Over the Christmas, we decided to do a bit of travelling. One of the places that we waned to go for a long time is the watertown. Watertown is like Venice of China where a series of canal crisscrossing and serving villages in the ancient time before road, plumbing and modern sanitation arrived (which I’m sure wasn’t long ago for this remote location).

The town is about an hour and a half from Shanghai by public bus. We boarded the bus at Shanghai stadium and the ticket cost 17RMB including the town pass. The bus services run throughout the day with the last one leaving at 4pm. Then the town fell silent as all the tourists headed back until around 10am the next morning. You should stay overnight to experience the real feeling of living in one of these towns.

We picked Zhouzhuang which supposes to be the best watertown in china. I can see why. It is a beautiful little town with old houses and narrow alleyways.




This is our room. It apparently looks like the room for couple on their wedding night. It is very basic but has been covered to an en suit. In the old days it is impossible to have a toilet in the house as there are no plumbing. The toilet are communal and located away. If you are lucky to be close to one, you can also smell it which may not be as desirable as a few minutes of walking.


Every room has a view to the courtyard. Despite the sun, it was really cold. I can’t see how people live in the old days when they don’t have glass window.


Without fridge and sanitation, people had to find a way of prolong the life of food ration back then. So pickling, drying and salting of food can be seen in Chinese food. This sun dry apple is just sit on the roof of the house.



Street in the town is narrow and lined with shops and restaurants on both sides.

Street cleaners sat down to rest and chat. This particular was very cold.


One house in the town has a tiger emblem on their roof gable.

Grandma’s tea, 25RMB a cup. Wait, a cup, not a pot. This is more expensive than in London. They probably won’t tell you and let you keep refilling and charge astronomical price for it. Check first and for that price you need to make sure it is a good tea….


Most of these shops needs to have their back door facing the canal so roads and canals run in alternating manner along each block.

Zhouzuang_DSC_0345  Zhouzuang_DSC_0325The sun is setting and tourists left the town. It is very quiet, almost dead as there are not many people actually still live here.




It is truly dark and quiet at night once the crowd has left the town. In Shanghai people go to bed at 9pm. Here all the restaurants shut at 7pm. Nevertheless it is very safe and peaceful so all of us from the city welcomed this serenity.

The town’s High street with stone paving. It is really cool and shame that they don’t do this anymore (or they’ll be running out of mountain to quarry)

Early morning of the next day, we woke up really early to come out for a stroll. It was slightly hazy which makes the sun light glow, amazing. I doubt it is anything to do with moisture and more to do with pollution.



I’ve been wondering for so long why all the bridges have these flat bands which makes it very hard and slippery to walk on I though were some sort of lane dividers.


An old woman cleaning the street.









This street is our favourite as it is full of snack shops. The tourist one obviously don’t open this early. Really like the wooden planks they use to close the shop. There is a slot running along the top of the shopfront and rail in the bottom – a bit like Japanese shoji paper screen. You need to push each planks up before you can push them out. Then they just pile them up or lean them against the wall.


We had the best dumpling from here.






There are people who still live here but mostly they work in B&B, restaurant and souvenir shops. So the town is not particularly peryk early in the morning and evening. However, everyday at 10am to 4pm, tourists arrive en mass. The whole street is full of tour groups with old people spitting, young people shouting trying to get their mates attention, tour guide with loud speaker ushering the group to move on. You can’t really appreciate anything with that many background noise.

So this is the best time to see Zhouzhuang.

People still use the canal for every purpose even today. This woman is rinsing meat in canal water. I hope she’s not from our restaurant.

A delivery man transporting dishes to restaurant – either clean or to be cleaned. The cleaning for bigger commercial restaurant is done somewhere else and they came back wrapped in plastic.



A woman washing her clothes at the delta. This is actually a river called Baixian even though it is 1km across but it connects to the Dianshan lake.


If you really walk around the city, I mean exploring every streets and alleyways, it’s not all nice and tidy. Most of the residents moved out long ago. At the heart of the town, the buildings are all restaurant and hotel which is there to serve tourists. However, some of the back alleyways, there are people who still live there. It’s definitely more rustic and probably won’t make it to postcard shot of Zhouzhuan but i really like it more.


Or you can do it by boat. The paddler do sing for you.


A oldman demonstrate how to make clay roof tile.  This place is for show how they would have made it in the old day. There is a kiln but I’m not sure it’s still working.


Stone paving pattern in one of the courtyards. This is a very common way to deal with hard landscape in the Chinese garden. They are made from different types and colours of stone and terracotta tiles. The pattern can be extremely intricate.


If you pass by Shanghai, this is one of the places to visit. There are many other water towns around the area such as zhujiajiao, Tongli, Xitang, Qi Bao etc. I think Zhouzhuang is the nicest and most interesting of all. All of them will be full of tourist but Zhouzhuang has more characters, streets and a good scale for you to spend a day discovering. Staying overnight is optional but recommended if you want to walk around the town in quietness. Be warned, there is no night life though. Either go to bed early or grab some beer from a supermarket just outside the town’s entrance.