From Nanjing With Love

lolAnother successfully completed CSA trip means its time for another blog by yours truly.

 The weekend of the 23rd / 24th of May saw myself and eleven other able bodied 留学生 (international students) nip down to the literal opposite of Beijing (Northern Capital) known to the rest of us by the name Nanjing (Southern Capital).

Having visited during the summer of 2014, I was determined to get a CSA trip to this wonderful and completely underrated city often overlooked by its more popular neighbours in the form of Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou.


Our trip began with a slight hitch at Wu Dao Kou Subway Station as we battled to group everyone together amongst the rush hour crowds of the Beijing Subway. An hour later though, much to my relief, we all found ourselves outside Beijing Station ready to swap the hustle and bustle of Beijing for the clean air and tranquility of its southern counterpart.

The journey down South could be described as a very pleasant one; it’s not often that many of our students get to use their Chinese in a sustained one on one conversation. So ten hours sitting face to face with complete strangers using a variety of different dialects was a dramatic yet rewarding change from the traditional learning styles most CSA students are used to. If I had to sum up the journey in short three phrases I would probably choose ‘excessive air conditioning, tormenting little kids and eating a lot of chicken’. The latter being down to one member of group buying the McDonalds equivalent of a bargain bucket before getting on the train meaning most of our video footage simply shows us munching our way through a drumstick or too.
Upon arrival in an unusually polluted Nanjing (made worse by the humidity), it was a quick stop at the hostel before diving headlong into rich history the former capital has to offer. Sadly, not all history is documented for positive reasons, Nanjing currently bears a historical scar which still affects it today in the form of the Nanjing Massacre. The local government have built an educational although somewhat chilling memorial museum to the victims. I tried to offer an all round impartial view to our travelling students about what exactly happened during that fateful winter of 1937/8 and what lessons can be learnt from it today, but I must confess, it was hard not to feel a certain sense of injustice which burdens the people of Nanjing to this very day.
The afternoon was filled with happier thoughts and activities as I escorted everyone to the bizarrely named ‘Rooster Crowing Temple’ (鸡鸣寺) just south of the Xuan Wu Lake (玄武湖).
It was here that we spent a while lighting incense, praying, contemplating about worldly affairs and trying to throw a coin into a cage so we could be blessed with a wish of good fortune (I was the only one who did it). After a while we headed North to the ever prominent Xuan Wu Lake where after some complaining walking, we hired some boats which resulted in the aquatic version of dodgems.
As Saturday drew to a gradual close, most of the group tucked into a well-earned and surprisingly cheap meal courtesy of a local Jiangsu restaurant costing just ¥206 for 8 people.
After a nice lazy start on Sunday, we concluded our trip by riding a kids road train hiking up to the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum located at Zhong Shan Ling (中山陵). It’s a touch trek as the memorial sits up about twenty trillion flights of steps, but well worth the view I can assure you.
From there I guided our travel weary students to what would be our final stop before part of the group broke off in order to continue their travels to Shanghai. After initially being deterred by an extortionate ¥70 entrance free to Zhong Shan Ling’s sister attraction known locally as 明李陵 (míng lǐ líng), we managed to get discounted entry with the use of our student cards getting the final price down to an acceptable ¥35 per ticket.
Unknown to most tourists, Ming Li Ling features a beautiful and relatively undisturbed lake known as 紫霞湖 (Purple-Glow Lake) which is fantastic to swim in.
With some of the group being initially reluctant to get in the lake, one by one, each member of the tour group was forced persuaded to take a refreshing dip, including fellow CSA staff member Lilian who was so enthusiastic about getting in the lake, she got in fully clothed, completely unaided by the rest of the group.
Like all good things though, our trip did have to come to an end. After wishing three of our lucky travellers well on their journey to Shanghai, the remaining group of nine plodded back to the hostel to collect our things, grab some food and a last minute beer before boarding the train back to Beijing.
By Monday morning, I found myself back in the CSA office in Beijing suffering from a full-blown case of ‘post holiday depression’.
If I were a doctor, I would prescribe nothing short of good hug and another CSA trip, which luckily for me, we have one coming up in next to no time at all. I still need a hug though…
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Written By Andrew Cole - CSA Intern Spring 2015
Andrew enjoys regular trips around China and prides himself as an amatuer tourguide, even if he does say 'there you are' after almost every sentance.


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