20 January 2008

Trip Report: Zhouzhuang

I've been putting this entry off for a few weeks now, but unless I do it now, I'll probably never be doing it.

To refresh our collective memories, I was in China for a few weeks in 2007, and so far, I've blogged about being in Beijing's Forbidden City and Beihai Park, my travels to Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, and my marvelling of Shanghai.

This report is about my visit to the water village of Zhouzhuang in Suzhou. Shanghai is located on the lower reaches of the Yangtze Delta, also called the Jiangnan (江南) in Chinese. This area is peppered with canals and waterways, and is where the province of Jiangsu is located. Jiangsu's most famous area is Suzhou (苏州).

Anyways, cutting the geography lesson short, Suzhou is where you'll find a lot of water villages. And to cut the story even shorter (I can see some readers tearing their hair our with impatience now) ... I visited one of them, Zhouzuang (
周庄) while I was in Shanghai.

It's a half day trip from Shanghai, but I'd really recommend you to break from the normal touristy itinerary, and go early in the morning before the tourists spoil your experience. Even better is going during the winter, when the place is half deserted (according to my tour guide).

Ok, no more babbles ... I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking now.

Zhouzhuang is a small village now fully commercialized - there are shops everywhere. But what's really cool is you can take a boat ride around the place, and you can pay the boatmen to sing the native songs to serenade you while you are taken on your boat ride. However, we didn't make the boat ride, although it was actually included in the price for the tour I took. Why ? Just look at the next picture ...

The place was actually over run by tourists. The newly rich Chinese are taking vacations now .. this is a photo of the famous Twin Bridges. These bridges were subjects of a famous painting called "Memory of Hometown" by the late Chen Yifei, an American based Chinese artist, which made Zhouzhuang famous. As you can see, it's impossible to photograph without getting any humans in the picture. Sigh ...

It got so crowded some of the Americans in my tour group asked our guide to take us away from the main streets where the Chinese tourists were, so he took us into some really small lane by a minor waterway. And that's when I really started enjoying the place. It's really nice to find unobstructed waterways, and be able to see the locals doing what they do, you know, locals doing their laundry, or going about their card games.

The water's actually quite clean, you can see the bottom of the canal (which isn't very deep to start with). And being on the small street means we could take our time and wander around, peeking into the living rooms of the locals, hoping to glimpse into their lives.

Unfortunately, this being a half day trip, the day was over way too soon. Next time I come, I'll make sure I spend at least a day and will definately NOT be in a tour group. I want to be able to spend as much time as I want in spots that I like here.

Suzhou is a place full of mulberry trees. Mulberry trees are important because the silkworms feed on their leafs. Silkworms are important because without them there is no silk.

Suzhou has been a central city in China's silk industry through the ages, so you know what it means, don't you? It means that eventhough we're really late, the tour bus still had to make a totally gratuitous stop at the local silk factory, where we were shown the way to make and process silk into the finished product.

And guess what? My mum will not be proud of me. I'm the only one in the tour group who left the shop empty handed. =P


angeles said...

Gongxi gongxi gongxi ni ya, gongxi gongxi gongxi ni!


All the red lanterns reminded me of cny maa...

Anonymous said...

good thing u didn't buy anything from the silk factory...the prices are rocket high..cheat ppl one..

Chev said...

Nice Nice Nice...
I would love to visit Suzhou :)
and that would be my 4th visit to China liao :D

kat said...

Is this the place where they shot Mission Impossible #3? Saw Tom Cruise running over a similar bridge..

Che-Cheh said...

A pleasant place except when tourist attack!

Aiyar why didn't you buy anything from the silk factory? Try a silk comforter. Guarantee satisfaction! :D

moz monster said...

angeles: Itu macam kar? Well, I should look forward to your angpow, then, right ?

laundryamah: I don't know if the prices are really expensive or not, but I was travelling with very little luggage space, so I had no choice but not to buy anything !

chev: Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai are all within short travel of each other, you should try and visit them all !

kat: Is it ? I dunno wor ... but it's the same place they shot Lust, Caution at. A few of the later scenes were shot at this location.

che-cheh: The tourists attack lasts for 9 months, and only stop briefly during winter time.

I didn't buy anything because I was travelling light, and had no luggage space.

may said...

I'm awed! Zhouzuang looks like a Chinese Venice. my mum went there too I think, and bought a silk blanket. I like the texture but not a fan to wear anything silk, maybe it's 'cos I find it too delicate for a "choh-loh" person like me.