May 29, 2008

Two Southern Cities

Filed under: China,culture — Kim @ 5:27 pm


I was down south last week. Went to Ningbo for work (to give a lecture on argument in academia) and to Suzhou for a look at some gardens and a weekend with Mr Ryan the Humanaught.

Suzhou is well known of course and having poked around for all of two days I’d say deservedly so, although the old style architecture is actually quite thin on the ground and really rather samey after a while. A while in this case being 2 days, so let’s be frank here…Suzhou doesn’t have a patch on Prague or Kyoto when it comes to architecture. Architecture aside, and sticking inside China, the overall atmosphere and character of the place is undeniably “cultured” compared to Dalian… oh if only if only we could have a Bookworm here! And Suzhou sure has an awful lot more going for it than Ningbo.

I wonder what you thought of when I mentioned Ningbo. Any associations? I’d never heard of it before I was invited to speak there and so I thought I’d ask around before I left. Well, it’s a big enough place (6 million – ah, China!) and in a good spot right next to Hangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou, but it doesn’t seem to ring any bells with anyone here up North. A couple of my students had the impression it was rich, but otherwise my questions drew a blank. Ningbo, it would appear, has no image, no reputation. It is a town of no renown.

What it does have is China’s first “foreign university”, The University of Nottingham in Ningbo and that’s where I went to lecture. And of course I asked the folk I met there what the town is like:

“there’s nothing here”
“a dump”
“there’s more culture in Newcastle high street than there is in the whole of Ningbo”
“Ningboring we call it”

Hmmm. Still, the food was good and Nottingham campus is nice, and Ningboring has a club with a Cuban band with real Cuban musicians and dancers, which is something definitely lacking in Dalian.

Also, as I was walking into a hotel I had a flyer thrust into my hand advertising a massage service. It had the obligatory enticing maidens on it, and a message in English announcing

Our aim is to think of whank your think anxious of what you worry. Thank you very much.

No, really, thank you very much! What a delightful message, and so considerate. Ningbo definitely has the best massage card flyers in China, and you can quote that next time someone asks you about Ningbo.


My itinerary ran Dalian-Ningbo, Ningbo- Suzhou, Suzhou-Hangzhou, Hangzhou- Dalian, coz I’d opted to fly back from Hangzhou on Sunday at 9.30pm. I thought I might have an afternoon’s peek at Hangzhou but Saturday night in Suzhou with Ryan proved a bit late and anyway, what’s the point in rushing, and so it was that I opted to get a 5.30 bus from Suzhou that would get me to Hangzhou airport in good time. And as usual with my trips, something went wrong and there was no buses to be had to Hangzhou that Sunday afternoon. Caramba! What to do? It turned out the only option was to get a taxi from Suzhou to Hangzhou airport…an intercity taxi! I bit the bullet and actually it only cost 700RMB (100$) and as I sat in that taxi, worries over and getting ready for a nap, I tried to imagine how much it would cost to travel a couple of hundred kilometres by taxi in England. Expat life is good sometimes.


  1. Suzhou is well known?! I’ve never frickin’ heard of it. Even after reading your post I don’t get it. Is it a book, a person or a kind of car?

    Comment by Sean — May 31, 2008 @ 6:07 am

  2. Mr Sean! I am disappointed to note that even after almost 2 years in England you are still a dumbass. You should go and live in Suzhou and get some culture and hang out in the good company of Ryan, a man who is living proof that not all Canadians are as stupid as you.

    Comment by Kim — May 31, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  3. Haha, it was great havin’ ya down and you’re welcome back anytime. Always happy to have around someone I can beat in poker 😉

    Comment by Ryan — June 1, 2008 @ 7:03 am

  4. Of course not all Canadians are as stupid as I am. Very few people of any nationality are! R0xx0r!

    Comment by Sean — June 2, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  5. I love flyers. Had one handed out by a charming Chinese lady lurking streetside near our apartment. I gotta love it. Verbatim:

    “Music Wesdern Restaurant.”

    “It is the ideal of the learned Western food restaurant to create the culture of new food and beverage….Consumption of the par, and only beautiful music… Take happiness to the corner of everybody’s soul.”

    Followed by the menu. ‘Propagate dishes’.

    Young goldish name-tagged ‘Candice’ was only doing her instructed job, but that restaurant alledgely catering to Laowai on the wrong side of the Suzhou Beltway will probably go broke before the Ayi (cleaning lady) has swept away the celebratory firecracker opening detritus.

    Ningbo was the track change by the Qantas Second Officer from Melbourne to Shanghai, May ’08.

    “Ladies & Gentlemen : Severe thunderstorms (and air pollution) are expected on our current approach to Shanghai. The Captain has decided to divert via Hangzhou for a straight-in line-up to Shanghai until we have a clear approach. Qantas apologises for the unexpected delay in our arrival in Shanghai.”


    Comment by Jamieson — June 8, 2008 @ 3:22 am

  6. […] Thursday I am upping sticks with the wife and sprog and moving down to start a three-year stint in Ningbo, working at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo. (About which more […]

    Pingback by East-West Station » Get Packing — February 21, 2009 @ 6:39 am

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