Wuzhen is a water town located on the Grand Canal near Hangzhou. It has a really great PR campaign and I had been saving its Facebook posts for over a year – compelling images and dreamy ideals. When I finally had a chance to visit, I was so disappointed. It did not live up to my expectations, but maybe the hype had been just too much.
Wuzhen is actually a small city, and there is more to the Water Town that I didn’t see. But this is what the tourist maps directed us to.
So, with my favorite rocket scientists, I boarded a canal boat and took a short ride down a waterway.
The buildings seemed so dilapidated – apparently old people living in them have refused to move. I called this post “Wuzhen Before” because I anticipate that “After” the seniors have all left, the water town will be painted up like a showgirl.
On the one hand, what I saw was genuine, unlike some of the water towns that have been painted up and revitalized and made totally touristic, but the absence of color was really depressing. At the end of the boat ride, we walked back through a small number of restaurants and shops, stopping to feast on the local Wuzhen braised mutton, sauteed bamboo shoots, stinky tofu, and fish with pickled veg. Some people travel to Wuzhen just for the food!
There is much more to Wuzhen than we were able to see. To be fair, Wuzhen has developed to become a world-class conference center and the water town part is only one attraction featured alongside Grand Canal excursions. But it took us almost 2 hours to drive from Shanghai, and I can’t say that I’d recommend anyone else do that unless attending a convention. From media specials, I have seen Wuzhen lit up at night with multiple special effects for the World Internet Conference, and it can be charming. But for a day trip on a grey day? Nope.