People have been boating on the Suzhou Creek for generations. Now a new cruise service is available to experience the city's past and present.
The Suzhou Creek cruise offers a unique experience for tourists, while giving residents a fun way to see the city from a different perspective. The route features the Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial, Fuxin Flour Mill, General Post Office and a range of historic buildings and industrial remains.
The cruise also gives us an up-close look at some of the bridges on the river. The main route is a round trip from the Sihang Warehouse to Waitanyuan. The 2-kilometer trip provides a chance to see eight famous bridges, and cross seven of them.
Each of these bridges reflects a chapter of Shanghai history.
The Xizang Road Bridge was originally a wooden bridge built in 1853. It was know as the Nicheng Bridge for its location adjacent to Nichengbang. Over the past 170 years, the bridge has been renovated and rebuilt four times. The one we crossed was built in 2002, and has been in use since 2004.
The 100-meter-long and 40-meter-wide bridge retains its original style, and incorporates modern elements. It connects Sihang Warehouse and People's Square, attracting tourists with its beautiful scenery and history.
You'll also pass under the 115-year-old Zhejiang Road Bridge. It's the second oldest bridge on the creek, and one of the few historic bridges with a fish-belly steel truss. The shape of the bridge looks similar to the famous Waibaidu Bridge, but it's much lower and shorter.
When the boat passes under it, the steel truss is just above your head. Getting such a close look at the bridge gives passengers a unique look at the engineering techniques and aesthetics.
For many locals in Shanghai, the bridge brings a sense of childhood nostalgia. It's also renowned across China for its part in the famous 1930s period drama "Romance in the Rain."
Just two minutes after the Zhejiang Road Bridge comes the Fujian Road Bridge.
Commonly known as Laozha Bridge (or Old Gate Bridge), it was built over 200 years ago during the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was a three-hole stone gate featuring a pontoon bridge for pedestrians to pass through.
In 1864, a wooden bridge was built, before being renovated into a new seven-hole wooden bridge in 1885 when it received the name Laozha Bridge. It's been rebuilt three times over the past 138 years, with the newest renovation completed in 2007.
Next, the cruise takes you to the smaller and little-known Shanxi Road N. Bridge. It's unique as one of the few pedestrian bridges used solely for foot-traffic and bikes.
Crossing the Henan Road Bridge, one of the largest bridges on the Suzhou Creek, the Sichuan Road and Zhapu Road bridges come into view.
Built in 1922, the Sichuan Road Bridge has always been known as the "Post Bridge," for its location next to the General Post Office Building. In the past, locals crossed the bridge to send mails. In recent years, the bridge has become an attraction offering a clear view of the 99-year-old bell tower.
It's only 95 meters between the two bridges, and after just a minute on the boat the tourists on the 96-year-old Zhapu Road were already waving to me.
On the way to the Bund and an ideal location to snap a picture of Waibaidu Bridge and the Lujiazui skyline, the bridge is always full of visitors. Now, with the cruise, tourists and locals have another way to get great photos of the city.
If you look carefully, the name of each bridge is written in special fonts and sizes. The characters themselves tell the story of the bridges.
Just in front of the landmark Waibaidu Bridge, the boat begins its return journey, offering the best angle of Lujiazui I've ever seen.
We're in the middle of the Suzhou Creek, looking through Waibaidu Bridge, the first all-steel bridge in Shanghai, and the only surviving example of a camel-back truss bridge in China. The splendid view of the Huangpu River, the Bund and the skyline all fit into one picture.
Brides in white, Shanghai aunties in qipao, girls in hanfu; from 1907 to now, the bridge has always been a showpiece throughout Shanghai's history.
The name "Waibaidu Qiao" literally means "outside the free ferry bridge." A century ago, there was a pier for the ferry. Today, a new pier has been built, where we can hop on the cruise and explore the history of the city.
So far, there are two options. The one I took lasts 30 minutes and runs between Waitanyuan (the origin of the Bund) and the Sihang Warehouse. The other cruise travels between the piers of Changfeng Park and Changhua Road, lasting an hour.
At present, only these four piers have been put into operation.
The route will connect eight piers in the future: Waitanyuan, Sihang Warehouse, Changhua Road, Xikang Road, Mengqing Garden, Zhongshan Park, Changfeng Park and Danba Road.
Two kinds of ships can be selected when purchasing a tickets on the WeChat mini program of "Suzhou Creek Tourism (悠游苏州河)" 48 hours prior to the trip.
One boat is called Shanghai Impression (上海印象), and is in the shape of a 1930s vintage car. It's a convertible and accommodates 11 passengers. The other ship is called Time Shuttle (时空之梭), a cruise ship with a toilet, and accommodates 20 passengers.
If you go: