In the oncoming posts about my six days in China, you will find a persistent internal conflict between people and land. I spent my time loving the places I went and saw, but hating those who surrounded me. I found myself becoming smaller in the vastness that was China. It wasn’t like I wanted to retreat to the place that I came from, but I wanted so badly to find a place where people and land met on equal terms. Unfortunately, I did not find that place till my last day in China. And by that time, I recognize that my biases had been pretty much set.
What I Saw in China
My second day in Shanghai, I really began to experience some of the habits that I would experience throughout the rest of the week. My ceremonious first encounters happened in Shanghai Disney. The one place in the world that’s supposed to be all magical and happy. It didn’t take long for all the magic to basically be drained from the very depths of me and absorbed in to the asphalt. When I told you about the lady who pressed herself so close up against me, I felt she was a part of me, it happened here in Disney.
Every line had an estimated wait time of 210 minutes or more. This wait time was probably further extended by the amount of people who would cut you mid-line. While I was waiting in line to get on the Tron ride, the line was narrow enough that I was able to cut of cutters. I stood side-by-side with my friend and blocked the flow of people who would have otherwise slipped through this space.
After a while I hear a man and a woman yelling angrily in Chinese. The man is frustrated by the fact that she’s not moving up in line, she yells back at him that it’s not her fault, it’s mine. My friend who is from Hong Kong translates this argument for me and every few minutes the man continues to yell out in what I guess was frustration. I never moved and he eventually gave up.
The next morning, we left Shanghai for Nanjing. Our train was booked for 10:45, but to put it in simple terms, we missed it. Luckily, it’s very easy to just exchange your tickets for new ones in China, and our second tickets were cheaper. Of course, the cost of cheaper tickets came with a price. We had to wait around for two hours in the station for our next train to arrive.
As expected, we got to Nanjing much later than planned. Additionally, we only had that day to explore. With no clear plans on where to go, we hung around the hostel looking for things to do. After awhile I put together a list of places and forced everyone out the door. By the time we finally got going, the sun set was a mere few hours away.
The first place we visited was the Sun Yat Sen mausoleum. When we got there, we noticed loads of people heading in our direction and no one heading towards the mausoleum. We had a hunch the place was closed, but I refused to confirm it. We had taken so much time to get out the door and eventually see something, I wasn’t leaving till I actually saw something. One of my friends eventually asked somebody and they confirmed for us that the mausoleum would be closing in the next 20 minutes. We still had some ways to go before we made it to the memorial and my friends suggested turning around, I said no.
Of course we didn’t make it, but we ended up taking a nice walk in the park.
The next place we went to was Confucius Temple. This was a bustling area that had many vendors and food stalls. Like Yuyuan gardens, the place was dawned in decorations that welcomed in the year of the rooster. I actually did most of my souvenir shopping here. There were a lot of items which were repeats from Yuyuan gardens, but at a much cheaper price. I bought gifts for family and friends, and even bought myself a scroll. Confucius Temple, like the gardens, was packed with people. The difference was, the narrow alleys would open up in to wide squares that allowed for people to find their space.
Surprisingly, I did not have a memorable meal here in the temple. That is not because there was nothing good, but because I felt kind of intimidated ordering from the many high energy stalls. There were so many options and my
mind was racing. Having too many choices always leads to no choice at all. I did manage to buy these sweet little dumplings because my friend had stopped to buy like a tea dumpling. So using this opportunity, I bought something as well.
When it came time to have an actual meal, we left the central area of Confucius Temple. This was quite a funny experience because it took forever to order. The whole menu was in Chinese and we had to keep asking our friend what was what. He often had a hard time explaining in English what each dish was, so he often just said “it’s like rice with chicken”. I ended up ordering the other chicken with rice.
And That Was it
We only had one day in Suzhou too, so I wanted to make sure that we made the most of our time. So, the next morning, after checking out, we made a plan of action. I wish I could say that this preparation made all the world of difference, but it didn’t. Still, as you will eventually read, I felt like I actually spent a day there rather than a night.
Also just so you know, Nanjing is famous for its lakes. There was no way we were going to leave without seeing some part of the lake. Luckily you could access the water through the train station, so we made a quick pit stop before boarding .