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A Weekend Getaway : Nanjing

After a full day on Friday (Chinese lesson at 9am and teaching until 3:40pm, followed by a sprint across the city to the train station to catch a train at 5pm) and a week of misbehaving students (a ‘giving advice’ activity wherein the appropriate response for the issue of “my dog won’t stop barking” was repeatedly and categorically inappropriate), I was relieved to be out of Beijing and very ready to explore a new city in China - Nanjing.

The ‘Nan’ to Beijing’s ‘Bei’, Nanjing translates as “Southern Capital” but this didn’t really give me any idea what to expect. I arrived around 10.30pm and we were staying in an “Inn”, AKA someone’s spare room in a flat situated down a questionable alley, which still didn’t give me any in-cling about the city. And so it was early (10.30am) on Saturday morning that we finally started to discover what Nanjing was all about.

Our first intended stop was the Presidential Palace, but when we got off the subway, the ‘1912 Casual District’ was too enticing to bypass so we had a look around the strange little area first, which was mainly eateries and cafes. Through the decorative windows in the walls between 1912 and the Palace gardens, we caught but a glimpse of the enchanting landscapes we were soon to explore. Luckily for us, Spring has finally sprung in China and it was a warm day, so the gardens were bursting with blossom and it was so relaxing to stroll around and take in the atmosphere. Much like Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai, we could see skyscrapers above the garden walls which was kind of surreal but also very cool.

In a bid to see more of the city, we decided to use busses instead of the subway to get around. So we hopped on the 33 to take us to our next destination: Gulou. On the way we went past a bustling park where the blossoms were also in full bloom, and the world and his wife were taking the opportunity for a social-media-worthy photo shoot. The Drum Tower was also set against a backdrop of skyscrapers and the surrounding park was filled with people in traditional dress performing some kind of casual Chinese dancing. I say casual because there really doesn’t seem to be any particular skill or routine behind these park dance sessions, instead they take place purely for enjoyment and entertainment.

After a quick lunch stop we decided to head towards one of Nanjing’s most famous attractions, the Xuanwu Lake. Approaching it, we walked past a small park where people were lying on some particularly luscious grass, which is quite unheard of in Beijing and so we decided to take a break and enjoy the warm weather before following the crowds of people heading towards the lake. The lake has several islands that are joined together by various bridges so we wandered with no real direction through the very scenic park. By chance we found ourselves at Nanjing’s Sakura festival, which was mostly people indulging in more photo-taking underneath the blossoming trees.

In the evening we went to downtown Nanjing. It was getting dark and the skyscrapers were lit up with neon flashing lights. We spotted a House of Fraser - of all things! - and stopped for a bite to eat in a bright square. After dinner we stopped by a famous food street, which was much smaller than what we were expecting, but the queues for some of the stalls were extremely long; you know what they say, it’s quality, not quantity! Making a mental note to stop by for lunch the next day, we jumped on a bus to the Old Town area. It was heaving with people, but in a good way. These old style streets are a bit touristy but they usually offer a great atmosphere and lots of things to look at. There was a river between the two busiest streets with bridges joining them and little boats doing trips up and down it. It was a great end to the day.

Next morning, we were given a ‘traditional natural rice cake’ by our host for breakfast, which was essentially savoury donut sticks with egg, chicken and some onion (?) rolled up in sticky black rice. It wasn’t awful. The pollution wasn’t particularly great so we changed our plans a bit because we were going to head up a mountain to get a good view of the city… I guess we’ll do that next time! Instead we took the opportunity to explore some more of the city, including Golden Egret Park and more of the Old Town. We used bikes to get around which was also a good way of seeing more.

Our final stop was the Old City Wall and Zhonghua Gate, which has an impressive history from both ancient and contemporary times as a major military advantage in battle. It was nice to look over the city that we had spent the last day and a half exploring. Once we had had our fill, we strolled back to the subway, indulged in a milk tea in the sun and then carried on to the station, where we headed back to our respective cities.

Posted by amysblog 05:24 Archived in China Tagged parks culture history lake city china nanjing tefl

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