"Marla--the big tourist. Her lie reflected my lie. And suddenly I felt nothing." --Jack, Fight Club
On the weekend, I took an afternoon daytrip from Shanghai to Zhujiajiao. After two years living in Shanghai, I decided it was time that I finally went to a water village, seeing as they are so close to the city (Shanghai to Zhujaijiao took less than 1.5 hours by bus from near People's Square, fare 12 RMB each way).
The photos I took are nice, but I didn't enjoy being there, found it far too touristy, couldn't wait to leave and only spent two hours there including grabbing a bite to eat (har har, so that makes me basically an expert on the place, right?). Perhaps I should have taken a boat ride and that would have made it more fun.
You can tell that once upon a time Zhujiajiao was a very pretty, quiet little backwater, but now it feels like a crowded, moldy, open air theme park. The photos show a far more romantic view than you will get by actually going there, so be warned, the photos are more than slightly deceiving.
That being said, yes, definitely go to see a water town if you are visiting Shanghai. They are historical relics and you can go in an afternoon and you'll get nice photos.
However, I wish I had packed a picnic lunch and bottle of Chardonnay for a canal boat trip. That might have improved things greatly. A boat ride saves you jostling with crowds in the narrow streets, and a picnic lunch would have saved me from having lunch at one of the restaurants next to the water which made me and my travel companion both feel sick.
Lurching around a water town on foot while feeling nauseous is not a charming experience. And the tourist restaurants all seemed to be serving the same food--snails, prawns, fatty pork and corn--and it didn't smell (or taste) very good. So yes, pack a lunch, ya big tourists!
[Click on each photo to enlarge]
Photos by Rebekah Pothaar.