Nanjing, a former capital of many dynasties, as well as southern capital of a once divided China, lies along the Yangtze River and is one of the more important cities near the coast. The name itself means south capital (as opposed to Beijing meaning north capital) and is a very clean and attractive city. Visible pollution seems limited here, especially compared to cities like Chongqing and Wuhan. Luckily for me, it turned out to be a more or less friendly pedestrian city.
I'm noticing that the closer I get to the east coast the more expensive things are getting. Also, in terms of currency, I'm now getting 1 Yuan coins instead of the note that I'd become accustomed to. More and more people seem to be able to speak at least basic English as well, and while nowhere near convenient levels, at least it's an improvement.
In 1937 Nanjing suffered a brutal occupation at the hands of the Japanese, also known as the rape of Nanjing. Many Chinese attempted to flee the city and were shot. Countless women were raped and killed. Japanese continued to rape, murder, and pillage for about six weeks after the occupation. A few westerners
stayed behind to document these events and help protect some of the Chinese. About three hundred thousand people were said to have died during the massacre. I visited the Nanjing Massacre Museum to learn about this terrible piece of history, and it was quite educational but at the same time reminded me how sick many human beings can be given a situation. I read about many disturbing stories there.
I visited the old Presidential Palace. It served as a palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties and way more recently the Office where Sun Yat-sen was sworn in. The Kuomintang used it as well later on and Chiang Kai-Shek had his office there, before the Nationalist Government fled to Taiwan as the communists captured Nanjing and declared the People's Republic Of China. Some interesting history to be read within as well as some gardens and historic buildings.
One thing I'm increasingly enjoying while in a Chinese city is to purposely walk along and get myself lost, and then attempt to find my way back to whatever hostel I'm staying at. I generally carry a map and of course ask locals where I am from time to time. I've
gotten quite good at using the sun to navigate and if I'm in even a decent sized city, there'll surely be a certain skyscraper to navigate with as well. I find it's the best way to throw oneself into the environment and really get to see things as they are. In Nanjing I walked for many hours until nightfall but did find my way back in the end.
There was a decent night life vibe in Nanjing. On one occasion I noticed a place nearby my hostel called Blue Sky - Westerner Bar. I went in for a drink and sat at the bar next to an American guy working there. Nanjing has a healthy expat community and this was one of the spots many of them seemed to frequent. The place also had really decent pizza, which was half off because it was Monday night. I realized then that I actually never know what day of the week it is while I'm on the road, quite a refreshing thought, as to me it's like a Saturday on any given day. It really makes no difference. Some British guy joined us as well soon after and rounds were soon
bought, followed by more and more rounds. I was happy my hostel was so nearby at the end of the night...
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