09 July 2010

Nanjing: The Southern Capital

The 14 hour journey got us in a 04:00, and a quick cab ride later, we were waking up the staff of the hostel by 04:30.  Initially the receptionist was quite cold (can't think why) and insisted she couldn’t do anything for us, and to come back later, but soon lightened up (not sure why), and let us leave our bags there.

Initially the journey was fine, there were a few empty seats near us, and I wandered up he train and found an near-empty carriage, and had an hours kip.  But by late evening, it was packed to the rafters, with people standing and sitting all along the aisles, some in phenomenally uncomfortable position.  The Chinese have a great dexterity for sitting in weird ways.

We got out sightseeing again soon after getting to the hostel, getting going early again, and got to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial, a guy who has proved to be enduringly popular due to his revolutionary ideals in the first couple of decades of the 20th century (among both ‘the party’, despite not being a red, and the lads who run Taiwan).  Nice park, and would have had some great views of the city again, if it wasn’t for all the haze.

I guess I shouldn’t bitch about it too much, and really we in the western world should be apologising to the average person in the Chinese world for affecting their health.  A significant proportion of the pollution create here is to service the consumerist demands of North America and Europe (we’ve simply shipped a load of our dirty industrial production, amongst other things, overseas, which means we get clear skies, bar clouds, in London, unlike in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).  There is a possibility that if a chuck of that was taken out of the equation here, everyone might actually be able to see more than a couple of hundred metres into the distance more often.

I had the best dumplings in my life in Nanjing.  Absolutely amazing.  If you ever go there, here is the google maps link to it (with a few instructions on how to find it).  Unlike Russia, China is well mapped.

I’ve also started to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.  It was only a matter of time, and I’m an easy target.  There is nothing worse than knowing there is one somewhere in the room with you when you are trying to get to sleep.  I end up being like a paranoid sleep-deprived soldier on sentry, thinking the enemy is everywhere.  It's not so bad if it is only me and Audrey in the room, I can switch on the light and try and swat the bastards (and I've done a few in my time, seeing their/my blood splatted on the walls).  But when sharing a dorm room in a hostel, it's not possible.  So I got up and watched the Brazil v Ivory Coast game (the late kick-offs are at 2:30am).

On the long overnight train trip, one thing that I’ve been surprised at is how dark it is along the east coast of China.  The place is phenomenally well populated, with our train passing through cities of a million or more quite frequently.  Yet some places you barely notice arriving or leaving them.  I think it’s pretty good in a way, but some of it is probably simply due to things being switched off in case of power shortages, rather than impressive efficiency regimes.  Which is no bad thing.  We still waste too much energy in the west lighting things that don’t need it.

We left after a couple of days; it was only a three hour trip to Shanghai.