China’s little Venice off the beaten track

The quaint Chinese village of Zhouzhuang may not command the same attention as nearby Shanghai, but the town’s preservation as the country’s oldest water town gives travellers the chance to delve into a historically significant past. A leisurely small boat trip along the tight canals which cut through this tiny settlement opens up another chapter in a travel book that has many stories to tell in the People’s Republic.

Zhouzhuang – pronounced “Jow Jong” and known as Zhenfang Lane in ancient times – is appealing for its traditional tile-roofed houses and nearby small lakes as well as the canals and arched bridges. And yet it is only a short drive from bustling Shanghai, about 100km away.

“Its characteristics are a far cry from those of the much larger and more famous city,” said Helen Wong, managing director and founder of China tour specialist Helen Wong’s Tours, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2012.

“Guests literally step back the 14th Century, such is the village’s avoidance of contemporary change. When I went in search of this village about 20 years ago I didn’t expect to see such a splendid example of China history still intact. It proved to be a real find – a must for our tour programs, for Australians to see and experience – China’s own little Venice.”

Zhouzhuang is one highlight in the group tours from Helen Wong’s Tours China 2012-2013 program. A day trip is included in such tours as the 12-day China Discovery itinerary, priced from $A3850 per person, twin share from Australia. Among other lesser known manmade and natural treasures to see and experience on Helen Wong’s Tours’ various guided and independent tours through China are:

  • Xiahe, also referred to as Little Tibet, Xiahe, on the famous Silk Route near Lanzhou, is home to the Labuleng Lamasery;
  • Li River, near Guilin, famous for nits craggy, sharp rising limestone peak, often shrouded in mist;
  • Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, which was the inspiration to many Chinese poets and painters;
  • Jiuzhaigou, where you could be forgiven for thinking you were in North America Canada, such is the World Heritage listed mountainous landscape with its pine trees, snow-capped mountains and crystalline lakes. The only difference – it has giant pandas in the wild;
  • Lijiang, in the southern province of Yunnan, a town with the tag “living museum” for its canals, cobblestoned streets and ornate timber buildings;
  • Tiger leaping Gorge, one of the world’s deepest gorges at the first bend of the Yangtze River;
  • The Stone Forest, near Kunming, also in Yunnan, a true natural phenomenon;
  • Wuyishan, noted for its dramatic red peaks, sheer rock faces and winding rivers for rafting.

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