WANT to explore Venice, the city of water, but lack of money and time? Considering visiting the water towns Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang, but can’t stand the jam-packed crowd? If you are looking for a reprieve from urban life to quaint waterscapes as the season warms up, four beautiful water villages that feature old bridges, small rivers and houses are within easy reach right here in Guangdong, only a three hours’ drive from Shenzhen.
Fengjian Water Village
Located in Xingtan Town in Shunde, thousand-year-old Fengjian Water Village dates back to the West Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 25). Due to comparisons of the local scenery with the famous waterbeds of Zhouzhuang in Jiangsu Province, the village is also known as the Zhouzhuang of Shunde.
Here, ancient temples, shrines and houses abound among a network of rivers and streams, making it a tranquil getaway for visitors. One of the highlights of touring Fengjian Village is taking a boat to view the village from an aquatic point of view along one of the winding rivers while listening to the gurgling of water springing up from below.
As a typical Cantonese-style water town, Fengjian is home to antique bridges of different eras. Among them the most famous ones are Mingyuan Bridge, Juji Bridge and Jin’ao Bridge.
Walking along the rolling streets, peeking down alleyways and admiring folk houses built along the river — especially their clunky wooden doors and rusty iron handles — you may feel as though you’re traveling back in time.
At Fengjian Water Village, Shunde signature home-cooked cuisine is prepared around every corner. What’s special here is that the different dishes are made out of different parts of a fish including Shunde fish skin, Shunde fried fish intestines with egg, fish hotpot, grilled fish bone, grilled fish belly and fish porridge.
Add: Fengjian Water Village, Xingtan Town, Shunde, Foshan 广东省佛山市顺德区杏坛镇逢简水乡
Driving route: Guangzhou-Zhuhai West Expressway — exit at Chencun Village/Beijiao — 105 National Highway — Beijiao, Shunde — Lunjiao, Shunde — Xingtan, Shunde — Fengjian Water Village
Gulao Water Village
Located along the Xijiang River, the largest tributary of the Pearl River Delta system, Gulao Water Village has a long history spanning over 600 years. This beautiful Cantonese-style water village features the typical wetland geomorphology. It is nicknamed the “Venice of the East” for boasting a dazzling number of fish ponds with stone bridges over waterways, resembling the beautiful Venice, Italy.
In the past, when the surging water of the Xijiang River flowed through this area, the river would widen and a large amount of sand would be deposited here, forming sandbanks and alluvial flats. During the reign of Emperor Hongwu in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), under the emperor’s order, Gulao native Feng Baxiu built the Gulao Dike to prevent and control flooding.
People have dug many fish ponds in the alluvial flats within the dike. Between the neighboring fish ponds formed small earthen mounds. On the earthen mounds and the dike, plants like the mulberry and sugarcane were planted. The village is surrounded by winding blue flagstone paved ridges. If people want to go out, they have to use the boat and the small bridges, which is quite unique in a water village.
The best time to visit the village is from June to October every year when the lotus fowers are in full bloom and villagers pick up lotus flowers on a boat.
Add: Gulao Town, Heshan, Jiangmen 广东省江门市鹤山古劳镇
Driving route: Shenyang-Haikou Expressway — Dayan Mountain Hutong — 325 National Highway — Renmin Road East — Xincheng Road — Xinhua Road — Y197 — Shengguxian Road — Gulao Water Village (Chen Xiaochun)