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Back to China - Shanghai - Nanjing - Hangzhou - August / September 2012 - Page 3

Day 7 - Sunday, 2 September 2012

Purple haze

Perhaps the main attraction of the Nanjing area is the Purple Mountain.
There are many things to see here, including Ming tombs, some kind of amphitheatre which I couldnt figure out from the sign, botanic gardens, various areas for monks to beg for money from tourists, camping areas, mountain biking trails and probably more.
I looked at none of these things.
Instead I visited the Dr Sun Yat-Sen mausoleum. Dr Sun was the founder of the republic of China, his group was over thrown by the communists and they fled to Taiwan. I visited his succesor, Chiang Kai-Shek's tomb in Taiwan.
Apprently this is the only place in mainland China where the old Republic of China flag (Taiwanese flag) is still shown, but I didnt see it.
Anyways, the park is huge and fantastic, great facilities, well signposted, lots of people at the main sites but plenty of paths off to the side to enjoy on your own.
I took too many photos so will type more there.

37C at 9AM. So great weather for climbing mountains then.

Youre supposed to catch a bus, you can see the mountain in the distance. Not me. I stubbornly exercised my blisters for miles just to get to the start.

The scenery along the way is great, lots of people riding bikes, fishing, flying kites and camping in the fields. I didnt see any chemical factories, coal fired power plants, rubbish.

Once at the base of the mountain area, the scenery becomes very lush. Praise Mao for the gift of shade. Also he took care of the noisy birds which would have otherwise distrubed my serenity.

I brought no water. Because I am a foolish tourist. Not to worry, theres plenty of areas such as this dotted around the place to buy water, salted duck tongues, live baby turtles, and battery powered soldiers that crawl along with machine guns.
The crawling machine gun men are surely the most popular toy all across Asia, I have no idea why as these seem crap to me.

Gate 1 and the start of the steps. Some people complain at the first sign of steps and sit in protest. Never underestimate a Chinese (or Japanese, or Korean) girls desire to wear heels anywhere.

The next gate.

The final glorious ascent to his tomb. Watching people take 3 steps and bend over in great pain is quite disturbing. I think some people were planning to take all day to get up here. There are water and ice cream stands all the way along it in case your fat ass needs an ice cream to handle a few more steps.
I bounded straight to the top, 2 steps at a time. Rocky style. At one stage I tripped and looked like an idiot, but I edited that out.

Looking back down from the top. Its a shame about the haze. Apparently its called the Purple mountain because the clouds often appear to be purple. I couldnt see anything purple and cloud like. Some of these guys naming mountains have been sniffing too many scooter fumes.

I didnt take any pictures inside, the signs said not to. Apparently his body is in there though. Its not like Mao or Stalin where they have a fake lookalike body drained of formaldehyde every night and makeup applied.

It took me some time to find the way to now climb to the top of the mountain. You have to climb all the way down the steps and head off through some little villages before going up again.
Once I knew I was on the right track I celebrated by hanging out with Buddah. We have a mutual disrespect for one another.

Near the top you can see the far side of the mountain. Sort of. They never really cleared an area for you to appreciate the view along the path.

Once at the top, you can look back on Nanjing. I think. Theres so much pollution haze its hard to tell.
Theres a chairlift to go back down, I eventually did take it but getting a ticket was an ordeal.
They couldnt quite understand that I had walked up and only wanted to take it back down. For most normal people they either take it both ways or take it up and walk down.
Also you dont buy the tickets from the nice looking station area, you have to find a little old lady sitting under an umbrella a few hundred metres away.
Maybe she buys tickets at the bottom and sells them to fools like me at the top?

The ride went forever. At least 30 minutes. I nearly fell asleep. Well I would have but every child going past in the other direction would yell HELLO! at me. I would answer, GOOD MORNING HOW ARE YOU? and they would say, .....HELLO!

Lush forest I had walked through to get to the top. It really is a huge park and the theres paths everywhere.

The chairlift goes down a different direction to that which I walked up in. Theres thousands of cyclists taking it seriously in the carpark.
I had no real idea where I was, but decided to just keep walking downhill.

Once at the bottom I found a lake which I could identify on the map. Of course its nowhere near a metro line. Thats OK I might as well walk back to my hotel.
I went on various shortcuts that were dead ends, but did get to see some very interesting parts of Nanjing.

The roads get watered periodically, to make them grow.

This market is large, and pretty clean. Its a bit quiet, maybe I am too late for all the action. Also its Sunday.
All the dried fish products seem to be missing from this part of China, they are so popular in other parts. Instead you get dried salty duck. Every part of the duck, mmm salty duck genitals, good for virility!

In amongst my back street adventures there were many stores selling live lunch.

This is the metro line under construction behind my hotel. I just wandered in an open gate and acted like I owned the place. No one seemed to mind. The construction method is to dig a trench and rebuild a road over it, I believe most of the New York subway was built in this manner too.
I can sit at my hotel window and watch the construction work going on, I enjoy this greatly because I am half crazy.

Sleep now please

I walked into the centre of town, and it was difficult! Still super tired from last night and todays long walks. Todays up hill in the heat probably had the most effect.
I will now describe my observations of eating in fairly nice restaurants in Nanjing. I watch those around me closely and listen in!
1. Walk in and sit down wherever you want, reservations are not possible, you line up if theres no tables available.
2. Yell at the nearest waitress as soon as you sit down, there are a lot of waitresses compared to Australian restaurants.
3. Feel free to bring in drinks from outside. Not wine (no one drinks and im yet to find a restaurant that even serves alcohol), but bubble tea or some other sort of milk based sweet drink. Also its OK to get up and get more drinks from another place during your meal.
4. If you dont have drinks with you, tea and water is free. Water is often hot, as in boiling hot. Even when its 37C outside boiling water is the preferred drink of most.
5. The waitress generally waits once you have sat down after handing you the menu for you to order. You have seconds to decide. Generally you have lined up out the front reading the menu first.
6. The waitress enters your order into a smart phone of some description, dont expect her to tell you whats good, if something contains something, or to be able to change the food in anyway. China doesnt care if you are allergic to anything, and frankly neither do I, this system suits me fine.
7. Soon after the waitress will return with a mini clipboard with a receipt on it, feel free to pay that at any point, before the food comes if you wish.
8. The food can come in any order, starters after mains, desserts first, drink can come after the meal if you ordered one. Its your choice if you want to wait for the food to come in the order you wish to eat it. And never expect all the food to come at once if you are at a table with more than one person.
9. As soon as you finish eating, GET OUT. They need the table. Never wait at the table to pay, or for the change etc.

Whilst I was waiting for my food to arrive tonight, I half fell asleep and felt my head falling towards the table, this was of great amusement to the girls at the table next to me, who were already whispering about me drinking their dairy queen milkshakes.
I thought it best to eat dinner and go home!
Anyway, I decided to hope to watch the formula 1, and am currently doing so via an illegal internet stream, I dont know if it will last.

So not many pictures, but I took enough earlier.

These guys deserve bravery awards. After the rain the roads become chaos. Most scooters dont seem to have brakes, just squealers to warn people that their brakes dont work.
Standing in the middle of the traffic in such circumstances seems silly, I dont even know what they were achieving as theres working traffic lights.
I watched for a while, camera trained on them ready for disaster, they seemed worried.

Dinner was predictably beef noodle soup, hoping for it to give me magical super powers, as it often does.
Apperntly this is Nanjing style though, the noodles were different, heavier and chewier. The broth was very red, but not overly spicy. Well not until I emptied the chilli pot into it.

Day 8 - Monday, 3 September 2012

Panda dead, again

A couple of years ago I went to the Ueno zoo in Tokyo. It was largely closed down and in a state of disrepair, reason being their panda had died.
Today I went to Nanjing zoo, I had read that it is decent for Chinese zoos. Upon arrival the grounds looked very impressive indeed, huge green areas on the side of a big hill with a forest etc.
However where are the people? And why are all the shops and kids rides closed?
I headed to the panda pavillion. From a distance it looked large and impressive, but when I got closer it was overgrown with weeds.
I asked a staff member, where is panda (panda, zai narli?). Panda dead!
OK then.

Not to worry, I had a good walk around anyway. They have a heap of big cats all over the place, a few elephants, giraffes, hippos and about 10,000 monkeys going crazy.
The internet would have you believe that Chinese zoos are tiny cages where everyone can poke animals with bamboo poles to make them dance, and that you can throw rocks at them or any old rubbish, and that the animals are only fed plastic bottles people throw.
I didnt see any of this, I guess I saw some kids banging on the glass but that happens at every zoo.

However, Adelaide zoo, which has pandas, and is now fast going broke. I have seen your future. Once those pandas die its all over!

On my way to the zoo, store opening time. Out the front of every store the staff pledge allegiance to uphold the honor and principles of selling people as much cheap electronic shit they dont need as possible. Followed by fist pumping and cheering.
Seriously, every store, no matter how small, this is the scene just before 9AM. The same thing occurs in Japan. I am going to instigate this policy in Australia, im working on a very special pledge of allegiance right now.

We can all promise to be 'true to ourselves', and say 'nah, yeah' or 'yeah, nah' a lot, I am using our heroic olympic athletes as inspiration. CANT!

The entrance to the zoo. For 3 yuan you can rent an air rifle to shoot at the ducks.

The monkey pit. Theres a heap of monkeys in here going crazy. Its not the nicest enclosure as its nearly all rocks, but it is quite large.
Monkeys will quite happily beat each other senseless, all day long.

There were 2 tigers in here constantly stalking each other.

OK. For the remainder of my visit I was on high alert.

I dont know if this is a bengal tiger, or a liger or a tigon or a special new hybrid. His eyes never moved off me.

These two lions were quite happy. Sharp picture through dirty glass!

This ferris wheel is not worthy of my attention. Plus I would want someone else to ride on it first to prove it hasnt decayed to the point of collapse.

Elephants were happy with their green whatever.

As an Australian, I am ashamed to admit I do not have a popular Australian style wooden walkway. G'day!

Right outside the zoo there seems to be an army base. I wanted to take my picture standing next to this but there were too many soldiers watching and nowhere to put my camera. I might photoshop myself in.

Get into your tent, filthy smokers.

This is a particularly impressive street decoration. However I dont understand how a truck or bus hasnt hit it. I see a sign there that says no truck over a certain height, but if this was in Australia there would be a rubbish truck wedged under it within an hour.

For lunch, cantonese style Chinese food. Which means rice. I didnt eat the rice as its bad for you.
The tea drink I ordered which you can see in the background caused quite a drama. I still dont understand why. It was on the menu, I asked for it, pointed, then 5 waiters and a chef studied the menu. I got what I expected, sweetened milk tea. I do think I heard one of them say beer a few times. Is it really that unusual for a white person to order sweetened tea and not beer?

Cool weather is cool

Today was much cooler than any other day since I arrived in China, and it was great.
This evening is my last night in Nanjing, tomorrow I go to Hangzhou which is sort of the other side of Shanghai. The train will actually go back through Shanghai to get there, but as far as I know I dont have to change trains, what could possibly go wrong?
Getting from the Hangzhou station to my hotel is according to google a 5.2km walk, with my bags. I am a month early as the metro in Hangzhou opens on October 1. I remain determined to not use a taxi though!

If you did happen to visit China, you will most likely go to Shanghai, especially if you come from Australia. I strongly advise you to spend at least some of your time in Nanjing if thats the case. It is very easy to get to. Heres a few reasons why -
You will be the only western person you see, well not quite, I saw a big fat guy getting driven around in a Bentley.
There are no scammers at all looking for westerners to rob in the form of massage or watch sales.
There is a lot more history.
Theres a cool mountain, which I only scratched the surface of.
The food and shopping and transport is all just as convenient as Shanghai.
Its much nicer to walk around due to being cleaner with big trees everywhere.
You will have been to a place your friends probably dont know anything about. Which is a shame. Be more educated!

I dont need much encouragement to take photos of myself.

This is one of the temporary construction worker villages. You see them everywhere. They dont look too bad, you get to stay in the middle of the city for what I imagine is 'free', every hut seems to have its own air conditioner.

Its somewhat surprising that most of the shops in Nanjing are not the same as Shanghai. This is an electronics multi storey superstore very similar to those in Japan. Indeed the name is Japanese but I have not seen Yamada in Japan. Shanghai does not have this.
Similarly the convenience stores and supermarkets are different brands, as are the bubble tea stands, main noodle chains, hairdressers and tobacco stores.

China finally found a use for all the western style toilets they removed from Beijing after the olympics (its a real problem, look it up!). A toilet waiting area with real toilets!
I had to ninja this photo as it is actually a ladies toilet.

I am not afraid to photograph someone elses photo shoot. The little girl holding the balloons is taking this very seriously, barking orders at the model and the photographer.

My dinner. And officially a no noodle day, surprised? However once again what I ordered caused a drama, the other diners got up to look at what I was eating. The only thing I can think of is that I ordered off the lunch time menu and they decided it would be easier to just accommodate me than to tell me that I cant have it.
I noticed everyone else had only bowls of noodles.
Also I didnt order a drink, but got what I thought was a glass of coke, but turned out to be some sort of black sugar fake tasting juice, with added sugar. Its as if it was the syrup for making grape soda or similar. After I drank it I could see everything with a kind of strobe effect!
Perhaps this was my punishment for ordering off the lunch menu?

Its me, with a cool building and my extra large shorts. I have been wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight now. In fact ever since arriving in Nanjing.
I thought today might be the day for a new outfit but the cooler weather meant I could get another day out of this one! The laundromat is the enemy of the holiday, the only thing I hate more is taxi's. Both are admissions of failure!

Heres another way China is different to Australia. Taxpayers here get their own service hall. Where you get to hang out with the other taxpayers and tell stories about how much you have contributed to society whilst enjoying a tea and moon cake.
In Australia they have similar centres, but they are for the people who dont contribute at all to go and collect the money taken from me to waste on beer, smokes and gambling.
And before anyone says 'but you can afford holidays in foreign lands' let me point out my holiday costs LESS than the tax I would have paid from living in Australia for the same period.
I am quite serious! I save money whilst on holidays.

If you are worried about what you might eat if you come to Nanjing, because the prospect of eating a bowl of no idea floating in god knows what terrifies you, fear not! There are these stores all over that sell only imported things like breakfast cereal and chocolate and peanut butter and whatever else nucular families seem to need.

Dont worry, I am well aware that I am an arrogant asshole!

Day 9 - Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Wet, lost and confused

Today is the day to move from Nanjing to Hangzhou, about 2 hours by train back through Shanghai.
Checking out of my hotel was fun, thank you sir, we will charge you for 8 breakfasts.
Only problem is I had not eaten breakfast in the hotel at all.
The staff were very good about this, but asked me to wait whilst they looked into the matter. First I explained I had been here 4 nights and was by myself. The concierge fellow seemed to confirm he had seen me coming and going only on my own, always in shorts and black t-shirt.
After some discussion, I suggested that surely the manager of the restaurant where breakfast is served would remember someone who looks as crazy as me.
So they went and got the manager, and asked him if he had ever seen me before, I believe his answer was 'hahaha, if I saw this person even in the street I would remember, I have never seen him before!'
So after a thousand apologies I didnt ask for and the offer of a voucher for a free night should I return which I declined, I was on my way.
Getting to the train was no problem, the high speed station was great, the train ride to Hangzhou was fine, but it did start raining along the way.
A girl next to me watched the most violent movie I have ever seen on her laptop, it was relentless violence, Japanese style. She seemed to enjoy it. I couldnt handle it even in my peripheral vision.
I decided to go and get a snack, this train had come from Tianjin near Beijing, so the dining car was nearly out of food, they had dried duck tongues and salted plums left. Guess I will be going hungry then.

Getting into Hangzhou station, and its the third world in comparison to Nanjing and Shanghai. Things only got more backwards from there, I had to take a taxi, and still I got saturated and lost!

No one escapes train station pictures forever. The true size of this hall cannot be appreciated in photos.

The view out of the window.

Its me. You might think my head is almost touching the roof but its a good 20 metres or so above me. The station is built for the future, the entire middle section has no seats and only half the platforms are in use.

Arriving in Hangzhou, the usual chaotic scene at the exits. The scam taxi drivers are amassed in an impenetrable line, I pushed through them, actually pushed.

Before leaving the station I had to go back upstairs to buy a ticket to head back to Shanghai on Saturday. This meant more lines. Heres my first glimpse of Hangzhou, the station is quite a distance from the city.

The taxi waiting tunnel. I am near the front of the queue by the time I took this photo, it was probably 100 metres long like this squeezed into this tunnel. A disaster waiting to happen!
You arent supposed to smoke but people do, as theres no guards in there to tell you not to, where would they fit?
Despite this, taxi scam touts are pushing up and down the queue screaming at people aggressively. I give better than I get, elbows work well, one guy spoke great English, told me that the line goes around the corner for another 500 metres.
Since he spoke English, I told him that the last time I took a taxi from someone like him I got robbed at knife point, maybe it was you? You look like the guy! I get the police now! He fled.

So I took a taxi to the vicinity of my hotel, and got out to look for it on foot. Much of the down town area is completely ripped up due to the construction of the metro. My driver was good about this, and followed the map on my blackberry without complaint, but we couldnt see the hotel.
The cost, $3 for a 40 minute ride.
Eventually I found my hotel, this is the view from the window. Its a bit weird because it is well located in amongst modern nice looking buildings, yet the view out the back of it seems to be old style apartments.

It was raining, and I hadnt eaten all day. The 85C bakery (popular chain in all of Asia) is next door. The chocolate thing was strange, its like a plain wholemeal bread role, with chocolate on top.

My mother will complain if I dont show photos of my hotel rooms, this one is called SSAW plaza hotel. It is the nicest one I have stayed in yet. I think its a bit more expensive at $80 a night, but Hangzhou is a tourist city.

The bathroom is behind the TV. It has no doors, just fine metal chains hanging down where a door should be, you can see them to the left of the TV.
The office area is kind of a separate room beind the wardrobe, you can see the small desk where I am sitting now, complete with the tiny fridge from which I have removed all the drinks so I can put my own in it (as usual).

Rivers of mud

It didnt stop raining. But it never really rained enough to convince me I would get wet. However it did rain enough that the massive construction effort that is going on produced rivers of mud in the street.
I washed my feet in the sink as soon as I returned home! Who knows whats in that mud.
I also actually found it difficult to find dinner, for the first time in China. Many of the places I went to in hope were either under construction or part of a 'soft open' which means only starbucks has opened.
Eventually I did find a...wait for it, beef noodle restaurant in a basement. Yesterday was a noodle free day so in some ways, I was overdue.
Its not as bad as all that though, towards the end of my 4.5 hour brisk walk I realised I should have walked in the other direction, which seems largely finished.
Its hard to have a first impression of Hangzhou, I think with all the rain and difficulty in getting here I was a bit too mentally exhausted to think about it.
Mental exhaustion is caused by Chinese slippery footpaths, crossing roads in the rain with scooters trucks and busses flying past, and 4 foot high people with seas of umbrellas!

OK thats enough internal reflection (whatever that means).

Behind one of the mega under construction areas, the Chinese take on a wheel barrow.

Part of the sea of mud cause. This is the main street, or was and will be once the under construction Metro is finished.

My dinner courtesy of Master Kong. I have been to the same franchise in Beijing before. It is good. I was especially excited about the carrot because with rain and people with either no headlights or headlights on high beam, I needed to see in the dark.

I walked far out of the city to get my bearings. It worked. To the right of frame is where I should have been. Predictably this is where the west lake is.

I am often amazed at just how many very large stores Chanel and Louis Vuitton need. Every Chinese city has multiple stores like this, all of them seem to have no one in them. I know theres a lot of people but whos buying all the handbags?
I guess they have double the sales of other countries because most men seem to need to carry a handbag too. I might get one. Red faux snakeskin I think.

Hopefully I will have more better quality pictures tomorrow when its not raining!

Phil Newton on 2012-09-11 said:
You keep trying to find what direction you are looking in, If you imagine you have an anolog watch on (cause you dont wear one) point the 12 at the sun then halve the distance between the hour hand and the 12 and that will be south.

David on 2012-09-04 said:
Depends on when it stops raining
the west lake is very close to my hotel

however a lot of the city is ripped up. Wulin square is GONE completely. It is being rebuilt to be better, but its completely gone to make way for the main metro interchange being built under it

There is no metro here at the moment and the bus system seems chaotic because theres lots of detours, walking may be the best option

mummy on 2012-09-04 said:
This place looks excellent. hOpe you go to Grand Canal, West Lake,BAmboo Sea and wuzhen Ancient Water Town. Don't suppose you will go to the silk or Tea museums though?

Theres a heap more photos and text on page 4. Some of them are panoramas even.


Latest Update

Day 1 - Monday, 27 August 2012
  Time to go
  Getting here
Day 2 - Tuesday, 28 August 2012
  I forgot my passport
  My bag arrived
Day 3 - Wednesday, 29 August 2012
  Wuxi, the dusty city
  More canals, far canals
Day 4 - Thursday, 30 August 2012
  There is no museum
  Bottle opener
Day 5 - Friday, 31 August 2012
  No train pictures
  Bed turn down service
Day 6 - Saturday, 1 September 2012
  Sombre please
  Twice as lost
Day 7 - Sunday, 2 September 2012
  Purple haze
  Sleep now please
Day 8 - Monday, 3 September 2012
  Panda dead, again
  Cool weather is cool
Day 9 - Tuesday, 4 September 2012
  Wet, lost and confused
  Rivers of mud
Day 10 - Wednesday, 5 September 2012
  The lake in the fog
  Best meal ever?
Day 11 - Thursday, 6 September 2012
  The great buddah scam
  Somehow no pollution
Day 12 - Friday, 7 September 2012
  My own personal cave
  Almost missed the best bit
Day 13 - Saturday, 8 September 2012
  Back to the start
  American TV advertisements
Day 14 - Sunday, 9 September 2012
  Mao's plane
  Its raining but thats OK
Day 15 - Monday, 10 September 2012
  Humble administrator
  Bike crash
Day 16 - Tuesday, 11 September 2012
  Expo of urban decay
  Still walking
Day 17 - Wednesday, 12 September 2012
  Countdown to deportation
Day 18 - Thursday, 13 September 2012
  No legroom photos