THE INSIDERS XITANG, CHINA
GO: Xitang is a centuries-old water town situated where nine rivers converge in Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province. It is about 90km from Shanghai, easily reached by scheduled buses (recommended) or trains; allow about 90 minutes for the journey. Crisscrossed by bridges, Xitang’s real beauty lies in well-preserved buildings of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The town gives you the sense that you are the first person to discover it. A visit is an adventure, which in my view remains one of life’s priorities and worth saving for; travelchinaguide.com.
STAY: Xitang Yuan Shui Pavilion is the perfect spot to stay; there are double and family rooms, some with balconies, and the small hotel is close to restaurants and right on the river with great views, even more spectacular by night with red lanterns reflecting in the water; rooms from about $130 a night; 50 Xiaxi Street; agoda.com.
EXPLORE: Xitang is such a relaxing and romantic place, my best tip is to put on your walking shoes and discover the history and romance of its narrow lanes; Tawan Street runs along the water and is a must to wander.
SHOP: There are lovely cobblestoned narrow streets to stroll along and you’ll find a good collection of local crafts, rare arts and souvenirs. Look out for exquisite Hangzhou silk and embroidery, as well as worldfamous Longjing tea. Try Huanxiu Street for great shopping and places to dine.
EAT: My favourite restaurants are those on the waterfront. All menus are written in Chinese so it’s a matter of looking at what local diners are eating to select your dishes. Interesting options include West Lake sour fish, beggar’s chicken and Hangzhou-style dongpo pork belly.
DRINK: In Xitang the locals take their tea drinking seriously and there are many options; the white chrysanthemum blend is my pick.
ESCAPE: Take time out to visit Lingyin Monastery, northwest of Hangzhou in Zhejing Province, one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in the Wulin Mountains. Lingyin is translated as “temple of the soul’s retreat”, and you will feel restored by a visit; lingyinsi.org.
Lisa Barber is a wealth adviser and director at Hillross financial management company. Her book A Woman’s Guide to Wealth: What My Mother Needed to Know has just been published (Lulu.com; $28.29); lisabarber.com.au.
Graham Erbacher Graham.Erbacher@news.com.au