It was my first Spring Festival in China and I desperately wanted to travel around Shanghai. It had been a destination of interest since I first planned to live in China. After a brief stay in Guilin, I headed out to China’s economic hub. However, a few days were more than enough to see most of the sights of the city and I decided to get outside for at least part of a day.
I purchased tickets for a tour to the water town known as Zhouzhuang, in Jiangsu province. This small, ancient town is about two hours away and well worth the journey on a bus. Unfortunately, our tour was entirely in Chinese and my language skills were severely lacking at that time. I had much of the tour translated by my traveling companion, though not all of it got translated.
Nonetheless, we toured the old homes and streets of Zhouzhuang for a few hours with our group until we were allowed to wander on our own for a few more hours before returning to Shanghai. We were shown homes of the elite class and provided with history lessons on the rights of women and servants of the time.
Walking through the streets of the town was good enough for me; I admired the architecture and was bewildered by all the hanzi signs. After seeing the jutting mountains around Yangshuo, I was impressed by the traditional Chinese architecture surrounded by canals that were still used by the locals.
The bridges gave me views of the canals that ran between the houses and businesses. It was not a busy time of year, as it was just before the Chinese New Year. I was fortunate that the town isn’t too big, otherwise I would have probably been quite lost in the two hours I had to wander. It reminded me of Amsterdam, similar buildings separated by a series of canals and bridges–only this time no one spoke much English.
I arrived at the bus at the exact time that we were supposed to get there (the lesson I’ve learned many times in China is to never be on time for the bus back because it is always late anyway). Due to a minor complication, we were delayed almost an hour and it was impossible to get off the bus in the hopes of taking a few more minutes around Zhouzhuang. Sitting on the bus, I contemplated how much more time I could’ve spent sitting on a bridge overlooking the canals.