Friday, April 20th 2007

Often when I revisit places I've been before, I somehow find it difficult to see anything new. It's too easy just to visit the familiar. I avoided that possibility in Beijing by leaving immediately after the conference. I took a very cheap flight to Nanjing. Lauren, who I'd met on the train to Istanbul a year earlier, was spending a year in China teaching English, and so I decided to spend a couple of days in Nanjing on my way towards Hong Kong.

Nanjing was incredibly different to Beijing. It's a city of 7 million people but still seemed quite small and manageable compared to the capital. And it is vastly more cosmopolitan, with a huge expat scene. I liked it a lot as soon as I arrived, because I managed to work out firstly how to get a bus from the airport to the city, and then more importantly, where to get off. I left myself with just a short walk down a leafy avenue to get to the university.

I spent a day exploring the city. I thought I would walk from the university to Purple Mountain, which didn't look far on the map, but turned out to be far enough that I didn't make it. In Beijing on my first trip there, I'd assumed that city blocks were quite small and that it would take less than half an hour to walk from one corner to the next. I'd been wrong then, and I was wrong again here. This city wasn't designed to be walked across.

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