Since we’ve finally hit warmer weather, it’s time to emerge from hibernation – and to take the chance to escape the construction grind of the city.
A mere 30 km from Shanghai, Zhujiajiao might fit the “quick escape” bill. While the Ming Dynasty water-canal town has long been part of the tourist circuit (and also, home of the awesome Antidote and Zhicago music festivals in the summer), it hasn’t quite reached heaving-crowd-levels yet. In fact, when we went on a Friday, we were accompanied with by a few businessmen, photographers, and a gaggle of couples taking wedding photos.
The town itself is not terribly big; it is roughly split up in three areas (separated by waterways). The granddaddy of sights is the five-arched Fangsheng Bridge. Literally, the “Setting Fish Free” Bridge, be prepared to be accosted by ladies selling panicked goldfish in plastic bags. From there, it’s all about roaming around the town; marketed as “Shanghai’s Venice,” the narrow lanes, tiny bridges, and stonework buildings make for a charming wander. As there were not many tourists there, most storekeepers were more interested in playing cards than selling their goods; there are also a few art galleries scattered around.
With all good China sights worth their salt, there is no shortage of food. Look out for bamboo-leaf-wrapped meat-rice cakes for 2rmb, as well as fresh-made peanut bars. Those in search of meat may salivate over the slow-roasted pig knees, which to our delight, yielded two (large) plates of sweet-tender goodness. Those in search of a view may like the bevy of restaurants that overlook the waterway next to Fangsheng Bridge, though you may pay next-to-waterway prices.
The trick is getting there, and thanks to the yellow buses, it is easier than ever. Skip the Indoor Stadium tourism buses (which stop running at 10am); instead, on the corner of Dagu Lu and Lao Chengdu Lu, there should be a group of yellow buses that take you there for 9rmb. The first one goes out at there 7am (and runs until 5:15pm), the last one comes back from Zhujiajiao at 6:30pm. They’ll take you to Zhujiajiao’s bus station — the town is a mere half block away, and locals will point you in the right direction.
Weekdays are great, weekends can get crowded, and yes, it is touristy, but the postcard-pretty Zhujiajiao is worth the trek.