Depart your central Shanghai hotel by air-conditioned vehicle, and travel eastward with your guide and small group of eight travelers or fewer.
Pass through Shanghai’s suburbs, and hear all about your destination: the ancient water town Tongli south of Suzhou. With a history of 1,500 years, Tongli boasts an old canal system and lakes, and offers a glimpse into the customs of old China, with many residents still living much as their ancestors did.
On arrival, hop out and enjoy a walking tour of Tongli’s picturesque canal sides and alleyways. Admire the tree-lined waterfronts, stone houses, and antique bridges, and stroll around the exquisite, UNESCO-listed Retreat and Reflection Garden, a 19th-century oasis of winding paths, reflecting ponds, and pavilions.
Next, continue west to the water village of Jinze, also famous for its canals, bridges, and old architecture — with some buildings dating to the Song dynasty of the 10th century. Absorb the atmosphere of this primitive village, whose lifestyle is hardly touched by time or tourism, and visit a courtyard teahouse for an 8-course home-cooked lunch.
See your home chef at work in the kitchen, and then enjoy the traditional dishes with drinks such as fresh juice, wine, beer, and tea. Afterward, enjoy a Chinese tea ceremony, sampling delicate teas, and hearing about the different leaves, tea sets, and ritual’s history. If you wish, try some Chinese calligraphy, learning how to read and write particular words with a traditional brush and ink.
Next, join in a dumpling making session led by your host. Watch as they manipulate the dough, and then make and cook three versions of these tasty parcels before enjoying them as a light, early supper.
Your trip then ends with an evening drop-off at your central Shanghai hotel.