The Lonely Planet suggests the small town of Zhujiayu as a day trip from Jinan and I’ve wanted to go there, but had been put off by the potential hassle of getting there. You’re supposed to take a bus to a different city and then ask the bus driver to let you out at Zhujiayu. Then it sounded like a bit of a hike just to get there. Would there be signs I could read along the way? Just how hard would getting back be? Would you have to just wait along side the road for whenever the next bus came?
It sounded like too much trouble.
Yet I liked the idea of wandering off the beaten path. With the help of two former students, Melody and Monica, some of my friends were able to rent a van to take us directly to Zhujiayu. So four of us went with Melody and Monica, who’d researched the village. This was the way to go as for just 280 rmb total we could leave and return whenever we wanted. Thanks to Melody we could negotiate and arrange the transportation using one of the drivers outside the university gates.
Zhujiayu was well worth the trip. It took us about 2 hours from the west side of Jinan. The village contains well preserved buildings and homes from dynasty. The entrance fee is 15 rmb with a discount rate of 9 rmb for students and seniors, not a bad price for a chance to see 200 ancient buildings and 90 stone bridges in an idyllic setting.
Inside the village there are several exhibits of local textiles, looms, old manuscripts, written in beautiful calligraphy, and ceramics, however, there are no English labels or signs so we contented ourselves by categorizing these artifacts as “old” and simply enjoying their wabi-sabi.
Throughout the village there are several restaurants and stalls of vendors. It’s all very low-key though. No hard sell. The only time we felt slightly duped was at the first restaurant we saw. They beckoned us in and we weren’t sure if that was the best place for lunch. It was just 11:30 am. Melody asked an older couple what they recommended and the man told her that that was the only restaurant in the village. We did have a good lunch there for a good price, but they aren’t the only restaurant in town. a two minute walk and you’ll find more.
We had such a wonderful day quietly strolling and exploring. It was hard to imagine we were free of the hordes.