Zhenjiang, between Changzhou and Nanjing and a short train ride away, is a mid-level city saved from obscurity by two things: it’s the childhood home of American Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Pearl Buck and it’s where you’ll find Jiaoshan Park, which boasts a tranquil island in the middle of the Yangtze.
A short taxi journey from the railway station will drop you at the entrance to Jiaoshan Park (Dongwu Lu, near Jiangbin Lu, no tel. Open 7.15am-6pm daily, entry 50RMB), where you can rent a boat (25RMB/30 minutes) to travel around the island’s narrow canal circuit. The highlight, however, lies in climbing up to the Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda on top of the hill, which passes a fort used to fight the British during the First Opium War. At the top of the seven-storey pagoda, you’re rewarded with views across the breadth of the Yangtze on one side, and across to Zhenjiang on the other.
Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda
From outside the park, you’ll be lucky to get a passing taxi but you can get the number 4 or 104 bus into the centre of town. Just north of the main railway station you’ll find the childhood home of Pearl Buck (6 Runzhoushan Lu, near Zhongshan Xi Lu, 511 523 4174. Open 9-11am, 3-5pm daily, entry 5RMB), whose novels were credited with changing America’s perception of China in the 1930s.
Xijin Ancient Street
Alternatively, the Xijin Ancient Street (Xijin Du Gujie) is more a block than a street, with its winding passageways a pleasant place to wander and see evidence of Zhenjiang’s history going back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). The block inclines to a hill where you’ll find the brick facade of the former British consulate, now the Zhenjiang Museum.
Don’t leave the city without trying its famous vinegar, which is available at any road-side noodle store. It has a sweet, balsamic-like taste and is worth trying with some baozi before you get the train home.
Regular high-speed trains to Zhenjiang South station take around an hour from Shanghai Hongqiao Station and cost from 104RMB each way (first train 6am, last train back 11.57pm). For the more centrally-located Zhenjiang station, there are trains from Hongqiao and Shanghai's main railway station that take around 90 minutes and cost 5RMB more each way (first train 6am, last train back 9.23pm).