I recently embarked on my first weekend trip of the semester. It was about time to get out of Shanghai and see someplace new. My friends and I went to the neighboring city of Nanjing, about an hour and a half train ride away from Shanghai. Before going, I didn’t know much about Nanjing - just that it was a site of a horrific massacre, was the former capital of China, and is a smaller city than Shanghai. I spent about 36 hours in Nanjing, and this is my rundown of the city.
First, it’s important I give some advice to anyone traveling in China. Anytime you stay in overnight accommodations in China, it is the law that you, or your hotel, registers you with the local police. For example, since I am registered as a student in Shanghai, when I go to Nanjing I am expected to provide the local police with an address of where I will be staying. It’s a way for the government to keep track of people. And this is a generally fair and universal law. However, you run into problems when you rent Airbnb in China. I had been tasked with finding our accommodation for the night, and I rented a cheap Airbnb (just $68 USD for the night) for me and my five friends. We knew we had to register with the local police, but what we didn’t know was how complicated it would be. After getting off the train in Nanjing, we follow our host’s instructions to go to the nearest police station. Upon arriving there, they tell us we’re in the wrong police station as the address of our Airbnb is outside of their locality. So, they send us to another station down the street.
We get there, and they tell us…we’re at the wrong police department, so they send us to another one.
And we get to the third police department, and they tell us they’re on their lunch break and to come back later.
In the meantime, we decided to check out the local Confucian temple. In this moment of stress and trips to several police departments, it was a nice break and allowed for a moment of meditation. We found a touristy street filled with shops along the river and took our time just walking around.
That is until our Airbnb host calls us telling us that we can’t check-in without registering with the local police.
4 o’clock - We still have an hour to make it back to the station who earlier was on their lunch break. We rush to the station and to our dismay were laughed at and told that we were at the wrong police station. Again. At this point, our first day in Nanjing was characterized by a 4-hour police station tour. The exhaustion and frustration that came out of this put a pretty big damper on our trip. Not to mention the added stress of potentially not being allowed to stay in our Airbnb. According to the police station, the address we provided was still out of this station’s supervision and we needed to find another one. But at that point, we had wasted too much time trying to register ourselves that we put our foot down. In the end, we never registered and pleaded with our host to let us stay because of the circumstances, and surely enough he let us. This is my cautionary tale of renting Airbnbs in China – just know what you might be getting yourself into.
The rest of the night we chilled out and took a river cruise. In one of those traditional Chinese wooden boats, we floated down the river looking at the romantic lights of the temples and palaces around us. That is until…
Our boat crashes into the side of a bridge. Our boat driver tells us the boat had run out of gasoline. A very suitable allegory of our day so far in Nanjing. It was as if we were the boat: we too had run out of energy and had hit many obstacles. After this delay, we continued down the rest of the river into the lull of the night.
The next morning we finally had time to do more exploration. I parted from my friends due to a horrible stomachache and decided to catch an earlier train back to Shanghai. I knew I wasn’t going to leave Nanjing without paying my respects to the massacre memorial. Part-museum, part-memorial, this site paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the Japanese invasion during World War Two and lays on the site of a mass grave. I felt haunted as soon as I entered. The day was already overcast and cold, and being at the memorial filled me with a profound sense of tragedy. I felt this feeling before – it was when I went to Washington D.C. and visited the Holocaust museum. I couldn’t help but tear up when I saw the faces and stories of all the victims. It’s hard to fathom how humans can be so evil and destructive. It’s a site I really recommend if you go to Nanjing for it is powerful and an important reminder of history, just be warned it is also distressing and overwhelming.
That sums up the tumult of the weekend in Nanjing: a short and chaotic trip filled with mundane cityscape, tragic history, grey skies, pretty rivers, traditional temples, tourists, and lots and lots of police stations.
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<p>I'm Micol and I'm a fourth year student at Providence College studying Political Science and East Asian Studies. I am fascinated with Chinese culture and politics, which has led me to come back for a second semester in Shanghai. My favorite things to do in Shanghai are going to art galleries, eating at one of the million cute dessert shops, going to karaoke, reading about Chinese Marxism, and waking up to a day with blue sky.</p>