While in Shanghai we were eager to visit this ancient water town well-known throughout the country. It has a history of more than 1,700 years, and covers an area of 47 square km. We had read many recommendations and positive reviews about this area located in a suburb of Shanghai city.
Here is the story about our adventure…
Just around the corner from our hostel was a bakery, and we had been wanting to try it out. This was the perfect day because we didn’t have time to wait for food. This pastry with ham and cheese had the potential to be a sweet disaster, however, it was quite tasty! 🙂
Thanks to our Lonely Planet, we knew where to catch the necessary bus to Zhujiajiao. When we arrived, we weren’t sure if we should bother staying in line, because, as usual, the queue was long, and we had no way of knowing how frequently they would actually run. There were no English-speaking people at the bus office. One bus filled, and left. There seemed to be a lot of people hovering around the front of the queue, waiting for their opportunity to squeeze in! We decided to wait for another bus, and see how much closer we could get. Miraculously, we were the last couple to get on the bus. The journey would be over an hour, so we were relieved to have seats, but this didn’t seem to both other people. The bus was packed as full as it could be, but we were happy to be on our way!
Once we arrived, we were unsure where to go. We spotted four other travelers, however they didn’t seem to very friendly, so we decided to just walk until we found something interesting. I had a completely different idea of what the town would look like, so I was confused when we arrived. Once we got to a busy area, we spotted a tourism office (in the street pictured above), and we went inside to find a map. Immediately we were offered a map+day ticket (for 80 yuan each), including admission to 8 sights, and a canal boat trip. This was exactly what we wanted!
A local cutting bamboo.
Naturally, there were tons of people!
Only after pressing through the crowds, and crossing a big bridge, did we feel that we had come to the right place!
Apparently, it is said that to visit Zhujiajaio without seeing the bridges means that you have not really been to Zhujiaiao at all! All the bridges are different and old. The old town is connected by 36 bridges in different shapes and styles, varying from wood and stone to marble.
Fangsheng Bridge is the longest, largest and tallest stone bridge. This is the highest and biggest bridge in the town, built in 1571 and entirely out of stone. From this bridge you can get a good bird’s-eye view (above) of the surrounding area.
“Fangsheng” means “to set free” – the traditional Buddhist custom of setting free small animals such as turtles and fish. This is said to bring good karma to the person doing so. I have heard that people passing by here are persuaded to buy a bag of small fish, and then to set them free at the foot of the bridge thereby bringing good luck and blessings to yourself. There are little old Chinese ladies selling the bags of fish – but here’s the catch (excuse the pun) – just on the other side of the bridge there are people recapturing them for resale!
After crossing Fangsheng bridge, we turned right, into another overcrowded alley. There were plenty food and souvenir stalls along the sidewalks. If you can handle the crowds, this is a very culturally rich and diverse place.
Fatty meat wrapper in banana leafs then steamed.
Zongzi (rice and meat wrapped in leaves)
Left, This sweet little old man was trying to smile, but this was the best that he could do. Being a food vendor in these busy alleyways must be exhausting! I believe that he was browning sesame seeds.
Right, These look a bit like South African koeksisters and they are probably pretty much the same. A type of rolled dough fried, and then covered in sugar.
We stood at the above store for a while watching a man making dragons, insects and birds out of grass and leaves. The detail of his intricate work was incredible. it was quite mesmerising to watch!
Known by another elegant name, “Pearl Stream”, this little town is the best-preserved of the four ancient towns in Shanghai. Numerous old bridges over winding streams, small rivers shaded by willow trees, and houses with attached courtyards. These rivers transport people living amongst the hustle and bustle of the modern city to an alternative world filled with antiques, relaxation, and tranquility.
In the town, there is an ancient street filled with ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, attracting a huge number of tourists. This is North Street, the best preserved ancient street in this town. It is one kilometer long. Walking down this street and appreciating the historic buildings, markets, canal, and bridges, was very fascinating!
Time for a snack…
We bought a bag of peanut brittle too. It was delicious!
We visited the Tongtianhe Medicine shop. There were bottles of Chinese medicines, made from natural ingredients. Above right, Ginger root.
It was very peaceful here.
As it got later, we managed to find some quieter alleyways.
A pet market ~ Cute!!
They were all saying “PICK ME!!”
Next stop, the City of God Temple.
Lesson learnt here: Don’t take incense from strangers
(Check out that story here <— CLICK ON LINK!)
We had to be back in line at the bus terminal by a certain time to be sure that we didn’t miss the last bus back to Shanghai. It was surprisingly easy to retrace our footsteps. While we waited in line, we munched on the delicious bag of peanut brittle that we bought at the market. The queue grew by the minute – we were happy we had arrived early enough.
What a wonderful day!!!