Shanghai with Air Asia X – Yuyuan Garden, Chenghuangmiao Market, Zhujiajiao ancient water town

On our 3rd day in Shanghai, our itinerary were a bit more cultural compared to the day before.
We rose to explore the gardens of government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. According to our guide, this officer was high in ranks, and retired wealthy.

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Pan Yunduan built it for himself and his family. Today the garden had undergone many changes since its beginnings 400 years ago.

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The current garden is merely one fifth of its original, spanning an area of 20,000 square meters (about five acres).

** Notes taken from the WWW: During the late Ming Dynasty, it became very dilapidated with the decline of Pan’s family. In 1760, some rich merchants bought it and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, it was severely damaged. The garden you see today is the result of a 5 year restoration project which began in 1956. It was open to the public in September, 1961.

However, the small size is not a representative of the attractions of the garden. The pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters all have unique characteristics. There are 6 main scenic areas here: Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden.
Each area features several scenic spots within its borders.

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Walking in, we started with the Sansui Hall.
Sansui Hall was originally used to entertain guests since it is the first hall upon entrance to Yuyuan Garden. Later it became a place to hold ceremonies for the gentlemen and bookmen. With a height of nine meters (about 30 feet) and featuring five halls, it is the largest and most commodious structure in the garden.

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There are many pavilions and halls within this garden. Each of them was built with a purpose and has different names. Unfortunately I can’t remember each area and match them to my photos. However, below are pictures in sequence of our walk within Yuyuan Garden.

After the Sansui Hall, we came to this scenic garden surrounding a pond. Trees, flowers and bridges over the pond, this was a picture perfect scenery read in books and seen illustrations of old Chinese literature but now seen in real life with my very own eyes.

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After a few minutes at each area, we moved further into the gardens. Alex, our good natured guide regaled us with tales of China and snippets of info about Yuyuan Garden.
Frankly he’s one of the best guides I have ever encountered in my trips.

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Deeper into Yuyuan Garden; in the area of Yule Pavilion and Wanhua Chamber, you will find pavilions, corridors, streams, courtyards as well as many other natural features. Spring bamboos grow and dainty flowers blooms.

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In front of Wanhua Chamber, there are two old trees.It is said that the tree was planted by the host of the garden 400 years ago.

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Our early morning stroll in the gardens was truly relaxing and I felt as if I was transported back in time of the Chinese dynasty. In my mind, I see fair Chinese maidens in flowing robes and dainty slippers sashayed past the gardens.

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The true treasure of Yuyuan is the Exquisite Jade Rock. Located across from Yuhua Hall, it is one of the 3 famous rocks in the southern region of the Yangtze River.

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The rock is 3.3 meters in height and has 72 holes. What is interesting about this rock is that if you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from ALL of the holes.
Similarly, when you pour water into the rock from top, the water will flow out from each hole creating a spectacular sight to see.

This rock is located in a separate garden also surrounded by water, koi fishes in ponds, rocks, bridges and pavilions.

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We made our way out after about 2 hours in Yuyuan Garden………..

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……….and walked right into the busy and lively Shanghai Chenghuangmiao Market.

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Yuyuan Garden

Admission FeeRM20 (Apr.1-Jun. 30; Sep.1-Nov.30)
RM15 (Jul. 1-Aug.31; Dec.1-the next Mar.31)

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Opening Hours: 8:30-17:30 (tickets unavailable after 17:00)

Yuyuan Garden is within the area of Chenghuangmiao Market. Basically you would have to pass the Chenghuangmiao Market enroute to the entrance of Yuyuan Garden, which we did earlier in the morning.

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Shanghai Chenghuangmiao Market is located in Shanghai’s old town surrounded by ancient buildings with traditional Chinese architecture. This square consists of sightseeing and shopping areas. It is really a tourist haven as it’s the place to get handicrafts, small commodities as well as to sample some Shanghai local snacks.

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For the “gwei -lou” among us, McDs and Starbucks are available too.

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Naturally, I was more attracted to the Xiao Long Pao! We had muslims among our media group and out of respect all of our meals during our 5D4N tour was devoid of pork.

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And thus I helped myself to as much pork as I could whenever we were given some free & easy time on our own.

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Unfortunately the one I had was pretty bad; greasy and nary any meat with a very strong pork smell. I could barely finish it. Urgh!

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My initial plan was to join the queue for this particular shop but I gave up after a while as we were short of time. I trust the dumplings here are better!

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We had 30 mins to wonder around  Chenghuangmiao Market and I went to snap some shots quickly. Food, tea house, souvenir shops, jewelry and pearls and Shanghai antiques.. I could spend a whole day here!

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And there were a lot of food of course; some familiar, most not.

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This shop was particularly interesting as it allows visitors to dress up in old Shanghai style outfits and take pictures with the props – trishaw, umbrella, etc within the house. It’s payable of course, but I seriously wouldn’t have minded if I had the time as the whole makeover was very authentically old Shanghai.

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Great photo opportunities around the square are these pretty figurines and sculptures as well as its surrounding temples.

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Interested to visit Shanghai Chenghuangmiao Market? Admission is free and opening hours are from 09:30-20:30.

Done with Yuyuan Garden and Shanghai Chenghuangmiao Market we took a break for lunch before more historical and cultural pursuits.

The ancient water town of Zhujiajiao is famed for its architectural and picturesque appearance and dubbed as the  “Venice of Shanghai” due to its calm rivers and stone bridges and attractive riverbanks.

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Shops lined the square, with more twists and turns than I care to count. Wondering along the zigzag-ing narrow streets and lanes flanked with shops and stores, one is transported to a world of antiquity, leisure and tranquility.

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Our guide arranged for the river cruise first followed by free and easy time around this ancient water town  Different rates applies for cruise routes so do be aware of that. There are many tour operators that will bring visitors/tourists from Shanghai city itself, which is about 1.5 hours away by car.

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Industrious women catch and sell fishes for tourists to “release” into the river. This act of “kindness” supposedly brings good tidings but since I’m never a believer of such hocas-pocus I didn’t bother.

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BELOW: And off we go!

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So there I am; a person not entirely fond of cruises yet on another cruise along another river.

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The first thing I observed was that the eateries here has an “alfresco” dining area overlooking the river. As a person fond of eating in the open air I immediately had visions of myself sitting outside having a bite in the summer. Only during summer of course.
Another was the number of bridges that we passed during our cruise. I was told there are 36 bridges all together and we saw some really distinctive in design and structure.

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On the whole, I had to admit that the whole experience wasn’t unpleasant. The crisp air, the soothing rocking of the boat, the charming scenery and the feeling of being in a place steeped in history; this place warrants a visit if you’re in Shanghai.

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Done with the short cruise we continued to explore the inner town on foot. Other than souvenir shops, the food stores was the best part of the town!

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Freshly made biscuits and sweets were the biggest attractions for me. Some of the shopkeepers very generously handed out samples so I managed to taste almost of these! 🙂

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But the best has yet to come.

What would you do when you face a basin of these??

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Or these?

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The smell and the sight of fatty pork belly, whole knuckles, freshly steamed dumplings and pork meat can only mean one thing – buy and eat on the spot! 🙂

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I was seriously considering a pork knuckle but decided against it in the end as the humongous portion was too much for me alone. In the end I got ONE of the braised pork belly wrapped in leaves.

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It was almost pure lard but so marvelous! The fat almost dissolved in my mouth without the need to chew! This cost me about RMB2.

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You know what people say about China and how the Chinese eats almost anything under the sun? Well, anyone wants to take a guess what this may be?

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Or these?

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Other less exotic variety includes pickled vegetables of sorts that I have yet to ever encounter as well as nuts and legumes of weird shapes and sizes. But they looked tasty nonetheless.

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Other than these pack-and-go food outlets, restaurants, tea houses as well as chic coffee bars with WIFI co-exist side by side in this charming town.

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For shopping alone, shops here offers souvenirs, silk, handicrafts, clothing and shoes.  This a tourist-y place after all.

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The Zhujianjiao Ancient Town has a population of about 70,000 people. In the past, it was a trading area where people would ferry products and themselves around in little boats and barges.
It is about 3 square kilometers and a perfect area for a stroll and relax. There is also a garden named “Kezhi ” here that was said to be quite enjoyable for a stroll too.

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Doggy slippers anyone? 🙂

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And I saw a lot of these in Shanghai, a bicycle cum motorbike. How I wish we have these in Malaysia too.

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It was dinner right after and that shall be in a dedicated post as it was a rather interesting restaurant that can fit up to 1500 diners at any one time.
This restaurant has hundreds of dining rooms and the service staff wear roller skates to move around to accelerate serving time!
Post on that coming soon! 🙂

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** This is a media trip with the Air Asia X team together with media from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. We were in Shanghai for the Air Asia X inaugural Shanghai flight launch and had the good fortune to explore Shanghai for 5D4N.