(From our trip in April 2018)
I had told my friend and amazing host, KY that all we wanted out of our few days with her family in Nanjing was to see a fresh food market, maybe a couple of old things, husband always enjoys a visit to a big local supermarket but mostly we wanted to experience what their everyday life is like here, a few relaxing days of catching up over food and bevvies with their family and we would be happy Kelly’s indeed.
Ummmmm, she had other plans…..
What I didn’t realise is that KY had taken my obsession with good tour guides very seriously so she basically did a quick PHD in travel guide-dom, downed some super steroids of GO GO GO, added in some crazy sights, smells and sounds, all with a touch of strobe lighting/feeling famous moments/crazy funny things/ridiculous stair climbing moments and she essentially planned the shiznit out of our Nanjing days leaving us with the most diverse and amazing adventure. Her travel style is slightly different to ours:-
KY – she’s a dawn til midnight don’t stop for a rest commando crawling under a barbwire fence through mud and gunfire kinda gal.
The Kelly’s….well we are a little more up earlish, see some stuff at a relaxed pace, wrap that up around 2pm, nanny naps in the arvo like the oldies we are, early dins and drinks and maybe, just maybe wander out to see something else after dinner.
So of course there is no doubt Krazy KY threw our travel style not only out the window, but she made sure to do it from 35 floors up into shark infested waters below hahahaha. Man did she work us hard ~to the point of exhaustion really~ but I can honestly say, I’m so so so glad she did because we got to see things in Nanjing with her and her husband that there is absolutely no way we could’ve even begun to do on our own. Probably my most favourite thing of the whole trip happened because of her tireless planning (you’ll have to wait a few days for that story) so I truly and utterly need to thank my beautiful friend for her incredible efforts. I know what goes into planning a trip, it’s blood, sweat and many tears and she made my trip planning look basic in comparison.
The whole time in Nanjing was wonderful……big loves KY!!!!
Now onwards we go with Day 2……
After a brilliant nights sleep we were excited to start off our China adventure. KY & MY’s housekeeper Xiao Gao was coming bright and early to give us a cooking lesson in the art of making Jiaozi which are essentially perfect little dumplings of HELL YES!!!!. It was wonderful watching her make up the mixture which KY had originally wanted us to do but Xiao Gao took one look at us useless westerners and gave that up as a bad joke.
We did get to watch her do it though hahaha, and then we were able to have a try at putting the dumplings together. She made it look so easy and we couldn’t wait to give it a try.
She even showed us different ways to fold the wrappers if you wanted to get all fancy and stuff….real hints of Italian and Indian styles in my mind
This was going to be so much fun so of course The Kelly’s had to turn it into a competitive thing – we can make an Olympic sport out of anything my friends and dumpling making was never gonna be different. I’m an avid cook and creative type so I thought I would be pro level at this, think gold medalist..….I’d like to say I nailed it but alas not so much. Husband however was a bit of a natural which weirded me out because I obviously think he’s pretty hopeless at stuff but apparently finally after all of these years there is something he is good at ~lordy please don’t tell the man that, I’ve spent years beating down his confidence, can’t have him thinking he is good at something~.
Look at that smug face……grrrr
This was a great experience and I
know hope Xiao Gao enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed her. Here are the finished products….We ended up being shooed out of the kitchen so Xiao Gao could get on with making the dumplings properly. I think she found us frustrating – like a parent when a child offers to help cook dinner I suppose.
From there we headed to a little fresh food market or as they are often called a ‘wet market’. This was the sort of thing husband and I love to see and we were not disappointed. From the moment we walked in we were in visual heaven. Everything looked so fresh and I’ve gotta say I’m a big fan of the symmetry with how the veggies were displayed – works very well for my OCD mind. The colours of everything are all so vibrant and my mouth was watering.
All was good that is until we got to “Meat Man” with his ciggie hanging out of his mouth, ash dropping all over the place whilst wielding his knife and chopping up big hunks of meat and old mate couldn’t of given a flying fruit tingle. This is his meat world and we are just living in it (and just like that I decided to be veggo for the trip).
If I’m honest it wasn’t just the meat maniac that convinced me that meat may not be for me so much in China. It was the the lack of refrigeration in the markets and just the way some things were displayed eg. These chickens and the fish. Call me a baby but I kind of don’t like my meat to resemble the animal too much because….gag!!!!
Look at this diva of a dog. She was so cute sitting up there in her little bed and I was talking to her and trying to make friends but that ‘bitch’ kept barking at me. She didn’t bark at KY or husbo, just me. Do you think I had a look of hunger in my eye that was making her have a nervy B? She wounded me with her barking insults. I wanted a furry friend not furry food.
This market is where KY gets most of her veggies and it was easy to see why. I did have some issues that there were no prices on anything. When I go to a market in Oz and there aren’t prices on things I just assume I can’t afford whatever the item is so I never buy anything. This market would cause me anxiety hahaha. But I’m assured everything is so very very cheap indeed.
This was also where I had my first taste of “Chinese people can and will sleep anywhere”. It was to be a constant theme throughout the trip and sometimes I was stunned – the locals sure can sleep and in the most bizarre places. Just look at this guy catching some zzzzzz’s ::he sure didn’t get the ‘how to peddle your wares’ memo::
All of the stall holders were extremely friendly to us and with KY having some pretty damn fine chinese language skills, I really enjoyed these initial interactions and can’t wait to meet more people throughout this trip.
Sidenote – I’m very glad that I spent some time learning some basic words and phrases before the trip because I honestly believe it makes for a more enjoyable experience. I always try to do this before any trip and I really felt for China it was a must have. Don’t laugh but I always have little ‘cue cards’ that I print up and have laminated so that I can practice prior to a trip and I keep them in my purse and try to run through them before leaving each morning for the days adventures. Watching how much the locals enjoyed KY communicating with them in Chinese and how they absolutely responded with joy and excitement convinced me that this is always a good idea. Plus now that I have completed my trip I can say without hesitation that it is essential to have some basics. And spending the days with KY helped me learn some more ‘boots on the ground’ words and phrases that helped me throughout the trip. I will do a separate blog post on this subject at a later date but if you are thinking of going on a trip to China (or anywhere for that matter) learn some words and phrases – it’s not hard, it’s a lot of fun and will be very well received ….(except for in France because they do not want you butchering their language ~I found this out the hard way~ hahaha)
After our awesome experience at the food market it was off to see our first `of many` temples. We caught the metro to Jiming Temple that has a stunning 7 story Pagoda that overlooks Xuanwu Lake. There were quite a few steps to navigate to get to the “good bits” and it was now that I was cursing the crap out of my lack of fitness. Why did I not whip out the old Richard Simmons videos a few months before the trip, get my lycra and leg warmers out of the attic and get my aerobics action on. Why oh why indeed….
Jiming Temple is run by female monks and we were lucky enough to see them doing some chanting whilst we were there which was very unique.
They have a vegetarian restaurant there as well and all of the produce is grown on the grounds of the temple. You are given some incense as you enter and once you reach the entrance to the pagoda there is a room where you can light it and then you place it in this big sand urn thingy (yes that is it’s official name) and say a prayer for loved ones.
The views across Nanjing from here are stunning so it was almost worth the climb. There was lots more this place had to offer than what I’ve mentioned but I’m torn between pretending I remember it all and faking the info or admitting I’m hopeless so I’ll just leaving this link right here so you can read more about this very impressive temple:- Jiming Temple
We decided to have lunch here because apparently the food is quite good and fairly cheap and since it was vegetarian I was pretty happy because did I mention I’m forming a distinct ‘anti meat moment’ for this trip lol. Of course the menu comes out and there is zero English on it. We pointed at some piccies and hoped for the best. Didn’t stuff up too badly in the blind ordering stakes, got some noodles of some kind and some veggies of some kind and it filled the hole. Nothing to write home about though for our first menu adventure.
Chopsticks – this is a Public Service Announcement.
When visiting Asian countries it is imperative that you know how to use chopsticks. Husband can use them and I cannot. So because he had forbidden me from carrying around a bag of plastic forks for the trip (#spoilerofallfun), I jumped onto the YOUTUBE and I watched videos on how to hold chopsticks like a boss. You may be sitting there laughing and peeing a little in your pants but the jokes on you cause nothing gets in the way of me and my stomach getting filled so I was onto it. Husband joked many times throughout the trip – “thank goodness you learned how to use chopsticks”. He was so right, it’s a must have skill so get onto it bitches – it’s not that hard. Not gonna lie though, I did have days where my fat fingers just wouldn’t work right and at times I considered just face planting into the dish and letting go of all dignity ~shut up, I know I’m using that word loosely~ and especially struggled with noodles for some reason but whilst my style was lacking some finesse, I struggled through and didn’t
Okay ladies, it’s time. I’ve gone until after lunch without hitting up a loo but all good things must come to an end so lean in close (men folk, please walk away now) because we are about to hit:-
Part One in the Saga of Lisa and Squat Toilets….a cautionary tale!
I had managed to make it all day but now my weakass bladder and I had to give up the toiley ghost and get to it. I had my fingers and toes crossed that since this Temple was a very popular tourist destination in Nanjing, that the tourism gods were going to shine down on me. But alas it was not to be and in fact KY did a combo GASP/GIGGLE when we walked in once she discovered these weren’t your typical squat toilets. Oh no my friends, my first China public toilet experience was to be the worst kind. It was a trough toilet. Now I had no idea that you could even get such a thing for us vagina folk but of course woot woot lucky me.
At this point I acknowledged that the universe hates me and I’ve entered the 7th circle of hell and may never get out. KY gives me a rundown on how to position myself as I stood there bewildered as heck trying not to cry. So I put my game face on, grab my pack of princess tissues for moral and wiping support and head into the abyss. I place my feet on either side of the trough, pull pants down to what I think is a reasonable spot to avoid disaster and as my thighs start to quiver I proceed to squat. At this stage I’m not sure if I’ve squatted enough or too much and whether my pants are out of peeshot but I’m positioned somewhat and GUESS.WHAT.FRIGGIN.HAPPENS. Little Betty Bladder gets herself some stage fright – maybe she’s scared of missing and creating a piddle puddle, of peeing on the clothing or just that I may have her surgically removed and a bag attached to my hip for the remainder of the trip. Whatever her thought process, Betty Bladder was not having a bar of it. She was in a pee-crisis. So rather than have KY waiting outside for who knows how long I yelled out….”move along, nothing to see here, I’ll be out eventually”. So I settle in for the urine vigil and then something happens that I’m still not sure I can talk about without medication. One little teeny tiny detail (of serious importance) that KY did forget to mention to moi is that with the trough toilet scenario, it has a general flush system that starts up one end of the trough at the head of the line and it gushes water down the whole trough-age-way through to the end of the line to wash EVERYONES ‘activities’ away. So imagine if you will…….here I am, in pure squat terror trying to whisper sweet nothings to Betty B and there is this loud whooshing sound and I look down and underneath me gushes everyones brown’s and yellows. Let me just tell you there had been a shit load of ‘pushing brown’ activity in the other stalls. It was a crime to my senses and let it be known that KY had a big tit punch coming for leaving this little detail out.
Anyway I don’t know whether it was the shock of my eyeball senses being scorched or just BB couldn’t hold out anymore but I managed to drain my main vein and if I may say so myself – successfully completed the task. By ‘successfully’ I mean without peeing on myself of course so probs don’t be too impressed. Upon exiting the toilet I was surprised to see KY standing there filming my reaction. Because of course she was……
We will never speak of this episode again my loves okay.
All dramaticals aside, having my girlfriend there for this first toilet experience and the many others over the 4 days we were together made it less “what fresh hell is this” and more “OMG, this is disgusting and hilarious all at the same time” and once husband and I ventured off on our own it just wasn’t as much fun and I just got on with it and dropped the drama. But it was fun while it lasted and this first experience was definitely a pee-tism by fire!!!
P.S. Please don’t let my peeing antics deter you from visiting China or any country with squat toilets for that matter. I quickly mastered it and wouldn’t hesitate to use them anytime.
Back to the story….
On the other side of the temple is the Nanjing City Wall. It took 21 years to build and I think was completed in the late 1300’s. Considering the old girls age she was looking pretty spectacular and it’s incredible how well she has been preserved. I’m sure they’ve had to give her a bit of a nip and tuck from time to time but definitely looking the actual wall goods.
Fun Fact – apparently the mortar holding all of the bricks together is made from limestone and sticky rice (yep, you read that rice). I wasn’t convinced when told this at first but it would seem after further investigative research this is in fact true. I believe the Great Wall and many other structures use this same consistency too.
The views from the wall to the city were gorgeous as well as down to Xuanwu Lake below. We were thrilled to see a few bridal couples on the wall having professional photos taken. Apparently this is a common thing here and with the gorgeous texture of the wall and the skyline I don’t blame them – it’s a fabulous location for pics. Nanjing is one of the few cities to still have an old city wall and this wall in particular is one of the best kept. I loved the canons on the wall as well, so much intricate iron work on them – very impressive indeed.
My absolute favourite part about the wall was the bricks and the story behind them. Each brick was handmade and stamped with their makers details, eg. Name, phone number, Facebook profile etc. of the time. The story goes that if several bricks from any particular person later proved to not be good quality, the maker could then be tracked down and killed. Talk about a good way to manage quality control. I mean, modern day manufacturers take note…..did ya’ll hear that!!! Off with their heads! I took lots of photos of the different bricks – I was fascinated with them to be honest.
Husband and I enjoyed the feel and views from the wall so much. Another big tick for the day’s sightseeing.
We then walked down to the bottom of the wall and along Xuanwu lake. The outlook around the lake is so tranquil and pretty. As you get further around it merges into a park that is filled with local people enjoying the afternoon, dancing, singing, playing cards and checkers and walking their animals. Talk about people watching heaven!!! There were so many different groups of dancing ladies I wondered if there was ever any bitchery that went on if someone steals your “park dirty dancing spot”. This lady below – man she meant business. She was bossing the others around and throwing serious side eye if they didn’t follow her every word hahahaha….These ladies however were much friendlier and just having an absolute blast dancing and they even encouraged KY to get in on the action. At this point husband walked away shaking his head, trying to distance himself from us.
I was completely fascinated with how many people were there playing cards as well as checkers. They bring their own setups – boards, chairs, everything and if my people watching skills served me correctly this is SERIOUS.STUFF!!! The intense expressions, the lack of laughter and I believe I may have seen some money change hands at times. I was mesmersized.
I think there may have been quite a bit of dough riding on the below game
Now when I mentioned walking animals before I bet you thought people walking their dogs – well there were some of those but apparently another fave pet walking situation is the walking of the pet bird. Yep, this is not a typo. I was informed that gents could often be found in the parks walking their beloved Tweetie bird. I was like “yeah sure, hon, you better get off the hard liquor a.sap” but then we stumbled across this dude and well it was astonishing to say the least. He was happy to stop for photos and I was happy to capture him….. ~ hey mate, your crazy is showing, better tuck that shit back in ~
And last but not least we were serenaded by a lovely man – here he is surrounded by his fellow aspiring karaoke sidekicks. We saw what I believe is called “K-TV” in every park we ventured into throughout our whole trip but this was the only time I got a personal performance. Oh bless!
Obviously we stood out like sore thumbs as we were wandering around being the only westerners it seemed visiting the park that day. I found that often the grandparents were caretaking the grandchildren and were encouraged to interact with us. They were especially keen once we used Chinese greetings and shared big smiles. This grandpa was all for us playing with his grandson but little man was having none of it hahahaha. His cute face though, just perfect….
We saw a few more areas of the park, a little more people watching and another example of “can sleep anywhere”
AND FINALLY……we headed home to cook up the dumplings we had made that morning for our dinner. They were absolutely delicious so thank goodness my bad dumpling making skills did not affect the flavour results. We gobbled them down and afterwards we went for a huge walk around the streets nearby to their home and ended up at a rooftop bar (because of course we did) for a couple of sneaky night caps.
Finally we headed home and after such a massive day husband and I crawled into bed exhausted. Honestly we saw so many amazing highlights in this first day that we would’ve been content if that was all we got to see. It was just the most incredible first day introduction to this amazing country. As you no doubt can guess, KY had another day of extreme travel sports planned for the next few days so stay tuned…..xx Lisa