When I first visited Shanghai 2 years ago, I only explore the cities, such as Cheng Huang Miao old town, Yuyuan Garden, the Expo, the Pearl Tower, and the CBD area. This time I explore the outskirt of Shanghai – a day trip to the water town. There are several water towns in Shanghai and one of the famous ones is Zhujiajiao Water Town 朱家角水乡.
1. Where is Zhujiajiao Water Town 朱家角水乡?
Zhujiajiao Water Town 朱家角水乡is about 47km ( 1 hr) away from Shanghai, an interesting ancient water town in Qingpu District 青浦区, south of Yangtze River 长江. There is a nickname for Zhujiajiao Water Town, called “Pearl Stream”, the little fan-shaped town glimmers like a bright pearl in the landscape of lakes and mountains.
2. How to go there?
We booked a day tour with Klook which pick us from our hotel with a minibus together with two other groups of family. It is a small group of 9 pax only in the minibus plus a driver and an English speaking guide. The driver can’t speak English at all but the guide is fluent in English. We have other families from Philipines and Taiwan so the guide uses English most of the time.
I believe if you were to catch the metro train, it will take more than an hour. You can still do it if you prefer to explore it yourself. Take Metro Line 17 and get off at Zhujiajiao station then walk north for about 15 mins to the town.
3. Peep inside the villagers’ home
After we arrived, we were directed to walk through small alleyways to enter to the ancient water town. It is really cool to walk through their backyards and peep inside their home.
Villager selling their homegrown veggies.
There are several cookies and biscuit stores in the small alleyways in Zhujiajiao and you get to see them making in front of you. Check some of these stores out.
4. Snowflakes biscuit 雪花酥
The snowflakes biscuit are all hand made and popular online. Nicely pack in traditional packaging and great to bring home for your loved one.
5. Green Bean Cake 绿豆糕
Once you ordered the green bean cake, the seller will warm them on the hot plate so you can eat them hot. Taste sweet, great desserts.
6. Beidajie 北大街 North Main Street
Beidajie is a narrow lane fills with snacks stalls and souvenirs. The narrow street is always filled with tourists from local and overseas. 99% of them are the local tourist and only 1% are overseas tourists.
Let us explore the must eat food in Beidajie Zhujiajiao.
7. Traditional Biscuits
Traditional biscuits only sell at 10 Yuan (SGD 2.00) per box and when you buy 5 gets one free. You are allowed to try and sample from the tray before you do your purchase. There are so many of them and I really can’t remember all the names.
8. Dragon’s beard candy
Dragon’s beard candy – it is also a traditional Chinese sweet similar to floss halva or cotton candy. The color is in white and tasted sweet and the filling is peanuts. When you put the sweet into your mouth, your mouth looks like the whiskers of a dragon. Very cute.
9. Ah Poh (Grandmother) Dumpling
The dumpling in Zhujiajiao is popular and iconic here. You will see the old lady wrap the dumpling in front of you. It is also very popular online. Online hit viral – 网红.
10. Pork feet and pork leg
If you can take very oily pork, go for it, tasted yummy.
11.Pork Belly wrap in dumpling leaves – Star street food in Zhujiajiao!
I tried this pork wrapped in dumpling leaves and braised in dark sauce. Cost about 5 Yuan each (SGD1.00). The meat (pork belly) serves hot and tastes pretty good as it has the fragrance from the dumpling leaves. Highly recommended as it is the “signature snacks” in Zhujiajiao.
12. Braised lotus root
13. Bintanghulu 冰糖葫芦 Sugar Coated Haws – Star snacks!
I talked about Bintanghulu in Cheng Huang Miao but over here in Zhujiajiao you will find all sort of Bintanghulu. The original is Chinese hawthorn/hawberry, Shanzha but I highly recommend you to try the strawberry tanghulu, cost a little more but taste super good. Foreigners usually won’t appreciate the original tanghulu with Chinese hawthorn. You are still welcome to try the Chinese hawthorn, why not, it is the original and iconic one.
Tanghulu is confection from eastern Jiangnan China, 江南; literally “South of the Yangtze”. So you get to see them in Shanghai, Hangzhuo, Suzhou area. During my previous visit to China, I didn’t find tanghulu in other provinces such as Gansu & Xinjiang, Shaanxi, Guangxi, and Yunnan.
14. Zhujiajiao three character classic: 朱家角三字经
An adapted three-character scripture hangs on the wall of lanes in Zhujiajiao. If you read Chinese, it is really interesting to learn how the Chinese government educating their people to be civilized.
15. Stinky Tofu 臭西施 – only if you dare.
Stinky tofu is another popular snack in Zhujiajiao. We had already tried the stinky tofu in Shanghai Cheng Huang Miao so we didn’t order anymore here. The smell is certainly stinky but tasted good with the sweet sauce. There are other sauces too beside the sweet sauce. Go choose it yourself.
16. Pickles & Dried Fruits
Go try the sample from the tray, it is free.
17. Fruits – Chinese Plum
You should try out the fresh fruits in Zhujiajiao, I can’t remember the name of the plum here. At one glance I thought it is just the grapes but it is not. The taste is sweet and there are no seeds at all. The skin is thin and you can eat it together.
Very juicy and a box cost about Rmb 10 yuan (SGD 2.00). The seller can help you wash the fruit if you want to eat them right away.
18. African Horned Cucumber or Jelly Melon 火參果 / 刺角瓜
This is my first time to see such fruit. It looks like a cucumber species, very unique shape, like a sea cucumber with a hard uneven skin and spikes. The flesh is delicate and juicy and refreshing. The seeds are flat and coated light yellow. This fruit is native to the Kalahari desert in Africa but China started to have this plant. It was said to reduce heat in your body. We were given a packet of honey to pour in and use the straw to drink.
The seller will help you cut away the top part of the fruit and give you a straw to drink the juice. The below picture is the closer look of the jelly melon. It cost 30 yuan (SGD 6.00)
19. Chinese Blackberries
I simply love the Chinese blackberries, they are so sweet and cheap too. A box costs about 10 yuan (SGD2.00). Our NTUC supermarket sells at about SGD 8-9.00 a box and tasted so sour.
20. Bridges & Bridges
When you visit Zhujiajiao, you have to pay attention to the bridges here. These are old stone bridges built during Ming and Qing dynasties and there are lots of them with different shapes and styles from wooden to stone to marble.
The bridge can get very crowded and there are security staff to look after the traffic of the bridges. The rail of the bridge is low and it is easy to fall down to the water so be careful when you cross the bridges.
21. Icon – Fangsheng Bridge
One of the most famous bridges in Zhujiajiao is Fangsheng Bridge. The arched stone bridge has a classic design popular with tourists and visitors seeking to snap photos. Fangsheng Bridge in Chinese means ‘release life’. There are fish sellers who sell you live fish and let you release them in the water if you want to experience the “fangsheng” activities. But the fish seller will catch them again after you release those fish in the water and make money. Lol.
Standing on the top of the bridge, you can admire the whole town. It is a fascinating location with near picture-perfect scenery. You can’t stay too long on the bridge as they are lots of moving tourists.
Restaurants fill up both sides of the river so lots of choices to choose from.
Still seeing the old architecture housing in Zhujiajiao.
22. Yunjin Monastery (圆津禅院)
This old Buddhist temple was built in the mid-1300s located north end of Caohe Jie. The temple is also known as “Niang Niang Temple” “娘娘庙” because there is a Kuanyin statue inside, not a big temple and not as many buddha statues but they are all meticulously carved. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, many scholars frequent this temple.
23. Sugar Painting 糖画
Sugar painting is a traditional sweet done by talented folk artists with liquid sugar. Some of the famous designs are a dragon, phoenix, butterfly and many more.
24. Cashless in China
Pay attention to the stalls and you will notice payments are all with your mobile phones. You scan the barcode either with Alipay or Wechat. Cash is still in used but 99% of the transactions are with the phone. If you pay cash, they know you are a tourist.
25. How to apply for your mobile payment from Alipay?
For foreigners, you can download Alipay on Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS, then register for the international version of the app using your foreign mobile number. You have to top up money onto a “pre-paid” virtual card (Tour Pass). Alipay supports Visa, Mastercard, Japan’s JCB, and Singapore’s Diners Club cards. I highly recommend you set up the mobile payment before you travel to China.
26. Boat Ride – Must Do!
You have to try the boat ride in Zhujiajiao as it is also known as the “Venice of Shanghai”. There are lovely canals and waterways so I highly recommend anyone to experience it with a human boat ride to see this ancient town from the water. Cost 30 yuan (SGD 6.00) per pax for a single way or 50 yuan (SGD 10.00) for return.
Facepork – Just for laugh
I heard of Facebook but have you heard of Facepork? What an interesting name to call the store that sells drinks! LOL
I love the ancient vibes in Zhujiajiao Shanghai, the boat ride, the hunting of local snacks and bridges after bridges are some unforgettable memories for me.