Even though November traditionally is a quite dull month I remember my past Novembers in Shanghai as having quite a few beautiful late-autumn days... So, here's 5 things I'd Do & Enjoy if I was in Shanghai this November!Read More
Our amazing trip From Shanghai to North Sichuan and Gansu came to an end when we reached our last stop: Beijing. China's capital, political and historical center. This time I was super excited to go here in late summer and to be accompanied with the love of my life with whom I could discover some alternative wonders of Beijing!
Here's our 5 New Things To Discover in a Weekend in Beijing:Read More
Last weekend we did something I wish we'd done a long time ago - because then I'd have done it several times since. We went to Bihai Jinsha - known as the best quality beach near Shanghai and if you translate the name you get something like "Bluish green sea, Golden sand".Read More
This week Leon's friend Craig is visiting from New Zealand. Or stopping by that is. He's doing the "big move" we all dream about: Quit his job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe and heading there for traveling and work. Not too much planned, only a stop over in dear Shanghai and Milan as the first Euro destination. Super exciting!
This week he's been out & about exploring all of Shanghai's famous pearls and hidden gems and Friday me & him planned a little get-away to see something out of the city. Water-towns are almost a must-see when you visit China and Shanghai is surrounded by a number of these cute ancient canal towns. I've previous visited Suzhou (read more here) and the tiny Qibao which is actually a part of Shanghai and can be reached by metro (read more here).
Friday morning we decided Zhujiajiao Water Town as our destination - the over 1,700 years old water town on the outskirts of Shanghai. According to China Travel Guide Zhujiajiao is the best preserved water town so close to Shanghai and is often referred to as 'Pearl Stream'.
Getting from Shanghai to Zhujiajiao
It supposedly takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Zhujiajiao with bus from Shanghai and you can find a list of buses and bus-stops directions here. Remember you always have to add the time it takes to get to the station or bus-stop, buy tickets and wait for the next available bus. Often I find that traveling out of Shanghai always takes much more time than calculated. So because Zhujiajiao is only about 50km away we decided to jump in a taxi and in this way we reached Zhujiajiao Ancient Town in just 50 minutes. We paid 190 RMB where the bus is under 10RMB/ticket.
As all roads seem to lead to Shanghai we decided to find Zhujiajiao Bus Station going back and we got on a bus within 2 minutes and pain on board. Too Easy. But the trip back took approximately 2.5 hours and we still had to get back home from the station so I really feel the money on a taxi is worth it at least one of the ways - the local bus can be an experience you don't want to totally miss out on as well =)
Zhujiajiao ancient town is a super cute place with several unique bridges allowing you to cross the canal and explore the different parts. The endless rows of willow trees makes the village super lush and fresh!
The village is known for once being a vibrant and prosperous little trading town but today it's super tranquil and life almost seems to stand still. You will find lots of the typical small shops where you can buy souvenirs, local food specialties and: lots of cra* (excuse my language). You also find several spots along the canals where you can eat lunch - take your time to find a good outside spot if the weather is nice and I recommend a late lunch (after 1.30pm) to avoid the big lunch crowds.
Oh Zhujiajiao also has a big Starbucks. Yes, this a good sign that this water town is not a hidden wonder waiting to be found by you. It's super super popular and I've heard you should avoid weekends or just be very very patient. As with all popular spots in China, the crowds of (Chinese) tourists can make especially nature experience super unpleasant.
Apart from the cute bridges of different styles Zhujiajiao has the cute Kezhi garden, the old post office and don't forget to visit Yuanjin Buddhist Temple and have your fortune told. Both me and Craig will be blessed with "family up" and "life happy" so we left Zhujiajiao very reassured!
It's weekend in Shanghai but more than a regular weekend: it's Qingming Festival.Read More
Before we headed to Suzhou last weekend I knew two things about this historical city: silk & canals. Suzhou is known as being a prosperous city and I've learned that this is due to these two factors. A greater Canal Construction many many years ago allowed Suzhou to start exporting silk to many provinces and since then Suzhou has been known for wealth and silk. This is also the reason for its rather sophisticated reputation which through time has been well-kept and which is also one of the reasons you will find some of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens in Suzhou. For example the beautiful Humble Garden.
We traveled from Shanghai on Saturday morning from Hongqiao Train station. You can also take trains from Shanghai Station but we live right at Line 10 which makes it super easy to reach Hongqiao within 30 min from leaving our door.
Though we travel quite often we did a real beginner's mistake and didn't book tickets in advantage. This resulted in an almost 2h waiting in Hongqiao because there where no available seats... China has a lot of people so therefore there is a lot of departures to most destination, but to repeat: China has a lot of people so bookbookbookbook #lessonlearned
(The "expat" travel agency C-trip is the one we most often use to book flight tickets in and out of China and I have used them for hotels couple of times as well. They now offer train tickets as well and delivers to your door or office!)
Tourists for a day in Suzhou
Despite our little delay and hang-out in Hongqiao we quickly arrived in Suzhou (less than 1h from Shanghai) and was welcomed by sunshine at the beautiful open square at Suzhou Station. From here we crossed the river and walked by Renmin Road towards the Beita Bao'en Pagaoda which also serves as a buddhist Monastry.
The Pagodao is situated in a small garden where you pay approx. RMB 25 to get in and to climb the 9 stories - a total of 76m. It's super old and super cute. The coolest thing is that you from the top stories can get a 360 degrees view of Suzhou and really get a feel for new Suzhou vs. old Suzhou.
From the Pagoda we walked left at Xibeijie and reached the popular area around Dongbei Pedestrian Street hosting Suzhou Museum, Suzhou Garden Museum, the Humble Garden and lots of souvenir shops.
Suzhou Museum was packed and due to the length of the queue outside and our limited time we skipped it. I am not a big museum'er buuut I've read lots of recommendations for this museum. Oh well it's always good to have something to come back to in Suzhou.
The Humble Garden (see photo on top of page) located just after Suzhou Museum is said to be one of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens and if the weather is nice it's definitely worth the entrance fee of approx. RMB 75. You can easily spend a couple of hours in here strolling around and exploring traditional Chinese garden style.
Continuing at the Pedestrian Street we reached the famous Pingjiang street and if you turn right you can follow the street with the canal on your right side. During the Song dynasty Suzhou was also called Pingjiang and this road is named hereafter. It is renowned for its ancient city style as well as the canal street hosting all sorts of cafes, vendors and snack stalls.
Though quite crowded this is such a nice street with lots of different snacks to try, lots of different things to look at and all sorts of souvenirs to buy in all sorts of qualities (christmas coming uuuup). We ended up not being thaaaaat hungry when we reached Alley Sunshine Cafe which I had recommended for a lunch/snack stop but we still enjoyed a delicious latte in this charming and very unique cafe. It's definitely worth a visit though I can't tell you whether the food experience is worth it to!
On Pingjiang street we even found a Danish Baker, owned by the Danish Baking Shifu Lars and as they happened to celebrate their 1 years anniversary with cake-sale we happened to buy 5 different desserts for later including traditional Danish Ris a la mande (Rice pudding cream dessert thingy we have for christmas in DK)! YUM.
We topped our weekend get-away off with a stay in a nicer hotel where we ordered roomservice and watched movies. We usually don't care too much about accommodation and mostly choose simpler options when we travel around in China but sometimes it's really nice to wake up in luxury settings, take a morning swim before indulging in a massive breakfast buffet. We asked for a late check-out in order to chill a couple of hours in the hotel with books and studies before returning to Shanghai super relaxed and re-vitalized.
I could have spend another day in Suzhou so I'll definitely return to visit Suzhou Museum and explore a bit more. Such a perfect destination for a shorter Shanghai-getaway!
What's your next get-away? Any recommendations - let me know (contact me here) and don't forget to subscrbie to Shanghaihabits for more travel inspiration:
Suzhou Creek is just a 10 minutes bike ride away from my home in the French Consession and I love to go here for a run or an evening walk. Especially on a day like today where I had plenty of time for outdoor activities and where the air feels so fresh, the sky is blue and the temperature has dropped to more running-friendly degrees.
I lock my bike at the Creek in the Jing'an-end and if I have a good leg-day like today I run all the way to the Bund and back. There is something really spectacular about running by the creek as it gets broader and broader and suddenly the Pudong Skyline shows behind bridges and buildings. Before you know of it the creek runs into Huangpu River and you are being stopped by a Chinese tourist for a photo together at the Bund.
If you're not sure how to get to the creek or where to start you can check out my route and map here. Or just grab your trainers, head to the creek and start running along the tracks on both sides of the water.
I love running by water and I literally feel like I've been on a little morning get-away from busy Shanghai every time I do this mission.