Zhouzhuang - a Water Town
Trip Start May 26, 2010
12Trip End Jul 01, 2010
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Ming, the guy who is in charge of all things digital at the USA Expo pavilion, found us a great Shanghainese restaurant Wednesday night. The professor's mother Ruth and Ming's grandfather, Danny were friends from primary school and Ming's grandmother Phoebe was one of Ruth's best friends - a relationship that goes back 90 years. Ming is the son of Danny and Phoebe's son Dee, who married Laiwah, a Chinese-American. He worked for major league baseball and the NBA after college, decided to come to China and worked in digital marketing for Nike. He left Nike for the Expo job, and manages all the digital platforms the USA maintains for the Expo. He met Hillary and showed Herby Hancock around. He has learned Mandarin and speaks fluently. He did not speak it as a child, his mother spoke Cantonese and he did not know that very well. He enjoys living in Shanghai, and has a vibrant social life. The dinner he ordered included "Hearts Too Soft" dates, wrapped around glutinous rice, sweet grilled tofu, duck pancakes (like mushu pork but with duck), Lion's Head meatballs (the house specialty), squirrel fish with fungi, shredded tofu, and sticky buns for dessert. He offered to meet us over the weekend to show us around, but we were suffering from head colds and were tired so we begged off. It was great to spend time with him
On Friday we met up with colleagues Sabita and Brad, who were staying at a hotel on the Shanghai University campus, and two students, Hu and Pang. They had been asked to help our colleagues find their way to Zhouzhuang (Joe-Joo-ahng), a water town not far from Shanghai that Sabita had heard about. Hu, a guy, and Pang, a young lady are sweet, good natured, in their early 20s, studying Chinese culture and they took us by subway to a bus station near Shanghai Stadium. This was to take a tour bus to Zhouzhuang, and the woman who was tour leader spoke only in Chinese. She spoke for nearly an hour as we drove east through the city - Brad speculated it was a history of the Yuan, Qing and Ming dynasties, which is when most of the buildings in Zhouzhuan were built.
It is about 50 km from Shanghai to Zhouzhuang, most of it on an expressway. As you leave the congestion of the city, the land, which is flat, becomes marshy. You pass lakes and canals and low-lying villages. You see rice paddies, vegetable patches and tree farms. Zhouzhang has lakes on all four sides, and is made up of more than 1,000 buildings, 100 of which have courtyards and arched gateways. The buildings are often connected by arcades and lanes. But what makes it a water town is, of course, four lanes of water forming a grid, and 14 stone bridges
We wandered into what must have been the homes of merchants from long ago - old buildings. One housed what appeared to be a museum of ancient Chinese medicine - there was a jar of snake wine on a shelf and many other jars containing various herbs and plants
All in all, it was a very pleasant day, despite the awful traffic we had to drive through in Shanghai during rush hour. Brad and Sabita took us to a southeast Asian restaurant where we shared a very good vegetarian dinner (brocolli in coconut sauce, sweet and sour eggplant, several other dishes, all deliciously prepared by a chef from India Sabita had gotten to know. We parted - Brad and Sabita were off the next day for Hangzhou and then Beijing - and we were very glad that our visits to Shanghai had coincided.
Saturday was a work day - the college fair at the Shanghai East Asia Exhibition Hall
We cut short our stay at the Salvo Hotel, very conveniently located four blocks (two long, two short) from Nanjing Lu, the city's main shopping street with neon and video displays to rival Times Square and the Ginza, and a ten-minute walk from the Bund, which we had revisited the first night we were there. We have an early flight back to Hong Kong Monday morning and had decided to spend the night at a hotel inside Pudong International Airport. We took the subway all the way to the airport. We could have taken the 200 mph Maglev, but been there, done that and it costs 10 times as much as the subway. (Of course, it does in 12 minutes what took us an hour to do). The subway system in Shanghai is marvelous, clean (as is the rest of the city - an army of street cleaners makes that so) and very efficient. Trains come in exactly on time (video screens tell you when they are due), announcements are made for each station in both Chinese and English and, unlike the sound systems in New York subways, are actually intelligible. Maps of the system are easily understood, and each subway car has a list of the stops so you can track your trip. There are 10 different lines, and they intersect often enough so it's not hard to get just about anywhere. Trains take off and stop smoothly, and are very quiet. When you get tired of watching the other riders, you can watch tv commercials, news, highlights of the World Cup. All very civilized.
We return to Hong Kong for three days and we'll try to do some summarizing and post some photos you haven't seen.