Shanghai is surrounded by water and is ringed by a series of water towns which the guidebooks inevitably compare to Venice. One of these is accessible from the metro system and that’s how we set out on a fine sunny morning.
The Shanghai metro is simple to use and highly efficient (as well as cheap) so we were soon whizzing our way to the EST of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly the urban sprawl required to accommodate 25 million people is extensive and there are new apartment blocks everywhere – they look pretty good from a distance, but there are so many of them.
Zhugiagiao is almost at the end of the line and its shiny new metro station let’s out onto a slightly uninspiring vista of fields an roads, but there’s a lake and a wonderfully rounded bridge in the distance. A twenty minute walk, though, brings you to the old town. The first thing that hits you is that in season this place is packed with people (there are amusement park-like barricades for queues) but, even on an unusually hot winters day, there weren’t too many people. The second thing that hits you is that it’s lovely.
Canals wind between old houses and temples; stone bridges cross over; small shops line the winding streets; exotic smells waft on the breeze. We spent a lovely few hours wandering the streets at random, stopping to sample food, and generally soaking in the sun and the atmosphere.