Shanghai is in an era of economic boom, as if it were being primed expeditiously to surpass Hong Kong. But amid the commercial progress and the building spree that goes with it, Shanghai retains several water towns that serve as reminders of Imperial China. Lying on the outskirts of the city, Zhujiajiao is claimed to be the most preserved of them all. Read more…
Zhujiajiao’s existence dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD); back then, it was already a vital trading post for the communities that surround it. Yet it wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1662 AD) that it gained township, henceforth paving the way for even more development that continued until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD).
The water town is situated at the convergence of several local rivers; thus, old settlers in boats would trade goods, such as rice and cloth, with the merchants who have built houses along the river. Thankfully, although Zhujiajiao has become increasingly touristy over the years, the structures in its ancient town remain intact.
After taking a hour’s bus ride, I arrived in Zhujiajiao half-awake. But the grogginess abruptly faded as I made my way to the entrance leading to the ancient town—it wasn’t what I expected. See, in Hong Kong, heritage trails and olden places are slower, quieter, and perhaps more revered, but Zhujiajiao was a contrast with its flocks upon flocks of mainland tourists.
And it seems that what draws them in most is Bei Dajie (North Street), the place’s main thoroughfare. It’s basically a narrow alley lined by storefronts facing each other, complete with ladies shouting and touting their wares. The dizzying array of items from edible to funky and quirky was astounding—and the scene strangely was beautifully riotous.
Squeezing into a passage and escaping the frenzy, I found myself in the jetty for boat that traverse the river, and seeing that a ride was included in the admission ticket I paid, I boarded one instantly. And passing under its bridges, I somewhat saw why they liken Zhujiajiao to Venice.
Aside from the shops, the canal, and the bridges, however, there’s so much to discover in the place, including the expansive Kezhi Gardens that dates back to 1912, the Qing Dynasty Post Office, the Yunjin Monastery, and the Town God Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of mercy Guanyin. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to try out the street food as well.
Although infested with tourists, Zhujiajiao has preserved the authentic feel of the place. Indeed, it’s a great day trip for those wanting a glimpse of Chinese life back in the day.
How to get there: From the Dashije Station of the Shanghai Metro, walk to Yan’an East Road, which is just outside Shanghai Concert Hall. At the bus stop, look for the pink bus for Huzhu Special Line—be sure to take the correct express bus. The trip terminates at the bus terminal in Zhujiajiao, takes about an hour, and costs 12 CNY (~85 PHP). From the bus station, look for the signs leading to the ancient town, which is about 10 minutes by foot.
Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, flies from Manila to Shanghai daily. The outbound flight departs Manila at 8:20 PM and arrives Shanghai at 11:45 PM, while the return flight departs Shanghai the next day at 12:30 AM and arrives Manila at 4:00 AM.