When you’re visiting Shanghai, you’ll want to check out China’s water towns which are not far from China’s fully modernized metropolis. Spring and fall are the perfect times to visit these historic villages, which are intercut with numerous canals and bridge crossings and retain a sleepy, misty charm that gives the visitor a timeless sense of being in the Yangtze River Delta.
Time travel doesn’t actually exist – not to our knowledge anyway – but the ancient water town of Wuzhen and its six districts offer a stunning trip back to the days where nearby Hangzhou was China’s leading city both in terms of economy and culture. Wuzhen itself is considered to be the best of the six main water towns in the delta, in that more than 80% of its original facades, stone bridges & pathways, and intricate wooden carvings have remained intact over the years.
Many parts of the town – which has just 12,000 permanent residents out of a total of 60,000 – are equally dazzling to look at and is a dream for amateur and professional photographers alike.
Culture enthusiasts will revel in the numerous activities here, which include bamboo pole climbing which involve acrobatic stunts atop a bamboo pole, martial arts performance using numerous traditional weapons accompanied by drums and other music, and the traditional Chinese art of shadow plays which are literally handmade shadows projected onto a screen.
Meanwhile, Suzhou’s stunning canals, pagodas, stone bridges and gardens have earned it the moniker of “Venice of the East”, and deservedly so. Like Wuzhen, it is easily accessible from Shanghai and maintains a traditional streetscape that has endured some 2,500 years of history. Its role as a major centre of the Chinese silk industry means you can purchase an incredibly colourful range of silk products here.
The city sometimes nicknamed “Venice of the East” is much larger than Wuzhen in terms of population and size, but its old centre retains a romantic allure in its numerous canals that are easily explored during this day-long cruise tour.
Travellers on Nezasa’s itineraries needn’t restrict themselves to just Wuzhen and Suzhou when exploring this culturally and historically rich area of China. Numerous water towns are easily accessible from both – as well as from Shanghai proper – and each has its own distinct personality and dialect.
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