The sights inside the water town part - like various houses, museums, gardens - close at 5pm, and it was already after 4pm when we arrived, so we weren't able to do that then. But a kindly guide person told us that at 5pm, when the inside sights close, the grounds are still open and free! So we spent the evening walking around and taking most of our grounds pictures of all the canals and bridges and buildings and boats and it was so flipping beautiful. It's so lovely
The best part of Nanxun, well, of course was how beautiful and charming it was. But the second best part was the signage. There are ample signs around the whole old town, and the English translations were INCREDIBLE. I would expect nothing less.
So, if you have time, a visit to Nanxun is essential. It's important to see a traditional water town to have a well-rounded view of China. But also, it's so freaking gorgeous, and, coming from Shanghai especially, seems very calm and relaxed. It was like we had chanced upon a secret they had kindly shared with us.
Even funnier was our attempt at finding dinner. Well, it wasn't ha ha funny at first. We were hungry, and it was impossible to figure out what had vegetarian options when no one spoke English and there weren't English menus. We didn't expect those things, but we at least needed a picture menu so we could point to things we wanted. (I have so much newfound appreciation for places with picture menus. No more looking down on them.) But this was a small town and most of the restaurants had menus just scribbled on a board or printed up but without pictures. Finally we found one that had pictures on the wall, but not on a menu. So we gestured towards the wall and asked if we could point to what we wanted. They got it! It was okay! I said the words for 'vegetarian food' and pointed at a tofu dish and a few vegetables and he nodded when I asked to make sure 'vegetarian'. There was no picture of rice but that one is easy enough to get across. We got food! It was good - except the eggplant dish was the Chinese version of vegetarian, meaning it had pork in it. Ughhhhh. More food just for Z. Luckily the greens and the tofu were good and uncontaminated.
But the best part of this meal was the conversation, again solely via Google Translate and the guy's phone app for translating. Early, he very frustratedly tried to say something that we just DID NOT understand. A word apparently in English, but we didn't get it. He went away, and came back 10 minutes later with a translated statement up on his phone screen "The USA has a place called Las Vegas." Guy, you're right and that was totally worth the trouble.
This happened a lot during the meal, with everyone looking at us and the owner-man coming up every few minutes with his phone queued up with some ridiculous statement. It was amazing. We tried so hard not to laugh every time. But the kicker, oh man, the kicker. At the end, I guess he felt comfortable enough finally in our conversationship to ask us about politics. And not just any politics. but the best political question ever framed. He came up to us, held out his phone, and it read, "Do you support the merchant, president tranp?" We still have bruises from how hard we were kicking each other, trying not to laugh but FAILING MISERABLY. Can you even? The misspelling! The comma! THE MERCHANT! We bring that up every day and still lose our shit laughing. Oh my god. I think we said no but the guy was probably super confused by how hard we were laughing while trying not to.
OH man, Nanxun. I love everything about you.
We were in Nanxun for only 24 hours, but it was one of our fullest visits. The sights were glorious, the hotel was perfection, and the interactions with people were beyond hilarious and adorable. And the signs. My god, the signs. I definitely wholeheartedly recommend a short jaunt here if you are planning to visit Shanghai (2.5 hour drive) or Hangzhou (2 hour drive) - where we headed next.