Even though it was only two hours by train from Shanghai, it took me most of the day to get to Ningbo. I took a slow morning and breakfasted at my hostel and then headed to the nearest metro station, East Nanjing Road. I took a direct subway from there to Hongqiao train station, right after the two stops for the airport. In all, it took me about an hour to get there there. And that’s where I hit a wall. While there were several trains an hour, the next one with available seats was two hours later, at 2:55 pm. Well, there was nothing to it but wait. I had lunch and read a book until it was time to board. The train was comfortable and fast as usual, and I arrived in Ninbgo around 5 pm. I had gotten so used to being able to just walk into any train in Japan, but I guess the 10-fold difference in population showed in this case.
My hotel was happily 10 minutes walk from the station, and my room waiting. I had my own room again! I hadn’t been too happy with my hostel experience in Shanghai, so I was quite thrilled by my double bed and private bathroom. However, I ended up changing hotels in the end, as this hotel was too militant in their cleaning (even a “do not disturb” sign didn’t prevent them) and the location wasn’t optimal. I moved to a hotel close to the Old Bund on the other side of one of the three rivers crossing the town.
It was quite hot in Ningbo, over 25 °C, and there was relatively little to explore. And frankly, I wasn’t really feeling it. I wanted to board my ship already!
So I took my mornings slow, eating instant porridge for breakfast in my room. Yes, I had an electric kettle! It’s the little things! On the first full day I headed prosaically to Tesco as there were a few things I wanted to buy for the upcoming sea voyage. It was hell, frankly. The ground floor had most of the fresh food and there were megaphones attached to many of the displays, shouting at full volume what I assume were daily offers. At any time you could hear at least six of them blaring off. Shudder.
I had meant to stop at the Yuehu park on the way, but the hot weather, and the fact that the southern part of the park was fully enclosed and unaccessible due to renovations, curbed my enthusiasm. The following day, I did make it to the park, but by then they were draining the lake in the northern part as well so it wasn’t at its best. I found a nice Indian restaurant nearby, where I had spicy veg curries on both days.
Should you ever find yourself in Ningbo, book a hotel near the Old Bund. It was charming. The Bund area is at the southern tip of the northern part of town, squeezed between two rivers. It’s not very large, you can walk around the area and explore all streets in about fifteen minutes or so. But it is charming. And it gets busy when night falls and the old houses are attractively lit and decorated with glowing lanterns, neon and lamps.
It seems few foreigners end up in Ningbo as I got some curious looks, and few people in the service industry speak English. I did find a Turkish restaurant in the Old Bund area where the staff spoke excellent English, though, and I had hummus for the first time in months! It was heavenly!
My final days in China and Asia, for now, were over. By the time you read this, I will have boarded my ship and will be on my way to Europe. To keep you entertained while I’m offline for 25 days, I have scheduled several blog posts. For one, the second part of the preparations required to board a freighter is on its way.
My last day was spent lazily, with a long morning, breakfast buffet at my nice hotel and later lunch across the road at that lovely Turkish restaurant. My pickup from the hotel and transport to my ship wasn’t due until 7 pm, and the afternoon had rain forecasted.
I was pretty ready to go, but there were a few prosaic things I needed, like a new toothbrush, so I dropped my luggage off at the reception and visited a nearby shopping mall. I even had time to see one more movie.
I was back at the hotel with plenty of time.
Bon voyage to me!