6 Reasons to Head to Huzhou
January 6, 2015
Escape the city and beat the heat at this bucolic lakeside retreat, just a two-hour drive from Shanghai. By Monsicha Hoonsuwan.
Published on Jan 6, 2015
1. Pedal the Past
The 700-year-old Lianhua Zhuang (free admission), or lotus garden, is a 45-hectare lake park near the city center, originally built in the 14th century and restored in 1986. Hop on a pedal boat for a sightseeing tour of traditional Chinese pavilions and gardens full of floating lotus flowers. Or follow the local lead: feed the koi fish, try practicing tai chi or duel the mahjong masters.
2. Get in the Ring
Arching over the southern shore of Lake Tai, China's third largest lake, the ring-like, 282-room Sheraton Huzhou (sheraton.com) mimics the shape of the moon. And in the lake, a scattering of antique Chinese fishing junks acts as the perfect metaphor for the Middle Kingdom: a classic Chinese symbol floating between the moon and the sun.
Antique junks float in front of the arched Sheraton Huzhou
3. Bathe in Wine
Channel your inner Dionysus with a dip in a 15-person pool filled with spring water and antioxidizing red wine. If you are in the mood for a more traditional soak, try one of the other 101 pools at Mystic Spa (sheraton.com), like the toasty 40-degree-Celsius natural hot springs with views of Lake Tai. Or, head inside for a foot massage and snacks.
Red wine spa pool at Sheraton Huzhou.
4. Devour Dumplings
Said to be one of Deng Xiaoping's soft spots, Ding Lianfang (41 Hongqi Rd.) has been serving its signature delectable qianzhangbaozi sifentou (steamed buns stuffed with pork, shrimp and scallops, wrapped in tofu skin) for more than 130 years. Down the block, order wonton made of meat and sesame and wrapped in bamboo leaves, at Zhou Shengji (43 Hongqi Rd.).
5. Go Boating
Forty kilometers east of Huzhou city lies a 13th-century water town, Nanxun, famous for its mix of architecture and southern-style gardens that play up natural beauty. Weave through intersecting canals on an eightseat boat for a glimpse of locals washing clothes, sipping tea and just going about their days.
Boating through Nanxun's canals
6. Blaze into Bamboo
Zip through Anji County's 60,000-hectare bamboo forest—a landscape so dramatic it was used as the backdrop for an epic battle in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A mini roller-coaster cart with a manual hand brake offers a fast-paced eco tour of more than 40 bamboo species. And there's no need to watch out for those flying kung-fu fighters.