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Published: November 25th 2009
Friday morning I’m buzzing with excitement and anticipation. I wake up before my alarm goes off and I’m off finishing my last-minute things. I’m waiting at the local bus stop before 7am. At 7:15 a whole bunch of people arrive and at 7:20, the city bus arrives to take us to the bus station. I get off the bus and find my gate/terminal in the station. The bus leaves at 8:00, and by 7:45, there’s no line, no sign at the desk for the bus, nothing. I go to use the bathroom because there’s no stop for 3 hours. I get out at 7:55, and I vaguely see the sign at the desk terminal switch from Nanjing to something else. I see a huge line, but I have this nagging feeling that this certain bus (unmarked) is the one leaving for Nanjing.
I go up to the desk to inquire. As soon as I reach the desk, the bus begins to back out. I run through the door, very un-American, and show the driver my ticket. He takes my ticket through the driver’s window, opens the main door, I take my seat, and he takes my ticket inside for what I guess is to check me in. The driver comes back, gives me my ticket, and without a word, we are on the road to Nanjing.
Nanjing is huge. The bus stops in some back-alley of Nanjing and I can’t find any decent businesses, let alone the ticket office, just peasants trying to sell tourist maps and taxi drivers trying to swindle people out of money. I pay twice the price to get a taxi, which was 2/3 of the original asking price, to take me to Zhonghuan, or the scenic Purple mountain. I feel duped, but try to shake it off as the driver winds around the mountain roads to get to Linggu Temple.
I purchase a ticket and haul my backpack, carrying my belongings, up and around this mountain to Linggu Temple, Linggu Pagoda, the Open Concert Hall, and, eventually, the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Exhausted and worn-out, I take a break and listen to the beautiful concerto of the orchestra in the concert hall. This gives me enough energy to take on the Mausoleum.
On the way to the Mausoleum, I met a nice lady named Tao Yu (or Kelly), she’s not yet 30 and with her husband who speaks very little English. She wants to improve her English but has no wish to leave China. Her husband is a doctor and he seems very nice.
After the Mausoleum, I take a taxi to the other side of town (the actual taxi price) and walk up the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. The walking on Friday made me feel like a marathon walker, but as exhausted as I was, I had heard of the wonders of the Confucius Temple. By wonders, I mean, shopping extravaganza!
I got to Confucius Temple and was awed by all of the high end shops, with fun haggling-shops in all of the crevasses and alleys between the shops. I found a few things and then, finally worn out, I went to the hotel. At the hotel, the clerk asked me for my credit card. Thinking to myself how smart it was last minute it was to bring a card, I showed her. But she took it, and this worried me, because she had given me a receipt that “authorized 1000 yuan”! I booked the hotel for about half that price! The language barrier was too much after the long day, so I called Lulu and she explained that it was like a deposit. I would be charged only that amount if something was damaged. So, I conceded and went up to my room on the 8th floor (very lucky number in China).
I put my backpack down and open the bathroom door, and low and behold there’s a bathtub!!! I'm flooded with happiness and unwind after all of that walking with an extremely relaxing and refreshing bath. I ended up taking one each day after that.
The next morning I begin my travels at Chaotian Palace, which has a museum and some nice architecture. When I leave, I see all of these low-end vendors selling “antique rubbish.” I go through a give it a look, but nothing that I consider a reasonable price and/or lightweight (because I would have to haul whatever I purchase at a minimum to Kunshan), so I left. Next I went to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum. It was pretty intense, like Chicago’s Vietnam Veteran’s Art Museum. Very horrific images and stories, that after awhile, made me sick. After that I went to the Ming Tombs and had a very nice chat with the Taxi driver along the way. While at the Ming Tombs, I get a call from Tao Yu (Kelly). She is inviting me over to her home for dinner!
She tells me she has a driver’s license, so we arrange to meet at the gate at 2:30. Well, I’m done early, and I wait. 2:30, no Kelly and so I call her and ask to be given time to freshen up. Traffic is bad so she thinks that’s fine, and I go to change and freshen up. Soon I get a call to the room. She’s downstairs. Thinking she was going to call my phone, I rush downstairs and we hail a taxi. Now I’m beginning to feel bad because I thought she had a car. No car. I didn’t press the issue. We take the subway outside town, wait for a bus, but she is disgusted by how overly crowded the buses are, so we take a cab. We get to an underpass and get out, walk a couple blocks and get to an apartment building.
Up three flights of stairs we arrive at her home. She opens the door and I’m filled with surprise. I feel a greater appreciation for my apartment. She shows me a slideshow of different places in Nanjing. She’s so sweet and kind and I find it very easy to be friends with her. Her husband comes home and nods to me before going into the kitchen and making dinner. He’s in there for over an hour and she won’t let me near the kitchen to help. Instead, she gets out her wedding album and a DVD of their wedding. The book is really nice, like a cardboard children’s book with pictures of them in different outfits. The wedding DVD lasts about 40 minutes of the 1.5 hour disc, and then restarts itself. As it restarts, a Mr. Shu comes in and Tao Yu translates some of his questions for me.
Tao Yu, her husband, and I have dinner while Mr. and Mrs. Shu stand around making conversation. The meal is pretty good compared to many I’ve had in China. After dinner, Mr. Shu plays some sort of traditional Chinese instrument, I sing for them a little. Mr. and Mrs. Shu head home and I agree that it’s getting late. Tao Yu is disappointed! She expected me to stay the night. I tell her I’ve already paid for the room. After much persuasion, they agree, but want to give me something to take with. Again, I persuade them that I cannot take anything back to Kunshan with me, my luggage is full! So, solemnly, Tao Yu agrees and the two of them walk me to get a taxi at night. They talk with the driver and then wave me goodbye. Later Tao Yu calls to make sure I’ve made it back alright. I’m very lucky to have met them!
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