Zhongshan Square, August 2017. It’s amazing to think we weren’t even going to bother with Zhongshan Square. After all, we only had a day to take in Ningbo’s delights and I hadn’t read anything to suggest it was a must see. But then somehow our walk down the atmospheric Gongyuan Lu shopping street led us right into the square and suddenly we were among maybe a hundred local pensioners hanging out in their natural habitat. And many of them were enjoying live music performances like this one scattered around the large gazebo.
Gongyuan Road, August 2017. It’s been an amazing month of travel here in China. First came my trip to Fujian Province, with the stunning city of Xiamen and the colonial time warp island of Gulangyu. I also enjoyed a day on the Xin Yang River in deep, rural Zhejiang Province. I hadn’t planned on squeezing in anything else. But then the city of Ningbo, also in Zhejiang, is just two hours from Rui’an, my Chinese home from home. Situated around The Yong River, 5.7 million people reside in this ancient harbour city, home to one of China’s busiest ports. The first thing my travel mate and I stumbled across was this charming shopping street accessed through the stone archway of the drum tower. It’s a strictly pedestrianized experience, so we could just saunter about eyeing market stalls and admiring the low-slung buildings with their gray slate roofs. If you’re ever in town, give the coconut ice cream a try!
Moon Lake, August 2017. Moon Lake Park, also known as Yuehu Park, is the largest green space in Ningbo city centre. Despite my status as a somewhat weathered Chinese park veteran, it was still worth a wander thanks to its spotless stone pathways, pretty rock gardens and wooden-stone mansions once home to prominent Ningbo artists, writers and scholars. You can also check out the amazing Tianyi Pavilion, inside which lies China’s oldest existing library. At night local seniors come here to slow-dance at the low-lit water’s edge.
Jiaoqu Yaohang Street Catholic Church, August 2017. There are some impressive churches dotted around Ningbo and this massive structure, tucked behind Tianyi Square, is surely the grandest. As one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, the church is a popular meeting spot among locals, while at night the entire building is lit up in a dazzling neon glow.
Yong River, August 2017. Visitors to Ningbo should put an hour or so aside for a walk alongside The Yong River, if only to marvel at its ominously muddy color. The skyline is impressive in parts and, as we did, you could use it as a walking route to cross one of the bridges to connecting Lao Waitan neighbourhood, Ningbo’s lively nightlife district.
Zhongshan Park, August 2017. It almost feels like Ningbo wouldn’t be a real Chinese city if it didn’t have a Zhongshan Park. Happily then it doesn’t disappoint, though the adjacent Zhongshan Square was the real highlight, where huge groups of old people converge to chat, listen to live traditional music and play cards.
Hexiang West Road, August 2017. My five-day trip to the island city of Xiamen very nearly didn’t happen. In the days preceding my visit, Typhoon Nesat swept through southern China, causing considerable mayhem to Taiwan and mainland Fujian Province. In fact, just the day before my journey all trains to Xiamen had been cancelled! Luckily for me god wagged his finger, the clouds parted and the train schedules were brought back from the dead. Happier still, my three and a half hour train journey from Rui’an turned out to be mercifully straightforward. On arrival I found a city engulfed in rain, light winds and an eerie afternoon darkness. The streets in and around my hotel were virtually deserted, save for the carcasses of unearthed plants, broken bushes and fallen trees.