Tuesday, 18th September 2012 – Rise and shine is today’s motto, Laura and I are up early to go have a last chance coffee and breakfast with Judy and Peter. We visited the local Starbucks before boarding a mini bus at 9am, we said our goodbyes to Judy and Peter, they’ve really have been a great couple to travel through China with.
Today with the new tour group we will enjoy a day trip to Xitang, one of Shanghai’s nearby water towns (approx 2 hrs drive). Xitang is a welcome escape from the bustle of Shanghai. The area near Xitang has a flat terrain, and the nine rivers that run through the town divide it into eight parts. Xitang is known for its bridges, lanes, and ceiling corridors. There are 104 bridges of varied structure, all from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, some looking like rainbows over the river, and others like long flutes. Many of the shops and houses in Xitang are built on the riversides.
There are a total of 122 lanes, long and short, wide and narrow. The lanes are paved with stone planks, polished by the feet of pedestrians as well as hundreds of years of weathering. Together with the black-tiled houses along the roads, the polished stone planks bear witness to the town’s long history. Xitang is also famous for its varied snacks, including Xitang glutinous rice dumplings, meat steamed with rice flour and lotus leaves, Jiashan wine, Red-June River crabs, and Eight-Immortal cakes. We wander along the canals criss-crossing the town, chilling out by the waterside, enjoying the new more relaxed atmosphere we are discovering here in China.
Several Xitang locations were featured in the final sequences of the motion picture Mission: Impossible III, which have poster boards displaying Tom Cruise and the scenes. Laura and I shopped through the stores, buying cloths, gifts, engraved key-chains, and snack foods for the sleeper train tonight. Lunch was served at the most popular restaurant of the town with a famous crab dish, being allergic to crab I did not get to experience its awesomeness, but I did discover how awesome lotus leaves taste, something I’ve never had the chance to enjoy before. I can still taste the lotus leaves months later.
After lunch I take a chance of wondering the markets more and taking more landscaping pictures of the beauty of Xitang. Before leaving the peacefulness of Xitang, our group takes a gondola ride along the canals of the Water Town back to the main entrance. I waved goodbye to another part of China I did not want to let go of, People need to appreciate Xitang with their heart.
Tonight we board an overnight hard sleeper train bound for Xi’an at 6.50 pm (approx 15 hrs), using the hard sleeper class trains for our overnight train journey. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment) and real working air-conditioning. Basic bed set up (Pillow, flat sheet and blanket), with bathroom facilities situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. I choose the top bunk and chilled out watching episodes of Scrubs and eating waffle cones I purchased in the Water Town.