Nanxiang Old Town

Live in Shanghai and looking for something new you haven’t done before? Looking for classic Chinese culture but don’t want to leave the city? Head up to Nanxiang. Nanxiang is one of the four great ancient towns of Shanghai and a place that’s been totally off my radar for the past 2 years here. You can conveniently sample the staples of Chinese culture all within a few blocks. Nanxiang has a classical Ming Dynasty Garden , one of the largest temples in Shanghai , a newly built ancient town , and just happens to be the home of the famous Shanghai “Little Dragon” dumpling (小笼包). Foodies rejoice!

Nanxiang is located in the northwestern Jiading suburb and has its own metro stop. A 15 minute walk or a quick bus/taxi ride will get you into the heart of things.

First we stopped into Guyi Garden (古猗园)which was first constructed some 500 odd years ago in the Ming Dynasty. This was the most impressive garden in Shanghai for me , it easily beats the famous central town Yu Gardens. It was a very nice way to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having. Not many foreigners make it out this way so anyone stopping in will definitely give the locals something to gossip about. During our time the Othsmansus trees were in full bloom and the entire park was pervaded with a sweet smell. I couldn’t help but breathing in deeply and making satisfied noises. So much better than the usual city smell! While this is a very nice garden , those looking for the best of the best should take the quick train ride to Suzhou ( a city renowned for its gardens) . Those of us not looking to leave the city can take the trip here.

The park even has a few black swans and an interesting human man tourist person trying to squawk and gain the birds’ attention. This man may be seasonal but keep an eye out. He is freakin’ hilarious.

After enjoying the serene , verdant environment , it was time to search out the ancient town. It’s a quick walk away, and upon arrival the ancient town was under going construction. The town has been a seat of civilization for the past 1500 years but it was time to make things spiffy. China has enough history to be able to construct new ancient towns. My girlfriend and I often have a laugh at this , ” China , building ancient water towns in modern times”. Techically this is a water town with its running canals but as a water town it can’t hold a match up to any of the others I’ve been too around Shanghai. Don’t come here for the canals (go to Zhujiajiao for that) but do come for the XiaoLong Dumplings. There are a good two streets devoted to the dumplings (Guyiyuanlu) as well as numerous within the small “ancient town” center. We stopped in a store to grab some homemade peanut sesame brittle and when we asked the owner where the best dumplings were at, he kindly recommended next door. (Hmmm, go figure. Kickbacks).

We devoured two bamboo steaming baskets worth of shrimp and crab roe dumplings while sipping our cups of tea.


After this it was too late to visit the temple and the other garden in the area but one of these lazy weekends I’ll definitely make the trip again. I’ve been enough temples throughout China so they don’t have that first time in Asia awe to them anymore. It will be interesting to come back once construction is finished to see how things turned out.

Return to Suzhou

A 41 kuai 26 minute journey via high speed bullet train took me n the fam fam to the city of Suzhou from Shanghai. I absolutely love the bullet trains. Never have had a problem and have been on trains here many times although the summer crash that occurred between two trains near Wenzhou made me think a little bit about the safety standards. The bullet trains feel like airplanes with lots of leg space. Uniformed stewardesses come by and the train breaks 300km/h , the landscape absolutely speeds by. We only had less than a full day to spend in Suzhou , a city renown for its canals and beautiful gardens. Marco Polo once called it the Venice of the East. So we made sure to stay in the middle of the historic district in a canal town and visit one of the most famous gardens of Suzhou.

We stayed on the lovely Pingjiang St which features crisscrossing canals , 1000 year old stone bridges , and a slight glimpse into ancient life in between the coffee shops and places catering to the tourists. It rained the entire day due to the seasonal wet seasons ( argghhh Plum Rains!!!!!) but we still had a great time. Fantastic just walking by the canals and catching glimpses of the gondolas floating by controlled by the lone singing pilot. Comparisons to Venice are aptly suited.

A walk down PingJiang Rd soon leads to a museum/garden area. We took the opportunity to visit the Humble Administrator’s garden. This garden was owned by a Tang dynasty scholar and was built in-between the years 1510-1526 A.D. Since then it passed hands many times and was granted UNESCO world heritage status in 1997. (I should count the number of UNESCO sites I visited this summer , sooo many!) This garden is huge inside and the amount of upkeep it would take to maintain it is astounding. During a visit to one of these gardens you can really forget you are in a city of 4 million , 10 million including the prefecture around the urban area. They are incredibly relaxing (as long as you avoid the crush of tourists during peak season and rainy season is one way to keep away some of the tourists). In my 4 year ago visit to Suzhou I visited some other smaller gardens as well and was also impressed , I intend to revisit and see the other places I haven’t made it to yet. It’s especially easy to come back considering it costs around $12 and takes 1 hour round trip.

The pops and sister retired in the evening but mums was still looking to walk around so we ventured over to GuanQian pedestrian sleep. A massively long pedestrian shopping street loaded with stores and neon but not as many people as Shanghai’s Nanjing Rd. It’s cool to go check out but nothing really else to say about it. Go there and see. I’m not exactly the shopping type and we didn’t visit any stores but it would be a great place to go if you are in the market.

I regret not having more time to stay here with the family but due to their ambitious see China plans the next day we were boarding another bullet train heading to Hangzhou, the famous city featuring West Lake!