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China September 2015 part III: Zhouzhuang
The first week of our China trip had been a hectic one, so it was good that our stay in Zhouzhuang was more relaxed. There are several "water towns" in the Shanghai-Suzhou region, during our 2009 trip we had visited Tong Li. Zhouzhuang, 30 km south-east of Suzhou is the most famous and probably also the most popular one.

Public tramsport from Suzhou would be complicated, so we took two taxis. They dropped us at the entrance gate of the village, where we bought tickets. Well organised, tickets had a photo so we could go in and out unlimited times. And for me, a septuagenarian, access was free!!

Aric had booked a hotel inside the water village, only a short walk from the entrance. A very romantic hotel, we had our own private balcony, from where we had a nice view of the canal, almost directly below us. So nice that we were reluctant to go out for food, we bought cup-of-noodles in a supermarket just outside the entrance and had our lunch on our balcony..:-)

With two taxis to Zhouzhuang

Modern ticket office

Entrance of the water village

A room with a balcony

Romantic bedroom!

Balcony lunch :-)

Aric on our balcony

After a good rest, we walked around the village. Canals, bridges, boats, I kept taking pictures..:-) And tourists too, almost all locals. Click on a picture to get a larger view.











In the evening it became more quiet, as most tourist were day-trippers. The boats who were busy all day, found a parking place for the night. And we found a place for dinner. Pig knuckle is a speciality of these water villages, many shops sell them for take-away, but you can also have them in a restaurant. Delicious but not good for your health.
After our meal we walked around and enjoyed the scenery. Lighting less colorful than in Suzhou, actually nicer. We passed a liquor shop and could not resist the temptation. As usual Roger would like to have his picture taken with the friendly sales girl ...:-)

Many tourists

Me in Zhouzhuang

Aric in Zhouzhuang

Many boats

More boats

The famous pig knuckles

Our dinner

Pig knuckle, delicious and unhealthy

Zhouzhuang by night

Romantic and quiet

In the liquor shop

When we woke up next morning around 7 am, we were surprised that there were already a lot of tourists. Simple explanation: the ticket office opens only later, so the early birds can enter for free..:-)! But it was still not too crowded when we walked to our breakfast place. Dumplings again.

Our hotel by night

Quanfu pagoda

Doinng the laundry in the canal!

Still quiet


Dumpling breakfast

Our first destination was the Chengxu Temple. Zhouzhuang is a very old village, its history goes back to 1086 when it got its present name. The temple was built in the same period, of course later expanded and upgraded.
On our way to the temple I got the idea to take pictures of the bridges. But I gave up, there are too many, here is just a collection..:-)

The temple is a huge complex with many halls and pavilions, masterpieces of Taoist architecture. Of course there is a zigzag bridge..:-) Less common is a stone boat. THe temple is located at the edge of the village, near to the lake.

A collection of bridges

Quanfu temple main hall


Pavillion with zigzag bridge

A stone boat!

Bridge to the lake

Quanfu pagoda

A big lake

The modern Quanfu bridge

Aerial view of the temple

After our temple visit, we walked back, of course taking more pictures.
Next on our list was the Shen mansion, the largest residential building of Zhouzhuang. It was built in 1742 (Qing dynasty) by a wealthy business tycoon.
The ground floor consists of connected courtyards, the living quarters are on the first floor. Apparently more than 100 rooms.

I kept taking pictures

Venice of the Orient.

The Shen Residence

One of the halls

View from the first floor

A simple bedroom

More elaborate

Nice roof structure

Our guide..:-)

The kitchen

Time for lunch. Looking for a suitable eatery, we passed a handicraft shop where people were working on a loom and a spinning wheel. It looked quite easy, but when Pat tried it, it was actually not...:-)
Nice friendly people, we bought beautiful handwoven shirts.
We were not very hungry, found a nice old-fashioned tea shop.

Another bridge

Another canal

Looks easy

But it is not..:-)


A visit of ZhouZhuang is not complete without a boat trip through the canals. Well organised, there is a jetty where boats and boatmen are waiting. Fixed price, like the taxi services at KLIA..:-). Our boat had actually a boat-lady. From a boat you have a different perspective, very relaxing. For some extra money the boatman/lady will sing a few songs.

Our boat lady

Different perspective




Our hotel





The next morning we had a last walk in this picturesque village. Our next destination, before going to Shanghai, was a very special one, a wish of Aric to visit the Yangcheng lake, the origin of the Hairy Crabs, an (expensive) Chinese delicacy. They are only available in autumn and prized for the female crab roe. Around the lake there are many restaurants that serve the crabs. In season, that is! Getting there by public transport is complicated, we were lucky that the owner of a smelly taufu shop (!) was willing to act as a taxi driver.

A picture without water!

Memory for later

Photographer at work

Map of Zhouzhuang

All luggage fits in one car

Aric had booked a hotel near the lake. We were a bit shocked when we arrived, the hotel looked desolate and the reception had problems to understand us. But the rooms were ok and it became clear soon that everything was so quiet because the crab season was just starting!

Not far from the hotel was the Chongyuan Temple, dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Interesting history, the original construction goes back to 503 AD. But during the madness of the Chinese Cultural Revolution the temple was completely destroyed! Later it was entirely rebuilt and officially reopened in 2007.

It is a huge complex near to the lake, we walked around, visited a few halls. In one of them we had a vegetarian lunch. We were the only customers, during weekends it must be crowded.

Zhixing hotel

Entrance of the Chongyuan Temple

Many halls

Fierce temple guardians

Everything is big

Even the joss sticks..:-)

Inside the main hall


More guardians

Vegetarian lunch

Guan Yin has her own building on a small island, reachable by a bridge. The statue is 33 m high, not easy to take a picture of the goddess. Good that there were elevators...:-) From the top floor you have a wide view of the lake. As rain was coming, we could not stay too long. After our temple visit, Aric and I walked around a bit in the village, everything closed. But at least Aric had his picture taken with the Hairy Crab monument, proof that he had been there...:-)

The Guan Yin temple

So tall, impossible to take good pictures

Notice the two humans

View from the top floor

Another view

Yangcheng lake

The huge temple complex

Rain is coming.

The hairy crab monument

Crab fishing boats

Everything closed, so where to have our hairy crab dinner? The only option was our hotel. Luckily the staff was very friendly, there were crabs, so we had our hairy crab dinner in the huge dining room, where we were the only customers...:-). Surrounded by staff, who were watching how we managed to eat the (tiny) critters. As we were a bit too early, there was not yet much roe, so it was a little bit disappointing. But a funny experience for sure.

What shall we order?

Discussion with the manager

A hairy crab, still alive

Enjoying our crabs



Aric had one serious concern. How to go from this remote location to Shanghai? Public transport difficult, taxi service not available. He was very relieved when the manager told him that he would do his best to find transport for us the following morning. And he kept his promise.

So, the next morning, after a very rudimentary breakfast (but free of charge!), we left for our final destination, Shanghai.

Our F.O.C breakfast

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