Making Trails

the travel blog of Lauren Nishizaki

Xitang (西塘)


The last weekend before leaving, Wenrui, her parents, a family friend, and I drove out to Xitang, an old water town near Shanghai. The town has several canals running throughout, and in the old days, these canals were the main mode of transportation. Now, the town is primarily a tourist destination, although it is the only remaining water town with actual residents year round.

The larger canals were lined by small shops selling a variety of goods: food, rice wine, teapots, knick-knack souvenirs, etc. Roofs extending from each shop form a continuous covered walkway. Each segment of roof is built and maintained by the shop in front of which it stands. Many of the houses along the river have been converted into hotels (watch out for the mosquitos!), and the original residents make enough from renting the houses to tourists that they are able to buy larger houses in the modern areas of Xitang. Hand-driven boats carry tourists up and down the river; although this is heavy physical labor, the boat operators make less money than entrepreneurial individuals who give motorcycle rides into and out of the old district (it ends up being quite a long walk).

As a side note, scenes from Mission Impossible 3 were shot here, so movie posters and pictures of Tom Cruise can be found scattered throughout the city.