After finally getting some decent weather we decided to take advantage and jump on a bus to Ningbo -3 hours away and near to the sea. We packed up and left the flat only to get drenched by a downpour lugging our suitcases to the bus station. Never mind, three hours later we arrived in Ningbo,rain still pouring down. We got in the line for the taxis ,where we stood in the rain for an hour waiting to get a taxi. Apparently all of Ningbo decided to get a taxi too. Well we (kind of ) chatted to two girls next to us,and I asked them why they didnt get the bus since they can speak Chinese and they said they were from Shanghai and were not familiar with the buses! Anyway we finally arrived at the delightful Orange Hotel,sister of the one we stayed in in Nanjing (see blog entry) complete with goldfish (this time called William) , Rubiks Cube,and free oranges in the room,as per before.
After changing out of our sodden clothes we headed of to Laowaitan the newly yuppified old Bund area which is now a pub and restaurant area. There we found the Shamrock Inn,a laowei”s Home away from home,complete with fish and chips,curry and all accompanied by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody, Lola by the Kinks,Delilah and sundry other blasts from the past.
Next day we got up and went exploring on foot, and to our delight the sun beamed down. We walked along the main drag, Zhongshan Lu up to the Moon Lake park and from there to the Tianyi Pavillion, the oldest Library in China. The most amazing part was the building itself and beautiful gardens surrounding it. Then we proceeded to the main square called Zhongshan Square with incredible modern shops and a sound and light show. Next to the square is a Catholic Church suitably illuminated.
We went for a quick nosh at PIzza Hut and then on to publand again where we returned for a second dose of Shamrock Inn. Noting happily that the next day was March 17th ie Paddy’s Day we vowed to return.
Next day we ventured off to find a Pagoda around which was meant to be a large old fashioned market in a restored part of town,we failed to find the pagoda,despite having purchased a map in English. Retiring to a nearby park to eat our oranges we chanced upon a massive crowd of mostly Chinese men and some grandmas who were all clustered around in large groups. We set off to investigate and discovered that it was some kind of Chinese Jacobs Ladder festival.In each group were singers and musicians performing traditional Chinese music. WE were much smiled and waved at as we took pictures. This was far more fun than the Pagoda. After that we went back to the room for a rest,and proceeded again to the pub street. However, Shamrock was dead as a doornail,no live music and no fun. But the pub next door had a group of English teachers from some school and their students who invited us to join them at their table and gave us Mao caps and Green Guinness Top Hats to wear. We soon found ourselves onstage with David from North Carolina,Alfonso from Madrid, Chris from Melbourne and a guitarist called Cesar singing the Wild Rover and subsequently dancing the Salsa and various other things. We ended up sitting outside on the street ,drinking Guinness and talking to all of these,plus a Chinese lawyer and his wife, and a guy called Kyle from South California who is Jewish and wishes to go to Israel on Birthright and knows the Alef Bet.
It was a wonderful weekend and we really found Ningbo to be a lovely city-modern and clean with bridges and tree-lined boulevards with canals and rivers everywhere,and pleasant to walk around.
We returned to Linan and on the bus back to campus met some students of mine returning from the interpreters’ exam in Hangzhou. Strange and nice to be back especially now the weather is warming up nicely.