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China 5 – The Water Villages

December 10, 2009

Washing a cooking pot in the canal

During our last two days in China we ventured well off the beaten path and visited a couple of ancient water villages.  The first trip took us about an hour outside of Shanghai to Zhujiajiao, a town over 1,000 years old.  The town was made up of narrow lanes, canals and bridges. 

Pig snout anyone?

 We walked among the shops and looked at the tempting foods.  Our guide advised us on foods since none of the people in the shops knew English.  For the most part, it was easy for us to make up our minds regarding the food.  We did not want the pig snouts or pig tails, we skipped over the dead baby chicks that were half developed and partially hatched from the egg, we did not pick up the roasted chicken feet with claws and we definitely did not want the stinky tofu (it smelled too much like the outdoor potties).  We did try a lotus root stuffed with rice… that was pretty good.  How the food did not spoil was a miracle of science since it sat in the 90 degree heat for hours.  The old town had charm and we really enjoyed the gondola ride through the canals.  The slow peaceful ride showed the back entrances to the shops. 

Baby chick snack

On our last full day in China we travelled to Zhouzhuang, a very ancient and exotic town called the “Venice of the East”.  The old gate of the town dates back to 770BC.  The town was similar to Zhuijiajiao, a web of narrow streets, canals and bridges, but much older.  There were no cars in the village – just gondulas.  Many large trees spread their branches over the canal providing welcome shade from the hot sun.  In some respects, the town was a living museum. 

Gondulas in Zhouzhuang

As we floated through the canals on a gondola we saw the town come to life.  Women were busy washing clothes in the canal as well as tossing kitchen waste and washing their pots and pans in the canal.  The pace was more relaxed than Shanghai.  Men were busy working on buildings, hauling things, etc.  Others were working in shops, some were weaving bamboo crafts while others were stitching silk art.  And there were quiet spots where the only activity was leisure… men were sitting under a tree visiting and playing Mahjong while women were visiting, fanning themselves with small hand fans.  Quiet, hot, humid and lush with life, this was a dreamy land of immense willow trees, old stone bridges and narrow alleys.  While you were there, you knew you were in a different world. 

Touring Zhouzhuang in a gondula

While touring this area we also visited the spectacular Master Net Garden, which, like several of the other sites we visited, was a United Nations world cultural site.  The garden and buildings were built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  We toured the residence, library, music room and other buildings and walked through a luxurious jungle of plants and around the tranquil pond.  This mesmerizing walk was a journey through a fantasy land… a truly fitting way to conclude our visit to China.

Reflections at Master Net Garden

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2009 3:15 pm

    The fishing towns are so cool! We went to visit one in particular near, kinda near, Hong Kong. The boats were so cute, and the little town was so impressive. The people there were very kind. It seems like a nice, peaceful way to live. They do have to work hard for what they have, but they seem so happy. Your pictures are amazing!

  2. December 10, 2009 11:16 pm

    M, thanks for your following my blog and your encouragement. I assume you have clicked on my Flickr link to look at other pictures I have taken while in China. If not… please take a look. We really enjoyed the mystical journey into the water villages. It was so different from the other parts of China. I would be your adventures near Hong King were similar. Again, thanks for sharing.

  3. Diane Cunningham permalink
    January 5, 2010 3:10 pm

    Ni hao!
    My sisiter-in-law, Gwen, forwarded your blog…apparently, my e-mail address wasn’t quite right! I loved your report on the China trip…it was just like being there again; although the Mongolian portion sounded a little too “rustic” for me. We had a great time and enjoyed meeting you. Lloyd & Diane Cunningham

  4. January 5, 2010 10:35 pm

    Diane, good to hear from you. Did you check out the pictures? Just go to the right side “MY PHOTOS” and click on one of the photos. It takes you to Flickr. I have several sets of photos from China loaded into Flickr … plus I am putting other photos from South America and all over as time permits. If you want to remember where the blog is click on SUBSCRIBE and put in your email address. Then it will automatically notify you of changes. Anyway… thanks for your Comment! BC

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