After two busy days at sea, Ann, Carole, Cathy, Ellie, Ian and I, were all set for the next part of our China adventure with a trip to Suzhou and Tongli. I certainly was dismayed when I saw how thick the smog and pollution was when I walked out this morning… So off we went, smog and all…. Suzhou is the oldest city south of the Yangzi River and is located 1.5 hours northwest of Shanghai. Suzhou is called the Venice of the East, famous for its waterways, gardens and silk. Our first stop was the Panmen with its Ancient Gate, Pagoda, gardens and ponds...a lovely example of old China. The temperature has warmed up to the mid 50's and thankfully the sun came out a wee bit for our boat tour of the Grand Canal. The canal was built by hand 1400 years ago for the Emperor and travels 1000 miles from Hangzhou to Beijing. We made our way to the Master of Nets Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The outstanding feature of this small but elegant garden is that it combines living quarters with a landscape garden....decorated with trees, flowers, rockery, roofed walkways and pavilions. We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant and off to the 1000 year old Tongli Water Village. The pollution in this part of the world is horrible...to illustrate, there are over 1000 factories in Suzhou contributing to the problem...certainly tough on allergy suffers like myself. Tongli is delightful place surrounded by canals; we took an enjoyable sampan boat ride through the village to see the historical buildings. We visited a beautiful retreat and reflection garden called Tsuii and also a rich merchants house known as Chongbeng that had been turned into a wedding museum. Another great day of touring. This is part one of a three part blog.