After sleeping for almost 10 hours last night, Leah and I caught the bus back to Shanghai to make our way to Nanjing that afternoon.
When we got to Zhoujiajiao’s bus station, a female ticket collector told us that they bus she was on was going to Shanghai, People’s Square. This was the place that we needed to get to so hopped on with our bags and settled in for the journey. The bus looked a little different and the price was a few yuan cheaper but we didn’t really think much of it – we just assumed that it would be making more stops along the way as the previous bus was almost direct.
An hour and a half later…
We’d noticed that the number of passengers was starting to thin on the bus but with still no sight of Peoples Square we stayed sat in our seats. We were at the very last stop and had to get off of the bus…
Leah and I had walked around People’s Square a lot these past few days, always coming from a different direction and did not recognise where we were at all. We’d also both thrown away our maps of Shanghai when we left Friday afternoon and as google maps doesn’t work we literally had no idea where we were.
The ticket collector told us to walk straight, a passerby told us that we had to walk 30 minutes to get to a metro, and a map we did find at the edge of a park was all in Chinese. What do you do in this situation? Jump in a taxi! But in Shanghai it’s not that easy. First you have to find a taxi cab with a driver in, then you have to get him to understand where you want to go using broken Chinese and the lonely planet guide, then the driver has to accept, then you have to agree on a price. So after 15minutes of this we were on our way in the back of a taxi to Shanghai Train station to buy old train ticket to Nanjing.
Shanghai Train Station.
Shanghai train station is huge! There is a north and south entrance, as well as specific ticket offices for Chinese and foreign travellers as well as same day and different day tickets. Obviously the one that Leah and I needed was the furthest away but by 12.30pm we had bought our ticket for a train departing at 1pm. Meaning that we had 30minutes to get back to the main station, through ticket and passport inspection, passed security where we had to put our bags through an airport scanner and up to the stairs to out platform. We did all, but the last stage by 12.45! When we got up the stairs we remembered how hungry we were and thought that 15minutes would be enough time to grab some food for the train… We were wrong. We got to the gate for the platform at 12.58, noodles in hand, and was told that the gate closes 3minutes before departure… We’d missed our train by 1 minute all for the sake of noodles (that were pretty grim too)!
After sitting down and eating our noodles we said to ourselves that this is just a learning curve and part of the travelling experience. We should know never to travel without snacks (I’ve been a big believer in this for years) and that we need to allow more time for delays. So we went back to the ticket office to buy a new ticket.
Luckily we went back to the same ticket issuer and when we explained the situation he issued us with a new ticket free of charge. This time leaving at 3pm so we had over an hour and a half to make the train this fine! Lucky trains to Nanjing come frequently! So we went back to the main train station, through ticket and passport check, through security, up the stairs and then we literally sat behind the platform gate waiting for it to open (Beside for the odd fruit and water break).
Second class to Nanjing
We’d booked a second class ticket to Nanjing but the carriage was actually luxurious! We had more leg room at our seats than we did on our flight with Emirates on the way to China- we could even fit our huge rucksacks in front of us! There was air consitioning, nice toilets, comfy seats and the station announcements where in both Chinese and English – this will probably be the nicest train we’ll be getting for a while!
We made it to Nanjing!
The hostel we had booked for our stay in Nanjing provided us with directions which were so easy to follow- including the subway stop, road names and geographical markers such as an old Chinese gate (which when you see it you know what you’re looking at, roundabouts and bridges etc). The walk to our hostel only took 15 minutes but we passed lots of food stalls and shops along the way as well as temples, parks and pagodas!
The hostel is situated in a great location- right in the heart of the old town with the Confucius temple (the main tourist attraction of the area) only a few minutes walk away).
There is a balcony/ terrace area which looks directly over the old streets below and a roof area (reserved for drying washing although the Leah and I think that it would make a great bar area as it has a great view of the town!) and a seating area on the first floor where you can buy/ eat snacks and drinks.
We’d booked a 6 bed all girl dormitory (3 bunk beds) for 4 nights and the room was pretty cramped. It’s fine for Leah and I because we’re not planning on spending much time in our room but if you were it would get pretty clostraphobic!
In and out again…
We dumped our bags under our bunk bed (I was on the bottom bunk with Leah on top) and went out to explore a little. We’re trying to pace ourselves a bit here because we’re a little worried that we’re going to either be exhausted and run down in two weeks time or end up in Beijing a few weeks early (not ideal because we have a flight to Hong booked for mid- September).
After about an hour we went for dinner just outside the city walls. Most restaurants that we’d passed along the way we’re either food court style, snacks or had a menu completely on Chinese. We’re like children our here and have to rely on picture menus so we’re a little limited with our options.
The restaurant we found in the end was so cute that I wouldn’t mind eating here for the rest of our time in Nanjing. Business was obviously a little slow because it was outside of the city walls but the employees couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive if they tried. A young women welcomed us into the restaurant and brought us a picture menu as well as trying to communicate with us via a Chinese to English phrasebook – Leah and I were trying to respond using an app on my phone. Her young daughter even came over to practice her English and tries to pronounce the word aubergine! The restaurant seemed like a real family business.
The young women took our orders and told an older lady (we assumed it was her/ her husbands mum) whilst the husband went back and forth to the kitchen and seemed to be managing the place. We ordered a few vegetable dishes (partly to make up for the carb fest that we had yesterday evening) and a beer to share.
When we first looked at the menu we asked about prices and we think that the owners may have thought that we looked malnourished because they brought over a huge bowl of rice (free of charge) for us to eat with our dinner – we had thought that we ordered one noodle dish to share but it was in fact a bowl of mushrooms! We ate about two full bowls each + the veg that we ordered (aubergines in sweet sauce and spinach in garlic, plus the mushrooms which were in a chilli sauce) and were well a truly stuffed!
We waddled back to the hostel taking a route straight through the centre of the old town. Back at the hostel we played a few games of cards, mapped our route for the follwing day and spoke to our room mates for the next few days. One of the girls noticed that I was coming down with a cold and offered me some Chinese medicine (which I took- sorry mum) in a Sachet to be drunk with hot water. I took it that night and it was actually really tasty!