Anchang is a charming and sleepy little waterside village northwest of Shaoxing with much of its original architecture, which gives you some idea of what Shaoxing must once have looked like. It receives few foreign visitors and, outside weekends and major national holidays, not many Chinese, either. Not calcified by tourism, it's a living place.
The bus drops you at the entrance, clearly marked with a pailou (arch), at a left fork of the main road. A signboard shows the rough layout of the town. Walk straight into the village alongside the water.
The hall of the City God (open 8am-5pm) is almost immediately on the right, and worth a brief look. Here you can also pick up your tao piao, allowing entry to all sights for a total of ￥20 ($2.50). Individual sights are ￥5 (65￠).
The temple is of modern reconstruction, although it was founded in 1471. It's active and, as in many small communities, it quietly doubles as a kind of community center. Offerings at the garishly decorated shrine include oil in plastic Sprite bottles.
Leaving the building, turn right, and follow the path alongside the water to:
This former private bank, the Suikang "money manor," is a few minutes' walk past people doing their washing in the slightly stagnant green waters. You pass through a long street of wood- and brick-fronted shops, old ladies hand-sewing traditional cloth slippers, and food stalls. There are humpback bridges to the left, and white-and-gray two-story shop-houses to the right, whose wooden extensions provide shade. Explore narrow right turns to ancient housing at will as you go, one of which (see map on back of ticket) will lead you to the bank, which operated from 1850 to 1949.
Small compared to the grand-mansion banks of Pingyao, this bank has a pretty little plum tree in the courtyard, which the attendants say has good fruit. Its dark, woody interior contains abacuses, cash boxes, and strings of copper cash on desktops, and Sun Yat-sen glaring from samples of Nationalist-era bank notes. It's usually so quiet here that you can not only enjoy the displays, but also bird song.
Return to the main path and turn right.
The shop overhangs are supported by thin beams. You'll pass Xiaomaibu (convenience stores), a pharmacy (with original wooden drawers on one side, and modern antibiotics in glass cases on the other), and a dental practice with state-of-the-art equipment, which seems completely out of place. Watch out for chickens as you stroll.
Just past the Cai Chang Lu turning, there's a man carving cups and other items from fragrant wood -- possible souvenirs.
A teahouse on the corner at the next turn, Bei Jing Nong, offers an assortment of dumplings in a shady interior. Like most operations here, it closes for a while in the early afternoon heat. There's a well-marked toilet just to the right.
A little further straight on is the town's most pleasant house, no. 6 on the ticket's map:
This is a complete delight (open 8:30am-4:30pm), with three two-story courtyards, all of which can be explored. Period beds and chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl have no ropes to ward you off, which makes the place seem recently abandoned.
There are brief displays concerning Anchang's famous sons, old photos, and displays of calligraphy.
Outside, turn left and cross the water by a narrow bridge which doubles as a plant stand and a place for drying fish. Boatmen ask ￥10 ($1.25) to take you for a jaunt around the village or back to where you entered. Turn left to reach the main museum.
Bao Shu Tang
Unless you visit this museum of local history and culture (open 8:30am-4:30pm) in April, May, September, or October, when things are busier, chances are they'll have to turn the lights on for you. There's nothing in English, of course, but the collection of farm implements, looms, beautiful old furniture, and gorgeous textiles, set in an elegant house with old lanterns and carved beams, is very attractive.
Outside, turn right, and choose any bridge to return to the village entrance; or wander at will, tracking down the remaining numbers on the map. Buses back to town leave from across the road about every 10 minutes until 6pm.