The city of Zhouzhuang is about 25 miles outside of Shanghai, but it resembles the Italian city of Venice on the other side of the globe. It is known as China’s first water town (there are a few others around Shanghai: Jiading and Suzhou, to name two). The city was established over 900 years ago. Recently, the city was declared an International Heritage Site by the United Nations.
The city is dominated by old buildings, some of which date back to the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The city contains canals that have 14 bridges over them. You can tour the canals in an eight-seater gondola for 60 yuan (about US$8).
After our gondola tour, we had the opportunity to walk the small cobblestone streets near the canals. While walking, we saw locals hanging out by the water, doing daily chores such as laundry. We also walked along a street where locals had souvenir and food shops to gain a living off the tourists.
According to my guidebook, this is a popular tour site for Chinese tourists, but there are few international tourists that visit. We encountered only locals that lived in the building surrounding the canals, but that may have been due to the fact that we went on a rainy weekday. I am guessing it is more crowded on weekends and during good weather.
I enjoyed cruising on the canal admiring the beautiful bridges sitting in a gondola. I have never been to Venice, Italy, but as far as I am concerned, I have had a gondola ride equal to one that can be offered there. Who knew there was a place like this in China?