is an English language for each station. 

2014 China Hangzhou Subway
#11: We bought the single journey ticket from automated vending machine which available in English language. 

2014 China Hangzhou City Sightseeing
#12: One of the stunning architecture I came across in Hangzhou

2014 China Hangzhou Pagoda Temple
#13: Not sure what's the name of this pagoda but it does looks stunning especially during the night time with the lights on.

Hefang Street
Once known as Taiping Street, Hefang Street is the most popular street in Hangzhou. With heritage culture and long history, it is regarded as a iconic symbol of ancient Hangzhou. Visiting this bustling but fascinating street, you can catch a glimpse of antique buildings and well-preserved ancient stores as well as savor the beautiful artifacts. The shops in Hefang street are open all-day long but of course, the view is totally different depending on whether you are visiting during the day time or the night time. In day time, you can have a clearer sight of these old shops and museums while for the night time, the street offers you a better view with the red lanterns.

2014 China Hangzhou He Fang Street 1
#14: We ended our night by visiting Hefang street, the most popular street in Hangzhou.

You can also satisfy your stomach with numerous of delicious and tasty local food in Hefang street. At far end of street, there are many stalls for street foods such as crabs, squids, stinky tofu, BBQ, cool noodles and the list goes on. There is a 140-year-old teahouse called Taiji Teaism where people like to have a cup of tea, listen to the popular tune and enjoy the performance of tea-brewing.

2014 China Hangzhou He Fang Street 2#15: At far end of street, there are many stalls for street foods and we had our dinner here. 

How To Get To Hefang Street: Metro Line 1 will have a stop in Dingan Road which is about 1 km from Hefang Street. With 10 min’s walk, you can get to Hefang Street.

And that's how we spent our short but fruitful day in Hangzhou. If I have the chance to return to Hangzhou again, I will definitely spend more days to cover beautiful places like Jiu Xi, Wushan Night Market and more.
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Summary of My 11D10N Nepal & Bhutan Travelogue

Summary of My Nepal & Bhutan Itinerary
Day 1: Kuala Lumpur → Kathmandu (Post here)
Day 2: Kathmandu → Chitwan National Park (Post here)
Day 3: Canoeing & Elephant Riding In Chitwan National Park (Post here)
Day 4: Chitwan → Pokhara (Post here)
Day 5: Sunrise Viewing & Tandem Paragliding in Sarangkot (Post here)
Day 6: Pokhara → Kathmandu → Nagarkot (Post here)
Day 7: Nagarkot → Kathmandu (Post here)
Day 8: Kathmandu → Paro → Thimphu (Post here)
Day 9: Thimphu (Post here)
Day 10: Thimphu → Paro (Post here)
Day 11: Paro → Kathmandu → Kuala Lumpur

Flying In
From Kuala Lumpur, one can fly either with Malaysia Airlines or Malindo Air to Kathmandu which is the gateway of tourism in Nepal. AirAsia X used to commerce this route to Kathmandu before but unfortunately, they have completely suspended this direct flight since October 2018. As for the time difference, Malaysia is 2 hours and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal. 

This is the most tricky part. The only way to fly in the one and only of Bhutan airport, Paro International Airport is either you can choose to fly from Singapore, Bangkok in Thailand, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai in India, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Kathmandu in Nepal with the country's flag carrier, Druk Air. Do take note that you must pay the tourist visas (USD200-250 per person per night) first before you can proceed to book any flight tickets with Druk Air. 

For Malaysian, visa are required for both Nepal and Bhutan. I remember I handover my passport to my friend in order to process for the Nepal visa application. Nepal tourist visa allows a stay up to 15 days and you can apply at Embassy of Nepal in Kuala Lumpur (click here for more info). Visa can also be obtained at the Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport of Nepal on arrival.

Tourist visas for Bhutan are significantly expensive. It depends on how many night you intend to stay in Bhutan and each night it costs minimum of USD200 for non-peak season and USD250 for peak season each person. I have to admit that it was a tedious process when applying for Bhutan tourist visas and I almost gave up, especially in wire-transfer via bank to overseas. I was rejected by few local banks and till the very last minute, I managed to do so at Standard Chartered Bank. 

Currency Exchange
The official currency for Nepal is Nepalese Rupee (NPR). But because Nepalese rupees are not commonly found in any of Kota Kinabalu's money changers, hence I brought along US dollar and prepared to change Nepalese rupee when reaching there. 

For your information, the tourist visas of Bhutan actually include accommodations, all meals, ground transportation and also guided by both licensed Bhutanese tour guide and driver. Therefore, we didn't bother to change any money into their local currency as almost everything had been included, except for souvenirs. 

Total Damage
KL – Kathmandu - KL via AirAsia X
Add: Meals, luggage, seat
Add: Changes of flight

Tour Arrangement
Food and drinks   

Admission Fee
Nagarkot Sunrise Ticket
Devi’s Fall
Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Boudhanath Stupa
Swayambhunath Stupa

Photo & video for tandem paragliding










  1. Because one of my friends and I want to extend our trip to Bhutan, therefore we changed our flight time. 
  2. The ground tour we booked include 7 nights accommodation, breakfast, tandem paragliding, transport with driver and round-trip airport transfer. 

The total we paid for our 4 days and 3 nights trip to Bhutan was USD1,050 (approx. to RM3,360) which include return trip from Kathmandu to Paro, 3 nights accommodation, all meals and guided by professional and attentive tour guide together with driver. For souvenirs, I spent roughly approximately RM130 for postcards, stamps, T-shirt, tote bags and two magnets. In case you are interested with Bhutan trip, do email me and I will introduce the local licensed tour operator to you with the special tour package fare offer. 

Exchange Rate as at November 2014
USD1 = RM3.20
RM1 = NPR32

Nepal & Bhutan Souvenirs
I just noticed I didn't manage to take all the things I bought from Nepal and Bhutan. This photo also I used the one took by my friend. Clumsy me. The thing I bought the most are Pashmina shawls from Nepal. 
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Goodbye Bhutan! Goodbye Nepal!

With the clear blue skies, the fresh and cool crisp air and not forgetting the untouched natural beauty - these will forever remain in my heart. 

It's our 4th day in Bhutan and this means it's our final day before leaving this country. How we wish that we could stay longer but that's all what both of us afford to pay for. If we continue to stay longer, I think my bank is going to bleed badly. Nevertheless, I never regret of coming to this so-called "The Land of Happiness".  

Bhutan Day 4 - Paro View
#1: The sun rose to the clear blue sky with fresh air flooded to our noses. Bhutan, you are so incredible. 

Nothing much we can do, except waiting for the time to pick up to the airport. Plus, our hotel seems to be located on the small hill and there is no other shops and cafe within the vicinity, therefore my friend and I just hang around our room after had the hearty breakfast served by the hotel. 

Bhutan Day 3 - Paro Khangkhu Resort Breakfast
#2: The hearty breakfast served by the hotel

#3: A thoughtful souvenirs given by the local tour operator we signed up with - Postcards, Bhutanese Red Rice and Cinnamon Incense Sticks. 

The distance from our hotel to the Paro International Airport is relatively short - not more than 10 minutes drive. Before bidding goodbye to both of our drive and tour guide, we decided to give them some tips for their excellent, attentive and great services throughout our 4 days and 3 nights trip in Bhutan. 

Bhutan Day 4 - Paro Internatinal Airport
#4: Paro International Airport is pretty small and not crowded.

Bhutan Day 4 - Paro Internatinal Airport 3
#5: All the 5 Kings of Bhutan ever since 1907 until now.

Bhutan Fridge Magnets
#6: Finally we found fridge magnets at the airport but like we expected, it's freaking expensive but we don't want to leave with empty-handed. Each costs us US$10. 

Bhutan Day 4 - Paro Internatinal Airport 2
#7: Thank you for welcoming us, Bhutan!

At first our flight from Paro to Kathmandu seems to be pretty normal and nothing extraordinary, not until few of the foreign passengers stood up and started to take photos with a Bhutanese who was dressing up in black gho. Out of our curiosity, we asked the stewardesses who were serving us the in-flight meal and they told us that that particular person is their Prime Minister back then. I'm not sure whether my friend and I were consider lucky or not cause, once we arrived Bhutan on our first day, we bumped into their King. And our final day leaving Bhutan, we had the same flight with their Prime Minister. Bhutan, you really gave us lots of unexpected surprises leh... 

Bhutan Former Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay
#8: Tshering Tobgay, former Prime Minister of Bhutan who had the same flight with us from Paro (Bhutan) to Kathmandu (Nepal).

Goodbye Nepal
#9: Alavidā Nepal!

Once we arrived in Kathmandu International Airport, my friend and I thought that both of us can proceed with our flight back to Malaysia as we booked our tickets at least 3 hours apart from our flight from Bhutan. Unfortunately, an unforeseeable event occurred where our flight back to Malaysia had been delayed for at least 6 hours. The delayed is due to the movement of VVIP guests at the Tribhuvan International Aiport for the SAARC Summit (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and causing all air traffic closed for other airlines, including ours. Indirectly, this also will cause us to arrive at KLIA 6 hours later. For my case, I have no problem cause I still able to catch my flight from KL back to Kota Kinabalu. However, this creates lots of trouble to my friend as she will miss her flight from KL back to Sibu. Fortunately with the help of insurance she bought earlier, her agent got her new ticket for KL to Sibu flight. That's why you should buy insurance prior to your trip.

And that's conclude my two-in-one trip covering both Nepal and Bhutan. For my next post, I will share more details such as visa application, the total damages I spent for these two countries and not forgetting, my travel haul. So, do stay tune! 
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