Monday, August 29, 2011

Shanghai-Suzhou: Europe Have Venice, Asia?

Executive summary by Darmansjah Godjali
If Europe had a Venice with canals, bridges and gondola, then the continent of Asia also have a lot of cities are similar. His name was Zhou  ZhuangZhou  Zhuang, a small town located in the administrative area of ​​Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, China.

Zhou  Zhuang

City Zhou Zhuang Water was built in the Ming and Qing (1368-1911). At first a fief of land Yaocheng, the year 1086 most of the city was granted by the owner, Zhao Digong, Quanfu to the monastery, and later named as Zhou Zhuang.

Unlike the Venetian is the only one,  Zhou  Zhuang is one of several ancient water city that belongs to China. There was also a Zhujiajiao in Shanghai, and Suzhou Tong Li, also in Jiangsu Province. Zhou  Zhuang is very easily accessible, either from Shang Hai via public bus, or from Suzhou, which is only approximately 35 miles of Zhou  Zhuang.

Coach bus I was riding that day set off early from Suzhou, after a previous stay in Suzhou. The journey takes about about 45 minutes it passed through the ranks of yellow plants are very beautiful (I do not know the exact name, a kind of infant,  perhaps Chrysanthemum), which seems to be cultivated. At about 9 (or 10 o'clock our time) coach buses have arrived in Zhou Zhuang. My guide, originally from Henan province, undergo a fairly rigorous. Special inspection guide is done to ensure that the guide have official permission, and responsible for the overall group (I went along with the troupe). After examination of approximately 15 minutes, my guide explained that many incidents where criminal act like stealing guides or leave the group in the middle of the journey.

Go to the gate of Zhou Zhuang was not as smooth as imagined. That month was the entrance to the attraction repaired, causing a tremendous traffic jam. We waited half an hour, before we get into the ancient city. My guide, A Cing, asking all passengers to get off and walk toward the gate, 300 feet away, because congestion is likely to last long enough. Spring breeze and Yun Hai Pagoda towering greet me when I get into the ancient city complex.

addressed by Yun Hai Pagoda

These attractions are popular, so popular that at 10 noon, thousands of people pass through the entry gate, the result is remarkable sweaty, combination of crowded visitors with hot spring. Before 9 o'clock in the morning or late evening is a good time to visit Zhou Zhuang. Admission RMB 100, or about 12 dollars. 

Impression of an ancient water town is deeply felt when entering the complex. Ranks of the old buildings of brick still neatly arranged, with windows and doors decorated with geometric patterns of cross-cross (latticework) the distinctive taste makes me enter the cities in martial arts movies made by director of Hong Kong. I began to feel the beauty of this ancient city while walking along the edge of the canal water, shaded by hundreds of willow trees along the canal.

Gondola rowers old mother

Can not wait to get up the gondola seemed to wander the old town. After crossing the bridge Fu'an, I look for counter inside the gondola. I paid 30 RMB, or about 45 dollars, and then my gondola along with seven passengers, accompanied by a boater, a 60-year-old elderly mother who apparently still strong and full of smiles, immediately left the dock

Zhou Zhuang-style gondola, up to 12 person!

This is the moment to down the Zhou Zhuang, apart from the crowd of tourists like me. A breeze accompanied me when it's gondola slowly left the dock. With the Chinese language I did not understand, old rower's mother offered to accompany the 30-minute trip with a typical song. We nodded in agreement. Immediately, his old voice began to sing Mandarin songs twisted.

Zhou Zhuang is different. Down the canal, enjoying the ancient residential buildings are well-preserved ancient times, enjoy the sound melodious old rowers, and splashing the water when the gondola through the water canal ... ..

Zhou Zhuang down the canal water

Unfortunately, drive 30 minutes it was very quick end. The old mother was smiling broadly at the end of the journey, may also be due to RMB 15 that we gave him to wage singing. Gondola stops immediately greeted with a narrow alley with old houses and souvenir vendors on the left side. Remember, do not let you be fooled here. Almost all the souvenirs here 4 times more valuable than if purchased at the checkout Zhou Zhuang. Save your money to buy cheaper later. Down the houses of the ancient dwelling, with walls that are cracked and worn, the sloping roof, where the site of this old city are still inhabited by residents until now, presents an interesting glimpse of Chinese history to be learned.

Attractions outside the city gates were colored with hundreds of souvenir vendors who sell a variety of objects, the main characteristic of Zhou Zhuang. If you are interested in buying, look for objects typical of the area, such as wall hangings, carvings price about RMB 40 -70 (remember, your ability to bargain is required here!), Balls of colorful gold (for whatever) , leather wallets, and if you are not a Muslim, you should try souvenirs typical of this, sorry, roast leg of pork Wanshan typical. With a price around RMB 70-80, you can enjoy the pork legs weighing about 5-7 ounces of a delicious and not  fat. Food here is also unique, such as turtles, eels, freshwater mussels, but I do not know the taste.
Twin Bridge Zhou Zhuang
Suggested Itineraries:
1. Stay first in Shanghai or Suzhou.
2. Depart early morning to Zhou Zhuang, via Shanghai / Suzhou by public buses. Although usually travel Zhou Zhuang is a one day trip, do not hurt you to stay there. It costs about RMB 200-400. Experience the night in Zhou Zhuang no less interesting.
3. Returned to Shanghai, Suzhou travel or continue.

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