Lao Waitan, August 2017. One of the many challenging things about living in an inconsequential Chinese city like Rui’an is the limited nightlife options. There’s no such problem in Ningbo though thanks to the fantastic Lao Wai Tan neighbourhood, a labyrinthine restaurant and bar district perched on the bank of the Yong River.
Lao Waitan, August 2017. The word Laowai is an informal slang term for foreigner and indeed the district dates back to the eighteenth century when it became an international treaty port following the First Opium War. We arrived in the neighbourhood on a boiling hot August afternoon to find its charming cobblestone streets all but deserted.
Lao Waitan, August 2017. We were exploring the various streets, with their Irish pubs, Belgian beer houses and Chinese restaurants when we bumped into a trio of local students who asked if we had time to fill out a questionnaire. So we sat down and gracefully accepted all the usual compliments, with words like “handsome” and “beautiful” being bandied about. Some of the questions were worth a giggle too: “What are the disadvantages of Ningbo?”
Lao Waitan, August 2017. The main purpose of a daytime visit to Lao Waitan is to check out Ningbo’s highly rated Museum of Art. The building was designed by Wang Shu, the first Chinese citizen to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2012. The main museum is free to enter and focuses on contemporary works from artists based in Ningbo and all around China. Special exhibitions from internationally renowned artists are also accessible for a small fee.
Lao Waitan, August 2017. Of course the full Lao Waitan experience unfolds at night when the whole area bursts into life. We decided to embark on a pub-crawl, one drink per place. And so there were bottles of Blue Moon at a nameless Chinese bar with a live rock band and some fruit beer at Eudora Station, where our balcony seats overlooked the Yong River. But my favorite joint had to be Islay, a low-lit cocktail lounge with stunning Arabic-style mosaic seating. The well-stocked bar was tended by a pair of impeccably dressed Chinese men, while the stylish panel of abstract art sketching could have been lifted from the booklet of a Radiohead album. A very cool bar!