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Watch: Boating On China’s Canals

A boat is almost an essential piece of exploration gear in China. There are just too many navigable waterways in this country for a traveler to ignore.

Eastern China is a patchwork of canals and rivers. Waterways once made up the prime transport network of this country, and they go just about everywhere. The old cities of China are a grid of canals which connect to river systems and beyond. You can readily go from a backstreet to a river and out to the ocean without leaving the water. Even today these canals are still there and they are still in use. Unlike in the United States, China still relies heavily on canal and river transport, and the waterways of this country are full of life, culture, and commerce.

When I first arrived in Jiangsu Taizhou over a year ago I looked at a map of the city and found a canal system that was so complex that it rivaled the street grid. It was clear that I could get just about anywhere by water — I just needed a boat. This problem was solved when I picked up an inflatable boat for $50, and from that point on the canals of that city were opened for travel.

The following video is of a day of canal exploration in the north of Taizhou.

Photos

Boating China's canals on an inflatable boat

Boating China’s canals on an inflatable boat

Canal in Jiangsu, Taizhou

Canal in Jiangsu, Taizhou

Fishermen using an electric net to electrocute fish

Fishermen using an electric net to electrocute fish

House on a canal

House on a canal

Man rowing to his garden on the other side of the canal

Man rowing to his garden on the other side of the canal

House on a canal in the north of Jiangsu Taizhou

House on a canal in the north of Jiangsu Taizhou

A Chinese houseboat

A Chinese houseboat

Chinese canal boat

Chinese canal boat

Map of Jiangsu Taizhou. Notice the patchwork of canals that cut through the city.

Map of Jiangsu Taizhou. Notice the patchwork of canals that cut through the city.

Editor’s note: I left Taizhou some months ago but I did not bring this boat with me. It served me well for a year, but it was a little too big and heavy to carry to my next base of operations. If anybody in Taizhou wants this boat, let me know. For the record, I will definitely be getting inflatable boats wherever I set up camp for a while — the perspective of a place that a boat provides cannot be had any other way.

Get your own inflatable boat

Filed under: Boat Travel, China

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3542 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Fred April 2, 2014, 10:41 am

    Hi, I have just arrived in Taizhou, nice to hear those comments. Where is the place where you found this boat? Thanks

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