I’d read about a watertown in Pudong a couple of years back which was pretty much off the tourist radar and worth a visit. But then I completely forgot what it was called and kind of forgot about it.
Anyway, during the mayday weekend we talked about a day out in Hangzhou or Xitang but were worried about the crowds, I remembered the watertown.
So, we spent half an hour on the net and came up with Xinchang, a watertown in Pudong accessible by public transport (a 90 minute bus ride from Longyang Lu metro station). I didn’t fancy spending half the day getting there though so we figured we’d just chance it and take the metro to the last station on line 8 (aerospace museum), which gets us within 15 or 16 km of Xinchang and then figure it out from there.
By the way, here’s Xinchang:
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It wasn’t quite as easy as we thought, we arrived at the aerospace museum to find chaos, scores of people all trying to get away. We stopped a few taxis and nobody had heard of the place, or if they had heard of it they had “issues with the meter” and wanted a fixed price (no Dazhong out here, only orange taxis), normally in the region of 100rmb after sizing me up and making the usual fat=money assumption which is the norm in China. So, I disappeared for a few minutes to let H sort it out.
Sure enough within a minute or so I could hear the negotiations beginning in earnest as H took on a group of agitated illegal taxi drivers who were either giggling or grinding their brows with their palms as H explained exactly what she thought of their prices and what she was prepared to pay, in a voice which I am informed is not “screaming” but “a normal negotiation tone in China” while stabbing at them with her finger. Finally and inevitably they agreed, yes, they’d been wrong, her price was the right one, not theirs, they’d been thinking of another Xinchang which was much further away etc etc.. and so we set off, agreeing on 120rmb for the round trip.
Xinchang it transpires was the location of filming for “Lust Caution”, so my “off the radar” watertown was actually pretty much “on the radar” these days. Still, it’s a few years behind the likes of Xitang and Zhouzhang and instead of shop after shop of
cultural artefactsgarbage you can still see local hairdressers and shops selling soy sauce etc.
The commercialised bit is nice but small, nothing compared to Xitang or Zhouzhang, but nice enough. The real gem is the hutong though, there are a large number of well preserved hutong with some splendid looking stone gates (see pics below) and wood carvings. Also, it’s well worth crossing the main road and walking away from the main centre along the canal (South I believe), the further away you get the more you get the sense of a real community rather than tourist hub, walking around the hutong here you see locals doing their washing, cooking and invariably leave their doors wide open allowing sneak peeks into the way they live.
All in all we were really glad we went and would really consider taking guests there as an alternative to Xitang or Zhouzhang, but we really need to figure out a better way to get to it…
Anyway, here’s some pics! continue reading…