This past weekend I took a little trip to Nanjing. Last time there (this being my second time) took place in the bitter cold and the unheated shower room at our hostel was quite brutal. Never before have I been that opposed to showering. This time the weather was infinitely more pleasant. Spring has sprung along the eastern Chinese seaboard! This will last for maybe a month or so and then will come the plum rains and then the humid furnace of summer. Spring and fall are the best seasons in Shanghai but they last for much too little time.
Spring in China is the time to see the blooming flowers as the world awakens from its annual slumber . Why did you have to eat those pomegranate seeds , Persephone??? Around this time Plum Blossoms , Peach Blossoms , and the all-mighty Cherry Blossoms are blooming. As in Japan there are many festivals and celebrations to welcome the sun and nice temperatures back into the hemisphere.
We hopped on an evening no-stop train from Shanghai’s HongQiao station to Nanjing’s South Station which only took 1 hour and 20 minutes. I love the bullet trains here. 250km/h, comfortable , and convenient. Also nice is the fact that the train stations in Shanghai as well as Nanjing are hooked up to the local metro (subway) networks. Shanghai metro from my house to the train station , board a train , and then Nanjing train station to the metro, and out nearby to my hostel in Nanjing.
We stayed at the Sunflower hostel and though not the nicest place ever the location in unbeatable. The rooms were a bit cramped and not quite the cleanest but the 4th floor chill-out lounge and rooftop hangout are awesome. That fluffy beast cat is awesome and the beer selection is quite nice ( I wasn’t expecting to see Samuel Smith’s Brewery pints there but they were) . The prosperous parts of China aren’t the cheapest places to travel in compared to Southeast Asia . For $30 I was expecting the private room to maybe be a bit nicer ( $25 in Phnom Penh gets an awesome boutique hotel with beautiful rooms) but it’s all good. Like I said before , the location cannot be beat. The hostel is smack dab in the bustling Confucius temple , shopping , eating , sightseeing district. The smells of street food waft everywhere , the sounds of shopkeepers trying to make a sale ring through the air, and a festive atmosphere abounds. Check out the lights in the temple area alongside the Qinghuai river. Stunning!
The main purpose for coming out to Nanjing this time was to attend a post wedding dinner celebration / mini-class reunion for my girlfriend’s former high school friend but we took full advantage of the weather to check out some more of Nanjing’s outdoor spots. Originally the plan was to see Niushou Shan , or Bull Head Mountain ,but it’s a bit out-of-the-way and we opted to concentrate on some closer spots.
The first area visited was YuHuaTai park aka Rain Flower Platform. It’s a very nice combination of parkland with a Martyr’s memorial and museum. Weren’t expecting that one , huh? At the time the spot was inundated with marching swarms of what seemed to be every single middle schooler in Nanjing. This week we have to work (and students have to go to school) Monday- Sunday and then have the next Monday , Tuesday, and Wednesday off. All for the next week’s tomb sweeping holiday. The students (all in uniform with teachers) were probably all at the park for a class outing due to the upcoming QingMing Jie (Tomb Sweeping Holiday). The crowds didn’t faze me and this time it actually added to the experience. The students were amazed by the foreigner. I heard so many kids talking about me (in Chinese) and so many kids were turning around looking , smiling , and shouting out things for me in English. We had fun with them also , pretending to walk in line with them and yelling things back at them. One note however, it’s not quite polite to yell out Hey Boy ! in English at a 23-year-old coming from a 14 old. A little ESL lesson for ya kids.
With the weather as beautiful as it was our next stop was also a park. We consulted our Nanjing street and tourist map during a lunch of Zhenjiang noodles (amazing and cheap) and decided to head to a park near the Changjiang (Yangtze) river. The park wasn’t all that amazing but it was a nice spot. It was full of the ubiquitous couple wedding photos and featured a weird little Dutch friendship town with a windmill and some houses that seemed straight out of suburban America. When I walked up the steps and gazed at the little demo house with the yard I couldn’t help but feel marooned back in those Mentorian side streets.
After strolling in the park and exhausting ourselves it was time to run to the wedding dinner of Aimee’s classmate. These affairs are a bit strange with a microphone wielding host getting people to play all sorts of weird games , giving out prizes, making fools of the bride and broom , and playing cheap pop music. We slipped into the back relatively unnoticed until our table pressured Aimee and myself into participating in a game. The host upon noticing my strange foreigness decided to take full advantage of it for the crowd. I hate getting in front of people and making a fool of myself. I much prefer taking it all in on the sidelines so imagine my distress upon having 60 eyes upon myself speaking Chinese into a microphone and trying to follow the directions of a game involving dancing around the room to a song. Holy shit. Well needless to say, I survived it and looking back it was kinda fun.
The next day it was time for some more enjoyment of nature. We went back to the spectacular forested Gold Purple Mountain park on the north side of Nanjing. Last time we had visited the Ming tombs , took the cable car up to the top of the mountain and visited the Purple Lake. This time our target was the Meihua (Plum Blossom) Hill. It’s the right time of the year to see plum and peach blossoms. The ongoing flower festival showcases 35,000 plum blossom trees in 120 varieties — including China’s oldest — scattered in a 250-acre zone. It’s an amazing display of pink , white, and red blossoms in a full 360 degrees view. Well , a view of flowers and people of course. It is , after all, China.The crowds where nowhere near as bad as the ones encountered last year in Shanghai’s Gucun park’s Cherry Blossom Festival (which I intend going to again after this stupid work weekend with a break on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
After walking around for a few hours we were getting pretty exhausted so we took the metro back into town. To the trendy Xinjiekou shopping area for some needlessly expensive cool food. Spicy ,vinegar, jellyfish ? Check. Fresh green peppercorn frog? Ya got it. $5 spinach ? Bring it on! We took our time and relaxed over this great dinner. Then it was time to head to the hostel grab our things and make our way to Nanjing South Railway station for the trip back to Shanghai. Had a few brews on the train ride back and grabbed a Subway veggie delight back at Shanghai Hongqiao station. Mission accomplished ! Now time to start the 7 day work week before QingMing Jie. (Sighhhhhh….)