Note: A version of the following article appears on the author Diosa Taylor’s blog, “From 50mm Away”, which features musings and photographs of her travels throughout China and Asia, as well as her time in Ningbo. Check it out at http://from50mmaway.blogspot.com
Among the many tourist locations one can visit a short hop from the city, Ningbo’s Five Dragon Pools lies only an hour and four gloriously disposable kuai away.
Hidden in the mountainous region of Yinzhou, the pools are part of a scenic area that features streams, waterfalls and a mild climb that guides you through five natural pond formations, each named after a different dragon. The pools vary in size but are all just about large enough to hold the ensemble cast of a television series, and although you’re not technically supposed to swim in them, I can’t, for the life of me, imagine what else you would do with them. My first impression was utter bewilderment at the clarity of the water. It was blue, damn it. The kind of blue that keeps the word ‘azure’ lexicographically alive. It’s so clear you could drink it. We actually did drink it. And I’m sat here a month later suffering only from a completely unrelated hangover, so I think it’s safe to say we’re good. As with most good hiking opportunities in China, the mountain has been carved out so that all one has to do to access the pools is climb some nice convenient stairs. There are even railings and regular signposts reminding you not to light up and accidentally set the whole place on fire.
The fourth pool (Lize Pool) is highly regarded as the best of the five and while ample time is spent at the first three pools, people are aiming to end up there. And once you’ve climbed, like, forty steps and seen what Baidu claims is the best pool, it’s time to go home. Nobody bothers with the fifth pool. The first four pools are so crowded that the waterfalls barely drown out the sound of the people and if you’ve come to reconnect with Mother Nature, get back on the 661-1.
But keep going. You’ll get to the fifth pool. The forgotten pool. Deserted, silent, beautiful. The icy clear water did nothing to hide us from the occasional passers by, who excitedly whipped out their camera phones as though we were tourist attractions in pink tasselled bikini and board shorts.
The “fifth pool” a great place to make absolute tits of yourselves, actually. It is here where one can swim, climb rocks, slip, fall, howl with laughter and take photos to remember, not to prove.
All the frustration I felt from the crowds and litter melted away as we reached that fifth, nameless pool. I slid into the water with all the grace of a pregnant seal, listened to the rush of the waterfall, crawled back onto the sun-baked rocks when the water got too cold and spat longan seeds until it was time to go.
Five Dragon Pools is a great spot for those eager to get out of the city for just a short while, see some great nature and perhaps take a forbidden dip in some crystal clear water.
To get to Five Dragon Pools by public transportation, take bus 661-1 from Yinzhou Wanda Plaza. Taxi fare to the scenic area should be around 90 RMB from Wanda, or about 100 RMB from downtown.
Entry into the park is 50 RMB, but there are often deals online that will save you upwards of 10 RMB.