The ancient Xitang water town is a historic town in Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province, China. Crisscrossed by nine rivers and linked by old-fashioned stone bridges, the water town stretches across eight sections. Every family lives near water. Xitang is among the best water towns near Shanghai.
I visited the Xitang water town in October. It is the month with the best weather and clear sky in Shanghai and its surroundings. To enjoy the night scenes and catch the sunrise views, I booked the Xitang River Time Inn in the town centre. It was convenient for me to explore the town without any hustle.
My highlights of the trip are:
- The narrow street scene
- Irresistible local products
- An exotic night scene illuminated by the red lanterns
- Lively nightlife in Xitang
- The architectural showcase of West Garden (西园)
- Sunrise views from the Chinese paintings
- The Misty Corridor (烟雨长廊)
The narrow street scene
It was already around 10:00 in the night, but there are still many tourists strolling around. All the shops were still open and ready to greet every customer.
A digital street map on the wall helps tourists to locate themselves. It displays the street names with illuminations. There are 122 lanes in the town, and the narrowest one is the ShiPi Lane (石皮弄). The widest part is s 110cm, but the narrowest part is 80cm.
Irresistible local products
Though it was already late, small eateries still tried to sell the food. Some owners were making fresh food using simple facilities. I wonder if they could sell any at this time of the day.
However, I could not resist the temptation of the snacks. To satisfy my growing appetite, I bought two packs of food. One of the typical local foods is the chewy Qianshigao (芡实糕), a thinly sliced gorging fruitcake.
Local shops offer a variety of daily products, from handmade shoes, mobile phone covers, self-made Chinese rice wines, and of course, hundreds of snacks and takeaway food. Some souvenirs are expensive than elsewhere. But the price of those freshly made food is very reasonable.
Exotic night scene illuminated by the red lanterns
The red lanterns decorated houses along the canals reflected in the shimmering water. The night scene was exotic. Standing on one stone bridge, I stared at the night scene in the darkness. It’s so beautiful.
There are hardly any street lights. In some places, the red lanterns served as street lamps, which created a captivating street scene.
Lively nightlife in Xitang
One of the streets lines up only bars and discotheques. They open until around 3:00 in the early morning, according to one owner. There is no entrance ticket required for the discotheques, but the food and the drinks inside the nightclubs are expensive.
I went into one discotheque. But the thundering music did not make me feel good. I went outside after a few minutes and continued seeking the attractive night scenes.
The architectural showcase of West Garden (西园)
Inadvertently, I followed the crowd and walked into this architectural garden. The lanterns illuminated every corner of the courtyard. But I had to pay extra caution when I passed the pavilion, walked on stone stairs and traditional Chinese garden elements. The red lanterns added a mysterious atmosphere to the scene.
In history, the West Garden belonged to a wealthy family in the Ming Dynasty. It used to be the grand private garden in Xitang.
Sunrise views from the Chinese paintings
It was midnight when I returned to my hotel. Longing to see the sunrise views in Xitang, I couldn’t sleep until I was too tired. Then my alarm clock shouted. I set the alarm half an hour earlier than the sunrise time. So I had enough time to look for a place for taking photos.
Surprisingly, there were so many early birds out there. Most had their cameras and tripods ready to capture the scenes. I stood on the Bridge of Tangdong St. and settled myself in a good location.
At the end of the water canal and behind the morning mist, the sun rose lazily. It was the scene you would see in many traditional Chinese landscape paintings. The air was quite humid but fresh. I managed to capture the scene before the sun moved out of my view.
The Misty Corridor (烟雨长廊)
In old times, to cope with rainy days, residents have invented their style of the covered corridor. Each family puts a ceiling over the cobbled stone road in front of its own house, and the ceilings connect to form corridors. Nowadays, the covered corridors are the main places to attract countless tourists.
In ‘Mission Impossible III’, some scenes were filmed here. After admiring the sunrise, I went to the 1,300 metres long Misty Corridor, the most famous site in Xitang water town. It was difficult to imagine how crowd the night before was. I enjoyed the silent moment and watched how locals started their day.
Where to stay
Inside the Xitang water town, there are only a few hotels which are mainly frequent by the Chinese guests. The prices are reasonable. So I would suggest booking a room inside the water town since it is convenient to get access to the scenic area at any time of a day.
Xitang River Time Inn is close to the east gate of the scenic area. This pet-friendly guest house also has free WiFi. We had to park outside of the town since the entire water town is pedestrain zone. But the owner came to pick us up.
How to get there
The best way to get to Xitang from Shanghai is to take a long distance bus. Tourists can take scheduled buses from two bus stations to reach Xitang:
- Shanghai Long-Distance Passenger Transport South Station (长途客运南站)
- Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station (长途汽车客运总站)