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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shaoxing, China

This past weekend was Dragon Boat Festival, which meant that the whole country got Monday off from work. I didn't expect to see any festivities in Shanghai, since holidays like this are more an excuse to spend the day relaxing at home or shopping at the mall. So I decided to take advantage of the three-day weekend & go on a trip.

I found an outdoor adventure tour with SISU, a local outfitter & tour company. Plans for the weekend included biking & hiking in Shaoxing, a city about two hours southwest of Shanghai. Transportation, one night in a five-star hotel, all meals & bike rental were included in the 1300 RMB fee (about US $200).

The tour participants included Americans, Canadians, Brits, Finns, Danes, Dutch & Germans in the bunch - & two Chinese women - all friendly & outdoorsy. It wound up raining for most of the weekend, but we were able to do a short hike between downpours through the nature preserve next to the hotel on Sunday morning. There we saw pagodas & Buddhas & canal boats a-plenty, & we heard birds chirping - real birds!

We also visited a traditional huangjiu distillery in town where we sampled the famous Shaoxing wine in various stages of aging. When the Chinese say "wine", they don't mean the kind made from grapes. Instead, Chinese "wine" is a kind of liquor, though it's often not as strong as whisky or vodka. Some of it can be pretty harsh - along the lines of white lightning - & our first taste at this distillery wasn't exactly the smoothest. But each sample got better & better until the final sample, the creme de la creme - the 20-year-old wine selling for 800 RMB per jug (about US $125).

After I got back, I was looking for links about Shaoxing & stumbled upon this self-guided tour itinerary, perfect for those who don't have an extra 1300 RMB to spare. The site has some other routes that look interesting as well. I'm looking forward to trying some of them out on my own. 

My hotel room
The view from my hotel room
Hiking through the nature preserve
Buddha carved into a huge rock
Traditional canal boats
20-year-old Shaoxing wine

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