We took a day trip down to Zhou Zhuang (周庄), also known as Venice of the Orient. A colleague actually found the website of a local travel company and I called them and made the booking entirely in Chinese *pats self on back*. And they fully understood me!! At a mere 99元 (US$14) per person, you get a full day’s tour including transportation. Apparently it’s a ton cheaper than the foreigner-type travel companies.. whom I’ve heard like to fleece tourists/expats. I say no to fleecing!! But one tiiiiny little detail? The tour is ENTIRELY IN CHINESE too. So everywhere we went, we were told the story/history of the place in Chinese. Eep! It meant that whilst we paid a fraction of what it’d otherwise cost, we also didn’t understand anything that was going on and basically had to rely on ourselves to hunt down the English signs ;)
So bright and early at 8am, the little yellow bus came to our service apartment and picked us up, all bleary-eyed. No matter, we spent the next 1.5 hours snoozing on the way there. The first stop was a bit surreal – I finally figured out she was saying something like “take photo” and “toilet”. Turns out, we had to stand in the queue to get a mugshot of ourselves taken and printed on our ticket. Why do they need photos on the tickets? I have no idea! Oh, and by “queue”, I actually mean “push and shove your way to the front”. It was literally that. There were maybe 10 simultaneous queues, and people would just SHOVE to butt in. It was… startling. One older Chinese woman saw a break in the queue next to me, and actually put her 2 palms on my back and SHOVED with all her might, sending me flying into a crowd of people. It happened so quickly Chris or I couldn’t even react – one minute I was standing there, the next minute I was a few feet away! It really got my blood levels to boiling point – because for one, I don’t even LIKE crowds of people, and I CERTAINLY don’t like rude people touching/shoving me. Oh boy…
Anyways, after plonking ourselves one-by-one on a little wooden stool and getting our mugshot taken with a dinky ‘lil webcam, we were herded to the massive toilet next door. Chris was like “Is this supposed to be an attraction?!” Hahaha. It was a stand-alone building that was just one massive bathroom. I guess they insist everyone uses it ‘cos bathrooms are hard to come by in the little village. But we obediently went in and peed ;)
Then it was into the village! It genuinely is a beautiful place, a little piece of China’s history that still stands, showcasing how the wealthy Chinese lived during feudal China. There are 14 stone bridges, which were built during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.There are 2 residences that we went into, one of which was built in 1742 by the child of its wealthiest trader during the Qing dynasty. The mansion has more than 100 rooms for the master, his many wives/concubines or whatever they’re called, and servants. It’s beautiful and impressive, and really amazing to see in real life.
It was a totally worthwhile day trip, despite the partial drizzle and chill. Thoroughly enjoyed myself and even though it IS a bit touristy (especially during public holidays), it’s still a real experience. A city so close to the huge modern metropolis of Shanghai, yet set back and still living in the spirit of the past.
Entry ticket to Zhou Zhuang
The wood map of the small water village
Little boats to transport you through the village
The narrow waterways. Love the jaunty red lanterns for Chinese New Year
Chris. Tongue. Bridge.
Inside one of the old-style residences
Absolutely beautiful lantern
Marble artwork set in intricately carved wood
The dining area of the residence
Christries his hand at grinding salt
A statue of the master of the house
‘Lil old ladies weaving
They were making these absolutely exquisite shoes!
Random touristy pic on the bridge
First thing Chris said when he saw ’em? “Peking duck!!!!!!!!!!!” ROFL
Pork knuckle. These were so tasty and tender!
Happy “niu” Year dudes!
Chris gets some lovin’
Going into the famous “Shen Ting Restaurant”
Gorgeous tea with Lavender, Rose, Chrysanthemum, Goji Berris
Eggs with tiny little fish
Veggies with bamboo shoots
Delicious cured beef
Little snail thingys that people in China love. I only dared to eat one :P
Steamed fish. It was so so soft, pity about the tiny bones though!
Beautiful intricate artworks
Walkway back out
At the next stop
Rubbing that statue brings you good luck, apparently, but I don’t believe in that kinda thing!
RAWR-ing like the lion ;)
All pooped out, headed back onto our (canary yellow!) bus for the ride back home