January 22, 2011

The Ningbo Scene

For a city with 7 million people, Ningbo or "Serene Waves" in Chinese is almost as quiet a place as one will find. The thriving coastal city does not have the frenetic pace of nearby Shanghai, even though it boasts the world's longest bridge over sea and the fifth busiest port. One of the five ports opened to the British for unrestricted trading after the First Opium War, Ningbo is now largely devoid of foreign devils. I drew enough interest to keep the crowds occupied during my weekend there.

Graceful canals, estates, and parks are contrasted with the modern day wonders of glistening towers and shopping districts. The foremost attraction is China's oldest library at Tianyi Pavilion. For centuries only a privileged few were allowed access to the private collection, but it is now open for public perusal. Built in 1561 during the Ming Dynasty, the collection peaked at 70,000 volumes with 13,000 in existence now. I visited the sparkling new Ningbo Museum of Art before heading to Laowaitan. This old waterfront district has been restored with rows and rows of buildings follow the Shikumen architectural style popular in the early 20th century, making it an ideal location to spend an evening in Ningbo.


"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." - Bill Bryson