Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Xitang, Ancient Water Town 西塘

西塘 - 生活着的千年古镇

Out of the numerous water towns nearby Shanghai, I opted for Xitang instead of  "Venice of the East", Zhouzhuang and others. Xitang has definitely preserved the ancient charm for one, and also it's nearer compare to Zhouzhuang. Most importantly, the original condition still remain and not much restoration has been done. Unlike other water town where there's too much of beautification work done hence it lost its original and genuine charms.  Xitang is also dubbed the Living Thousand Year Old Ancient Town simply means there are people living there till today.

We took subway from our downtown Shanghai hotel to Hongqiao railway station for bullet train to Jiashan. Little did we know that the station is super huge and that we needed some times to locate the boarding gate and we missed the train. We were told to change the time at the counter. There we waited for an hour for the next train. Lesson number one, the boarding gate close few minutes before the departure time.

When we finally reached Jiashan station, immediately we were approached by numerous offers of transportation to Xitang. After some bargaining, we were being driven by an very old and tiny van which took about 30mins to the ancient town.

The driver.
The narrow side alley.

I had earlier read that one can skip the entrance fees which cost RMB100/pax by enter through the back or the side alleys. So I told the driver to drop us at the back of the town but was told that we couldn't do that anymore as the alleys are all closed or guarded now. He further offered to drive us to one of the side alleys to show us. Upon arriving at the side alley, we saw that it was in fact guarded. It was only then that the driver told us he could "sneak" us in by his way. He stopped the van at the dead end of the road, he turned his head to us and said by paying him half of the entrance fees, he could bring us in or he would just drive us back to the main entrance where we had to pay the full fee. Left with no choice, we agreed to his offer. He then drove around and stopped the van at a very narrow road and told us to follow him quickly and quietly! I was so nervous!  I remembered walking into a shop and people were starring at us and murmuring that the driver has the consent from the owner of the shop followed by some very narrow alley and there we were, inside the ancient town! My, what an experience! We realised that the driver must be doing this all the time and that it was his idea to show us the blocked side alley from the beginning!

Were immediately greeted with this view on the bridge!
Xitang did not disappoint me at the least for it was indeed so charming and beautiful! I was totally fascinated by the tranquility and the beauty of it! Even though it is quite small, nonetheless it displays it's loveliness and elegant beauty at it's own way. Walking through the ancient path, I could hardly believe I was in fact walking the path which is so very old, in the era of Ming and Qing dynasty! There are all together 9 rivers flow through the town. The ancient buildings are very well preserved and they are today mostly converted into some basic accommodations and small eateries!

Ancient buildings!
Basic accommodations and small eateries by the river!

This is so dreamy.....
Perfect ambience!

Taken with soft lens, so misty and beautiful!

Picture perfect!
We had our lunch at one of the shops by the river. The shop is so tiny and the stairs are very steep. We ordered the local specialties which are the Chinese escargot and steamed chicken. The fish was tasty but was full of bones and the vegetables was just normal. Very much home-cooked style.
Lunch at the first floor balcony!

煙雨长廊,Amidst the promenade,  what a beautiful name!
The wooden pillar and the floor tiles reveal the age of the town!
Old tiny shop and narrow walkway.

Ancient stone path and narrow street!
It was a pity that we did not have much time here. It will be great to spend a night here to enjoy the peacefulness at night. Read that at night it will illuminate with red chinese lanterns!  Also,  it will soar with crowds during weekends and public holidays which will definitely ruin the charms and tranquility!

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