Monks, mountain trekking and a bit of bouldering thrown in 

We wanted an early morning start today as we planned to visit the Qixia mountain and Temple so was up and out of the hostel by 8am. We stopped to pick up some prepared melon in the shop nearby to eat on the way to the metro and was on a train by 8.30am. 

From the metro we had to catch a bus for the final bit of our journey so made our way to the main bus stop. It seemed like you did actually need to CATCH a bus. You have to flag one down (similar to the UK) but then you have to run to catch it before it drives off again as there didn’t appear to be a specific place for it to stop. If you were too slow you had to wait for the next one and hope that you would have more luck. It was really funny to witness but I can imagine if that was part of your route to work everyday it would get quite tiresome. Luckily when it was our turn the bus stopped close by so we got on with ease. One of the girls that works at our hostel wrote down the name of the temple in Chinese for us to show the bus driver so he would be able to tell us when we’d reached our stop. The seats at the front of the bus were empty so we took those and settled in for the hour long journey ahead of us. 

No wonder why the front seats were empty. We were getting bounced around by every tiny dip in the road! Leah says that it resembled an experience she had in a tuk tuk in India! We had a little boy and his nan sitting next to us and they found our lack of Chinese hilarious. Leah was showing the little boy pictures from the lonely planet guide and he loved it when she attempted to say ‘my name is Leah’ in Mandarin! 

After getting off the bus at our stop, we walked to the monastery gates and bought our tickets (half price with our student cards!) and entered the grounds. It was pretty empty when we got there which was nice as it gave us the chance to walk around the site without lots of tourists there/ people getting in our way. After about an hour we’d visited all the buildings that we could find and found that most of them were actually shops selling trinkets and candles. Neither things that we wanted. 

We saw that there were a few paths leading into the nearby woods so went for a little explore. We found a sign which pointed to a pagoda up the mountain so went on a hunt for it… We found it after about half an hour but was pretty sweaty by the time we’d reached it. The sun was out, we were in baggy trousers and didn’t have much water left but the view was really nice and there was a slight breeze. 

We then saw a sign for statues and temples just a little way further up the path (or so we thought). You actually have to climb over rocks and almost Boulder across the ledge to get to the top so I went first (leaving my bag with leah) to see if the building was worth it- it wasn’t. It was literally some bits of red cloth over a tree – it may have been symbolic for the religion but it wasn’t for leah and I. Another man who had rushed passed us earlier came down a little after I’d returned to the path and said not to bother going up their either. 

We made our way back down the mountain to a little kiosk selling drinks and sat on a bench for a while trying to rehydrate. We were a little hungry by now so decided to look for food but were distracted by a wooden pathway leading up to a viewing platform in the woods.

Our curiosity got the better of us and we abandoned our plans of lunch and headed up the stairs. The view was pretty nice but we noticed more stairs so decided to climb higher, and higher, and higher. They never seemed to end! And there as always a promise of something more interesting on the sign posts along the way (a ‘sky pagoda’ for example)! After over an hour of walking up hill we finally reached the top of the mountain and the views were pretty epic! You could see all of the forest we were in earlier, the monastery, and all of the surroundings towns! The monastet and this mountain was like a little pocket of green in the middle of a city! 

We made our way back down to the kiosk below, gulped a load of water because we’d taken on our hike in the middle of the mid day sun, and restarted our hunt for food. 

There was a restaurant attached to the monastery so we went there for lunch. When we entered a waiter rushed over and seated up directly under the fans. We didn’t realise how bad we looked until we looked in the reflection of our phones and saw that we looked shattered. We ordered three dishes plus rice. There was so much but we ate the lot! 

We got the bus back to Nanjing Railway station after we’d finished lunch, and tried to buy our train ticket to Wuhan (for Wednesday or thursday) but they all seemed to be sold old – except first class tickets. After realising that the first and second class tickets only worked out £3 difference we decided to buy the first class ticket for Wednesday. The only problem was that we didn’t have enough cash on us and they wouldn’t accept card payments.

 I went to the back of the queue to get a new place in line while Leah tried to get cash out of the near by atm- her card was refused. We swapped places and I tried my card in the atm – it was refused. We knew that there weren’t many seats left on the train to Wuhan so really needed to buy our tickets that afternoon. We saw that there was a coach station nearby and hoped that they had an atm- they did. We were both able to withdraw money then so we’re thinking that the first lot of ATMs (near the train station) was just out of cash. Finally we got our tickets! We leave Wednesday at 9.10am. 
We got the metro back to Sanshen station (our stop in Nanjing) and popped into a snack shop to stock up on dried fruit for the train journey. I bought jackfruit and blueberries (I love blueberries) and leah bought banana chips and orange segments. We both couldn’t wait to try them and opened the jackfruit and orange segments as soon as we got back to the room to taste test! 

We booked our next week worth of accommodation (Wuhan for three nights follows by two in Yichang) and then walked down our road for dinner. 

Dinner was a very strange experience. We’d passed a kindof small food court restaurant every day so far, the food looked good from the window and it was always pretty busy. When you walk in women greet you with a tray and walk around the food court with you carrying it while you load it up. All the women working there were so excited that we were white that they all rushed over to help and talk to us. It was a little overwhelming. Leah got her food first, following their recommendation to try the fish soup dumpling, whilst I walked around looking for something to catch my eye. I went for cold noodles (which was really good) and tofu in chilli (which was deep fried and horrible!).

As we were eating the women kept walking around us taking photos, even when we were eating which we found a little rude! 

After dinner we went on the hunt for some dragon fruit that we had seen being prepared a few days previously. All I could taste in my mouth was the oil from the tofu so I needed something fresh to counteract it. The Dragonfruit was all sold out so we settled for grapes instead. After running them under water quickly in the hostel sinks we munched away as we planned our day for tomorrow. 


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