Last weekend we made a trip to the attractive but very touristy town of Wuzhen on the Grand Canal that once linked Wuzhen with Shanghai and Bejijing.Touted as the “Venice of the East” although it does not have the grandeur and resonance of Venice,it is nevertheless an attractive place to spend a weekend and good food for artsy photography.We we there with my lovely students Monica and Pluie,who helped us with all the arrangements,the hotel booking ,bus tickets etc. Bearing in mind this was still during National Week,there were hordes of Chinese tourists there and everything was very crowded,but no other European tourists at all.After a 3 hour bus journey to Tonxiang,we then took another bus to the ancient city of Wuzhen and after the owner of the quaint little guest house had picked us up in a car,we dumped our stuff,had a quick rest and set off to explore/
We then went into the old town area.This is divided into two parts-the East and the West which are very different.The East side is a little “grubby” but attractive in its own way.Entrance to both parts costs 150 RMB.So we toured the east part for a couple of hours,and then went to eat at a restaurant just next to the hotel.Food was as usual in China delicious and cheap.We had 4 vegetable dishes and lots of rice.Monica explained that the usual way is to order one more dish than diners.It was a massive amount of food for us!
Next we went to the West part of the city which involved a short ride in a cyclo.We were instructed to hide while Monica negotiated the price,which would automatically be raised if they saw us foreigners ,whom the drivers assume to be very wealthy.We travelled in two cyclos to the West part of Wuzhen.After a small museum with mock ups of life in ancient Wuzhen,and a short ferry ride we reached the Western part of the city, which was all lit up and much more elegant than the East,with many upscale restaurants,tea houses and boutique style shops looking onto the canals.Gondolas cruised up and down and many people strolled along taking photos and enjoying the view.After a few hours we had seen nearly the whole area.
WE left West Wuzhen at about 10pm and got a taxi to take us back to the guest house.The driver claimed to know where it was but dumped us in some other place.We noticed his speech was not like the girls’and Monica confirmed he was speaking in local dialect and was “not a local” ! Anyhow we started to walk back,and at one point I fell and bruised my ribs,but nothing really serious.We returned to Lin’an via Hangzhou the next afternoon.The return trip took us also 3 hours but seemed longer as we got a taxi to the bus station in Wuzhen,then a bus to Hangzhou,another bus across town to the West bus station,the bus from Hangzhou to Lin’an and finally the local bus from the bus station to campus,arriving home around 5pm safe and (more or less) sound.