Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Ningbo Bund

One of the most attractive areas in Ningbo has to be the old bund. The bund is nestled on an old river bank of Ningbo city which at one time used to be where cargo ships docked, cleared customs, and warehoused their goods. Now it is a place where a combination of art, culture, food, and music keep the residents of Ningbo entertained. The Ningbo bund has been refurbished of course, to suit our modern day needs.

Although the area does date back to the 1800’s I do not think the streets and fixtures are authentic. But the streets still have the old European vibe and walking down the cobble stone paths does transport my mind to another place and time. The streets are also unbelievable clean and even though the fixtures may not be authentic, they are still suited to the ambiance of the old bund and do not stand out like a sore thumb. The area is pretty big and most of the streets are for pedestrians only but some of them do permit cars.

The Ningbo Bund possesses a certain charm that draws me in. When I first visited the area is probably when I realized how diverse China can be. Also I had been complaining about the lack of character in Guangzhou and there I was in Ningbo, in an area teeming with history. Some of the buildings were still authentic and old, housing art galleries or cafes in on the ground floor and offices on the upper levels. Other buildings had been totally revamped and housed bars and night clubs. But none of the modern architecture imposed negatively upon the integrity of the old bund. In fact this modern art deco scene seemed to breathe new life into the district. There were numerous stylized bars, restaurants, and cafes in the bund and I could spend quite a few weekends there getting to know the place.

Weaving through the streets and alleys in the bund is an awesome experience. There are a variety of bars and clubs you can wander into. And every so often a narrow street will suddenly open up into a courtyard surrounded by squat buildings. One garden I stumbled upon was in a Japanese style with a water feature and rock sculptures as well. Others featured large Venetian fountains. This of course provides quite a romantic setting for couples young and old alike. I must also mention once again how clean the streets were here. In all the alleys I walked through I did not spot a single cockroach, let alone a mouse or rat. I walked into some bars that were playing salsa music, some hip hop, and others just lounge. The establishments catered to all sorts of clientele.

One of the more interesting places I landed at was the Bourbon Street Bar. I think they had me with the name. The bar in fact was nothing special but they did play some good rock music. The bar was not sleazy but it did have hostess girls wandering around to play dice with the patrons and strike up conversation I guess. I was not there too long. There were other clubs as well full of young Chinese and foreigners dancing and having a good time. And yet other places seemed more like straight up hostess bars or there were just simple pubs where friends get together. You could say that there was something for everyone.

I finally found my self in a small bar called Le Cargo which had a good balance of locals and foreigners. The DJ was just some Latino dude with a laptop so the music was original but not consistent. I like to feel a good flow in the style of music at a bar. But the crowd was very chilled with one another and most of the customers seemed like regulars. This was probably the kind of place I would frequent.

I am looking forward to going back to Ningbo, hopefully with some company so I can really explore what this city has to offer. Most of the time I was there last week I was busy working, so I did not really get to do much but I should be heading back pretty soon.

The people there seem friendly and they also seem to move at a regular pace. I find the lifestyle there quite attractive so who knows. I might move again soon.

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