Getting to Nanjing is easy by train from Shanghai. We took a train from Shanghai Railway Station at 08:49, arriving in Nanjing around 10:30, but the fastest trains only take about 75 minutes for the non-stop trip. The tickets are about 150RMB one way and can be purchased for cash at the (english-enabled) ticket machines in the train station building. It may be a good idea to buy the tickets ahead of time, since it's a quite busy connection and you might not get the train of your choosing when buying a ticket for the same day.
Getting around in Nanjing is not difficult. There are (so far) 2 metro lines, which we however found to be disturbingly crowded and loud. We also had uncommonly few problems with the taxis, no bothersome inofficial taxis trying to cheat us, and communication with drivers was easily done by pointing on the (chinese !) map. Twice, however, taxi drivers would not take us with them (perhaps we wanted to go in a direction that didn't suit them) but rather pointed us to walk in a direction vaguely toward our destination.
Trying to reach destinations on foot is not always a good idea. Even though the city looks compact on a map, something thought to be 'just around the corner' may in fact turn out to be 25 minutes walk.
Itinerary, Day 1
We jumped off the noisy subway just two stops after the train station and started to make our way east. A few minutes walking and we found ourselves entering the city wall through a huge gate, just next to beautiful Xuanwu Lake. Time to explore the spacious park and to take minute to realize that this is a genuinely quiet place (at least it was for us). The park with its little ponds and pagodas by the lake shore looks like what Westerners always imagine China to look like. There is also a chance to visit the islands in the lake via a number of footbridges.
Going on further east alongbetween the lakeshore and the immense city wall, at some point we reached a stairwell leading directly into the wall, where we paid some 10RMB entrance fee (show student ID or something that looks like one) to get onto the wall proper. Even though it's not the Great Wall, it's still a great wall, some 6m wide and in total about 35km long. The German wikitravel article on Nanjing has a detailed description of all parts of the wall. We had a great view from up there and again it was pretty much deserted.
Along the wall to the south and east we eventually reached Taiping Men gate, from where our hotel was within walking distance. JJ Inn Nanjing Beijing Road, is decent accomodation for a very good price (by Western measure), but it turns out there was a lot of construction noise at 7:00am on a Sunday. The location is quite good for Purple Mountain, not as good for the touristic downtown part of Nanjing.
After a very brief refresher break, we headed towards downtown from the hotel. On foot, which was a waste of time, since the streets are long and boring. Lunch at the pizza hut happened in the typical european-person-in-china deafmute way, but we got food, at least. Going along mostly south and west, we finally made it to Bailuzhou Park. A nice place with a small lake, some islands, bridges, some green and a temple. Again, a place with a comfortably small number of visitors. About 20RMB admission.
The next stop on the tour was Zhonghua Gate, a pretty big fortress-style gate in the very south of the Nanjing city wall. While on most pictures it is shown as a pompous keep, with several structures sitting on top of the walls, heavily fortified, only the walls are actually left. All the buildings on top are gone. Nevertheless it's quite impressive what the Ming emperors built here. There is also an over-stuffed Bonsai garden, some statues and a few exhibition pieces inside the places. Another 30RMB admission.
The last stop for the day was the Confucius Temple, more or less straight to the North from the gate, about 3 blocks to walk. It's in a quite populated and touristy part of town, but nevertheless without any touts and fraudsters preying on your money. Walking around in the semi-dark and dark was quite nice, it's well lit and there are several nice courtyards with statues, a bell, drum, etc etc. Once again, 30 or 35RMB admission.
Some souvenir shopping was also done in the area before going to a crowded but decent restaurant which happily had an English menu and decent food. Nanjing by night is another great sight, without having to pay for it. Check the illuminated barges on the canals and the busy little streets around the area of the Confucius Temple. Taxi ride back to the hotel, 10RMB.
Itinerary, Day 2
Ein neuer Tag, ein neues Glück.
Being woken up by construction noise in the morning was not nice, but at least it got us going. First some chinese-style breakfast with dumplings and such and then we made our trek north-east wtowards Purple Mountain. It wasn't hard to find. There is a slightly slow chairlift that goes up about 400m to the summit of purple mountain in about 30 minutes, costing 35RMB one way, 60 return. The view is quite good, though, although it was a bit hazy when we were going up. Otherwise there is little else to see on top of the mountain, other than scores of Chinese having picnics and a decent view into the valley below. The lush green is very enjoyable, when you are used to Shanghai concrete being all you see. The walk down takes roughly an hour and takes you back to the starting point of the chairlift.
A taxi then took us to Zhongshan/Sun Yat-Sen Memorial (quite a drive, don't attempt to walk, don't bother finding a bus). The memorial itself is a huge structure of terrasses and arches going up the mountain, with Sun Yat-Sen's tomb at the very top. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the Mausoleum, but it's a quite solemn and tasteful place. The whole memorial is, in fact. And behind the mausoleum there's a whole exhibition on how the place was designed and built. Seeing all the people visiting the site one realizes that this was and still is a highly revered man, although his ideology is slightly at odds with the current political situation. In fact on the ceiling inside the Mausoleum there is a huge Republic of China (Taiwan?) flag. Hmmm. Admission is 80RMB, 40 for students or those claiming to be. The ticket also covers the adjacent Linggu scenic area.
We took the funny little shuttle/fake train to the next sight in the area, Linggu scenic area. That's another fairly big, wooded green area with some nice sights, including the Linggu pagoda (nice view) and the Linggu temple (seemingly a temple like many others, but there's an additional entrance fee which we didn't feel like paying. Some ice cream and tasty meat kebabs made for a decent lunch.
Unfortunately there was not enough time to visit the last big site around, the Ming tombs, to which there is also a shuttle (although the price of that is seemingly not included in the ticket you bought previously. Play dumb, you might get away with not paying). The Ming tombs will set you back another 70RMB in admission, if you decide to visit them. Might be nice, though.
Back to the train station by taxi (20-25RMB) and off, back to the crowds and noise of Shanghai. Fantastic weekend!!
Last update 01-Dec-2016.
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