Day 3 – Wuxi to Nanjing
We woke up early on Christmas morning. We spent a cold and wet Christmas Eve at Qingming Bridge Cultural Area the previous night without much Christmas festivities. Perhaps the city centre in Wuxi might be more happening but we just won’t know. Two years ago, we spent Christmas Eve in Nanjing but our hotel was so far out of the way we didn’t experience any Christmas celebration either. However, some tour group members took a taxi to the city centre which was jammed packed with people and they only managed to return to the hotel after midnight.
Last year, our Christmas Eve was spent in Hanoi. The city centre was likewise packed with young people to enjoy a romantic night out for picture moments and then the following Christmas Day was just an ordinary day where everything was back to normal without much of a trace of Christmas. This was interesting for us tourists to experience how other nationalities celebrate or observe Christmas.
Again, we went for breakfast very early without leaving our luggage outside our room for the porters. We were among the first to be at the restaurant. The buffet spread was almost ready and we took our seats first and indulged in a cup of coffee to get us started this morning. When the food were all ready, we helped ourselves to the wide varieties of dishes available though mostly Chinese food but they were quite good. The restaurant was nicely decorated with a Christmas theme and the food presentation was good. Soon more guests came in for breakfast including some from our tour group. It was a good breakfast to start our day.
We left soon after to return to our room to use the toilet to make ourselves comfortable and then brushed up to get ready to check out. We then left our luggage outside our room for the porters and continued to linger in our room while others were still taking their time over breakfast. When the hotel staff came to check the room, we decided to head to the hotel lobby and we returned our room keys to front desk.
We checked the hotel surrounding while waiting for everyone to be ready to start our tour for the day. The hotel is located in an area that looks like a commercial centre. It was quiet all around and the sun was beginning to make its presence felt this cold winter morning. So this was not going to be a wet and raining day.
Finally when Jackie had settled everything with the hotel, we boarded the tour bus to begin our day tour in Wuxi. Of course the lady local guide who left us the night before was at the hotel to join us and she took over the bus and addressed us with some introductory information on the city and its products. This was going to be a shopping tour this morning in Wuxi.
It was nearly 8 am when we left the hotel and in about 45 minutes, we arrived at a pearl factory. Wuxi is famous for its pearls being blessed with favourable conditions of the lake Taihu. So we all went into the factory and were ushered into a room where hot tea was served. The hot tea was good especially during this cold winter morning. A staff came in to give a presentation of the company’s pearl products and demonstrated how pearls were obtained by opening up a live clam. This wasn’t our first sales talk and presentation of pearl products so we just relaxed and listened while some other members were listening intensely what these pearls could do for them, especially women.
Next was sales time where the factory representatives and the local guide passed around some pearl cream and applied them on our hands to show the effects of the cream. They seemed quite good and some were convinced. We had bought such products in the past so we let our tour members ask questions and haggle over the price of these products. Eventually, we all managed to buy some products at 50% discount from the original prices of these products.
We were also led out to the main show room where pearl necklaces and bracelets were on display and sale. Of course there was bargaining again and some bought pearl necklaces and bracelets at this factory. Well, there was some sales turnover for the local guide here but our tour group being only 15 persons, sale figures were also limited. She didn’t complain though.
Those of us who were done with this first shopping stop went out of the factory to enjoy the nice weather and took pictures of the surrounding. This was quite a pleasant place. Two years ago, another local guide brought us to another pearl factory. The surrounding of that factory was even prettier and the sales talk was conducted in a small lecture theatre with modern video presentation. Anyway, most tourists would buy some of these pearl cosmetic products that are similar with the SKII cream women are well familiar with.
We left the factory around 10.10 am after spending slightly over an hour here where some women were pretty happy with their purchases. Some demonstrated tremendous bargaining skills which probably scared our local guide here. So we settled back into the warm comfort of the tour bus. Unfortunately, there was cigarette smell in the bus. This wasn’t the first time we smelt cigarette smoke. So far, only the driver had been smoking and he could have smoked in the bus while we went for the first shopping stop.
On the bus, the local guide introduced us to Wuxi’s famous Teapot Museum, where purple sand stones were used to make these teapots. The purple sand stones contain huge amount of iron minerals and the mines are controlled by the government now as they become rarer as the days go by. The price of purple sand stones are based on weight and is more expensive than the price of gold. She suggested we respect the artworks of those masters during the presentation and keep our opinions to ourselves whether we appreciate those art pieces in the museum.
In about 10 minutes, we arrived at the Teapot Museum, the pride of Wuxi. There were many other tour buses at the site. Groups after groups of tourists went into the museum. The main hall of the museum was quite packed with different local guides briefing their tour groups and explaining the teapot culture in China. We were not allowed to take pictures in the museum.
Soon we were told to proceed to the second floor. At the main hall, there was a master touching up some teapot and cups intricately while tourists gathered around to observe and listen to the museum representative sharing who this master was and what he was doing. Next our group was ushered into a room for a private presentation which was another sales talk. There are many rooms there and tourists from their respective tour groups would be led into one of the rooms for a presentation.
We were served hot tea again and there were a few female staff members in our room and another male staff who seemed to be one of the master’s students showed us different teapot sets and explained how they were made and the reason behind its design. It was interesting and educational. The emphasis was drinking tea from purple sand stones teapot and cups was more superior and beneficial to any other ordinary teapot sets where the tea won’t go bad after days being left in such teapots. In addition, buying purple sand stones teapot sets was an investment because such mineral stones were getting lesser by the day.
So after the presentation it was sales time. One family from our tour group had spent thousands during their previous trip and bought one of those collector teapot sets. We bought two mugs during our last trip as well. It was a bit awkward as we browsed the teapots and cups on display but no one was interested in buying anything.
After a while, the lady local guide came in and allowed us to leave as she realized quite a few of us had been here before and would not be keen to buy more stuff. Of course she was disappointed and unhappy. This is understandable as her sales turnover would be badly affected by this group she led and would have an impact on her career even though she has been a seasoned tour guide for many years. As such, she didn’t even bid us goodbye.
Anyway, we did spend about an hour at the museum. Before leaving, we used the toilets. At the main hall, the master who was labouring intensely earlier was idling at a corner not doing anything as there weren’t any tour groups there. So earlier he was working at the work station for a demonstration and not really working on any projects. We then went out and we had to walk through stalls with vendors waiting for leaving tourists to peddle their products.
After leaving the museum, we went for lunch at a restaurant nearby. The food was fine and we filled our stomachs with hot food to see us through during our long ride to Nanjing. It was already 12.30 pm when we were on our way to Nanjing. Jackie was rather quiet this time. Perhaps he might have been scolded by the lady local guide for her poor sales this morning. It was time to sleep again and it was really appreciated after a good lunch.
About two hours into the journey, we had a toilet break at one of the rest areas. We took the opportunity to look around the big rest stop complex and to stretch ourselves. We also bought some rice dumplings to snack. They weren’t as tasty as our dumplings in Singapore. We returned to the bus after the short break and continued our journey to Nanjing.
It was about 3.30 pm when we entered Nanjing. Along the way, we stopped along the road and a male local guide boarded the bus and introduced himself as Jimmy. He would be showing us around Nanjing these two days. Jimmy has a jovial personality. He started to tell us a little more about this great city Nanjing where it was the capital city during some of China’s previous dynasties.
Our first stop this afternoon would be a visit to the Memorial Hall for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre during World War 2. We arrived before 4 pm and walked to the entrance and queued to enter the site after security check. This was a sombre place, very quiet though not absent with visitors. The mood here was reflective knowing that more than 370,000 young and old, male and female were slaughtered by the Japanese when they captured the city during the war. There were many sad and horrifying statues depicting what those victims went through during the massacre. Many burial sites where more than 10,000 people were killed had been discovered around the city.
Having seen the well kept and peaceful surrounding, we entered the memorial hall. Inside the hall which was quite dark, were bones left on the ground to bear testimony of the cruelty and barbaric atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers that purged the city during that time. Exhibits of rusty iron nails were kept in the building where some were found in the nostril of skulls of victims. The names of the victims were mentioned inside the memorial to remember them.
Back outdoor again, the garden like site with statues, ponds and beautiful trees were one in hopes of peace where the horrors of war would never happen here again. This was our second visit and still stirred emotions in us remembering what happened to the people in this city during the war. We likewise had between 50,000 and 100,000 massacred victims in Singapore and Malaysia during the war. My late grandfather was nearly one such victims but he managed to escape during the operation in Chinatown area. Hence, it is understandable why Singapore has to take its defence seriously to hopefully prevent such horrors of war from ever coming to our shores to be experienced by our children and children’s children.
We came to this site with the sun over our head. By the time we were about leave, the sun was at the farther end of the sky, casting long shadows of the statues and the Christian cross across the memorial ground. It was winter so the sun set early as expected. It was a good visit and a good reminder of the atrocities and horror of war. According to our local guide, the people living in Nanjing are mostly patriotic and would boycott Japanese products. Many even hate them to the core and Japanese won’t find themselves welcome here.
It was near to 5 pm when we boarded our bus on the way to visit the Confucius Temple and Qinhuai River. Traffic was heavy in the city. Jimmy took over the bus and addressed us and continued with his work to provide us with more information on Nanjing. After a while, it seemed like our driver was lost again just like the day before. To make things worse, we were caught in the heavy city traffic. So Jimmy had to turn back to give directions in between talking with us. Jackie was on his phones checking on maps and giving direction to the driver as well. At least Jimmy didn’t scold them like our previous local guide did the day before in Wuxi. It was amazing how our driver had to make a U-turn on the busy streets in Nanjing to head to Confucius Temple shopping area. He was quite reckless on the road too.
We finally arrived and had to alight quickly at this busy area in order not to hold up traffic. Jimmy and Jackie brought us across the road to this touristy site and briefed us about the area. We were given a time and place to meet up and so we were on our own to explore this place. We always looked forward to free and easy time on our own.
This was our third visit to this shopping district. Two years ago when we came, the whole place was under renovation where the streets were dug up and shops having a makeover. It was difficult to negotiate the detours and obstacles on top of the dust in the air causing us discomfort. This time however was different. It was a pretty site to roam and enjoy a stroll and shop. The sky was dark blue when we started our tour of this beautiful place that was quite crowded with visitors. Many were enjoying themselves posing to take pictures of the pretty buildings nicely restored and shops, cafes and restaurants were doing roaring business.
This place reminded us some of the old towns we visited a month ago in Dali and Lijiang. This was really a lively place and everyone was soaking in the atmosphere. We just took our time and walked the entire length of this walking street but for the perpendicular side streets though equally pretty, we didn’t want to explore because we had been here before. Another reason was we intended to go back over across the road to shop at some shops where we bought some nice cakes at one of the bakeries during our previous visit.
So back over the other side of the road, we did some windows shopping first. Many shops were giving out great discounts. There is a super market inside one of the department stores. We located the bakery we bought cakes some two years back and bought some cakes for supper that night. We also bought some cakes for Jackie and the driver.
Next we walked back to our meeting point along the road but we went into Mini Sou Store to do some shopping. A month ago we bought lots of stuffs from one such stores in Dali where we even bought some bluetooth headsets for our boys. Mini Sou Stores are like Daiso Stores where the products are quite good and reasonably priced. They are quite popular with young people here. My wife bought lots of stuff again, mostly toiletries and face masks for the girls.
After shopping at Mini Sou, we waited with the rest of the tour members along the road outside the store. Everyone seemed pleased and happy. We came to this tourist attractions when the sun was setting. It was already dark and the moon was shinning brightly over Confucius Temple area and it was only 6.30 pm.
At the meeting point along the road, Jackie and Jimmy were talking and when the bus came, we boarded the bus to head for dinner. On the bus, Jimmy continued with his work to talk about Nanjing and the famous Jade products here where skilled craftsmen are located in this city.
Soon, we reached the restaurant. We were glad it was meal time again. We got hungry easily due to the cold weather. It was the same arrangement with table seating and the food was adequate. The specialty dish in Nanjing was the salt water duck. It depends on once taste buds whether this dish is delicious. When we left the restaurant, it was close to 8 pm and Jimmy came over to bid us goodnight and goodbye and would meet us again the next day for other attractions in Nanjing.
After about 40 minutes on the road, we arrived at a huge complex with an amusement park with a big ferries wheel nicely lit up in the night. This looked like an exciting place to stay. There were two big shopping malls here and the roads were a little congested on this Christmas evening. Our hotel was located behind one of the malls. We were quite excited as we were looking forward to more shopping after checking into the hotel. The name of this hotel is Rsun Hotel. This complex in Chinese actually means Red Sun Shopping Complex.
So with the same arrangement having the hotel porters handle our luggage, we went straight to the hotel lobby to wait for our room keys. This hotel was actually connected with a shopping mall. The hotel lobby was decked with Christmas decorations and there was a very nice lounge area where the walls were full of books lining the shelves. Not long after, Jackie came over to hand us our room keys. We also privately passed the cakes we bought for Jackie and the driver which was appreciated. We felt sorry for Jackie being scolded by the other local guide the day before and he was probably disappointed with the poor sales in Wuxi this morning where he might share some blame as well.
We wasted no time to head to our room. Our room was modern, spacious and clean. Though a little worn out through heavy usage, this five-star hotel was good for the night. The bed was comfortable. The toilet came with a shower stall and no bathtub this time. Wifi worked well and TV programs were sufficient and of course, mostly Chinese programs. From our room windows, we could see part of the excitement outside the hotel.
With everything in order and the porters having delivered us our luggage, we went back to the lobby and through a glass door entering a café, we went into the shopping mall connected with the hotel. We didn’t even have to step outside the hotel to get into the fun for the night. This was really great.
It was already 9 pm when we entered the mall and the crowds were still there. Perhaps it was Christmas Day so the mall was crowded. This mall was huge, modern and clean with plenty of shops and restaurants. A children’s playground was set up on the ground floor in the mall. Families with children were enjoying themselves. After exploring for a short while, we left to head over to the other mall next door where Walmart is located.
The air was cooling and not freezing cold this winter night. Stalls were set up outdoor between these two malls. People were still shopping at this hour of the night. We entered the other mall quickly and went straight to Walmart for a look. We had nothing in particular to buy so after roaming Walmart, we explored the shops in this mall. We went into a sports shop but there was no offer on sports shoes so we left.
This was another modern and clean mall like the one next door. The mall was also crowded with shoppers at this hour. A huge children’s playground was set up at the main atrium and it was obvious the kids were having a great time. Many of these families included grandparents looking after the kids while the parents were free to do their own shopping.
Having wandered around the mall for a while, it was time to return to our hotel. We decided not to explore the outdoor amusement park nearby. It was getting late and by the time we were back in our room, it was already past 10 pm. It was supper time with the cakes we bought earlier. Coffee and tea we made were great to go with these cakes.
After shower and having done some packing to prepare for the next morning’s early departure, we got in touch with our children back home to catch up with everyone. Watching TV for a while led us to the time where we had to call it a night. It was a pretty good day having visited the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and also time spent at the beautiful Confucius Temple Walking Street and Shopping Area. The location of this hotel next to malls and amusement park was a bonus. The hotel room was up to expectation again and so we were happy. Soon we lost consciousness and looked forward to another day of fun in China.
Continue to Day 4 …