China’s National Day was on the 1st of October. But they don’t just get one day off for this prestigious holiday. The next 6 days were public holidays too! That meant a seven day holiday for many in China, the second longest holiday period in China’s calendar. I know that was almost a month ago now, but it was a pretty important holiday here. It commemorates the founding of the People’s republic of China , which officially happened on the 1st of October 1949. And people definitely take advantage of it. Nanjing was filled with out-of-towners, armed with maps of the city and China’s flag either clipped into their hair or stuck onto their cheeks! At all the inner city train stations, there were volunteers wearing bright vests and helping the out-of-towners buy tickets and navigate their way around the city.
It’s funny seeing such an influx of Chinese tourists. Being a foreigner, I naturally fall into the misconception that every Westerner I see must be a tourist, presuming that every Chinese person I encountered must be a ‘local’. Nothing like a big holiday to smash those misconceptions!
And what better way to really drive that home, than to venture out into tourist country. To get to the Mausoleum, you have to catch the metro to Xiamafang station. Then you need to figure out how you want to get up to the Mausoleum. We decided to climb the road and then the stairs up to Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum. There is an option to catch a bus or taxi. But being a public holiday, the roads were packed with cars and the buses were CRAMMED full of people. And it wasn’t a difficult walk. It was simply a matter of following the throngs of people along the road and up to the Mausoleum. And boy oh boy were there THRONGS of people. This Dr. Sun Yat-sen character is a pretty important guy to the Chinese people and to their history. He is known as the father of the Republic of China and his mausoleum is considered holy land, so is must see for any Chinese person who visits Nanjing. And they have certainly honoured him with the amazing mausoleum that is his final resting place.
Littered along the sidewalk as we walked up the road are street vendors, selling everything from candy floss to China flags that you can clip in your hair, roasted chestnuts to hand made wire figurines (being made right there by the guys selling them), candied craws to crazy paper concertina hats! We weaved our way in and out of everyone else one their way up. We giggled at people wearing the paper concertina hats, at slogan t-shirts and at women walking beside us wearing fringed dresses and heels!
It was so hard for me to bypass all of the shops and knick knacks, and hard for Nick to bypass all of the dumplings cooking, but Mum wanted to get to the stairs. And I am glad we did. Because it was no mean feat, fighting through all of the people at the various bottle necks, like the arches at the entrance, and more arches at the bottom of the stairs. But it was amazing and worth all of the hustle. And all the people fascinated me. Once we made it to the top of the stairs, we looked down at all the people making their way up. So many people all milling around like ants.
Mum insisted that we line up to go into the mausoleum. I was not keen. The line was soooooooo long and I hate queueing. But she kept insisting so line up we did. Know what else I wasn’t expecting? Being in the fastest moving queue I have ever experienced. A queue that I thought would have taken hours, only took us minutes to get into the mausoleum. And then I remembered that we were amongst a culture that see, take photos and then move on! That was why the queue moved so fast! Many a Chinese person pushed past us as we took our time inside the mausoleum. What a beautiful resting place. It was an awesome experience.
Everywhere we go in China, people stop and look at us. It feels like the large majority of the population are still find Westeners a novelty! And with toe shoes (our beloved Vibram fivefinger shoes!), ready smile and long blonde hair, Nick is even more of a novelty. Which means that pretty much every where we go, he gets asked for photos. And our trip to the mausoleum was no different! Every time he disappeared into the crowd, Mum and I would look at each other, “photo shoot!” Moving down the stairs, through the throngs of people was no different. A group of gorgeous older women cackled and pointed at his toe shoes. And then cackled even harder when they saw that I was wearing toe shoes too!!! Little boys being pulled up the stairs by the arm would absent mindedly stare at Nick’s feet as they were dragged past us. As we were walking back to the shops, we passed a group of girls, who surely must have been university aged but to us they looked much younger. The sight of Nick sent them giggling and whispering behind their hands, and a few of them tried to hide the fact that they were trying to take photos of him. He looked at me and I knew what he was thinking. He headed over in their direction and asked them if they would like me to take a photo of him and them. You’d think they had died and gone to heaven from their reaction!!! Oh my beautiful show pony husband does like this aspect of China! Mum says I should charge a fee!
It was a great way to spend a public holiday in Nanjing. The crowds actually weren’t as bad as I was anticipating, it was great people watching and a great chance to get out and explore a part of Nanjing that we haven’t seen before. And we LOVED the street food. On our way down, Mum had her eyes peeled for candy floss. She’s such a sugar addict! And you should have seen the smile when she found some. I was on the look out for roasted chestnuts, my favourite snack here in China. And the ones I found on our way back to the metro were huge and so soft. Even Mum and Dad helped themselves to a fair few!