My friends and I took a long-ish (over an hour each way by car) day trip out of Shanghai’s metropolitan areas to Zhujiajiao Water Town (50 km from the Bund). Chinese water towns are wonderful places to visit because they seek to preserve the feel of life in an old, traditional Chinese village without tall buildings or cars. Water towns are built around waterways and the sight of riverbanks lined on each side by closely-spaced houses with curved roofs, plus arching bridges and calm flora, make a gorgeous and romantic sight. A Chinese Venice, perhaps.
Visiting a water town is like a trip back in time, especially since the distance of water towns from city centers means the crowds won’t be uncontrollable and disruptive.
Shanghai has eight water towns. Zhujiajiao (population 60,000) is one of the more well-known ones. The ancient town was established around 1,700 years ago and is home to 36 stone bridges.
Our driver didn’t take us through the main entrance (where I snapped the pic above) so we could get in without paying the entrance fee, but we would discover that the entrance fee is not enforced by the people at the main entrance. This sets Zhujiajiao apart from some other Shanghai water towns, which do collect entrance fees.
Pretty much the first thing we did when exploring Zhujiajiao’s winding alleys was go into an adorable tea shop selling rose tea and rose pastries.
The pastries were the same as the flower pastries I wrote about from my Yunnan trip. They fit in your palm and are filled with crushed, sweetened rose petals in flaky crust that’s similar to pie crust and laminated dough.
I loved seeing that these were freshly made by hand in the shop.
The flower drink was made with an infusion of herbs and flowers plus syrup. It had a delicate flavor and looked beautiful.
Here it is being prepared. The red rings you can see in one of the glass jars is dried Chinese hawthorn/hawberry, a slightly sour fruit that is thought to stimulate digestion. They are the main ingredient of tanghulu, an iconic street snack from Northern China now available all over China. I’ll have pictures of tanghulu in my upcoming post about Zhujiajiao Water Town’s street food.
The best part of the shop was hiding in the back. A puppy! Our hearts instantly melted for Xiao Hui (Little Gray) and we took turns passing him around.
We would soon meet the stunning Xiao Bai (Little White). That’s for an upcoming post! I uploaded around 120 photos from this water town so there’s several in the works.