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August 1, 2011

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Visiting villages off the beaten path

SHANGHAI touts its skyscrapers, its shikumen houses and well-traveled water towns. Now it's promoting 11 lesser-known picturesque villages on its outskirts, in hopes of attracting tourists. Zhao Wen takes a stroll.

Shanghai's rural suburbs have always attracted visitors who want to flee the city on weekends when nice weather beckons. Now the city is promoting 11 villages, especially for late summer and autumn harvest trips.

Some are pilot agricultural villages, all in verdant settings, some are old hamlets. There's the home of famous Malu grapes in Jiading District and the 1,500-year-old lotus village in Songjiang District that already has a resort.

These villages are expected to become part of the city's rural tourist trail.

They are winners recently announced by the Shanghai Agricultural Commission of a "My Favorite Shanghai Village" competition covering 25 villages in the suburbs. Since April, 40 experts in tourism, history, environmental protection and agriculture have been checking out the scenery and the possibilities.

Especially recommended is scenic and unspoiled Hengsha Island in Chongming County.

The top village is Gexin Village in Minhang District, followed by Yangwang Village in Fengxian District and Qianwei Village on Chongming Island (County). (See box for full list.)

Here are three villages:

Nanyang Village, Songjiang District Getting off the bus at Nanyang Village, visitors are greeted by expanses of blooming lotuses that sway in the warm breeze. It seems like a scene from West Lake in Hangzhou.

"Welcome to Lotus Town!" said the guide, extending his arm toward 40 hectares of lotus of various kinds and colors. Plank walkways wind through the lotus fields and visitors can lose themselves in the scenery.

The annual lotus festival is underway through August 23 at Nanyang Village, Xinbang Town in the southwestern part of Songjiang District. The festival includes plenty of lotus eating in various dishes; performances of graceful "lotus dances," exhibitions of painting and calligraphy related to lotus, and of course appreciation of the fields of lotus by moonlight.

Apart from lotuses, there's a lake for fishing (children can learn to fish), markets for aquatic produce, restaurants and entertainment areas.

An upscale resort hotel covers 67 hectares and offers spectacular views and places to stroll. It contains restaurants and offers conference facilities and entertainment. The village is small and is home to around 930 families.

The lotus festival hotline is 400-820-5053.

How to get there:

Take Metro Line 1 to Lianhua Road Station. Change to Lianfeng Bus to Xinbang Town.

Dayu Village, Jiading District

Every August the air is warm and sweet with the fragrance of famous Malu grapes from Malu Town. Dayu Village is considered the heart of the vineyards that some people say rival those in Turpan in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. However, it's all a matter of taste, since the various grapes from both areas are distinctive and delicious.

In 2008, the village was listed as a pilot rural village, containing a grape research institute and cooperatives for growing Malu grapes.

The Malu Grape Theme Park is part of the rural scenic area.

The Malu Grape Festival is held every year from July through September. Visitors can pick grapes, take part in wine tasting and learn about grapes and wine.

There's grape photo exhibition and forums about grape growing and wine.

In the past two years, a number of well-known Chinese and foreign artists have settled in Dayu, opening studios and workshops.

There's a song about Dayu Village that goes like this: "Along the river and stone bridge, my home is hidden in the green trees and clusters of bushes; you see white walls and you see gray tiles, you see us planting grapes around our houses."

How to get there:

Take Metro Line 11 to Malu Station. Change to Malu No.1 Bus to Dayu Village Stop.

Yangwang Village, Fengxian District

This is a modern agricultural village with vast expanses of fruit trees, flowers and shrubs, vegetables fields and fishponds. Farmers are prosperous and it has been named one of China's 10 better-off villages by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The village includes a modern agricultural park, food product industrial processing park, business trade zone and new residential area. Leisure travel is another "industry" - visitors can appreciate the village in all seasons, pick produce, go fishing, tour greenhouses and enjoy country living and home cooking.

Scientific agricultural methods have been introduced and incomes have risen significantly. Selected industry has been introduced. The village's 805 families have new housing, around 420 separate houses.

The modern agricultural area contains 40 hectares of yellow peaches, 10 hectares of flowers and plants, 33 hectares of vegetables, 15 hectares of fishponds and other areas of fruit tree areas.

The village has sports facilities including basketball and tennis courts, a football field and a gymnasium and billboards rooms. There's a library and performance stage.

How to get there:

Take Metro Line 1 to Xinzhuang Station. Change to Xinnan Bus to Nanqiao Town.

10 Favorite Villages

(In descending order of votes)

1. Gexin Village, Pujiang Town, Minhang District

2. Yangwang Village, Nanqiao Town, Fengxian District

3. Qianwei Village, Shuxin Town, Chongming Island (County)

4. Pailou Village, Hangtou Town, Pudong New Area

5. Nanyang Village, Xinbang Town, Songjiang District

6. Zhonghua Village, Langxia Town, Jinshan District

7. Dayu Village, Malu Town, Jiading District

8. Pandian Village, Zhuanghang Town, Fengxian District

9. Wangjin Village, Zhujiajiao Town, Qingpu District

10. Huangqiao Village, Maogang Town, Songjiang District

* Specially recommended: Hengsha Island.


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