Zhujiajiao, the Venice of Shanghai

On January 26, 2012, my family and I traveled to Zhujiajiao, an ancient village in Qingpu District about 45 minutes west of Shanghai. Zhujiajiao bills itself as the “Venice of Shanghai.” Why not the “Venice of China”? Well, perhaps because China has hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional villages like Zhujiajiao scattered throughout the country.

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2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao (43)

2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao (1)

Founded over 1,700 years ago, Zhujiajiao has canals, wooden oar-driven tour boats, stone arch bridges, and plenty of traditional Chinese architecture. However, it bears little resemblance to Venice, Italy.

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2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao (24)

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Some of the village’s attractions include a Buddhist temple that rises above town, a small Temple of the Town God dedicated to the spirits that protect the village, and a theater that offers performances of the Chinese classic play The Peony Pavilion during the summer months and on Saturdays.

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2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao (33)

The traditional Qing Dynasty-era architecture that lines a picturesque network of canals is a main attraction, as are the Chinese foods, beverages, and souvenirs for sale from many vendors. Lotus root, soy beans, pork, toad, and seafood are local specialties.

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2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao (23)

The toad was delectable.

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The snails aren’t your garden variety escargot.

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Dried, not fried, chicken is also a local favorite. Not recommended for tourists.

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The crowds during Chinese New Year were horrific. We thought we were going to be crushed in an alleyway! Fortunately, body heat kept us warm on a cold winter day.

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In spite of the crowds, the atmosphere was festive during our visit. Dragon boats with drums beating sailed in the canals, and well-groomed dogs sported bright red Chinese New Year coats. Red lanterns with gold tassels festooned the streets.

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2012_01_26 Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao is a nice daytrip from Shanghai along with Da Guan Yuan, a park on the shore of Dian Shan Hu (lake) that replicates the garden featured in the classic Chinese novel The Dream of the Red Chamber.

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Just don’t go when it’s busy!

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Here are some short video clips from our visit.

Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Dragon boats in Zhujiajiao, China–January 26, 2012
Map picture

P.S. This has been a busy week in China with family and Chinese New Year’s festivities. Last night we could barely sleep as the locals blew off rounds of fireworks to welcome the god of wealth on the 5th day of New Year’s. I have to say that I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet – not to mention warmer weather – back in Thailand. We return home to Bangkok tomorrow.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex. Visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or contact him at me@mgedwards.com. Find him on Facebook or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Temple of the Town God–Shanghai, China

Happy New Year! It’s the first day of the Year of the Dragon in China. Today we visited the Temple of the Town God in Shanghai. It was crowded! I haven’t seen so many people in one place in a long time — which means a lot in a place like China with more than 1.2 billion people.

Thousands converged on this popular attraction to see the lighting of the lanterns on decorated floats on the water and other Chinese New Year’s festivities. The lights were simply spectacular. The traditional Chinese architecture added to the ambiance.

Enjoy these video clips of the Temple of the Town God. Happy New Year! 新年快乐!

Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China–January 24, 2012
Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China–January 24, 2012
Temple of the Town God, Shanghai, China-January 24, 2012
Map picture

Fireworks in Shanghai, China – Happy Year of the Dragon!

Here’s a video clip of some amazing firework displays in Shanghai, China at midnight on January 23, 2012, to celebrate the arrival of the Chinese New Year. This year, the Year of the Dragon, is a special one for the Chinese, and this New Year’s celebration was truly memorable. Happy New Year! 新年快乐!

Shanghai, China–January 23, 2012



Roadmap for future travels

I never seem to be able to keep up with our travels and happenings on this blog.  Here we are heading to Namibia for the first time tomorrow, which of course I’ll have to blog about, and yet I still haven’t finished narrating  the Kilimanjaro climb I did in January!  Life always seems to outpace technology, doesn’t it?  Our brains (still) process faster than a keyboard so that our fingers miss out on some of our thought waves.  Blogging can never keep up with real life, particularly when it goes by so fast.  Too fast lately, it seems.

Over the next couple weeks I plan to write a short series on our Namibia trip — assuming that there are some adventures to be told as we zigzag from Windhoek to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay to the Namib Desert and back on rough roads with a sardine can-sized car rental.  I have a couple more installments of the Kilimanjaro series to post, and then I’ll be done.  I hope to have the Namibia series written over the next month or so but will no doubt be interrupted by future trips to Lubumbashi, DR Congo, one final trip to Livingstone, and a visit to South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, the last trip we’ll take in southern Africa before heading to our next destination in Asia via North America.  In the next six months my family and I will visit three continents and multiple countries en route to our next home in Bangkok, Thailand, which is a great jump-off point for regional travel in southeast Asia. 

While all this travel may sound “cool,” “awesome” or “exciting,” it’s going to be a grind.  Imagine packing up your entire life — including all that stuff you’ve forgotten in your garage or attic — and moving it cross-country every 2-3 years; then, imagine yourself moving half way around the world and getting everything you own — and yourselves — there intact.  When we finally land in Bangkok after having been back to the United States for a short trip to visit family, we’ll be more than ready to take a break from traveling.  For a few months at least until we head to Shanghai, China next February for Chinese New Year.  During all this travel I will do my best to document it with of course more random posts about issues of personal interest to mix things up.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Things to Come

Have you ever been in a situation where you know what your life will be like for the next six months, but you don’t know what it will be like in the next six? 

That’s the situation I find myself in at the moment.  Right now I am living and working in a reality that will change dramatically in less than four months.  My family and my life will be uprooted, and we will be in limbo for another month before we find ourselves in a completely new reality.  From one continent to another, one country to another, one culture to another.  It’s really quite surreal, actually, as if you’re being pulled out of one dream (or for some, a nightmare) and dropped into another.  Virtually everything that I know now will be a memory in a matter of months.  Some will be good memories, some not so good.  The home I live in will change.  Neighbors, friends, and colleagues will be different.  And although the Internet allows those I know now to stay in touch, many of us will never cross paths again.

I ponder sometimes what life will be like six months from now in a new location, new environment, even a new career.  The only constant will be my loving family and my God.  They are the only continuity this life brings.   Nevertheless, I am looking forward to a change.  I am wary of the unexpected and unsure of what to expect in our next life, but I have created an image in my mind of what I think life will be like in the near future.  Take this blog for instance.  As life is now I only have time to post new entries once a week or twice if I’m lucky.  Yet the site is a bit staid because I don’t have time to upload photos or media that would make this page more attractive and attract more readers.  In six months, I will be able to make this blog more interesting than it is now, and perhaps it will return to the days when hundreds, even thousands read this blog each day. 

But what am I giving up by changing realities?  A lot, really.  There are things I’m doing now that I won’t be able to do in six months.  The question is whether the trade-off is a positive step or something I will learn to regret.  The answer I do not yet know, and it lies in our new reality.

Many of my friends and colleagues face similar situations every year or two years.  Somehow, most of us manage to cope with the change.  While it seems attractive to change your reality — especially if you dislike the one you’re in now — there’s something to be said about stability and continuity.  That’s something few can afford in this life.

Baptism on a Perfect Day

IMG_0440I baptized our son yesterday.  We could not have chosen a better day for this momentous occasion, for 10/10/10 (October 10, 2010) will never happen again this millennium.  Surely this was the event of a lifetime, especially for my son, for our family, and for God.  Baptizing my son by water was one of the biggest thrills of my life.  A missionary friend blessed and ordained him; I asked my son to give his testimony and helped affirmed that he was ready to take this important spiritual step.  He did splendidly.

It reminds me of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist almost 2,000 years ago in the Jordan River.  Matthew 3:13-17 says:  “13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

I’m proud of my own son for taking this important step in his walk with God.  He is a young soul, but his heart is true, and he knows the truth.  A couple of years ago he asked to be baptized, but we asked him to wait until he truly knew what it meant to be baptized.  I did not get baptized until much later in life; I am very happy he’s taken this big step while he’s young.  I looking forward to helping him grow in his faith as he develops into a man of faith.

In this day and age where relativism reigns and diversity is sacrosanct, it should be understood that baptism is not something that needs to be hidden away from view or done discreetly because someone might happen to offend someone. It’s a story begging to be told.  Much as all sorts of religions are tolerated for their own outward expressions of belief, so also should this type of visual proclamation of faith be respected.  It’s not something that needs to be hidden under a bush or salted away.

Happy New Year

I wish you a happy and prosperous 2010.  I hope 2009 treated you well and that the new year will be even better.  What do you have planned for the new year? 

I’m one of those people who believe in making and achieving goals, and I consider New Year’s resolutions worthwhile.  Resolutions help one think about what needs to change and how to change it.  Unfortunately, it’s very easy to break resolutions because they usually focus on aspects of our lives that we continually struggle to improve.  Hence, “resolve” is a key aspect of resolutions, and one must have the resolve to achieve the resolutions they make. 

I’m as guilty as anyone in making and breaking my resolutions for the new year, so I have made three personal commitments this year that I hope will help me achieve my resolutions for 2010.  One, I chose goals that I am already pursuing and have already made some progress in achieving.  Two, I chose incremental targets for my goals rather than “pie-in-the-sky” aims that I know I will never achieve.  Third, I pledged to prioritize these goals, focus more on achieving them, and balance them with other responsibilities so they’re not superseded by life’s daily demands.  With these three commitments I hope to accomplish these resolutions by year’s end. 

Here are my personal goals for 2010:

  1. Make a major life change
  2. Lose weight (10 percent)
  3. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
  4. Run (not walk) a 10-kilometer race
  5. Read half the Bible
  6. Stop one bad habit
  7. Write or update 25 short stories
  8. Go golfing three times
  9. Read ten books
  10. Increase our net worth by ten percent

If you haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to try making some and make the commitment to follow through with them.  If you achieve even one, you increase your chances that you’ll end this year happier than you started it.