China

Zhouzhuang, China

September 2015, we flew from Shantou (Guandong Province) to Shanghai, about 3 hours flight. My wife, her sister and I, were accompanying my in laws to visit their old friends and business associates (whom they have not seen for quite a few years) in Zhangjiagang and Hai’an, which are tier 2 or 3 cities in Jiangsu province, China.

Shanghai to Zhangjiagang

My in law’ friends arranged for a driver to picked us up from Shanghai HongQiao International Airport to Zhangjiagang, a journey of about 2 hours. Zhangjiagang has almost no tourist attractions, however, the locals claimed that their city is known as the Singapore of China, clean and very green. It does look that way though. We only stayed for  1 night, sufficient for my in laws to catch up with old friends since there in nothing much to see here.

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The office/manufacturing plant of my in laws’ friends/business associates
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The city at 8am, a  short walk from our hotel

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Zhangjiagang to Hai’an

The journey from Zhangjiagang to Hai’an takes about 3 hours. At my in laws’  friends’ suggestion, a driver was hired to take us to Hai’an with a detour to visit Zhouzhuang, which is somewhere between Zhangjiagang and Hai’an.

Zhouzhuang Water Town

Zhouzhuang is about one and a half hours drive from Shanghai and one hour from Suzhou (another famous city in China). Zhouzhuang has a history of about 900 years with houses and bridges built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). There are several lakes around Zhouzhuang where you can go boating.

Most of the houses in Zhouzhuang are built next to waterways or lakes. Zhenfeng street is where you will find many traditional shops lining the narrow street, such as herbal medicine shops, wine workshops, spinning, weaving shops and bamboo weaving shops. Zhouzhuang bamboo weaving has a very long history and the products are reputed to be compact, strong and durable.

No vehicles or bicycles are allowed in this water town and the only available transport are boats. The town is known for small boats like gondolas to ferry tourist for sightseeing around the area. These boats seat about 6 persons (at 120rmb per boat) and a gondolier who row the boat and will even sing for you at a small fee (10rmb per song).

Following are the photos of Zhouzhuang water town, reputed to be the No. 1 water town in China.

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The boat that takes us across the lake to Zhouzhuang water town

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The bridge to walk across the lake to Zhouzhuang water town, a short walk away from where we disembarked from the boat

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Street vendor selling tofu, etc
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Shop selling all kinds of fishes and shrimps (caught from the lakes)
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Very narrow street therefore should try to avoid visiting during the peak seasons or during any chinese holidays

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The next 5 photos was taken inside the home of a very rich and influential chinese merchant

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The contraption on the extreme left of the table is for squeezing fruit juice

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A chinese tourist putting on her best pose

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Pork knuckles, a famous dish in Zhouzhuang and the favourite of one of the Ming Emperor when visiting

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Photo with our tour guide (with hat) who was born and grew up here
Photo with our tour guide (with hat) who was born and bred here

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The exit of Zhouzhuang water town
The exit of Zhouzhuang water town
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The town outside the Zhouzhuang water town

Hai’an

There are nothing worth seeing in Hai’an, a coastal city. However, the Howard Johnson Hotel is a really imposing building with gold coloured facade (reputedly only one of the few in the world). The interior of the hotel building and the annex building are laid with impressive granite and marble, said to be imported from Italy and around the world.

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Howard Johnson Hotel building

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The foyer of Howard Johnson hotel
The foyer of Howard Johnson hotel

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We were taken by my in laws’ friends and business associates to a restaurant in the Howard Johnson hotel for lunch and the private dining room is one of the most impressive I have ever seen.

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The dining room of the chinese restaurant in Howard Johnson hotel
With my in laws' friend and business associate in front of his manufacturing plant in Hai'an
With my in laws’ friend and business associate in front of his manufacturing plant in Hai’an

Although there is nothing much to see in Zhangjiagang and Hai’an, the trip to Zhouzhuang Water Town is really enjoyable. We only had about 5 hours there. An overnight stay would be ideal, when the atmosphere at night would certainly be enchanting, with all the lights turned on and lanterns lighted up. The hotels inside the water town are clean and reasonably priced, usually operated by the original inhabitants. We had lunch in one of the many restaurants and found the food to be quite delicious and reasonably priced as well.

All photos shot with the Nikon D810 + Nikkor 24-120 f4g lens.

2 thoughts on “Zhouzhuang, China

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