Saturday, May 03, 2014

China 2014 Day 9: Nanjing, Purple Mountain, and Closing Reception

China 2014 Day 9: Nanjing, Purple Mountain, and Closing Reception

Today we really slept in... 'till 9:00! :) We got up and headed to the breakfast buffet, which was clearly the most awesome buffet I've ever seen in the entire world. It was out... of... control... holy moly. It was sort of an "Around the world" buffet -- there was sushi, ice cream, Matcha cheesecake, Dim Sum, noodles, Thai food, cereal, 6 kinds of honey (!!!) juice, and... a CANDY BUFFET!!!!!!!!!! WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Totally NUTS. This was totally insanely incredible. So legendary. I've never seen anything like it.

OMG this breakfast buffet has CANDY
REALLY amazing world-wide buffet for breakfast. Best ever! And Ice Cream!
Claire also freaking out about the candy buffet
Awesome looking Easter chocolate display
We met up with Claire and Jason, our new besties, and talked with the concierge about Purple Mountain. We wanted to check it out and ideally go up the gondolas. And... off we go!

First up we needed to find the Metro line. It was a little tough to find because it was through an underground walkway, but we found it successfully after some wandering. To pay for tickets here, it looked like you needed a 5 or 10Y bill only, so I made some gestures to the attendant and he figured out what I was getting at. The "ticket" for the train here is not a ticket at all, it's a sort of plastic token! Very crazy!

We got onto the subway and off to Purple Mountain without too much effort. Everyone is super easy going - this is an awesome travel team already! We wandered around the station area at first, and had no idea where to go, so we tried to find some directions. We found a bus station after some while that had bus tours, but then I saw a guy at a booth, selling tickets to a cable car! Yes! That's what we want! So we got tickets from him and he very kindly then took care of us... he took us directly to the bus stop we should wait at, and he explained in hand-signals which ticket was for "going there" and "coming back". It was funny, to show that this was a return ticket, he held his hand sideways, back of his hand towards us, and then nodded at us. And the he flipped his hand around, and motioned his palm towards us. That was funny, I knew  *exactly* what he meant by it - "ticket for the way there" and "ticket for the way back"... but it was just super awesome that we could communicate without any shared language. Glorious.

We got onto the local bus towards the Tramway, and then got off at the right stop (he told us which one to get off at, somehow!) and we walked up to the tram platform. And... up we go!

Cable car up Purple Mountain!
The city of Nanjing behind us
Up we go!
Well, these were certainly WICKED views. This area is SO green. (Actually, it's the "Greenest City in China"). There were trees as far as the eye could see, and random little Pagodas off in the distance, poking up through the trees.

In general the weather was amazing and warm, but there was some smog covering the further-off buildings. The ride was really long and super relaxing, it was at least 30 or 40 minutes! Many people that went by us the other way on the cable cars were super psyched to see foreign people: "Helllooo!! Nice to meet you!" was the standard line, especially from kids. Some people just stared, while some other people just looked as us with extreme interest and laughed or smiled. So many kids, teenagers, and even full-on adults were SO psyched to see us. Good times. :)

We got up to the top and wandered around for a bit, seeing some archery and food sales up there. We also walked to the summit and took some photos up there of the city. After taking a bazillion photos, we got a "tiger" ice cream (with tiger stripes!) and a Gatorade and waited in line for chairs to get back down.

Archery at the top of the hill, for some reason
This kid has the best shirt ever. It's like a Cat Princess or something. Awesome!
View of Nanjing from the top of Purple Mountain
Good times!
Panoramic up on Purple Mountain
View back to the city of Nanjing
Our new besties, Jason and Claire
Soooo green
Kinnda feel like I want to "ger" off
Ahhh epic pagodas in the forest!! I love it!!!
We headed back down to the bottom of the hill and Jason had a brilliant idea to just take a cab to the Confucius Temple area, rather than waiting for and attempting to get onto the tourist bus again, and then take a subway there. That was a brilliant idea. And, as it is with good travel buddies, we all recognized a good idea when we heard it and we just went for it. :)

Waterways in Nanjing
Signs on the subway
The 2 groups split here for a bit and Springs and I checked for tea stuff. At first there were some nice tea sets (another pot, plus saucers and cups), but the cups were not great quality. The tea they sell in these stores also doesn't seem to be of very high quality. I was going to aim to get an older Pu-Erh cake, but it's hard to know about the quality at a market like this, and also of the price you should actually be paying for it. So I decided to skip the tea purchasing (probably, I have enough already), and I got a cool fat happy cat beaded hanging for my Mom.

I found some teacups with clay on the outside and porcelain on the inside, so I got some of those. I also got one of those crazy "tea frogs" that change colour when you pour hot water on it! So excited to have a tea ceremony when I get back. I also got my Mom a cool pin with a tea kettle on it from the Youth Olympics.

Back we went to meet Jason and Claire and we then proceeded to try, unsuccessfully, to flag down a cab for the next 10 or 15 min. We had no luck and kept trying along the way to the subway, but we were finding the issue of what we saw earlier in the trip, that sometimes cab drivers just don't want to pick you up because the language barrier is so high that they'd rather not take a person who doesn't speak Mandarin. So we hauled it towards the subway line and ended up walking for maybe 20 or 30 min. We finally got to the subway and found out we could take the train the other direction and not have to transfer... sweet! Strangely though, there was a fork in the line! So we had to change lines at the point of the fork because the train we were on was ending at a different fork on this same line. Finally, we got back to our "home" station.

Back to the hotel for dinner and the closing reception
We ran across some massive intersections since it was pretty unclear how the traffic lights worked and who would pay attention to them. It seemed like the Motorbikes were the craziest. As we were running across the last road towards the hotel, some random dog was there, running somewhat towards us! Dodge!

We got into the hotel, "at the buzzer", just as I suspected earlier in the day. We really have maxed-out our time here and that is great... "Do all the things!" Jason and Claire were very good sports about just rolling with us and our crazy attempts to do all the things. What a fun group to hang out with all day.

I had a quick shower because I needed to wash some "standing water" off my leg which had inadvertently gotten there in our run towards the subway station. I cleaned up a bit, shaved and got dressed... and off we went to the reception, and then dinner! We started with finger foods and wine in the reception area.

Back at the hotel for dinner
The dragon led us into the ballroom, and we joined a table with Jason and Claire, as well as Sam and Sheldon, the other good buddies we made on the trip and who are Canadian and super awesome.

There were some good speeches, thanking everyone for their service, and some artistic presentations that were awesome. One guy was doing "sand art", where a flat glass panel was projected up onto the big screens for us to see, and he was pouring sand down onto the glass panel and drawing cityscapes and images into the sand. It was really cool.

Our AMAZING dinner table
We started dinner with some appetizers which were tasty and very different from each other. We then got some soup, and while others had some kind of shellfish soup, we had a different one... it was REALLY good. Next up was some eggplant/goat cheese salad which was NUTS, it was so good. Later on in the meal we had a small amount of Australian beef, similar to what we ate the night before. The entertainment continued with a dancing show, which was also awesome. What a night!

This was the best salad of all time
Australian Beef
Live "sand art" being created by an artist on the stage
The dessert was a dessert bar/choose-your-own buffet style... holy moly. I got a crazy cream swan, a creampuff flower, chocolate truffles, gummi bears, chocolate squares, tiramisu... YES!!! This rocked.

Lots of awesome new friends from the trip!
As we wrapped up and headed upstairs, there was another gift on the way out of some really nice looking "Ta"-brand tea!!! As if this evening could get any more awesome. Another gift!

So we headed upstairs to finalize everything and make sure we were all packed up, before heading up to the 61st floor for the Music@61 lounge. There are some different sections up there playing different kinds of music, a club area, etc. We went up there and hung out with all of our new friends, enjoying the atmosphere and reminiscing about the awesomeness of the trip. A Hibiki 17 or two later, and after some good amount of time to cut a rug, and hang out with some great people... we headed back to our room about 12:30 or 1, aiming to sleep for about 4 hours before getting up to head back to San Francisco. What a day!

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