One and Half Hour Round Trip to Chongming

I did the experiment. To show my family Chongming, I drove from my home at 5:00 PM and went to Chongming via the Shanghai Yangtze Bridge and Tunnel, and get back to home at 6:30 PM. It takes about one and half hour to make a round trip to Chongming.

What an amazing trip. I love the wide 3 lane tunnel that crosses the river, and the 10km bridge. It cost 100 RMB for round trip, but compared to the silly round Lujiazui tour bus, the trip is more recommended for people who want to experience the Mega side of the city. It is another Mega Project in China.

Does Shanghai have Beach, Nearby?

I answered the question Does Shanghai have Beach? before: No.

Wendy and I have been searching beach in Shanghai many times. We went to many claimed beach in Shanghai – the Jinshan Beach, or the Fengxian beach. So far, the nearest real beach is at Shengsi.

This time, we continued our search to the north side of the Yangtze River, and arrived at Changshazhen, at Rudong, Nantong.

To our disappointment, there is so no beach there. What we see is very like the scene at Dishui Lake in Shanghai.

My car, Bandenger, with wind mill as background.

We finally confirmed that in lands formed with sands from rivers, like Yangtze River, there is no way to form beach. Beach can only be found when waves of sea or ocean hit hard rock of mountains.

The next time, we may need to go to places as far as Shandong to find beach. Rizhao, or Qingdao is good candidate.

We will report when we finally find beach near Shanghai.

Rating of Places Nearby Shanghai

Let me start with an email:

We know places aournd Shanghai like Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, Shao Xing, Ningbo, Yang Zhou, ZhenJiang & towns like ZhouZhuang, Tongli, Xitang, Nanxun, Luzhi that can make a visit. What is yoru suggestion?

OK. Let me do a rating

Cities

I use a rating system of two rating only: “must see”, and “if you have spare time to kill”.

Hangzhou = must see

Suzhou = must see

Wuxi = if you have spare time to kill

Nanjing = must see

Shao Xing = if you have spare time to kill

Ningbo = if you have spare time to kill

Yang Zhou = if you have spare time to kill

Zhen Jiang = if you have spare time to kill

“Must see” means that the place is so interesting, so unique, that if you can make it, definitely go there.

Hangzhou is very different from Shanghai, and it has beautiful lake – west lake. Nanjing is the old capital (as Hangzhou), and there are many things to see.

For other cities, if you have time, do a visit. If you relocate to Shanghai, and you do have a weekend to kill, go there, but it is not at the level that you need to visit during a short 8 day trip in China. (Disclaimer: don’t get offend if I didn’t put your city into must see level. I just see everything from a tourist’s perspective)

Towns

For towns, the rule of thumb is, if you want to visit any of the town, you only need to visit one of them, and definitely not two in your 8-day China trip. You may want to visit others in your next trip.

Zhou Zhuang = first level

Tongli = first level

Xitang = second level

Nanxun = second level

Luzhi = second level

First level are recommended, and second level are not as good, but still interesting.

Hope this helps.

Third Day in Nanyuan Hot Spring

Still in the offsite in Nanyuan Hot Spring, Ninghai, Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

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Photo by Jian Shuo Wang

P.S. Just found out PayPal started its referral engine in China also:

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly.

Update: January 20, 2008

In the morning, the fog of the mountains winding among the hills:

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This is the villa – Bamboo Villa we stayed. It has hot spring water in the room.

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The entrance of the villa:

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This Bamboo Villa has 8 rooms of all kinds, and we 20 people stayed in the villa for the three days. Wonderful experience.

Logistic Stuff

This is a perfect place for a team of 8 to 20 people to do team building.

There are two villa sharing the same lobby. There are 4 rooms in each section, with public area to watch TV or activities.

It is 5 hours away from Shanghai. There are high way connects Shanghai and Hangzhou, and Hangzhou and Ninghhai.

Snowing Huangshan

Wendy got back from her trip to Huangshan. She went there with her team in a team building event. It snows heavily in Huangshan, and she was very cold there. The good thing is, she took back some great photos of Huangshan in snow.

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Photograph by Wendy Fan

Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) is pretty near to Shanghai, after the Hangzhou – Huangshan Expressway was completed. It takes about 2 hours for bus to get to Hangzhou, and even less time to get to Huangshan from Hangzhou.

Wendy got bus in Shanghai at 5:00 PM and arrived in Shanghai around 11:00 PM. Please remember that it was in the worst weather condition, and many sections of the high way were closed. You should take 4 hours at most.

P.S. Previous articles about places near Huangshan:

Humble Adminstrator Garden in Suzhou

This is maybe the third time I visit the Humble Administrator Garden. This time, I am with the fellows of Young Leaders Forum. We also have the wonderful (temporary) guide June Mei. She was well know by her interrupting work for American and Chinese top leaders. For example, Present Hu’s Yale speech, or many times of Premier Zhu visited U.S. (We had another high-profile ex-interpreter Rose Zhu joined us in the YLF in Nanjing). June knows Chinese architect and history well, and helped me to understand much better of the garden.

Here are some photos of the Garden. Due to the weather, it appears not as beautiful as it should be.

Suzhou Museum by I.M. Pei

I visited the Suzhou Museum on Dec 3. The museum is designed by I.M. Pei, and we had the honor to attend a behind the scene tour conducted by Bobbie Pei. Bobbie was so kind to talk about the design philosophy of his uncle. That tour was one of the highlight of the trip.

Symmetry is the key

Symmetry is one of the very key element of the Chinese architecture. It is also the symbolic sign of I.M. Pei’s design. Look at these pictures:

Below: The big Chinese window in the coffee shop.

Below: The Courtyard of the Museum.

The West Wing of the Suzhou Museum. The interesting thing is, there are two wings of the museum. The intention of the designer is to ask people turn left and see the west wing first and then leave the museum from the east wing. Pei didn’t put a large sign at the entrance “Turn left please”. He made the west wing a little big longer (seems more interesting), and had a water fall at the end of the hall way, so the sounds of water can be very attractive to visitors. At least, I turned left without a thought. That is the beauty of good design. It is the same principle in usability: if you need a label to explain something, the design may already failed.

Architects always face challenges. Just as triangle site Pei faced in the design of National Gallery East Wing in Washing D.C., this big white existing wall at the entrance is not easy to handle. Pei used stone to form a scene according to painting in Song Dynasty.

The “stone drawing” is not a 2-Dimensional picture. It is 3D. Looking from west, it looks like this:

The hallway of the west wing:

Even looking at 45 degree of the reception hall, it is still strictly symmetric.

This is the pond of the Museum.

My Thoughts

This is a great museum. The museum itself is a piece of art. Although I don’t like the management of the museum – they didn’t bring life into the architecture, and especially the open-ended Li Lan Qing’s personal exhibition of stamps there made it look funny, I love the museum itself.

The geometry thinking in the museum made me feel that I am in a world of pure lines and triangles, squares, and symmetry.

Suzhou is beautiful. The icon color gray and white made the the gardens so unique. However, this town started 2500 years ago, and many of the architects was built 300 years ago. How to bring the heritage of Suzhou and extend it is a challenge that not many people face.

Conflicting between Architect and Museum Construction and Management

I read a book about Pei. His conflict with construction workers when he designed the Xiangshan Hotel was famous – the workers don’t care what the designers say and just randomly put things up.

I didn’t expect the same conflict still exists two years ago, when the museum was built. Some trees died, and management simply put a random tree there. Every bamboo was planted exactly as what was designed originally, but it was re-arranged and it completely broke the “one-line sky” scene at 45 degree view point.

In the YLF conference, I talked about conflicting rules. This is another example about different people have completely different ways of doing things, and how they see this world.

Again, thanks Bobbie Pei for take the time to conduct the tour for us. That helps me a lot.

Zhouzhuang, Tongli or Zhujiajiao

Ling asked:

Hi Jianshuo,

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.

The Difference

Despite of the similarity, there are still some differences.

Distance

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.

My Favorite

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.

Decisions?

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

Trip Plan Case Study – Shanghai – Hangzhou

This is a case study of a typical trip, along with my suggestions. (The questions were edited a little bit – just some editorial changes).

I read your blog. It’s very interesting, especially because I’ll visit Shanghai in next 10 days. Well, I’m Indonesian Chinese overseas, not fluetly Pu Tong Hua speaking, so will be though back to mainland :)

I have free time before my course, I’ll come to Shanghai at 2nd Jun morning. I plan to go Hangzhou, to visit Xi Hu and Long Jing, then the next day go to Suzhou, do you have any recommened place to visit in here?

and 4 Jun will back to Shanghai, i’ll stay at cypress garden hotel, is it good hotel?

At 4 I plan to visit Shanghai museum and have dinner in Bund area, any recommended place?

After all, is it a “make sense” plan? because actually I don’t know exact distance between the place :)

Need you advise

Thanks in advance

First of all, let me tell you how far Shanghai and Suzhou and Hangzhou is.

Hangzhou is 2 hour to 2.5 hour’s drive from Shanghai, or more than 200 km. Suzhou is about 100 km away from Shanghai and takes about 1.5 hours from Shanghai.

Hangzhou is at southwest of Shanghai, and Suzhou at west. Look at the map below.

So it makes sense to visit Hangzhou, and then go directly from Hangzhou to Suzhou, and then back to Shanghai. It is not a perfect triangle, but very similiar.

I would say, if you arrive in Shanghai, and then go to Hangzhou the same day, it can be too rush. Why not spend the rest of the day in Shanghai and have some rest and then go to Hangzhou the second day? Typically Hangzhou needs one day or two days, and if you go directly there, at least half day is wasted on the road.

The other way to do it is to arrive in Hangzhou in the early afternoon (depending when your flight arrives in Shanghai), and spend after at Xihu (or West Lake). Spend as much time as possible at West Lake. It is really good.

For Suzhou, definitely go to Hupao (or the Tiger Spring?) That is my favorite place.

Cypress is a good hotel. I would recommend it.

On the Bund, my favorite place is the Three on the Bund. It is expensive though.

The M on the Bund on the opposite side of the street is also good.

There are not so many restraunts along the Bund. If you want, the Shanghai Uncle restraurant under the Bund Center is good.

So have a good trip – it seems you have put a lot of places into your tight 3 day schedule. It seems to me that there are too much – you may think about extending for at least one day for better experience.

Happy traveling!

Nice Hotel in Tongli

I didn’t write about it. Wendy and I went to Tongli for a night during Saturday – arrive at late night, and stayed in a very nice small hotel there, and left early in the morning (at 8:30 AM, we are already on the high way to Shanghai).

This is my second time (and Wendy’s first time) to Tongli. As I said in my last post, Tongli is a beauty at night. I highly recommend people to stay in Tongli for the night only, and it is so beautiful when there is nobody walking in the town and all shops close.

Zheng Fu Cao Tang

This time, we stayed in Zheng Fu Cao Tang 正福草堂, maybe the best hotel in the town. Last time I was there, I don’t have any money with me, so I stayed in the Fan Rong Hostel – 30 RMB per night. Last time, when I pasted by this hotel, I said, next time, I will stay here.

Website: http://www.zfct.net/

Reservation; +86-512-6320576

We stayed in a room for 220 RMB per night.

Here are some picture of this Chinese accident style hotel. I will stay here next time. They said you need to reserve at least one week in advance. (we were lucky that one person just cancelled the reservation, so we walked in and stayed).

The bed:

I wonder why people don’t use this kind of Chinese traditional bed any more – the bed with a frame and curtain, and it seems like a room.

Below is the nice flower on curtain before the door.

The bed – red Chinese style.

The small area before the room, on the second floor.

Red Big Lanterns.

They have an ancient instrument outside the door.

This is the entrance of the hotel.

In the garden:

Outside the hotel:

Early morning, looking down to the garden from the second floor where we stayed

Tongli at Night

River of Tong Li

My Photo

Wendy took a photo of me. Did work so well.

This one is much better:

Jiading is Not As Far as I Thought

Jiading 嘉定 is a district of Shanghai, but far from the downtown Shanghai. I haven’t been there before I attended the wedding ceremony for my friend.

The express way from Shanghai Downtown to Jiading is the first express way in China. It was completed in 1988. I heard about the Shanghai – Jiading Express way in 1994, and in my mind, Jiading must be extremely far away, that people need to connect the two places with an expressway.

Yesterday, we drove there – 13 km from A20 to Jiading, or 15 km in total.

At night, we left Jiading at 11:00 PM, and at 11:40 PM, we are already on my bed in my home.

The Shanghai – Jiading Expressway (named A12) connects with A20, and then directly merge into the newly built Middle-Ring Road, then we went east and turned into the South-North Elevated Road, then Nanpu Bridge via Inner-Ring Road.

The 40 minutes driving experience was amazing! It is just like from San Jose to San Francisco – so many branches, via-duct, elevated road, and without a single red light. It is especially good to drive at night, when there was almost no traffic on the road.

Dishuihu (Dishui Lake) Pictures

Shanghai is a city without high mountains. Sheshan is maybe the only hill Shanghai has. Shanghai has a river – Huangpu River, but Huangpu is not that interesting – you cannot sail or swim in it. Shanghai is near sea, but there is no beach. People like hiking may have to climb stairs of buildings. People like sailing may only be able to watch cargo boats in the river. People like sea cannot even touch the river of the sea due to the muddy shores.

It seems the only interesting natural places in Shanghai are lakes. Recently, the Dishui Lake (Dishuihu) opened to public. It is at the end of A2 (near the sea), and is nice. We went there in May. I just saw the pictures and post it here.

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. © Jian Shuo Wang, 2006

Back from Shengsi

Back from Shengsi Island. The island is about 1 hour fast boat to the Little Yangshan Harbor. For the first time, I go through the East Sea Birdget – a bridge of 30 KM long. It is not common to get onto a bridget extending deep into the sea, and cost about 30 minutes to get to the other end. The project is even more amazing than the beautiful scene at Shengsi.

More pictures and guide to get there will be posted later.

Hello from Nanjing

I am in Nanjing now. I am still at the excitement of the Maglev’s extension to

Hangzhou, and imagine how lives in both city will change if the 30 minute

connection line is built. Now I am in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province.

The Trip The trip from Shanghai to Nanjing is shorter than I expected. The first

time I came to Nanjing on Oct 1, 1996, the train was schedule to arrive in 6

hours, and turned out…

Back from Ji’An Trip

Just back from camping in the mountains of Ji’An in Zhejiang Province with Kijiji team, media and community members. Here are some pictures I took during the trip. See what happened on the date of 2005-10-23. Obviously, we only have this day once in our entire life.

Thanks for Flickr (of which I am a pro users). It seems I can use only very few percentage of the bandwidth limit they set for me – 2G.

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P.S. I realized I am always in too rush time to publish blogs these days. Most of the blogs are updated after midnight, and I start to think whether I should spend more time on each entry while write less, so always keep the blog interesting for both my readers, and (I think more importantly), to myself.

Zhuo Zheng Yuan of Suzhou

Suzhou is famous for its gardens. This is the second time we visit a garden in Suzhou. We planned to visit some places none of us had visited, but finally, we chose the Zhuo Zheng Yuan or the Hamble Administrator’s Garden, which all of us visited already. We picked it because we want to refresh our memories of Suzhou Gardens, and this garden is among the best.

Suzhou Garden in New York

When Wendy and I visited the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, we saw a replica of Suzhou Garden in the exhibition. It was very interesting to see a place with so strong Chinese characters in the heart of New York. It raised our couriosity to visit the garden again. We often ignore what is around us until we find it again in an unfamiliar environment.

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Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang. Taken in the New York Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York

Please note: The image above is not a real Suzhou garden. It is a replica in New York.

Inside Zhuo Zheng Yuan

It is a nice experience to visit the Zhuo Zheng Yuan again. My understanding of the garden is better than the previous time, after visiting many museums and galleries. I still cannot tell why, exactly, this garden is so unique and beautiful, I just feel more at home this time.

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© Jian Shuo Wang

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© Jian Shuo Wang

About Suzhou Garden

Here is what my favorite architect I.M.Pei said about Suzhou Garden:

How to look at nature is also very important. I remember the windows we have in the Suzhou gardens. Sometimes they are in the shape of a vase, sometimes a bamboo bush, sometimes a fan. When we look out from our office windows on Madison Avenue, we want to see all the way to East River. In China, land is not that plentiful; there are so many people there. Gardens need not be very big. They cannot be big and all-encompassing. These windows are more like picture frames. If you go to the Metropolitan Museum here, you will see a replica of one of those gardens. Beyond the window there are some bamboo shoots, and behind the bamboo is a white wall. The distance between the window and the wall is only about five or six feet. I think it creates a very satisfying picture. Out of these ideas, one can begin to search the vernacular. That was how I started. [1]

It is exactly what I feel (but didn’t find out by myself).

Logistics

The administration fee is 50 RMB. Parking outside the garden is 5 RMB for one day. It is near the Suzhou Railway Station.

Drive to the City of Suzhou

If you have two or three days in Shanghai, I’d suggest you to pay a visit to Suzhou. Although a visit to Suzhou is not as rewarding as a visit to Hangzhou (personally, I love Hangzhou better), it is very worth the time. It is only 100 km away from Shanghai.

As previous visit, I could get up late in the morning, had my breakfast at home, drove to Suzhou within 2 hours (including one hour or more in Shanghai) and had lunch in Guan Qian Street in Suzhou. After visiting some local stores or Chinese garderns, I drove back via the Suzhou High-Tech Zone. Very soon, we were at our favorite Hunan Restaurant in San Xiang Building (at the corner of Zhong Shan Elevated Highway and Hong Qiao Road) in Shanghai. After that, we still had time to visit the East bank of the Huang Pu river, or the Bund in Pudong. Wendy even spent half an hour shopping in the Grand Band Mall.

I had the best of the two cities in my life in the same day!

Suzhou v.s. Hangzhou

If time permits, the best approach is to visit Suzhou first and go to Hangzhou directly from Suzhou (without returning to Shanghai). There are highways connecting Suzhou and Shanghai, Shanghai and Hangzhou, Hangzhou and Suzhou. I don’t know whether it is because “the further the city is, the better it is” or something else. Hangzhou is a bigger city, with more historic stories and places of interests. Hangzhou was, anyway, the capital of China and is the capital of Zhejiang Province. That may be the reason why there are much more inside Hangzhou than in Suzhou. I still like the city of Suzhou, a small town with nice gardens. By Suzhou, I mean the old town of Suzhou. I went to the Hi-tech Zone of Suzhou. It is quite another story.

Suzhou High-Tech Zone

The Suzhou High-Tech Zone is east of Suzhou, adjenct to Shanghai. Many Singaporean enterprises and Taiwan investment went there.

We went to an area near the Ji Chang Road (or Airport Road) in Suzhou. It is a street in the city of Suzhou, but named after the Hong Qiao Airport. It is funny that people in Suzhou can access the airport more convinient than some in Shanghai. It is true.

Tall residential areas and massive town houses and villas around the lake area. There are new business centers and commerical areas. It gave me the impression that another Xin Zhuang (the town at the south end of the Metro Line #1) is rising in Suzhou. Wait. It is better than Xin Zhuang.

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Photograph by Wendy Fan. The bulidings under construction along the road

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Photograph by Wendy Fan. Sample of the buildings just completed construction.