A gondola ride on the Silk Route

//A gondola ride on the Silk Route

If our day in Nagasaki had been one when it was right to take the obvious excursion from Diamond Princess, Shanghai gave us an opportunity for something different.
Turning our backs on the Bund and its 21st-century skyscrapers and shopping malls, the Pearl TV tower and the overcrowded Jade Buddha Temple, we set off instead to the “water town” of Zhujiajiao, an hour or so away by coach.
Surrounded by four lakes, and constructed around criss-crossing canals, the settlement has inevitably been dubbed “the Venice of the East.” A little optimistically, given that few of its squat buildings rise more than two storeys high, and that in the absence of the Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica, or even a single palazzo, its single most significant edifice is a brick-built post office erected little more than a century ago.
But don’t let me sound disparaging. Zhujiajiao was just as fascinating in its own way, and a feast for lovers of take-away food – if they can stomach the endless displays of glistening pork shanks and gleaming pigs’ trotters that appear to be the local equivalent of Peking Duck.
The real Venice may have its Rialto Bridge, but I don’t recall there being any hawkers selling goldfish in plastic bags, as there are at the 400-year-old Fangsheng Bridge. The fish are not to be taken home and put in a glass bowl – the intention is that the buyer earns redemption by setting them free, no doubt to be caught again and offered for sale once more.
It’s a fascinating place, and one which would have been even more enjoyable were it not for the incessant rain, the lack of gutters on the tiled roofs, and the local determination to ride motor scooters along the narrowest streets, oblivious to the pedestrian traffic.
It was much more peaceful on the water and a ride in a local gondola, carrying six passengers at a time, was included in the trip – surely a bargain compared to the rip-off rates charged by Italian gondoliers.
Lunch followed at a Shanghai silk factory – adequately compensated by the number of silk duvets sold (there are two at £80 each finding their way into Captain Greybeard’s luggage), not to mention the silk blouses, shirts, pyjamas and scarves.
The journey back to the ship was past countless apartment blocks only feet away from the elevated highway and gave me inspiration for what must be a lucrative selling opportunity.
With the exception of the most modern glass-clad towers, almost every window of every home was fitted with a complicated contraption of rods, rails, poles and ropes. Because the weather was inclement, few were actually in use and instead there were garments hanging to dry behind every window. This was Chinese laundry on an industrial scale in a domestic environment, and it can’t be much fun for the residents of the flats.
When I return to Shanghai, I will bring container-loads of tumble dryers. The locals will flock to buy them and I shall make enough money to build my own cruise ship. I can’t imagine why it hasn’t been thought of before.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:53+00:00 4 March 2012|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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