Today we visited the town of Tongli, which is ancient–over 1000 years old, and apparently much of it has remained the same for the past few hundred years. It’s crisscrossed by 15 rivers. There are 49 ancient bridges and a gazillion little funky alleys full of crooked old buildings. Vendors sell art, food, crafts, toys and souvenirs.
We got to explore the Ming Qing shopping district, and then we visited the Garden of Retreat & Reflection. Ironically, the youngest garden on our list this week, only 135 years old. We had a fantastic guide here, who spoke very good English and clearly loved her material. She grew up in this town and her pride and knowledge really showed.
There is so much more to write about these gardens, I wish I could do them more justice blogging like this on the fly, but I’m so tired, I can hardly keep my eyes open! The day typically starts with a tour around the garden, or in this case, old town. The smallest garden so far was about 2 acres. The camera crew moves quickly through to capture B-roll shots of all the most important features, while Lance and I try to orient ourselves with garden plans, understand the guides, and remember Chinese names. Just orienting ourselves in these warrens of passages, rooms and corridors that open out into the garden is challenging. Normally, I’m a more laid-back traveler trying to absorb information slowly, but in this case I know I’m going to be tested right after lunch!
After an enormous lunch, we come back to the garden and have a few minutes to gather our thoughts before we sit for an on-camera interview. We each take a turn trying not just to regurgitate everything we’ve learned about the garden, but to synthesize some of the important ideas about it into a compelling story. With everybody in the garden looking at you! And by everybody, I mean not just the crew, but the hundreds of visitors wandering through the garden while were filming. It’s really a surreal experience.
Okay, now for a few quick pictures of this morning’s little excursion through Tongli and adventure on the canal boats. Not many of the boats, our iPhones interfere with the mics, so I can’t take photos while we’re wired for sound. You’ll have to tune in to the show for that!
There is so much more to post! But I will probably fall asleep waiting for all these pix to load on my little phone…