There is mist in the mornings, endless days, and a traditional Chinese teahouse forming the facade of a guest house along the quaint alleys, the charm of this water town hovers so long in my memory, until something more precise comes along, such as the odour of age and a strange sense of settledness. A part of me that was once so indestructibly alive and more distinct, becomes a second self that now sits back and observes with detachment, like a tourist in a museum.
This water town is Xitang, China.
What lives undimmed in my mind more than two years later, is the unstirred lake, the verdant courtyards filled with old men playing chess, the endless supply of time in that place at that time, and sunsets that seduce photographers, artists and writers alike.
Xitang is one of the seven quaint water towns in China, still relatively unspoilt by the crass destructive power of tourism. In my visit to my brother who was then living in Shanghai, I took a two-hour train ride from Shanghai to Xitang. For what it’s worth, Shanghai was nice, bustling with modernity, bursting with cafes and malls, but it is a conglomerate of upwardly mobile consumers strapped with cash.
Move aside Uncle Sam, the dragon has been awakened.
Traversing from Shanghai to Xitang proved to be a sweet escape, whisking me away to another world, one far away from the dusty city streets, from the glaring neon lights and from the enticing promise of a brave new world where cash is king.
Here in Xitang, artists, poets, writers, photographers meet in unison, to express, to share and to soul search. There is conveyance between the artist and the writer, the writer and the audience. Skip the obvious drawcards and you will see that this place is an oasis of labryinthes, quaint alleys and serenity.
(Fun fact: ‘Mission Impossible’ starring Tom Cruise was filmed here)
#1 Beautiful lush courtyards where people sip tea and play Chinese chess to while away time.
#4 The tearoom in the guesthouse. A traditional way of guest reception?
#5 Quaint Alleys. 长廊 . 走着走着流浪到了这. 谁又知道这段路是如此漫长, 何为终点?
#6 My humble abode in Xitang
#7 Balcony and sun deck of the guest house that I was staying in. Pretty with all the crawling plants and sunlight spilling in.
#8 Flower-petals bicycle that’s forever parked outside my door!
#8 The view! A little shabby but that’s the beauty of it- rawness. My only fear living there was the falling tiles on the roof from other houses.
#9 The evening glow that drew plenty of photographers and painters in its embrace.