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Travels: Ningbo Raid...

Starting very early this morning. Left the apartment at 0530 in order to catch the first metro to the South Shanghai station and to catch the first bus to Ningbo at 0630. Ticket cost 100RMB one way, and i have no idea how long it takes to get there yet. Some blogs mention 3-4 hours, but we'll see. Gears today? Garmin GPS for sure, iPod (boredom buster), googleearth printout for God-view perspective and a page of scribblings full of coordinates in case i cannot find a certain location. Gearwise, Ricoh GRD is with me along with the 21mm adapter, Nikon D2H with 40mm, 70-180micro and 20mm lenses. This trip is special as I will be bringing SB800 and SU800 to experiment.

Highway to Ningbo

0931hrs: On board the bus. Garmin puts my position at close to 40km west of Ningbo, as the express bus weaves and dodges around the two laned highway, as though its making up lost time, even though there a couple of road diversions. To be fair theres an awful lot of slow traffic. Trucks carrying pigs, steel sheets and loads of whatevers. Still, looks like we're good for a 3.5hr bus trip today! On the GPS map, it shows that we had to swing close to Hangzhou before turning left towards east, which explains the journey duration.

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1225hrs: At the TianYi pavillion. Cost 30RMB to get in. This is the place where they store old chinese printed books and other archives like mandarin examination records. There are a couple of buildings in the compound and the only thing keeping me from moving is the rain, which although is not too heavy, is enough to slow me down. The inner compound of the pavillion is a nice quite sanctuary with stone gardens and discrete units of chinese style buildings. Very peaceful. And earlier on, got to the Ningbo bus station at 11am and just had to cross the road to get tickets for the 1930hr train to Shanghai (80RMB soft seat). The train stops in Hangzhou so takes about the same time as the bus. Have not had my lunch yet. Think I should once I get out of this place. The photo op is going well. Well over 100 shots on the GR and 80 on D2H. Trigger happy for sure.

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1401hrs: Sitting pretty in Starbuckx on LaoWaiTan area, similar to XinTianDi is Shanghai but with a twist, better twist, its on the riverfront. Some angles, with the suspension bridge, it looks like a scene out of a 1930s New York City. Having my daily dosage of mocha. This area is still clear of any rich or expats. Spent the last hour or so walking here from the TianYi area. Position now: 29.87892N 121.55686E and next stop will be the No 3 hospital near by (according to my computation on google earth last night) to take a 322 bus to the north of the city... The mocha sure hits the spot.

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1517hrs: When did a 15km bus ride cost only 1RMB? At least thats what I'm paying today to go from Ningbo to BaoGuo temple! Bargain or what? Bus station to catch the bus is at 29.88600N 121.55867E. Bus is as spartan as you would expect but it works. However the leaf spring suspension on this particular bus seems to be dimensioned wrong; hit a pot hole and its 10 seconds of the mexican wave!

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1648hrs: Done with the BaoGuo temple. Actually would have spent more time here if not for the 1630 closure time. They actually tell you theres nothing to see and showing the fastest way to get out of the temple complex. Main attraction was the main hall, supposedly one of the oldest intact wooden structure around. So here I am, in the middle of nowhere, waiting for bus 332 to take me back to Ningbo, maybe it comes in 15mins, maybe tomorrow, who knows. There doesn't seem to be a timetable on the signboard. Only have a government sanctioned tidbit seller here for company, otherwise I'm in the middle of nowhere and what looks like a farming town. Air sure is fresher than back in Shanghai! People ride their electric cycles while multitasking here, be it texting on their phones or whatevers. Helmets do not exist in rural China.

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1712hrs: The bus arrives in the nick of time. It seems that the beast that is bus 332 is indeed tame after all. Pattern indicates that this particular domesticus runs every hour, or roughly quarter past the hour with the last bus leaving the temple complex at quarter past 6. Which should be sufficient since they chase you out of the attraction almost 2 hours before the last bus. And yep, it still cost 1RMB, but i noticed they will never know how much you have put into the 'tip box' as long as it is a coin for the collection box is windowless. And this bus seems to have a slightly more rigid suspension (ed: later realised it looked like the same bus I came with!). Alright, back to Ningbo on time for dinner. Remember... Train is at 730, miss that and its tomorrow morning.

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1855hrs: At the Ningbo South Train station on time. Bus left me across the river and i wandered a little before deciding to take a taxi to the train station (starting fare only 8RMB!) and had dinner there. Its probably the hungry ghosts festival, as I ordered 4 dished in a chinese fast food rice restaurant while observing the average is around 2.5 dishes per person. Ate it all and downed it with a bottle of chinese tea. The big difference between Japan and China is that here, instead of having tea knead, they like to add sugar into the bottle tea! I'm sure they have one with less of it but can't read chinese. So the waiting room I'm in now is for train number T798 for Shanghai. The folks waiting here look more sophisticated that the usual bunch outbound from Shanghai. The station here is rather simple. Looks big from outside but inside it is just divided into two big waiting rooms. I guess its because they never have people waiting for more than 2 trains simultateously. The floor and chair looks like standard issue chinese train station template. Nothing Starck-y about it. Had to do some iPod budgeting today too. Trip to Ningbo is almost 4hrs each way, meaning with my 3G iPod i can only listen on the train/bus. Maybe I need to have 2 ipods!

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2011hrs: Almost an hour into the train ride, i have no idea where I am. Don't think I have reached Hangzhou yet. No, the GPS stays off.... By the way, some statistics from GPS: distance walked today was 17.32km and moving time 2hrs15min. That sounded fast! With depeche mode playing (Enjoy the Silence) on the ipod, its the best time to finish off this post. I can surely travel lighter next time. The 20mm, 70-180 and speedlight stayed in the bag today. Lighting conditions didn't require them. Ditching them will save 2kg at least next time. This trip was good. Not that many things to see in Ningbo, but the travel itself was fun, on public transport system, guided only by a rough googlemap printout, which was blotched when rainwater mixed with the inkjet printout. Which brings me to the usual rule of thumb. Travel like the locals. Had a few close calls on the street. ningbo-ites drive as though no roadsigns, lines and trafficlights exists on the road. The bus almost colliding with motorcycle that veered into the wrong lane in the villages, taxi almost hitting a peugeot driven by a careless miss broadside as she tried to do a freaking u-turn on a freaking bidirectional single lanes busy street, electric cycles skidding on wet pavement. Looking back, I think iPods should be banned in this place. Its where you need to be alert absolutely.

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Donc, lessons after this trip?

  • I think my travel bermudas needs to be shorter. Its ok for normal wear but for travelling involving plenty of walking the edges can be too 'cutting'.
  • Then I need to bring less photo gear. I guess next time I'd settle for D2H on manual mode and only with the 40mm pancake. Might bring my ext tube for macros.
  • I will need to get a beanie sytle hat on my next trip to my usual tactical clothing store in Mongkok, HK... Need shielding from the sun.
  • Second battery for the GRD. Where the D2H can go on for about 700 shots per battery, the Ricoh goes only for 200+, meaning that I'll use up my single battery before I fill up my 2gb card. don't make sense. Need second battery. BIC camera here I come!

Other than those things above, I might have found my ideal travel kit. Most often-asked question in the forums on photography is 'which lens should I bring'. And now my answer would be, just the smallest lens you have. Travel light (usually!), travel like a local and enjoy... Signing off from T798 and good night.

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