Last Sunday Kristyn and I thought we’d be intrepid and head off to Zibo, a town known as the end of the Silk Road, for the day. We thought Zibo was about an hour’s bus ride from us and expected that we’d find the city center and could wander and discover from there.
Well, China isn’t easy. I don’t blame anyone for signing up with a tour.
Getting the right bus was easy enough but we had to wait 40 minutes for it to leave. The ride was fine, though twice as long as we’d thought. Once in Zibo we discovered that like Qufu, the city wasn’t designed for convenience. The bus station was far from the city center. As Zibo’s far from famous, we didn’t have and couldn’t get a city map with English. None of the bus signs had roman letters. That was a challenge, but not too bad. We decided just to get on the bus most people were getting on. This got us to the east side of town, which looked like a lot of other Chinese towns, i.e. unimpressive. We did spot some interesting architecture in the form of a church, but that was it.
In search of lunch we wandered and found a greasy spoon which had a good sized crowd. (Greasy chopsticks? doesn’t have the same ring). The waitress spoke English and the menu had photos, but what we got didn’t resemble what we ordered. The food was okay, but ordering in a new restaurant here is always a challenge.
Then we headed up a promising tree-lined street in search of a sight, any sight, to give us a sense of Zibo’s best. We found a little market that looked promising, but further wandering was disappointing. Nothing special on offer. The same was true of the main street. A lot of Chinese goods lack that special something that makes you want to buy. Where’s the creativity I often wonder.
(There are some great Chinese painters and writers, some great designers, but it’s a low proportion of the population.)
Walking around wasn’t fruitful so when I saw a Ramada Inn, we went to ask the concierge for some suggestions. She offered the ceramics museum as a point of interest and wrote its name on a card for us. We did know that Zibo has a long history of excellence in ceramics.
I do applaud Zibo’s Ceramics Museum for its English signs. They have English labels and signs throughout the galleries so international visitors can understand the significance of what they’re viewing. Many museums could learn a lesson here. True a collection will be seen mainly by Chinese visitors, but if you want the barbarians to come to appreciate your culture, you’ve got to put it in terms they understand.
A short cab ride later we’re gazing at ancient and modern pottery that redeemed a mediocre day. I don’t think I’d bother with this spontaneous exploring again. It was exhausting and four hours in a bus is a high price to pay for an okay lunch and a nice, not exceptional, museum.