Harris picked us up at our hotel lobby at 7:30am as organised. We navigated our way out of Shanghai's peak hour traffic towards Zhejiang province. Nanxun water village was part of the city of Huzhou. As our car pulled into the car park, we were were initially put off and dismayed by the sight of numerous large tour buses. We found out later that this was the ticket purchasing area. The "entry ticket" allowed access to several key buildings & museums scattered around the town. Harris was good at maneuvering us away from the crowds. However this was only necessary at the Little Lotus Garden which was right near the ticket purchase area. The entry ticket also included a short boat ride along the canal. As we moved further and further out heading north, the crowds thinned right out to almost no one. I believe we did not see any other Caucasian there other than Malcolm.
|Rather worried when we saw so many people and the touristy look. The canal was still pretty though|
|The layout of Nanxun water village. We started at the bottom left and worked our way up north|
|At the ancestral home of the Liu family. One of the 4 wealthiest families in the village, who built the Little Lotus Garden as a private garden.|
|This would be stunning when the lotus (lotuses? Loti? may lotus?!) are actually in bloom|
|The Little Lotus Garden including a separate garden for private quiet reflection...|
|...which had a mini mountain|
|Time for our short boat ride up to the main canal|
We meandered through the town entering significant buildings, crossing ancient bridges and just enjoying the serene surroundings. Harris was kept on his toes with Jonah constantly asking questions, usually about things that were at his eye level eg door knockers, and often about things which were irrelevant. Occasionally though, they showed insight and proved that he was listening to Harris! The adults also learnt many things, one of them being a new English word. Sagacious. Harris used the word when explaining Chinese proverbs in relation to why certain plants and animals were valued and why certain features were on paintings and buildings. We were embarrassed to
According to the Oxford dictionary. Sagacious = Having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgement; wise or shrewd. E.g We were sagacious enough to look up the meaning of the word after the tour.
|The beginning of a long day for Harris. Jonah stuck by him for the rest of the day|
We requested for Harris to take us to somewhere for lunch where he would go and invited him to join us. He picked one that we would not have picked as there was no one else in the restaurant. It was so small that we could see half the kitchen and the 7 of us filled the whole restaurant.The restaurant owner was so thrilled we were there he was keen for Harris to explain each dish. The result was an excellent local lunch at a bargain price. It ended up costing AUD 65 for all of us!
|Someone else ordering. Hurray!|
|Shanghainese style Hainan chicken and sugar and vinegar pork ribs (not sweet and sour - similar taste but different flavour)|
|Water bamboo with mince pork|
The tour continued as we saw a large number of well-preserved century-old shops still lining the streets as well as residential homes. Unfortunately, only the older population remain as the young move out in preference to be in modern cities. Many of the shops are empty which seem such a shame. The alternative would be to have throngs of tourists keeping the shops alive which seem to defeat the purpose!
At this point, feet were tired so forgo walking back towards our entry point and Harris organised for the driver to pick up us up at the other end so we didn't have to walk back. This meant we walked through the newer part of town and saw some interesting sights. I was too embarrassed to take photos of 2 old men with old fashioned sewing machine under a huge umbrella sitting by the road and too afraid the enter the Mahjong hall full of smoke and old men!
|One of the 3 ancient bridges|
|Nanxun achieved affluence through the silk trade and this is the silk traders Guild building|
|The further we walk, the less people we see around us|
|Stopping for snacks|
|I still don't quite know what the filling is. Sticky glutinous outside with sweet filling|
|Zhang Jing Jiang's former residence. He funded Sun Yat Sen's campaign for democracy in China.|
|100 Corridor houses|
|Proof of residency|
|Our car picked us up at the northern end|
During conversation we were casually discussing which Chinese acrobat show to watch when Harris overheard us. He recommended us ERA and that we should book ahead of time as good seats may sell out. He then offered to buy it for us on our behalf, quotingAUD57 for each ticket and assuring us that they were good seats. He also offered to book our transfer to the Toy Story Hotel for the next day. We agreed blindly without thinking about payment (naive I know!). At this time, we had to make a call as to whether or not we trusted him as we had to pay cash in advance for the tickets and transport. We figured he wouldn't want to trash his reputation so we jumped in the deep end which ended up being a wise decision. The flow on effect was that we now would be dropped off at the shops near the ERA acrobat show instead of back at the hotel. As we had more than 3 hours before our show started. Harris' suggestion was to visit a tea shop. He assured us that there was no pressure to buy. To be honest, we were initially skeptical as we thought it was going to be a tourist tea house. How glad we were that we accepted his offer! His wife was previously in the tea industry and the tea shop that we would visit belonged to their friend in the wholesale tea market.
As it turned out, Harris truly was there to "drink good tea and relax" and had invited us along as a generous gesture. He explained that this was a "purist" tea shop. He went on to lament about how so many were uneducated about the art of tea and that many tea drinkers were "vulgar" and did not know how to prepare and appreciate tea fully. Apparently we belonged to that group...somehow I don't think tea drunk from a mug, and mixed with milk and sugar would make the cut...
The shop owner proceeded to prepare tea for us. It seemed quite ritualised and Harris explained that preparation was important. What she was doing was actually preparing the cups. Each different tea type, we subsequently learnt, was brewed slightly differently. Some had to be "awakened" first, and the first brew discarded. Whilst others had to steep for a certain about of time. We thought we were only drinking one type but she went to brew another, then another. We ended trying 4 different types of tea. Oolong, white tea, red tea and her own special blend with roses, licorice and orange peel. Our favourite by far was the oolong. Amazing floral tones which could be tasted! Even the children enjoyed the teas and before we knew it, we had been there drinking tea and chatting for over an hour!
|The owner preparing tea cups|
|First up oolong|
|Next white tea which is steeped|
|Ready when the leave start to drop|
|White because the brew is almost clear!|
|What the Westerners call black tea the Chinese call red. This one is Lapsang souchong|
|The owner's personal blend|
|So pretty once brewed. The flavours were very subtle and never overpowered the base tea in this case it was a white tea|
Harris called for a people mover to take us to the shops close by the Shanghai Circus World where ERA would be showing so we could have dinner and shop prior to the show. It was raining rather miserably still and so we settled for the first thing we saw that caught our eye which happened to be Malaysian! It was surprising decent! The walk to the show was short and easy as promised and Harris turned up 14 minutes before the show as he said he would with our tickets. He even took us in and showed us to our seats. True to his word, we had good seats. We were in the very front row of the section 1/3 of the way from the stage and just to the right of centre. When we looked up prices online in the evening, it appeared that we bought our tickets through Harris at a cheaper rate. We wondered if perhaps he was able to buy at local rates?
We thoroughly enjoyed ERA and thought perhaps some of the harsh reviews were unwarranted. The best way to describe it would be Cirque Du Soleil without the polish, fancy costumes and music. The raw talent of the acrobats were phenomenal. Some acts we thought were better than ones we've seen at Cirque Du Soleil. I've never felt so anxious for a performer! In fact, we suspect perhaps this is where they source some of their talents from?!
|Buying breakfast provisions in anticipation of an early start the next day|
|Yep. We did find the building that looked like a pineapple|
|I really was concerned that he would crack his skull!|
At the end of the show, we gave up trying to flag a taxi on the main road amongst all the tour buses and walked the short distance to the Four Points Sheraton where their concierge kindly booked 2 taxis for us. What we didn't count on was the taxi driver not being able to read what was the concierge wrote. At this point, we were grateful that we had taken a picture of the Pearl Tower and that our hotel building was blue because I was able to say the word blue in mandarin. Hurray! We made it back safely...
Before I forget, I should acknowledge and thank Luan for her contribution to some of the photos posted here!