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Water Town – Xitang

Just 90 minutes by bus from Shanghai (or shorter, if you take the train to nearby Jiashan), Xitang is another ancient Chinese destination where you can truly step back in time (or in this waterside town’s case, boat back in time!).

Nine rivers run through Xitang, dividing it into eight parts, with stone bridges, quiet streets, and covered corridors running throughout town. The 100+ bridges of Xitang date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, as does most of the architecture throughout town. Xitang’s sleepy streets offer visitors cafés and teahouses, as well as other idyllic places to stop after wandering alongside the waterfront and on centuries-old stone streets. (The laidback atmosphere in Xitang belies the fact that scenes from the movie “Mission: Impossible III” were filmed here!)

The climate in Xitang can be rainy, so the covered corridors throughout the town connect one building to another without exposure to the elements; they also serve as the spot for outdoor activities for the locals and a great spot for visitors to take in the views of everyday life of Xitang. Dawn, dusk, and night are truly special in Xitang: If you can’t be up early enough to see the sunrise over the sleepy town and the mist rising off the water, then sunset is equally as relaxing. As the sun slips below the horizon, soft songs sung by fishermen coming in from the day echo across the waters, and red lanterns flicker to life across town, reflected in the water and spreading a soft glow. Visitors can buy “wish candles” (tea lights in origami stars, boats and flowers) to send off into the canal for good luck. Then visit one of the many food vendors along Xitang’s streets to try out some of the delectable local dishes. Seafood is especially popular here, with good reason. The river shrimp, crabs and fish are boiled or steamed in local wine, then tossed with scallions or garlic and served hot and fresh. Dumplings are available all over, as well as lotus leaves, tofu, and sticky-sweet treats of cakes and molasses. (You can wash it all down with local Jiashan wine.) With a full belly and the tranquil scenery surrounding you, you’ll want to amble back to your accommodations or perhaps stay out for a round of karaoke.

Photo Credit: www.xitang.com.cn