It’s me again. Wow, your replies are pretty prompt! Thanks! I did some research on the various nearby attractions, and got myself even more confused now. I just found out that there are also 乌镇 (Wuzhen) and 同里(Tongli)。
Have you been to all four places – 周庄(Zhouzhuang), 朱家角(Zhujiajiao), 乌镇(Wuzhen) and 同里(Tongli)? Between these four places, does Zhou Zhuang still rank #1?
Some of the Web articles I read just now say that Zhou Zhuang is too commercialised. But some also say it is well-maintained as a result. Decisions, decisions…
Here is my personal answer.
Overall, it is very Similiar
Overall speaking, Zhouzhuang, Tongli, and Zhujiajiao are very similiar in nature. They are all water/river villages. They are all built on the network of rivers, and share the same architect style, tradition, and a lot of things in common.
The difference among these villages is not significant. It is unlike the difference between Beijing and Angkor – the major cities in the old world. In the Beijing or Angkor case, they are the creation of the effort of the whole empire and they are so unique world-wide. Something you can find in Beijing (like Great Wall) or the Angkor Wat in Angkor cannot be found in anywhere in the world.
However, Zhouzhuang, Zhujiajiao and Tongli are just villages. They are among the thousands of villages in eastern China. They are unique because they are preserved better than the nearby villages. So basically, if you visit any one of them, you don’t have to visit the other.
The other reason why they are attractions is, it is near Shanghai. Shanghai is a big city without too many places to go, so Zhou Zhuang and all the other villages stand out, although they are not so unique in China.
Despite of the similarity, there are still some differences.
Zhoujiajiao is the closest one in Shanghai. Actually, it is located inside the border of Shanghai Munuciple. It is claimed as the only ancient village in Shanghai. There is a Zhujiajiao Exit of the Expressway A9 (the one connecting Hongqiao Airport to Qingpu).
Zhouzhuang is in the middle – it is adjacent to Shanghai. When cars exit Shanghai border, and Zhouzhuang is right there. Since Jiansu Province charges money (like 30 RMB, I remember) for any car entering Jiangsu, we always have to pay the money just for the several km there.
Tongli is farther. It is 7 km away from Suzhou. Leaving Zhouzhuang and ride west ward and you will reach Tongli.
To conclude, Zhujiajiao, Zhouzhuang, and Tongli are in the same area. If you ride a bide, you can go to all these three villages in a day – I did before.
The difference between the three villages are not big as the difference between their day time and their night time. Take a look at my entry Tongli – Beauty at Night. My personal suggestion is, always spend a night in these villages, and it is even better that you don’t stay in the village after 9:00 AM.
Why? All of the villages are very commercialized and in the day time, when tourists came, it is just a shopping mall with old style architect. Only at night, when all the shops closes, and the villages become what they really are – villages.
It is not a hard decision to make. Randomly choose one. If you need my help, then Zhouzhuang. Then you may ask: How about Tongli? I’d say, OK, then Tongli. Because the difference is really not big.
Hope this helps.
For more information about travel informaiton, check my category Attraction Near Shanghai