Saturday, October 6, 2007

Whirlwind tour of Nanjing

The first week in October marks the National holiday for China. This holiday is one of the three holidays that almost the entire population has off of work (also Spring Festival and May Holiday). Consequently, it is one of the busiest times to travel. Guanxi strings are pulled all over to purchase train tickets to travel and visit family.

This year, Sarah and I decided to brave and join the traveling crowds for a trip down to Nanjing. We decided to save a few bucks by taking a train all the way down to the southern capital--a twenty-four hour train ride. Prior to this trip, my longest ride had been 10 hours, but I felt a 24 hour ride would be a unique and important cultural experience. The ride actually wasn't bad at all. Reading, eating, and playing cards made the awake time pass quickly and there was plenty of time for sleeping.

We rolled into Nanjing Monday afternoon and were quickly impressed by the convenience and modernity of Nanjing. Sarah and I decided Nanjing is like Shanghai, only still "Chinese". The city is very developed and overrun by western chains (Starbucks, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, KFC, name a few). People seem to be wealthier and much more fashion conscious. We definitely felt a little bit like country bumpkins come to visit a big city.

Monday afternoon and Thursday morning were spent at a leisurely pace and we enjoyed some long hours in coffee shops. Tuesday and Wednesday were our high-paced touring days of the city. For the short amount of time we were in the city, we saw a lot. Tuesday we climbed to the top of Purple Mountain (I've never been so drenched in sweat in my life), visited Sun Yat Sen's (the Father of Modern China) mausoleum, toured Linggu temple, and visited the site of the Ming tombs. After very refreshing showers, we joined the girls from team Nanjing for a Pride and Prejudice marathon viewing.

Wednesday we began the day visiting the museum in John Rabe's house. John Rabe was the Chairman of the Safety Committee during the Japanese massacre in Nanjing (in the States known better as Nanking). This Safety Committee was a group of twenty foreigners who remained in the city and created a safe zone for refugees to find protection from the rampages of the Japanese. Thousands were rescued from the violence--and 600 alone just at Rabe's house. It was fascinating to see this museum and the legacy of love this group of people left. After the museum we grabbed lunch at a cafe (real sandwiches with amazing bread!) and then set off on a journey to locate the ancient Ming city wall. With a map in hand and a few wrong turns, we eventually did find the wall and had fun exploring the area around it.

Thursday afternoon we boarded the train again for the 24 hour journey back home. I always love coming back home in China. There's a certain amount of relief as I enter my "safe space" again. Since I was already gross from the train ride, I headed out on a bike ride shortly after returning home. On the way back in from the ride I stopped by my fruit seller. She knew I had been traveling and asked when I had returned. My reply that I had gotten back that afternoon earned me a reproach for going for a bike ride. She thought I was surely too tired from the journey to do a silly thing like that. Her sense of concern for my health was a nice reminder that indeed, I was home.

If you want to see pictures of the trip you can check out my photo site and Sarah's photo site.

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