Making the papers.

8 Feb

Do you see him?

Do you?

Yup, down there, bottom left corner: Ningbo’s very own Dr. David Fleming! Local celebrity!

(If you get that zoom on that, you’ll see it’s him!)

At beginning of January the university’s PR department mediated a get-to-gether between Dave and a photojournalist from the local paper, the Ningbo Daily, who invited us to spend some time with him during the Chinese New Year doing some touristy things in or around Ningbo. I, of course, jumped at the idea, totally assuming that I was allowed to come as well.  (I was.)  We initially wanted to go to an “Ancient village” but unfortunately we’d replied too late for that.

At this point, all my sino-savvy readers will be sighing a sigh of relief and writing back things like:

“Don’t you know how shit those “ancient” village tourist traps are?”

“Don’t you know that they are just romanticised versions of the  “The Good Old Days” where tour agencies dump busloads of excited and trigger-happy Chinese tourists and where you, as the sole Westerner, become more of an attraction* than the actual pile-o-bricks you’re all supposed to be revelling at?”

To these people I say, I DON’T CARE! I’ve never been, so I wanna go, and really, it would be a nice break from the concrete and glass buildings of 21st Century China.

But it wasn’t meant on this occasion, no doubt they’ll be plenty of opportunities given that China is strewn with these “ancient” villages, towns, markets, etc.

Instead we were taken on a tour of downtown Ningbo, nothing new there, but because it was the Chinese New Year holiday, the parks and streets were bustling and we were able to soak up some festive atmosphere.

We met up with the photojournalist (I’ve forgotten his name) and his son Bruce (our interpreter) at Zhongshan park where local theater groups were performing Chinese opera. We were asked things like how many theater groups an average European city would have, and if it is popular amongst younger generations. We then walked through the southern part of the park that is a hot spot for karaoke. Even on a weekday this area is busy with senior citizens showcasing their X-factor but it had turned into a mini-festival on that day.

That’s where the photo was taken. At some point Dave was handed a huge professional camera and was told to get snapping, much to the singers’ delight.

We then walked through Gulou and Moonlake park towards Tianyi Square where we had our picture taken in front of the (fake) cherry trees and read our horoscopes for the year. Dave is a Dragon but he doesn’t really share many of the characteristics as we found out.

Dave pretending to be a professional photgrapher.

A bit of street entertainment in Gulou.

Our day out ended with a meal at 缸鸭狗 (Gang Ya Gou – “Cylinder Duck Dog”) which is one of Ningbo’s oldest establishments. It is extremely popular and always packed even outwith Chinese eating times. Most of their signature dishes that Bruce and his dad wanted us to try were already sold out (at 5pm!) but we still ended up with a big spread of food.

Tangyuan (Source)

Muaci with seaweed (Source)

Ningbo is known throughout China for its fresh seafood but apparently it’s also known for Tangyuan – glutinous rice balls that come  in various sizes and are either plain or stuffed with something. In the case of Ningbo cuisine they are usually stuffed with ground black sesame, sugar and lard. They are pretty good! Though my Western palette found it a bit weird eating them as part of the main meal, along with meat dishes, garlic mushrooms and soy-fried aubergines. I think I would prefer them as a dessert. They are pretty stodgy though, so make sure you leave some room for them!

The name of the restaurant and their logo (depicting a dog and a duck flanking a cauldron) is also very famous, according to our hosts and the welcome story in the menu. Apparently back in 1926 when the restaurant first opened the idea of using short and simple words was revolutionary. The menu mentions something about, “even a child and your grandmother will remember the name of this restaurant.” The menu also states that “you will strip and auction all your clothes for some more Tangyuan” or something along the lines.

Marketing ingenuity and all, I’m sure something gets lost in translation because all I can think of when I see the logo is that you will be served dog and the duck that was cooked in a cauldron.

Anyway, there was no dog steaks in sight; food was good, some dark brown spirit was flowing and even though conversation was only possible with Bruce’s interpretations, it was a fun and interesting afternoon. After dinner, Dave and I did the 3hour bus journey to Shanghai which went by in a flash because the booze conked us out. Score.


Want to go?

The restaurant is located between Tianyi Sq and Yaohang St underneath Babela’s Kitchen. Address: 水晶街68 (68 Qizha Street, Haishu, Ningbo).


* Except if there happens to be a very tall Indian person around. Especially one with a dashing moustache. Then there’ll be no pictures of you and a gaggle of giggling school girls. (We witnessed this phenomenon in Hangzhou once, where this elderly, Indian-looking man couldn’t walk three steps without getting asked by the next passers-by for a photo. There was even a queue at some point! He was very accommodating, bless him!)


One Response to “Making the papers.”

  1. unbravegirl February 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I’ve just discovered glutinous rice balls and I LOVE them. I think this means I’m going to have to take a trip to Ningbo…

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