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Journeys : April May 2010
Destinations We foreign guests look at each other in amazement, then tr undle up the mountain at a far more sedate pace. My shoes slip and skid on the well-wor n path. When we eventually reach the top, the ceremony is already under way. The winners are presented with bright red velvet banners, trimmed with a gold fringe. We receive laminated cards decorated with Chinese characters and red maple leaves -- Qixia is the famed Red Maple Mountain. After our exertions, we lunch at a nearby vegetarian restaurant r un by Buddhist monks, who serve us fake duck made from tofu. The duck looks like duck, but the texture is grainy and dry. Next day I find an article in the Chinese Daily that tells of hundreds of Buddhas car ved into rock just behind the restaurant. We were only metres away, but no-one thought to tell us. I guess it was race day, not sightseeing day. Nanjing was once the capital of China. Much of the ancient city wall still stands, in stark architectural contrast to the moder n multi-lane flyovers. I set out to walk along the wall but the chanting of voices lures me to the nearby Jiming Temple. Eyes stinging from wafts of bur ning incense brandished by bowing faithful, I enter one of the halls. It features high ceilings, massive red wooden posts, long silk banners and huge brightly-painted, ferocious-looking disciples of Buddha. A throng of yellow- robed monks with shaven heads squashes me into a cor ner. I can't rudely push through, so I stay for their moving ceremony. -------- In Nanjing, a traditional massage is a must. I've been war ned not to pay hotel prices, so I seek out a tiny salon in a back alley. At the entrance, I exchange my thongs for communal plastic slip-ons, which are discarded when I climb onto the couch, one of several in the room. A sheet is placed over me and apart from my bare feet I R ACT Travelworld consultants can help you plan every aspect of a China holiday -- call us on 1300 368 111 or visit your local branch. remain fully clothed. Working on the other benches, blind masseurs intuitively locate ten se spots with strong probing fingers, bringing strange body noises from other customers. My masseur's touch is almost painful but after wards I feel I am walking on air -- which is lucky, as I find another customer has mistakenly donned my thongs! Thongs retrieved, next stop is Fuzi Miao, a temple housing the largest bron ze sculpture of Confucius in China. Around the temple are alleyways of shops bulging with collectibles, calligraphy supplies, silks, scrolls and souvenirs. I buy bundles of pashminas, silk handbags and ties, and as many paper wall-scrolls as I can juggle. I bargain hard for a jade pendant and a red silk brocade tablecloth that glows gold in dim light. To get around Nanjing, I just hop into a cab and go anywhere in the city for only a couple of dollars. The ta xi drivers speak little English, so the hotel staff have w ritten down some destination s in Chinese. Pointing to a map is handy, as well as the hotel address card to ensure a safe return. Nanjing's subway is clean, cheap, graffiti- free and a pretty shade of blue, but it's a good place to avoid at r ush hour. The ticket machine has in str uctions in both English and Chinese. Str uggling up Purple Mountain on the city outskirts later in the week reminds me of the Qixia Mountain race. Well-wor n steps lead to the blue- roofed mausoleum of Sun Yat Sen, the revolutionary leader who helped overthrow China's last imperial dynasty. He is not buried here, but that seems irrelevant in the vast and impressive site. There is a pagoda, a Sacred Way of twelve pairs of large stone animals leading to a network of Ming Tombs and the Linggu Temple, which has a vaulted brick ceiling with no support beams. It seems that Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympic stadium and Water Cube are but recent examples of the long-standing Chinese ability to build amazing structures! Beijing, meaning northern capital, has the Forbidden City -- Nanjing, or souther n capital, is the forgotten city. Try to include it in your China itinerary -- you can compete in your ow n personal Olympics as you climb all those mountains and pagodas! 15 April / May 10
Feb March 2010
RACT MNJ June July 2010