Before that: During my trip / internship in Shanghai, as I mentioned I would only get weekends off. Sometimes just Sundays. But I did get one long weekend, and that was the New Year's weekend. Not sure about other countries except Malaysia but in China (at least for the 2012 New Year's) it was work as usual on Saturday (New Year's Eve), then we got January 1-3 off (Sunday-Tuesday).
So what happened was I was brought on a 3 days, 2 nights excursion to Nanjing, China. I was extremely excited about the trip because it would be my first excursion out of Shanghai, and also because it would be my first time going out of Shanghai, and even better, I would be going there via the high speed train (not just any high speed train, the FASTEST train!). I was so happy that I picked Nanjing out of all the destinations because the Shanghai-Nanjing route uses the fastest train! A 300-kilometre distance was reached in just an hour and twenty minutes.
Now I'm not sure if you are aware of this part of Nanjing's history, but one of the most important recent historical event to happen in Nanjing was the Nanjing Massacre. If this sounds familiar to you it might be because Christian Bale recently starred in a Chinese film directed by Zhang Yimou (I know, weird that he would star in a foreign movie) about this event (which I was fortunate enough to watch about a week before I went there). And in case you didn't know, there is also a memorial museum in Nanjing to commemorate this. The film was actually highly tragic, but I would recommend it to most people, no matter how bleak it turned out to be.
So one of the stops we went to was this- the Nanjing Massacre Museum. I took several pictures outside, but didn't take any when I was inside, reading in detail about this gory tale of how the Japanese army ravaged Nanjing and its residents. While I don't remember most facts now, I do remember being quite traumatised by it. It was just so unbelievable, what happened to them. And we thought we had it bad during the Japanese Occupation. An estimated 300,000 people died in Nanjing, tortured by the Japanese. The torture methods... I shall not get into them.
I definitely felt very uneducated then- there was so much about Chinese history that I was not aware of (okay, maybe it's not that surprising). Or maybe it's my companions- friend of Mom's and his potential nephew-in-law. They both knew heaps about Chinese culture and history, and I knew... zilch.
So the trip to the museum was well deserved and eye-opening. What I learned from it: Nanjing has a very dark spot in its history. It was left defenceless, and was brutalised by the Japanese forces until the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing that forced the Japanese to surrender. It was horrible, it was cruel. But it happened nonetheless.
That's enough about the museum. Now about Nanjing itself. Nanjing reminds me a lot of KL- It's developed, but not crowded. Or at least, not as crowded as Shanghai. In Shanghai you have 23/24 million people put into an area just a tad bit smaller than Negeri Sembilan (based on what I found in Wikipedia). For once, I did not feel suffocated. People were not as rushed as Shanghaians, so it gave me a little bit of a breather.
And so I completely immersed myself in Nanjing. I was fascinated by the culture and history of the city. We also visited a historic market where there was a famous brothel (that only existed in ancient times). I personally knew nothing about it, and left knowing nothing about it either- I found that the information in the museum / former brothel was more suited to those already familiar with it- with someone like me who does not know anything you would be left even more confused.
But I did manage to try a few things out, like the famed stinky tofu and some rice alcohol (reminds me of the Sarawakians' tuak)... and that's where I learned that you should never eat more than a few mouthfuls of anything fermented, for when I woke up the next morning I had the worst stomach ache ever. And worse- We were supposed to go to some Presidential Palace that day, which I was looking forward to. Oh and it was -6 degrees, the coldest I have ever experienced. And of course my sickness made the weather feel like -20.
Several embarrassing / shameful / funny (depending on how you look at it) events followed. I vomited in a Carrefour branch. I vomited in the Presidential toilet (made it to the toilet bowl just in time!). I had to jump ahead of an elderly man waiting for a taxi so that I could rush back to the hotel before another vomiting bout began. I vomited again into a plant while stuck in a deadlock outside the Nanjing Train Station, to the shaking heads of people nearby.
I was crushed that I fell sick, because a) I couldn't visit much, b) it was really cold and I was wearing seven layers of clothing and c) I had to go to work upon my return so I need as much rest as I can get (this was already my second time falling sick- I was down with fever about two weeks ago). I was weak because I had not had anything to eat (and for about 2 days after that I was a fruitarian).
But it wasn't too bad. I enjoyed Nanjing. It was a very nice city- I thought it would be slightly underdeveloped but it was just HUGE and really developed. There were huge, tall skyscrapers, wide, busy streets, and even public transport!
I managed to visit a few other places, like a Sun Yat Sen memorial high in the mountains. I actually can't recall where else I've been unless I look at the pictures (because they're arranged chronologically) but I do remember that it was 3 jam-packed days.
When we arrived home I just crashed. Did not go out for dinner, and just slept till the next morning. Good thing I felt a lot better so I could go to work. And as I said, I was a fruitarian for awhile, before slowly regaining my appetite.
So remember, next time you order stinky tofu, just have a bite and give the rest away- even if you're wasting money!
P.S. Funfact- did you know that in China, to be a manager of a temple you would need to have a Bachelor's degree in religious studies and an MBA?