Year Abroad: Nanjing Weekend

GIRLS TRIP!

Shanghai – Nanjing: 134.50¥
Two days, One night.

In November, I made a long weekend trip an hour and a half from the Big City to Nanjing along with some girls here at Fudan University.

GIRLS ON TOUR

nanjing

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The great thing about travelling with friends is that, even if things go a bit awry, any unfortunate catastrophe makes a pretty good anecdote when you’re putting your feet up at the end of the day. Come rain, dubiously timetabled buses, or our dodgy foreigner’s Chinese, we managed to power through a with a whirlwind tour of Nanjing.

As a testament to the trip’s success, all six of us girls are still friends.
Not bad, eh?

TOUR TOUR TOUR

Being November, it was drizzly, splashy and rainy for our second trip to the Jiang Su province, having been in Suzhou not long before. We made the best of our two day trip in Nanjing and split our time into a day on the Purple Gold Mountain tourist trail and a day for the City.

紫金山 // Purple Gold Mountain

Sights:
Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty
Sun-Yet Sen Sun-Yet Sen Mausoleum
Forest Trails

It’s a long hike from the bottom of the mountain to base of the Sun-Yet Sen Mausoleum where a dizzying set of stairs lead the way to the memorial building, but the road is packed. Nothing like getting overtaken by Chinese grannies on a crisp Autumn stair-master challenge.

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南京

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Although I may be some six thousand miles from home, something about the cool, clammy air in the mountains, the heavy foliage and falling leaves, walking with my backpack, and speaking English gives me the strongest feeling of home – of drizzling Northern Irish weather and Sunday walks with the family.

Purple Gold Mountain, though, has the most gorgeous yellow trees that line the paths and spray them with delicate, fan-shaped leaves, and now and then, we stumble across some Chinese architecture amongst the trees.

Probably better than your average day Sunday walk.
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南京市
Nanjing City


Sights: Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum

For our day in Nanjing City, the weather takes a turn for the worse and we head to the foreboding structure of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum for the morning. It’s a dense exhibit, and here and there between it’s visceral images and personal accounts, tiny old men and women cry silently as they walk. It’s a harrowing visit, and by the end of it all, we’re a fairly tired bunch.

Can hardly visit Nanjing without seeing this museum.

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SLEEPS & EATS


Bars: Brewsell’s, Ellens
Sleeps: 心子旅花圆客线
江苏省南京市秦淮区应天大街388号
025 5188 5858

At night, we take a jaunt around the intersection of Guangzhou Rd. and Shanghai Rd. for some post-touristing drinks, popping into Ellens, the local grimy Helen’s knock-off which is jammed full of local students, and quickly leaving to Brewsell’s pub round the corner for an Expat atmosphered beer (or Amaretto and Coke for me – the first I’ve seen in China).

This fabulously dressed Germanic-looking gentleman sits at the bar, which probably makes my evening.

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In amongst our sight-seeing, there are a fair few exciting meals from the strange noodle breakfasts, the traditional lazy Susan lunches and, ashamedly, a desperation-fuelled Starbucks. Of course, my rucksack was constantly crammed with the odd snack to keep me occupied.
(It’s better for everyone if I’m kept well nourished, trust me.)

As for sleeps, we nabbed a clean, six-person dorm, albeit slightly out of the way, in a hostel that featured smack bang in the middle of 1865创意园, a Creative Technology and Design Park.

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Nanjing, you were great.

Charlotte xx

Year Abroad: Laid Back Streets

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A retreat from the city –  in the city.

A walk through the Antique and Pet Markets of Shanghai one is the most peaceful afternoons I’ve had since I’ve arrived in China.

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ANTIQUES MARKET

Metro Stop: Laoximen Station
Dongtai Lu, enter from Xizang Lu into Liuhe Lu
东台路, 西藏路和浏河路路口

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Dong Tai Lu Antiques Market Shanghai

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Perhaps it’s because I’m a literature student, and spend most of my time lost in the world of books published well before my Grandma was even born, but I feel like these open alleys of antiques is somewhere I was just meant to be.

The wide streets on Dong Tai Lu are besieged on both sides by clutter that pours out from small shop fronts and stalls that line the streets, manned by keen eyed old Chinese on their rickety fold out chairs, critically appraising your knowledge of antiques and eye for a bargain (or lack thereof…).

But it’s quiet, which is an absolute blessing if you’ve been to any of the tourist sites in Shanghai – that seem to come with a mandatory “Watch-Bag, Watch-Bag” man peddling his fake wares. Although the authenticity of the actual antiques in the Antiques Market is mostly questionable, it’s certainly a great place to pick up mementos of a trip to China, delve into the deceptively deep alley shopps, or relax with a 10RMB pot of flower tea and feel very hipster.

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Typewriter Antiques Market Shanghai

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As my friends and I left to head back towards Laoximen metro station, we cross the road and pop our heads into the closing Pet’s Market for a quick scoot around the closing stalls, thankfully devoid of fellow tourists, as the sun set over Shanghai. If you’ve got time to make the visit, I definitely recommend – but keep in mind shops tend to shut in the Market from around 430PM onwards.

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PET MARKET

Metro: Laoximen Station
405 Xizang Nan Lu, near Fangbang Zhong Lu
西藏南路405号, 万商花鸟鱼虫交易市场,近方浜中路

It’s dark, heavy with the smell of animals and even though most of people have left, there’s loud chatter and bustle as the shop and stall keepers pack up their chirruping, barking and snuffling wares for the night. As we make our way round the packed alleyways, it’s with exclamations and croonings – the cages have everything from packed little kittens and multi-coloured birds, to terrapins and turtles and exotic fish in tiny tubs.

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Pots of Tropical Fish, Shanghai

Boxed Bugs Shanghai

Tropical Birds

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As far as animal rights go, I will say that some points did make me a little uneasy, with several kittens and rabbits together in cages slightly too small, and dogs that slept in spaces I’d like to be a but bigger, but it is an honest picture of the attitude towards pets; in the market at least, they’re well kept, but their living standards for the most part, can’t match up to a gardened house in Britain.

It’s a window into the traditional culture surrounding pets in China, and the older generation does make up the majority of the wandering crowds; they take great interest in the crickets – as well as the occasional games of Chinese Chess being played between the narrow stalls.

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All in all though, an excellent de-stress from the bustling city.
Without ever leaving it at all

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Charlotte xx

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Taiwan: A Return

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Welcome back to Taipei!

I’m here in the capital city of Taiwan at the start of an exciting trip that is soon to be revealed… (keep yourself posted for the big news!) But while I’m preparing, for the month of July, I’m hunkered down a fourth floor Japanese-style flat for the month for a family holiday!

It’s great to be back in Taipei, and despite living unluckily on the fourth floor, although more because of the lack of elevator than superstition (as in Chinese the number four 四 (sì) sounds cheerily like death 死 (sǐ) – with only a minimal tonal difference between the two), the little flat in the Da’an student district is a great find. We’re renting from a British couple who’ve gone home to get married; the house is cute and minimalist, they’ve left lots of notes about the area and the flat, and, best of all, the book shelf is full and has dozens of wedding magazines. I’d like to think the cuteness cancels out any bad luck.

A small upgrade from tatami that I’m eternally grateful, my siblings and I are sleeping on thin mattresses on the slick-lacquered floor; there’s only a sliding door divider for privacy in our five-person family. But, foreigners we are, and unacclimatised to the muggy 30ºC day-time heat – it’s far too hot to even close the swishy doors.
Goodbye privacy, hello family!

It’s hard to sit down and seclude yourself (seclude in the metaphysical sense) on a family holiday to write blog posts, but I’ll keep you updated with our trips around the island when I can. If you’ve any tips for trips, let us know!

Try out my twitter @charlottejblack for 130 character snapshots of Taipei life if you get lonely

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As always,

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Beijing, TUESC: Tienanmen Square Tourists

Thanks Mr. Hu!

There’s no cutting corners with the volunteer’s first trip outside the safe confines of the Tsinghua University campus.

We’ve get ourselves kitted out with bikes, locks and keys from Mr. Hu (Mr. Who?) the local tough-bargaining student-bike specialist (150RMB for three weeks all-inclusive hire) and we set off to the scene of the 1989 Tianamen Square Protests.

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Tiananmen Square

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It’s a typically over cast day, and though I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever see the sun, I’m fairly glad that I’m out of its rays given the current sticky heat.

We chain up the bikes at the gates of the campus (I’m feeling pretty attached to my transportation already…) and navigate the Beijing Metro to unearth ourselves by the quiet of the square. It’s literally just across the dual carriageway, but it’s a five minute roundabout way to the square’s entrance past politely round-topped fences, and when we get there, we share the space with several other Chinese tourists taking happy photos of the surroundings.

We’re the only foreigners here, and cause some hubbub by sitting wearily in a circle, resting our sagging jet-lagged backpacks in a pile on the ground. And it’s not long before our presence begins to draw attention.

We’re firstly bombarded (although mostly the English looking girls in the group) by Chinese, accents belying their own status as non-Beijing Chinese, and tourists in their own right. We are bemusedly frogmarched into photographs with their children – and them – until a blank-faced khaki guard steps down off his half meter square carpeted block and makes motions for us to move on.

Besides our careful tourist chatter of the revolts in 1989, there’s nothing of the area which would which suggest the murders of peaceful student protesters by military police, but the heavy surveillance, strictly marked walking lines and the relative inaccessibility of the square itself, make me feel like we should take the guards direction and move on.

Luckily, we bypass President Mao’s body entombed in his mausoleum by the square – and in hindsight I think I’m just as happy with the imagined knowledge of the iconography of Mao himself; certainly the other volunteers relish telling us about it.

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The City Gates

The City Gates by the square are a jarring palette of red, blue, green on a back drop of grey; flashes of bright colour in a concrete city. We traispe rather tiredly around the gates, somewhat stunned by their looming structures around which blaring taxis and bicycles and motorbikes fight on the dual lane road. In and out of the market streets, taking many breaks on huge two meter square stone blocks that have been in Beijing over four times our live span, and deciphering dubiously translated English information leaflets.

I had my first green tea flavoured ice cream today.
Ah-mazing.

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