Nanjing was an ancient capital of China and was the first capital of the Republic of China and as such, is worth visiting. It’s a 75-minute bullet train from Shanghai which is quite pleasant and makes it an easy weekend getaway.
Fun fact: Nanjing is the safest city in China!
Nanjing is fairly easy to get around using the metro system that consists of just 6 lines. The people working at the metro also spoke more English than those in Shanghai and more helpful. I even managed to take the bus in China for the first time (where all signs are in Mandarin)! As a smaller city it has a more friendly and greener vibe (as you have already noticed by my posts in China, nature/fresh air is a rare commodity here). We stayed at a hostel in the historic part of town and it was my first time staying at a hostel in China. You can’t expect western standards anywhere in China, you basically take what you get and be content. Beds are hard, bathrooms are dirty, you are lucky if someone is willing to help you, and the smiles aren’t free!
The Confucius Temple is one of the main attractions and is a great way to get acquainted with Confucius and his teachings. The other main attraction is the garden which we stumbled upon mistaking it for the temple – both are most stunning at night with lights and the ambience being just right. Plus it is less crowded at night. Walking around the historic district is an attraction itself at night with the many bridges, boats and lights, making one feel like you are in another time of Chinese history. This makes Nanjing a great place to experience Chinese culture, especially if you are into eating duck, which is skinned and hung at numerous shops. There is also loads of shopping to do and places to eat.
The main detail that drew me to this city was the Nanjing Massacre that took place during the Second-Sino Japanese War. What took place was a horrendous genocide that killed over 300,000 Chinese people. It is an incident that has been denied by Japan until recently and one that really sombers you. Visiting the memorial museum in Nanjing left me speechless with the same emotion I felt while in Hiroshima. The entrance to memorial is free but the line is long! The entrance has a line of statues that almost like people frozen in time during the massacre with heart wrenching quotes beneath them. Reading them alone sets you up for what’s to come once inside.
As a traveller and world citizen, I can’t imagine why people want to hurt one another this badly. The scars still stand after numerous years – it is perhaps why China and Japan still have a rocky relationship.
The second day was spent exploring Purple Mountain on the outskirts of the city. It’s easy to get to but does require some walking and a bus ride. Once there we opted for the cable car ride up the mountain, rather than hiking it. The cable car ride was scenic and felt a bit unsafe. At the top you get great views of the city IF it’s not a smoggy day. We weren’t so lucky. We got some meat on a stick and hung out pretending like we hiked to the top.
Nanjing is great city and a recommended place if you want to know China a bit more. It’s a historical place with lots more to do (I didn’t do all of the touristy things) and a good way of exploring the second biggest city in Eastern China.