Travel to China: Zhouzhuang
The guide books say that Zhouzhuang, between Shanghai and Suzhou, is an unspoiled example of the kind of town that once dotted the Yangtze Delta. The Will to Believe is strong, but, as usual, if something's too good to be true it's probably untrue. Zhouzhuang these days is a tourist production, crowded with visitors and wrapped with, shall we say, out-of-costume neighbors. Can you get a sense of what the place was like? Probably better from these pictures than from visiting the place.
A large parking lot and high-capacity ticket booths lie a few hundred yards behind the camera as we walk into... well, right up front you get the idea. Cultural Shows can't be far ahead.
Keep walking! This is a cold winter day, which explains the sparse crowd.
If you had a car, this is where you'd stop it. Never mind: keep walking.
Ah! So this is what it's about. A bit of Bruges, a bit of Venice: another town built in the water. Attractive.
The boat might give you pause, but overlook it. People do live in this place.
Some in houses that have been around awhile.
There's a range of bridge types. Post and lintel here.
There are vehicle-free paths, too.
Some are very narrow, but cars don't have to squeeze through.
Enough atmosphere. It's time to play your part and shop.
At the least, you can buy a ticket for a boat ride.
Tourist fleet, tied up at the edge of town.
Think Vermeer could do something with this?
Slack season; time for repairs.
But even in winter a good number of tourist boats ply the canals. ("Ply" is one of those nautical terms that we salts use. It comes with a blue cap.)
Suspiciously easy work.
Could it be that each boat has a hook grabbing an underwater chain that pulls everybody along with just the right spacing? (Why such sarcasm? Well, you go expecting one thing and find you've been played; puts you in a bad humor.)
Want to see real Zhouzhouang? How about dredgers.
How about the edge of town? See that bridge?
Workers going home over it.
Not quite so colorful.
Don't knock an illusion upon which incomes depend? OK: we'll beat a retreat to the handsome museum created in town from this canal-side home.
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