Saturday, November 28, 2009

Zhouzhuang and Suzhou Day Tour

Today, or at least this morning, is reserved for a day tour outside Shanghai. We commissioned the same agency we had yesterday for our Shanghai City Tour for today's Zhouzhuang and Suzhou coach day tour (USD73 each, inclusive of transportation, entrance fees and lunch).
Our first destination was Zhouzhuang, said to be the oldest water town in China and is fondly referred to as the "Venice of the East". This township took a over 1.5 hours of travel by car from Shanghai (approximately 60 kilometers away)


The food vendors selling this delicacy, Wansan hoof, or a pig's upper leg stew that is slowly cooked in fire, caught our attention as we enter the town. We later bought a couple (RMB40 each) and to our delight, the meat is very tender and delicious, and it's not as fatty or greasy as it appears.


stone marker, as we enter the water town


The town is well known for its canals and water views that span across the town, old charm and rustic houses preserved from generations back dating to Ming and Qing dynasties.
 

water canal
 

passageway inside the town


There are boats (or gondolas) that take tourists and visitors around the area.
 

me


We entered Shen House, built in 1972, occupying around half an acre of area in the town. The house now serves as a museum showcasing life back then and the relics of it's owner Shen Wansan.


Here are some pictures taken inside the house:
    

After the house, we walked a bit further inside the town and its alleys.


The area was touristy that a lots of shophouses selling different items to visitors.
 

As we walk around the place, one cannot help but admire the beauty of the gondolas running over the water on the canals, the old charm look of the area added beauty to the already picturesque view.


And it's cute to see that these gondolas passes through even the narrow streams of the canal.


Later on, our group boarded one of the gondola for a 15-minute ride around the town. The person driving our boat even sang a couple of songs as if we were in venice and the lady is in an opera!


Here are some photos taken during the ride:
  

As we exit the town, I again so the famous mascot of World Expo 2010. It's pretty obvious Shanghai and the surrounding area are in full throttle for next year's event and I get reminded almost everywhere I look!


We left Zhouzhuang and went straight to Choyers Restaurant in Suzhou for lunch. Suzhou is said to be around 30 kilometers from Zhouzhuang.


Our group (of around 6) was served the following dishes:

shrimps


fried fish with sweet and sour sauce


chinese cabbage (bok choi)


bean sprouts


fried chicken


beef with onions


cabbage


inside the restaurant


Where else are we supposed to go after lunch? Naturally the adjacent Suzhou No. 1 Silk Factory. I feel like being kidnapped at times when I take tours in China as they always insert factory shopping, teahouses or medicine place visit packaged as a "cultural experience tour".
 

So we went again today for a tour (and lengthy explanation) on how the silk is produced out of the caterpillars and cocoons.

inside the factory


cocoon


caterpillars


worker separating good from bad cocoons


production machineries
 

machine spinning and extracting the silk from the cocoons


looming
 

pulling off silk, to demonstrate its flexibility and strength


After the visit to the factory, we had a quick stop at the Ancient City Gate (Pan Gate), estimated to be around 2,500 years old. The view of the surrounding area from the Wu Gate Bridge is very beautiful and relaxing.
 

Wu Gate Bridge


another shot took from the bridge


the entrance leading to the Wu Gate Bridge


Then we went to the Master of the Nets Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are some pictures taken inside 5,400 square meters of area.
          

    

I find the garden very beautiful. It has been an inspiration for a lot of people that there are sometimes groups of painters or artists that come and sit the whole day here to draw inspiration or the garden itself be a subject of their artwork.

The visit to the garden was the end to our day tour today. Exhausting and far from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, this has been a refreshing look and a cultural immersion for us, and at the same time a way to see the beauty of the surrounding areas in a such a short time.

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