A few weeks back, I posted a shot of a boatman sheltering under a bridge in the rain in the ancient Chinese water town of Xitang, in Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province. Today, I thought I’d share a few more images I shot on that trip.
I only had limited time available to visit Xitang: I arrived in the afternoon, and left late morning the following day. The old town is quite small, and it is possible to explore most of it it on foot in a single afternoon. There are plenty of guest houses there, and on a weekday you could probably simply turn up, walk around and find somewhere to stay. I booked in advance, as I wasn’t sure how busy the place would be, and spent a humid, sultry night in the Langqiomeng (“Lang Chao Mong”) Guesthouse on Chaoxil, with a tiny balcony overlooking one of the waterways. No-one I met was able to speak any English, and none of the signs had an English translation; I don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, so finding the guesthouse was my first challenge.
Even on weekdays, Xitang can get pretty crowded – if you’re hoping to avoid the masses. don’t even think about going at the weekend or on a public holiday. The best time to see the place is early morning before the tourist buses arrive, when it’s tranquil, which is a good argument for an overnight stay. From 03:30 to 05:00 in the morning, I had the place to myself. Even in the evening the town is crowded until late.
Xitang is very popular with Chinese tourists, although there are hardly any Westerners. In fact, you may discover that you are a tourist curiosity yourself, and find yourself the subject of several photographs, either in splendid isolation or as part of a family group.
Despite the tourism and crowds, the town is largely unspoilt, and is a beautiful place, with buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Finally, the image I posted a while back of a boatman sheltering under a bridge in heavy rain was monochromatic – here’s a colour version of the same image. I think I marginally prefer the monochrome image, although I do like the soft, muted colours in this version: