Annie Bananie en Europe

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Nanjing encounters: Night edition

In the last post, I posted about some random encounters during a short visit to Nanjing, but I would say that Nanjing is perhaps most dazzling during the evening, when it is adorned by colourful lights everywhere. It is therefore necessary to present a second part in the “Nanjing encounters” series, focusing on life in the city after dark.

Lanterns of upright drums lining the path that leads to the ancient city wall up ahead. I believe there were light shows in different parts of the city during that time, around the Labour Day holidays.

Light display of a warrior in the Ming dynasty (the period of time when Nanjing was the capital city) on the ancient city wall.

Strolling along the Qinhuai River, which runs parallel to the ancient city wall. The Qinhuai River flows through Nanjing and finally feeds into the Yangtze River.

Continuing on with my even exploration of Nanjing, stopping by here and there along the river to admire the night scene.

Strolling further along the Qinhuai River around the Fuzimiao (Confucius Temple) commercial district, also a popular tourist attraction and night market.

More lanterns and light shows around the city wall…

Arriving back at the Qinhuai River, I took a break and admired the Porcelain Tower from the opposite bank. Though it is a reconstruction, the Porcelain Tower was my favourite building in Nanjing and looked especially magnificent during the night.

The beauty of the Porcelain Tower (also known as Bao En Tower) is revealed more clearly with a closer look. The colours were just so gorgoues! The original tower or pagoda was constructed in the Ming dynasty but was subsequently destroyed, and what we see here is a replica of the original structure.

Huge flower lanterns guarding the entrance to another lantern festival somewhere around the Fuzimiao area.

And somehow I ended back at the Qinhuai River again, and actually I won’t hesitate to admit that I really enjoyed walking and just chilling along the river, even though it was by myself. Surprisingly there weren’t that many people, possibly because the Labour Day holidays have just passed and all the tourists have already gone back home…good timing for me 😛

Well then, I hope you enjoyed reading my short posts and liked the photos from my trip to Nanjing two years ago. Time to decide what city I should write about next…hmm.

Nanjing encounters

In 2019, I visited Yancheng in the province of Jiangsu for my cousin’s wedding. As a side trip after the wedding, I dropped by Nanjing (or Nanking), the capital of Jiangsu, for a brief visit. Nanjing is one of the ancient capitals of China, along with Beijing, Luoyang in Henan province, and Xi’an (or Chang’an) in Shaanxi province. In recent years, Nanjing has developed rapidly into a modern metropolis of great socioeconomic importance. It is home to tourist attractions such as Fuzimiao (Confucious Temple) commercial area along the Qinhuai River, the historical city wall, the Presidential Palace, and the Nanjing Museum. I visited some of these places, but this post will showcase some of the non-touristy sights and encounters that I found interesting in Nanjing.

Tangbao, or soup buns, are the most well-known street food in Nanjing and are a larger version of the perhaps more famous xiaolongbao. Dip one into some vinegar, take a small bite, and let the hot soup with all the delicious essence flow into your mouth…yummmmmmmmmmmm. I must have had this at least three times during my short stay in Nanjing, and if “You are what you eat” is true, then I have turned into a tangbao myself…

People were lining up for something here but I never found out what it was. I was more interested in the gigantic LINE FRIENDS characters next to the queue. Never used LINE myself but you could never get enough of Brown and Cony 😛

Huge egg covered with a variety of flowers…or well, it looked like a humongous Easter egg, though it was just a tree shaped like one.

Giant plant sculptures of peacocks at Gulou Square. The aerial view is much more impressive.

Large pig, small pigs, pigs doing yoga, meditating pigs, pig doing leg raise…wouldn’t mind grabbing this set of pig figurines and putting them in my living room.

Nothing much to see here, except this ingenious…hat? Convenient for shading from the sun without having to actually hold an umbrella, and the rainbow pattern certainly attracted my attention rather quickly. Nicely done, lady.

Engagement photo session with an extravagant dress on the old city wall of Nanjing. Frankly I don’t understand the hype behind these lavish photo sessions that, to be honest, look overexaggerated and fake, but it ain’t a typical wedding in China if you don’t take these photos. Maybe I’m the strange one.

Statue of a girl playing the banjo (I think), presumably the Jasmine Melody, which is a classic Chinese tune.

So that was my non-touristy summary of the brief stay in Nanjing. Again, I did drop by some of the popular tourist spots, but those are simply Googleable so I didn’t want to spend too much time showing photos of them. I think I only spent two days in Nanjing, by far too short to get anything more than an overview of what the city has to offer. Honestly I’d go back for the tangbao alone – it was that good!!

26 days in China, part 3 – Suzhou and Hangzhou

There’s a saying in Chinese that goes, “Paradise above; Suzhou and Hangzhou on Earth”, describing the beauty and elegance of the two cities in southeast China (the Jiangnan region). The convenient locations of Suzhou and Hangzhou made them the perfect day trips from Shanghai and Huzhou (I was going to write the Huzhou post first, but decided to save it for the next chapter), and with some time on our hands, my mom and I were off to explore paradise on Earth ^_^

First up: Suzhou, located in Jiangsu province. Suzhou is famous for its many elegant classical Chinese gardens and canals and is known as “Venice of the East” (though, why can’t Venice be “Suzhou of the West”?) Upon entering the city, we were greeted by tranquil rivers and old bridges, a picturesque scene reminiscent of a painting. All of a sudden we felt like we stepped into the set of a historical TV drama taking place in ancient China. Bring on the costumes!

Perhaps the most famous of Suzhou’s gardens is the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Lin). The garden was said to be named as such because its original owner, a former government official, decided to build a garden and live a simple, quiet life after retirement, planting trees and growing vegetables for leisure. Hence, the name of the garden referred to the life of its owner, a humble man. From the outside, the garden isn’t all that impressive, but you’d be surprised how HUGE it is inside! Lakes, pavilions, bridges, stone sculptures, hills, bamboo forests, bonsai gardens, courtyards, artistic corridors and windows…I was told that every layout and every element was intricately and delicately designed to display an ultimate sense of aesthetics!

The other garden (we only visited two out of the tens of them) that my mom and I visited was the Lion Grove Garden (Shi Zi Lin), named so for the (too) many lion-shaped rocks scattered around the garden. I actually liked this one more than the Humble Administrator’s Garden, precisely because of the rocks that formed a complex maze throughout the garden. Going through the interconnected tunnels formed by the rocks and going up and down the steps made us lose track of orientation multiple times, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it took us 20 minutes to finally find the exit. Lots of fun, actually, if you have time and patience to play hide-and-seek with a bunch of friends…!

You may have noticed the appearance of willow trees in the previous images and that was one of my favourite things about any of the Jiangnan cities. I had always compared willow trees to a classy lady dancing in the wind with graceful movements, and in Suzhou, these ubiquitous trees complemented the classic beauty of the gardens so well. Of course, the most beautiful one was my mom, who wore the perfect bright red coat that day (with her red-dyed hair!) to contrast the colour of the willows. Too lovely!

After Suzhou we went to the other paradise on Earth, Hangzhou. I had been here in 2010 during the summer and upon seeing the lotus ponds 6 years ago I had to gasp, “What beauty that makes me faint!” It was then that I made it my bucket list item to come to Hangzhou at lease once during every season, and this trip fulfilled the “winter” part of that goal. Although there was no snow as I had wished, the West Lake, which is the defining feature of Hangzhou, was still as beautiful as ever.

Selfie time at the West Lake! So happy to be travelling with this wonderful lady in red AKA my mom! It was also probably only one of the two days during my entire 26 days in China where the temperature was below 10 degrees Celsius – rather windy too!

And here are the rest of my companions – MC, the lady in red; YX, MC’s son; and YH, my host from the nearby city of Huzhou (next post) whom I haven’t seen in four years! In fact I met all of these great people in my Bordeaux fellowship, so it was a mini but precious reunion in China!

At sunset the West Lake was getting ready for rest as the sun began its descent behind the smoky clouds. And of course the willow trees were ubiquitous here, just as they were in Suzhou. We didn’t see much of Hangzhou aside from the West Lake this time but for a first-timer like my mom, that was sufficient as the highlight. As for me, you know I’ll be back – spring and autumn!

A final look at the West Lake before it got completely dark. The layering mountains in the background made this look almost like a traditional Chinese landscape ink painting and even in the dark, the West Lake still hasn’t lost its unique charm. So will you say that you agree with the saying that Suzhou and Hangzhou are like paradise on Earth? 😉

This is one of the few posts in the “26 days in China” series that does not include any food, since Suzhou and Hangzhou were done as day trips and we mostly packed just snacks and simple foods. Rest assure though that food will be aplenty in the upcoming posts 😉 Next up: arguably the most anticipated city, Huzhou! (Yes it will be Huzhou for real this time!)

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