Just over two hours away from Shanghai is Ningbo, one of China’s largest ports. Despite not being as well-known as other Chinese cities, Ningbo is a city with its very own identity, and acts as a great hub for visiting Zhejiang Province. In 2012 Ningbo was the world’s fastest growing port, and this great rate of development has spread throughout the whole city. Tianyi Square in the centre is flanked by luxury shops and western brands, and centres around Asia’s tallest fountain. The 19th century catholic cathedral on the square may look out of place, but look inside for an interesting glimpse of Chinese Christianity, along with some beautiful murals. Wanda Plaza is a modern haven for shopping. A growing community of westerners has seen the development of Ningbo’s “bund”, the laowaitan (老外滩) which skirts along the Yong River, a great centre for nightlife and dining.
Ningbo also has a lot to offer in the way of culture. Just five minutes away from Tianyi Square is the Tianfeng Pagoda, a 900 year old Tang Dynasty tower which offers great views of the city. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the Tianyi Ge Museum, China’s oldest private library. Set in a beautiful traditional Ming Dynasty house, the collection of Confucian works is complimented by tranquil water gardens.
Around 45 minutes on the outskirts of the city is Baoguo Temple, south China’s oldest wooden construction dating back almost 1000 years. The temple retains peace and serenity situated on a bamboo-crested hill above Ningbo, I suggest visiting on a rainy misty day for a truly memorable experience. The Temple contains various exhibitions and artefacts dating back over the centuries.
Around 1 hours’ drive (and a short ferry trip) away to the east of Ningbo is Putuoshan, located near the island city of Zhoushan. Putuoshan is one of China’s four sacred mountains, and perhaps the most unusual. The island of Putuo is truly beautiful and unexpected, a far cry from nearby Shanghai. A comfortable climate and gorgeous sandy beaches welcome both tourists and Buddhist pilgrims alike. Climb to the peak of Putuo for stunning views over Zhejiang and out to sea.
Further to the south of Ningbo towards the centre of Zhejiang is a true unknown gem. Longquan has been famous for centuries for its pottery, and is also renowned in China for sword manufacturing. Outside the town are various clay kilns open to the public, some dating back to the early Ming dynasty period. 20 minutes outside of Longquan town is Baiyun (白云瀑) Waterfall and old village. Unspoilt and unheard of by western tourists, the old village really is authentic, and the waterfall and scenery is stunning.