One personal embarrassment about the time I’ve spent in China is how little of China I’ve actually seen. Life in Shanghai is hectic and interesting enough – but what’s the point of being in a foreign country if you’re not going to see something of it? Granted, without a decent grasp on the language, solo travel inside of China is difficult at best. But hey, I’ve been here 9 months. I can say “take me to the goat station” and “I’d like a hotel fire”. I’m good to go!
So this weekend I left Shanghai with some friends and headed to Xitang. This is a tranquil little water village about an hour from Shanghai by train. Leaving from the South Shanghai train station under blue skies we headed into the Chinese “countryside”. Amazingly, the further we were from the city, the dirtier the air. Seems outside of Shanghai people like to burn things. Lots of things.
Xitang features Qing and Ming dynasty architecture in its bridges, roads, and homes. One road, known as “yi shi tian” (one thread sky) is indicative of village scenery away from the waterways – a narrow sliver is sky is seen running above a thousand year old stone paved alley. On the water, hand powered paddle boats ply the canals. Floating along the river my friends and I were nearly hypnotized to sleep by the simple quiet of it all.
If you’re looking for a quick, fun getaway from Shanghai – Xitang is worth a visit. From the South Shanghai rail station take the train to Jiashan (9RMB). Upon arrival in Jiashan you’ll be accosted by a horde of taxi drivers wanting to take you to Xitang (30RMB). We made a day-trip out of our adventure, but the village contains numerous “hotels” – renovated homes and buildings, which look pretty cool. We returned by bus (30RMB), and were back in time for dinner. Wee!