Posted by: Richard Marshall | December 10, 2013

Xitang

Xitang

Xitang

Shortly after returning from Moganshan my colleague Jake had a couple of days off that coincided with my weekend, so we decided to visit one of the water towns around Shanghai. We caught the bus and drove an hour or so through the usual Yangtze Delta scenery of paddy fields and villages being gradually swallowed by highways, railways, power lines, massive housing development and factories. Xitang itself was also surrounded by tenements, but the owner of our hotel met us and led us to the old town. The old town was fairly typical – lines of oldish looking shops and restaurants along a canal, some stone bridges, and the odd old clan hall or garden turned into a museum. It was very attractive, though other than the museums it was not always easy to tell what was actually old, what was renovated, and what had been completely reconstructed. The strip of bars at one end with their kitsch decoration and flashing neon for example I doubt date back to the Qing Dynasty. Jake and I had a pleasant lunch of poached fish and cold chicken and wandered around the town during the afternoon.

That evening the karaoke bars came to life. I now realize that most Chinese old towns have a strip of bars that make Bui Vien seem peaceful, but it came as something of a shock the first time. I had anticipated having a quiet evening beer by the canal, but the music blasting out of about a dozen bars was appalling. The music was at least live – student bands churning out Chinese hits to a young crowd – and apparently popular. But if one band gets a little louder than the others they all have to crank up their volume to match. Jake and I realized that if we chose a bar and sat down inside at least we’d only be assailed by the cacophony of one band rather than all of them. We chose well. The music was cheerful and it didn’t hurt that the lead singer was an attractive young woman rather than the grungy guys in most of the other bars. We had a few drinks and the band made a few comments in our direction as the only foreigners, and then headed back to our hotel, fortunately far from bar street. The next morning we had coffee by the canal and headed back to Shanghai.

Canal at Xitang

Canal at Xitang

Stone Bridge

Stone Bridge

Garden

Garden


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