We rode a bus out of the heart of Shanghai and into the countryside, over loads of small canals. The bus was just like a normal city bus, but barreling down the highway.
The town itself was lovely. It’s a little down-and-dirty in the pits of the touristy shops on tiny lanes, so small that one could probably touch both sides of them if pressed. It’s great. The pace is palpably different from Shanghai.
Zhujiajiao is a village of 60,000 to the West of Shanghai. It dates back to at the very least the 1100s, and largely preserved itself during the relative turmoil of the 20th century in China. It’s picturesque, with canals the same reflective verdigree of those in Venezia. The day we visited was hot and muggy, and the cafes along the lanes were simply too tempting.
One barmaid shouted, ‘Hello! We have couches!’ as we walked past. One of the weirdest tout-calls I’ve heard in my travels.
We took an overpriced but nonetheless fun gondola ride across town (‘Boat Rule #2: Drunk foreigners will be refused’). We stopped into Zher Bar, which is a cute little place wedged into what was once a family home. Anarchist posters and punk rock paraphernalia everywhere on the walls, but Reggae in the air. We had a sandwich and two cold beers, and enjoyed the quiet in the back garden room.
After lunch, we explored the architecture on the other side of the river. Some project, started years ago, is now empty and vaguely Postmodern in its white concrete and randomly-placed futuristic art. We wandered around, looking into what was clearly meant to be a convention centre, and took in a massive paper-mache head of Picasso while we were at it. The other statue appeared to have gotten wet and was somehow even more modern art-ish now that the seams of the face were ripped open.
We sat at a cafe, having failed to find the Heima Icelandic bar on Donghu Street. It is now apparently a cafe, maybe one that serves European wines. We passed a portrait artist painting the youthful face of a soldier taking a day off on a t-shirt. For himself, presumably. Nothing like wearing a self-portrait.
It was lovely. Great to finally have the time to get out there and see things in China.