Beyond Shanghai: 5 scenic side trips

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Kate Springer, CNN • Updated 20th July 2017 Shopping, ancient gardens, temples and dynamic architecture make it one of the most fascinating megacities.
But that`s not the only reason to go.
Shanghai also happens to be an easy jump-off point for more rustic side trips.
From the canals of Shaoxing to Hangzhou`s famous West Lake, China`s ancient "water towns" and lush tea plantations are just a 20- to 30-minute bullet train ride away.
Here are five day trips you`ll enjoy: 1.
Hangzhou A 45-minute bullet train ride from Shanghai (on a "D" or "G" train), Hangzhou has been praised by poets and explorers alike (including Marco Polo) as one of the most photogenic places in China.
The city revolves around West Lake, which is best explored by bike in the morning, when the byways are empty and willow tree-lined causeways are shrouded in ethereal mist.
Around the lake, travelers will find dozens of ancient pagodas, gardens, carp ponds, half-moon bridges and temples -- not to mention easy treks through the hillsides.
Shaoxing A 20-minute bullet train ride southeast of Hangzhou will drop travelers in Shaoxing, which -- perhaps optimistically -- has been dubbed the "Venice of Asia.
" A small city (by China`s terms) of 5 million, Shaoxing is best known for its romantic canals and stone bridges.
More than 4,000 bridges connect the cityscape and a stroll along the cobbled pathways will take you past traditional white houses with slate-tiled roofs.
Shaoxing is also famous for its literary history, once home to Chinese scholar Zhou Enlai and famous writer Lu Xun.
Most of the action revolves around the eponymous Lu Xun Road pedestrian strip, where travelers can walk through Lu Xun`s 19th-century residence.
Travelers will find stinky tofu, braised pork belly and Shaoxing wine (a Chinese rice wine) -- said to be made with special water from the nearby Jianhu-Mirror Lake and then buried underground to mature.
Moganshan About a 30-minute drive northwest of Hangzhou, or 2.
5 hours southwest of Shanghai, the small village of Moganshan is a refuge for nature lovers.
Part of the beauty of Moganshan is there`s not too much to do, aside from explore the bamboo forests and tea plantations.
Offering an ultra-posh experience, there`s also La Residence -- a villa with 30-feet-tall ceilings and eclectic Scandinavian furniture that`s been built into the tea hills above sister property Le Passage Mohkan Shan.
Costing roughly $28,000 a night, the eight-bedroom villa might be part of the reason the area`s been called "The Hamptons of China.
Ningbo An easy drive from Shanghai across the Hangzhou Bay Bridge -- the world`s longest trans-oceanic bridge -- Ningbo is a rapidly modernizing city with a long history.
Not only is Ningbo home to one of the busiest shipping ports in the world, but it`s also one of China`s oldest cities.
Dating back to 4800 BCE, Ningbo was an important stop on the Silk Road.
Beautifully preserved pagodas and towers can still be seen today, including the Tang Dynasty-era Tianfeng Tower.
One of the city`s most scenic areas is the centrally located Moon Lake, where travelers will find the Tianyi Pavilion, an ancient library, temple and stunning Chinese pavilions.
History is everywhere, from China`s oldest wooden structure -- the Baoguo Temple in the north -- to the Tang Dynasty-era Qita Zen Buddhist Temple downtown.
Suzhou About a 20-minute train ride west of Shanghai, Suzhou is another beautiful canal city -- split north to south by the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.
Nearly half of this 2,500-year-old town is covered in water, with rivers and canals dividing the streets into a checkerboard.
The romance continues in the cobbled streets and Chinese gardens, of which there are more than 60 scattered about the city.
The main sights include the 12.
85-acre Humble Administrator`s Garden, a World Cultural Heritage site that dates back to 1509.
A walk -- or bike ride -- here uncovers lotus pools, poetic temples, bamboo groves and elegant courtyards.
Come evening, Pingjiang Lu is the best pedestrian street for a stroll past historic white houses and trendy new teahouses.
Meanwhile, the Suzhou Silk Museum shows off the city`s 4,000-year-old silk-weaving traditions.
If you`re looking for a souvenir -- this is the place.
Should time allow, there are few other "water towns" nearby that are worth a visit, including Zhouzhuang, Xinchang and Nanxiang.

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