The Tale of Qiantong - A Visit Into History Tours – Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China
The Tale of Qiantong - A Visit Into History
About this place
Sometimes when travelling in China, the massive crowds, teeming traffic, and simply that which is unfamiliar makes us hungry for an extra rest. So here we were, having escaped the Shanghai masses to the more peaceful surrounds of Ningbo, some four hours journey to the south. While we still desired to unwind a bit more, we still felt the need to catch up on some Chinese history.
What to do? We first stopped by the Ningbo Tourism Office in Tianyi Square to pick up some local travel brochures. We then discussed our plans over a few cold beers at “Grandma’s”, our personal name for a little restaurant with reliable service and cold beers for just 3 RMB (just under $0.40 US!) per large bottle. The comfortable environment produced a decision.... Qiantong!
Qiantong you ask? Just exactly what and where is Qiantong? Well, according to the brochure, it's about an hour and a half south east of Ningbo, around 10 km from the town of Ninghai near the Ningbo-Taizhou- Wenzhou Expressway. Qiantong is an old Song/Qing Dynasty town whose history dates back 800 years. Fortunately I knew a local Chinese girl who lived in Ninghai, so a quick phone call, and naturally she would be happy to be our guide.
A trip to Ningbo South Bus Station secured us tickets for an early morning bus the next day. There were seven of us, two Americans, two Australians (one 6 years old) and three lovely Chinese companions. Our bus was comfortable and air conditioned and the one hour trip to Ninghai would have been a pleasant and restful journey were it not for the bus driver, aka the horn blower from hell. The blare of the horn was very frustrating for those who might have wanted a rest on the journey, but this is China, so we did not allow it to spoil our day.
We were met at Ninghai by our lovely guide, Dream. After getting acquainted, we hopped on suburban bus No 106, right outside the bus station. The fare was 1 RMB and buses departed every few minutes, so there was no seating issue. After being deposited a few kilometers down the road, we took one look at the next bus, a fourteen seater that 30 people were trying to fit into, and quickly elected for two taxis for the rest of the journey, as the 35 RMB fare ($4 US) was a small price to pay for comfort.
The trip to Qiantong took us down some bumpy dusty country lanes, but the rice paddies and brilliant colours of the autumn rural scenery made the 20 minute journey a pleasant one.
And at last, we arrived. Qiantong was a quaint old village, reminiscent of a Jiangsu water town, but without a lot of water. A local boy named Tong adopted us as a guide, a common practice for kids in a tourist area. We later learned that 80% of Qiantong's 2,000 residents have the family name Tong.
The village was picturesque with old world narrow lanes, some water lined, others merely pedestrian paths. There were no vehicles except for the occasional ubiquitous bicycle. A middle aged woman was squatting to wash clothes in the rivulet, while 30 yards upstream another woman was rinsing her vegetables.
Despite the numerous street stalls and gift shops, wood carvings and statues, local fruit and drink vendors, the atmosphere was quiet and relaxed. My daughter Michelle, the 6 year old, was fascinated by an old woman churning traditional tofu, and was even happier when the old woman let her help turn the churn.
We stopped at a little indoor-outdoor restaurant; it was a lovely day, so we opted to sit outside. Lunch was cold local beer with country style stir fried foods, which appeared totally at home with the bench tables and wooden stools. Our international group naturally produced many spectators and some light hearted discussion from nearby local men, spinning yarns to each other.
One of our party, had a small dose of gastritis and was not looking forward to a battle with a squat toilet. To his complete surprise he was very happy to find a brand new western toilet within this centuries old building. While eating our delicious country fare, Rex, one of the Americans, noticed an old barber shop and told us it reminded him of his youth, so he decided to have a haircut.
We looked the barbershop, an old, well lived room with cardboard packing lining the ceiling. We tried to decide what was the oldest, the room, the chair or the barber himself. Rex, being the daring type, deposited himself in the chair and gave himself up to the care of the proprietor. Of course the shop and window was soon crowded with curious locals and Chinese banter filling the air. We could only sit back, drink our beer, and watch. There was no need to worry we found, as this barber was a veteran and in little time at all, the job was done and Rex and barber were equally content.
Our day in Qiantong was still not yet complete. For an entry fee of a mere 5 RMB ($0.60 US) we were treated to a display of a traditional Song Dynasty wedding, complete with drums, Sudan chair, musicians and even red carpet. Rex was so pleased by his new haircut that he rounded up a group of local “girls” and had them pose with him.
And so, after a very peaceful day of escape, we returned to Ninghai by local bus. An express bus to Ningbo thankfully did not include a horn-loving driver. The trip home was a pleasant journey, and we all were quite content with our day trip to Qiantong.
Qiantong is located 10 km from Ninghai city near Ningbo-Taizhou- Wenzhou Expressway. An alternative bus route is to take the 108 or 102 bus from Ningbo south station, then transfer to the number 3 bus at Ninghai station. The ticket price 40 RMB. Opening Hours: 0800 – 1730 all year long. Telephone: 0574 – 6537 2777
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