Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Over Thanksgiving weekend, taking advantage of family in town to play tourists, we took the day and travelled to a traditional 'water town' about a 45-minute drive from central Shanghai. Though there are several of these 'water towns' within trekkable distance from the city, we had heard recommendations that Zhujiajiao was one of the best preserved, least-crowded, and most beautiful.

And it did not disappoint - we had picked a perfect crisp autumn day and arrived early, which bathed the town's still-awakening streets in slanting sunlight. By mid-morning the town was bustling, but less with tourists and more with people running through the rituals of their daily routine. We passed fishermen prepping fish to sell riverside; rambled along Ancient Street, with its stalls of snacks of pigs' trotters or sesame bars; admired everyday artisans hand-carving chops or making animals out of caramel to be sold on sticks; and wandered the painstakingly-preserved Kezhi Gardens and Buddhist temples fragrant with incense and humming with hymns.

All of this poking around provoked an appetite, so we sat in the sun in view of the Fangsheng bridge (from which people release fish at the start of the New Year for luck) and enjoyed what the river had to offer. And after lunch, we indulged in a 'pleasure boat' ride from one of the skilled gondoliers to take in the last of the light before we headed back into the smog and bustle, wishing for a piece of the peaceful town to take back with us.

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