We’ve long maintained that Zhujiajiao
is best visited as an early evening and early morning excursion rather than a
day trip. But while this approach enables you to avoid the majority of the
matching baseball cap-wearing, megaphone-wielding tourist hordes and the tat
sellers that thrive off their business, previously it meant spending the night
in a B&B. And, as much as we love the rustic charms of hostel-like spots
such as Cao Tang, that often meant accepting a fairly basic level of
Yet, conscious of Shanghai residents’
desire for more luxury weekend getaway options, a new clutch of up-market
accommodation developments in and around the watertown are changing that. One of
the newest, and most impressive additions to this growing crop is the recently
opened Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao.
The hotel is comprised of 35 individual villas,
each with its own outdoor space, varying in size from a small courtyard and
garden with the entry level rooms to a private swimming pool with the most luxurious
still a lovely shared pool for the less well-off guest, don’t
worry). While the villas are all new buildings, they take their architectural
cues from traditional Ming and Qing styles, with lots of wooden carvings and
stone surfaces, both inside and out, mixed in with all the mod cons and comfort
from a brand new high-end resort. While it’s
possible to feel a little penned in inside the gardens attached to the smaller
villas, the high walls give plenty of privacy and a quick stroll out to the
adjacent watertown during the day is enough to remind you of the value of this
peace and quiet.
The centrepieces architecturally are the grand
lobby and, sitting opposite it at the resort’s
entrance, an ancient opera house. The former is based in Wufeng Lou, a
600-yearold courthouse that was originally located in Anhui, but was
painstakingly moved to, then reconstructed and repurposed on the hotel site. It
features an array of intricate carvings and architectural points of interest, while
its airy upstairs lounge is a peaceful spot to unwind during the day. The opera
house, once the centre of social activity when it was constructed in the late
Qing dynasty, is a similarly impressive sight, particularly at night when its
elegant form is reflected in the surrounding body of water.
There’s little to do on site, but then
largely the point. The best way to approach Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao is as a weekend getaway
whereby you spend the day lounging by the pool and then head out into the
watertown as the sun begins to dip and the crowds start to thin. One option is
to head for the 7pm nightly showing of renowned composer Tan Dun’s
water-based song and dance spectacular Water
Heavens (tickets from 180RMB). Alternatively, you can head next door for
seasonal 7.30pm performances of kunqu
opera classic Peony Pavilion set atmospherically
in one of the water town’s gardens (tickets from 580RMB).
Both Water Heavens and Peony Pavilion are located just inside
the water town entrance closest to the hotel.
For a slightly different kind of culture, also
found in this part of Zhujiajiao is Zher Bar, a small café,
bar and live music venue set up by former punk band frontman Frank Feng. Live
shows here are sporadic, but regardless you’ll find it a good place to sup a
few beers in the evenings, surrounded by punk paraphernalia beside the canal.
wandering the narrow streets in early evening you’ll find many of Zhujiajiao’s
shops in the process of closing up for the day, but drift away from the main
drag and you’ll stumble across local residents emerging onto the canalside streets
for a natter, plus myriad small coffee shops and friendly cafés
that morph into bars as the day winds down. Whatever you end up doing, you’ll
certainly see a very different side of Zhujiajiao, and arguably its best.
Rooms at Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao start from 3,600RMB a night. See ahnluh.com for booking information.