Thursday, June 14, 2012

Of the scenic lands around Nanjing;

Xuanwu Lake and the Purple Mountains. The large domed building is an arena called the sun palace. I hiked to the furthest peak which is about 1400ft above the city of Nanjing.
My day in Nanjing started out awful. On my walk through the sprawling downtown core of Nanjing to find the train ticket office, I don't think I could have felt anymore lost or miserable. To begin with, the City of Nanjing is not English friendly like some of the larger cities in China are. There are little to none English signs and most other signs are only written only with Chinese characters. I could just barely find my way around town by comparing the tiny characters on my map with those written on the signs. To make things worse, the streets in Nanjing are horrible. The large tree-lined avenues are nice sight, but in the spring time they leave the streets below caked with thick pollen while the air turns into potent mixture of pollen, smog, and the ghastly smells of a crowded city.  You don't even feel safe walking on the sidewalk because it is shared with masses of bikes and motor scooters which whiz past you beeping their annoying little horns.

One of the quieter streets in Nanjing. This is the usual setup of a Chinese street. You have the roadway for cars separated from the special lane for parking and motor bikes.
A group of men were all gathered around with their cages of birds playing Xiangqi (Chinese chess).
After about 3 hours of wandering around this deceptively large town and finally buying my train tickets for the next day, I made my way to Xuanwu Lake. I couldn't have been more relieved to get out of the city and walk along the beautiful shores and causeways of this lake.

The northern gate of the city wall.
The Buddhist Pagoda at Jiming Temple.
A lakeside pavilion.
Xuanwu Lake sits just outside of the northern walls of Nanjing. Surrounding the shores is a park filled with several pavilions and a collection of causeways which connect several small islands with the shore. The islands in the lake center are filled will gardens, temples, statues, and a number of small stone bridges. I hopped on a small tourist tram-car tour which sent me around the islands.

My tram-car made a few stops along the tour for us to get out and walk around the island gardens.
Me and the Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) statue in the lake.

You can see that building from all over the city.
My tour tram stopped at this small temple where I was offered incense sticks, lit them, and then bowed three times in front of an alter. Since the tour was all in Chinese I didn't really know what was happening so I just went along with it.
From the lake, I made my way to the Purple Mountains just outside of the city. Around the two peaks are a number of trails, large mausoleums, and military areas where photography is restricted. I started hiking the mountain, but I had no idea where I was actually going since there were no signs I could read. Eventually I met a group of Chinese coworkers all out on a fieldtrip around the Purple Mountain for the day. Several of them could speak English and they offered to show me around the mountain and even gave me a few bottles of water. I ended up spending the rest of the day going around the city with them.

The group of us nearly to the top of the mountain.
A view looking over Northern Nanjing.
Amy, a super friendly local who went out of her way to show me around the city.
Me at the top of the Purple Mountain.

I love the look of Chinese characters carved into trees.

A radio tower with Xuanwu Lake and downtown Nanjing in the distance. Most of my days in China had smog like this. It makes it hard to get a nice clear picture of of the view from the mountain.

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