Our last day in Nanjing started like all the others – a wonderful buffet breakfast. But, unlike the other days when we had major plans for the day, the big plan after breakfast was to pack up and get our bags to the concierge, as we had to be completely checked out by noon. Unfortunately, with a noon check out and a 10:30 p.m. flight, we had to find a way to keep ourselves busy. So, along with a few coworkers, I headed to the local subway station and grabbed a train towards the Confucious Temple.
Whether good or bad, I don’t know, but we didn’t find the Confucious Temple. My coworker that had previously been to that part of town directed us to where he thought we should be going, but took a wrong turn and led us a beautiful park! The entrance stub was the only part of the park that was in English – we found what claims to be Nanjing’s First Park, and being the old capital of China, that’s an impressive feature!
Unlike many of the other parks, this one seemed much less touristy. We were the only Americans there and it was mostly families relaxing and enjoying a snack or playing games with their children. We saw a family teaching a young child how to play badmitton, which was adorable to say the least.
We meandered through the park, climbing onto some half-etched out steps in rocks and through different pagodas and pavilions until we decided it was time to finally go and hit our main goal for the day: shop. We had plenty of Yuan (Chinese currency) and exchanging it just wasn’t going to be worth the effort and exchange costs (I can always validify a reason to shop), so we left the serenity of the park and found the hussle and bussle of a local market.
This market was more of what we were expecting to see – all of the contraband that we had heard about but hadn’t seen: movies, music, animals (think puppy mill but in the public eye), purses, bags, clothes with poor English translations. Everything you never actually wanted to see, but then some great stuff as well. I found beautiful silk tie for my husband and a few other trinkets, though I still left missing trinkets for so many people I had hoped to buy for.
One of the rows of shops was lined with beautifully ornate umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. Food vendors lined the streets, but we stumbled into a cafeteria-style restaurant and shared a schmorgesbord of foods as our last real Chinese meal. We had limited time because we were due back at the hotel to make sure our luggage made it back with us to the airport. After our brief hotel stay, we still had a few more minutes to wander the local street to find dinner (it does seem that much of our day revolved around food…).
We found higher end shops, grocery stores, book stores, and a lot of restaurants that lacked my desire for a turkey sandwich, so after grabbing a latte from a Starbucks (they are almost as popular there as they are here) and a fresh pastry, I headed back to the buses.
A short ride to the Nanjing airport later, we had an easy time getting through customs and then a few more hours to kill in the International section of the airport. Of course, the international section had a small duty free store and that was about it, so we just waited to eventually board our plane!
Our plane left Nanjing at approximately 10:30 p.m. on November 5th and thanks to the craziness that is the International Date Line, we landed just after midnight on November 6th. The flight was uneventful – on demand movies and music and chatting with friends along with a little bit of sleep, but truly just wanting to get back home to my husband and boys! With customs, unpacking the plane, and dropping off a couple of coworkers I had driven with, I didn’t end up getting home until around 3:30 a.m. and I was up with my boys for a wonderful greeting at 6 a.m. Jet lag wasn’t my friend that day, but being back with my family and sharing our Chinese aventures was wonderful.
In my near 8 years of Army experience, I can easily say this was the best trip I have been (and possibly will ever be) on. I hope we can continue our friendship with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army band on future tours of both our country and theirs. Either way, I love that I was able to experience such a memorable mission.