This year we had 8 days off for the combined holiday of Mid-Autumn Festival + National Week, and I was thinking about where to go. For a while I considered travelling to Guilin and Yangshuo, an area in the south of China with beautiful landscapes, but I was scared it would be too crowded considering that everybody would travel within China this year. So I settled for Ningbo, a city on the coast that is only a 3.5 hours drive for Suzhou.
Ningbo is not exactly a tourist destination. It’s mainly known as one of China’s busiest cargo ports, and apart from that I didn’t know anything about it. Turns out it’s also one of the oldest cities in China! There’s a Neolithic site nearby, although we didn’t go there. It also has several other places of interest, like the oldest private library in the country and a popular history museum. Plus, its seafood is very well known! It is also a vibrant and dynamic city, or so it seemed to me, with lots of young people, and it’s surrounded by lush mountains that I could even see from the hotel room.
We went there by car and traffic was very fluid, considering it was a national holiday. It seems not many people were travelling in the direction of Ningbo! After doing the check in at the hotel, we went for a stroll around the area. There was a Catholic cathedral (which accepted donations through WeChat and Alipay, of course!), a big square surrounded by lots of shops and restaurants and, after crossing the river, another small Catholic church and an area known as the Old Bund. Yes, Bund as in Shanghai! It turns out, Ninbo was one of the first cities to become an expat hub, a couple of centuries ago! The Old Bund is now a very lively street full of bars and there is also a very good Italian restaurant where we had dinner.
On our second day it was raining. Boooh! I love rain, but not when I’m on holidays! We took the chance to visit the Ningbo Museum. There was a very long line at the entrance, but it was quite fast and we were inside after just 15 minutes waiting. Entrance was free although you need to register your information on their WeChat miniapp. Oh, and foreigners needed to do a separate registration and fill a form at the entrance. I guess this is done as a “service”, to contact you asap in case there was a covid-19 case in the museum, but I felt singled out! Oh, and I also found out that foreigners cannot register and use the mobile payment on buses. That was not cool, Ningbo! After the museum, we had a lunch of the famous Ningbo seafood at a very popular restaurant.
The next day we visited the Moon Lake park and Tianyige, which is the old library that I mentioned before. However, the place doesn’t really look like a library, it was similar to the Suzhou gardens. The park was very nice, it had a lake in the middle where you could rent a boat, old houses (Chiang Kai-Sek lived in one of them, it seems) and a playground where we did the compulsory pit stop for Baby A.
On our final day, we visited what used to be a temple but is now an ancient architecture museum, in the suburbs of Ningbo. It was called Baoguo Temple and was perched on top of a hill. The security guard in the parking lot told us it was not a good idea to bring the stroller, and Baby A. was a good boy and went up and down all the stairs by himself!
And those were our holidays! I’ve been so busy with work this past week that I already forgot the feeling of not having anything to do!