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Move over Shanghai, Beijing and even Macau! China, as vast the country is, has a treasure trough to offer to travelers. This time we collaborated with Asia full of life to get a slice of a lesser known place- Nanjing. This dazzling city has important landmarks from the history of China within its precincts. Though there is a lot to see and experience, our collaborators stuck to six. Yes! these are their best picks....from the most complex architectural castle to a unique book store. It is all here!
Nanjing, also called Nanking by the older generation of the region, is the capital of Jiangsu Province, China. This beautiful place is marked by various historical edifices that are like lessons in history for people who visit here. There are many palaces and museums to visit in Nanjing, and the shopping experience is something no visitor should miss! Talking of revisiting history, if you speak to the older folks, they bear the sad memories of the Japanese invasion during World War II in 1937 to 1938 - the Nanjing Massacre or Rape of Nanjing, to this day. But today, Nanjing is a far cry from the ruins and despair of the post World War era. It is a thriving city and the one that has an exciting beat to it. So, take a walk with us in this historical city that is as much about the past as it is about the future.
Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum
You have missed Nanjing if you have not been to this place? This is a memorial museum to remember the 300,000 Chinese who died during the Japanese invasion. Inside the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, you can see two partially excavated burial sites, along with many exhibits and information board. One information board that talked about how a Japanese soldier killing 250 Chinese by slicing their heads off with their samurai sword within a minute, left a deep impression on me. After the exhibition, you will be greeted by beautiful gardens with sculptures and artworks, with serenity that automatically blankets this place. Spending a few hours at the museum is highly recommended.
Confucius Temple and Shopping around the Temple
The Confucius temple is known as Fuzimiao amongst the locals and is dedicated to the world famous philosopher and traveller from ancient times- Confucius. It was built by Song dynasty but repeated construction and renovations have changed the old structure to include more complexes. In historical times, this place used to be an imperial examination testing facility for Jiangsu region. Today the complex has a museum and attractions like biggest statue of Confucius in all of China and thirty eight panels made of bronze, jade, gold and silver depicting Confucius’ life. The temple is spread over a huge area where on one side you can choose to shop in the "messy" lines of shops. Don't like shopping? Enjoy some relaxing tea on the gondola in the canal.
The beautiful Purple Mountain, one of the famous mountains in South China, houses the ancient Ming Tombs and the San Yat-sen mausoleum. Yes, the father of modern China was laid to rest in this marvelous region. The mountain is huge with many scenic spots and one day may not be enough for you. If adventure is your thing, take a dip at the Purple Glow Lake to cool off the summer heat. Remember to bring your swimming gear along!
Xuanwu Lake & Gardens
Not enough of great scenery? Come down to Xuanwu Lake. With a history that goes all the way back to 182AD, the lake offers cherry blossoms, lilies, and many such beautiful flowers that create these stunning gardens. It is a good place to relax and enjoy the picturesque setting. If you stay here long enough, you can catch a glimpse of the sunset which is a visual treat! We recommend coming here during spring season when the entire area simply blooms with colors and the air has that sweet scent of the fresh blossoms.
Nanjing Zhonghua Gate
This edifice has the pride of being not only the biggest castle-gate in all of China but also the most complex castle in the world! It was constructed by the first king of Ming dynasty- Zhu Yuanzhang. In the modern world today, it commemorates the revolution of 1911 which gave birth to the present Republic of China. The structure has about 27 tunnels and 13 gates in total! Visitors can find markings on bricks of the Castle, those markings are the name of the workers who made those bricks. This was to ensure accountability in case bricks turned out to be of inferior quality….. talk about detail!!
National Foreign Language Book Store
For those who love books and want to get up close and personal with Chinese culture and history, then National foreign language bookstore is a must-visit for you. We must mention that such local Bookstores are something you should never miss when in China. Near the Nanjing Library, there is a huge state-owned bookstore with a wide range of books - from languages to travel guidebooks. Don't be surprised to find niche books such as tea history. There is an English selection although the main language is Mandarin. Books are relatively inexpensive. But please note, as big the bookstore can be, don't expect to find Marvel comic there, though!
Getting Around on Public Transport
The metro is a cheap, clean and safe way of getting around the city efficiently. There are six lines and they cover most areas in the city , and some areas outside the city as well. Trains run from 05:00 hours to 23:00 hours. Single-journey tokens can be purchased from vending machines in the stations. Be sure you don’t lose this token.
Taxi is another good way to travel around the city with your own private space. Although it is more expensive than metro, it is still considered affordable. These taxis are metered. As most drivers do not know English, you may need to have destination written in Mandarin. Taxi scam is a thing that you need to look out for. Generally, the starting fare is CNY 8. Scam drivers will start the meter way before picking you up. Airport pick-up is common for such scams as these drivers wait to pick you up for hours and start the meter when they began the wait. You should ask for a receipt (Mandarin: Fa Piao) after each trip. The receipt shows start time and end time of the trip.
Beware of Counterfeit Currency
Counterfeit currency is unfortunately, a big thing in China. The largest denomination is CNY100 (USD15). Shop owners are wary when you give RMB 100 notes. They will do checks with the anti-counterfeit machines before accepting your notes. You can get these counterfeit notes practically from anybody, including ATMs. Yes, ATMs. If you need extra cash, it is recommended that you draw from ATMs with a physical bank. You can check out ways to detect counterfeit notes here. One of the easiest ways is to check the color-changing ink at the bottom left corner of the note. It should change from green to blue when you tilt the note at the angle. Watermarks and security line are not reliable as it can be forged easily. Please note that it is illegal to use counterfeit notes and you can be arrested for it. So when the cashier starts rejecting your notes, don’t ask why just change to another one.
How to Reach:
By Air: Nanjing's Lukou International Airport is well connected with major Chinese cities as well as countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore and Frankfurt. Chech the best deals for flights on our flight search engine
By Train: Nanjing has two railway stations and regular trains connecting it to the rest of the China. There is an express intercity rail between Shanghai and Nanjing which takes just about an hour and fifteen minutes between the two cities. You also have choice of Bullet trains,T express trains and Z non-stop trains coming into Nanjing from Shanghai. This means even if you miss one, there are many in the queue!
By Road: There are 6 coach stations in different districts of Nanjing that connect Nanjing to other cities. Nanjing has about 9 highways crossing here! You can even chose to hire a car
Places to Stay at
Following are our top picks at Nanjing that cover all budgets- from strictly shoe-string to splurge!
There are of course, other options to stay at Nanjing to suit your budget. Do check out our hotel search page to not only get the best hotel deals to stay at Nanjing but also choose the best option based on your budget and customer reviews
We highly recommend the Nanjing historical and cultural day tour including the Qinhuai river cruise. The tour includes hotel pickup and drop, transfer by air-conditioned vehicle and an English speaking guide.
About the Asia Full of Life
Asia Full of Life (www.asiafulloflife.com) is a one-stop travel destinations website, specializing in Asian countries such as Singapore, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Cambodia. We cover all kinds of travel right from off-beaten tracks to to-do things. So if it is a trip to Asia you are planning then pop by to find out more!
So this was Nanjing, a place you must visit if China is the destination-next for you. If you have been here then share your story and if you got inspired then too, show us some love by leaving it in comments. And of course do get in touch with Asia Full of Life because if it is the intimate experience with Nanjing you want to enjoy, they are your go-to guys! Check out more of Boho ramblings in our destinations and travel diaries section. If you are a visual being (don't get us wrong!), then head to the photo feature category that brings you the best from lens around the world!