It's been silent on our front recently for a number of reasons, mainly because whilst in Ningbo our priority is studying Chinese. With our time in Ningbo being fairly restricted, we are planning a number of trips over the next few months in and around the local area to make the most of our time here.
Even though Ningbo is a busy port town, mostly industrial in nature, the surrounding areas are meant to be areas of outstanding beauty, great for days out and short stays. The information out there is pretty slim for English speakers though, making any planning and travel arrangements (on our tight budget) incredibly hard to do.
But we are getting there, albeit slowly. In April / May for example there is the Siming Mountain Cherry Blossom Festival up in the nearby mountains. Similiar to Japan, this annual event draws local crowds, as the blossoms only open for 7 days, before closing / dying. Luckily the communities up in the mountains plant a variety of the blossoms, so at any point from mid April to end of May you will expect to see the blossoms in their full glory. Now getting there, well that is the hard part when you don't own a car, hiring a taxi is too expensive and there are no direct buses. The route so far involves taking a bus into town, finding the North Bus Station and then taking a longer distance bus up to Yuyao. From there there is apparently a local bus that goes up into the mountains.
One nugget of information that would benefit travellers to China is that there isn't a single one-stop shop for local travel information, especially when travelling lesser known places (Ningbo being a prime example). I've so far found the below websites fairly useful in planning our local travel in Ningbo.
Google Maps – For seeing local bus numbers nearby to your vicinity
Maps 7 – For looking up that bus number and figuring out if it takes you where you need to be going.. (replace Ningbo with your city and the number with the bus line no. you want to look-up http://www.maps7.com/china/busline_en/Ningbo/617/busroutes.html
Baidu Maps – China's version of Google, it helps when planning travel routes as Google Maps isn't 100% reliable in China as it's road maps and other attraction listings are unofficial.
We hope with a bit more work we will manage to get up into the mountains within the next few weeks, along with a blog and video diary of the blossoms. Lower down the mountain is the Siminghu Reservour, another area of outstanding beauty. From what I have read there are loads of hiking opportunities up in the depths of Simingshan Mountain.
Before we attempt this, we might go somewhere a little closer, on the nearside of the mountain there is a small town called Zhanxi, located next to Mountain streams. Further up there is a reservoir and another opportunity for hiking. This route requires just 2 local buses and as long as the bus information is still up-to-date it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.
Further ahead we are looking to travel East to Putuo Mountain. A small island out in the East China Sea. To get there requires a coach ride and then a ferry. The island is famous in Chinese Buddhism, being one of the 4 sacred mountains. Read more here.
A long weekend might also be due before departing Ningbo to Hangzhou, more to come on that later though!
That's about it in terms of our travel plans currently. Looking forward to getting out there and seeing some sights and writing up some travel tips , as they are scarce for this little part of China.