Bank Holiday Weekend

Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2011

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Bank Holiday weekend crept up so sneakily that I left it too late to arrange getting out of Zhenjiang and making the most of the extra day off. However, in retrospect I'm glad I did because staying at home and discovering a little more of what Zhenjiang has to offer has been a great experience, and I feel both more relaxed and more fulfilled than I have after any of our previous excursions.

The majority of Saturday was spent in Nanshan Park, the scene of a picturesque lake, countless traditional pavillions, and various historically significant (but not that interesting) cultural heritage spots. The next day took us to Jinshan Park, a much more hectic place but equally enjoyable due to the array of spectacular sights such as a Buddhist temple with 15 foot tall gold statues around the perimeter. Something about that place didn't quite correlate with my notion of Buddhism as a religion that promotes minimalism and modesty, but everything was so shiny and big I didn't stop to think about it for long.

I hate to dwell on the negative, especially after such a good weekend, but the constant staring, pointing and laughing is so inseparable from this weekend's experiences that it would feel wrong not to mention it. In a previous entry I said that the attention we receive here is flattering and, aware that many Chinese people have never seen an outsider before, I was pretty understanding about the whole thing. Two months on and I feel ready to punch the next person who shouts "Hello!" amidst giggles of encouragement from their camera-wielding friends square in the face. That may sound like an unreasonable reaction, but when you're just trying to enjoy your weekend in what you now consider your home (at least for the time being), it is hard to take such behaviour in good spirits. I recently learned a Chinese word, "gwen", which can most accurately be translated as "back off or I'll break your face". I've been warned of how serious a statement this is in Chinese and therefore have no plans to actually use it, but it gives me some comfort to at least say it in my head while evilling someone who's just blatantly called me "Waiguoren" (foreigner) as if I have no clue what it means. I'm currently working on some hilarious coping mechanisms as I feel that humour is the only way to deal with the problem, and I'll report back on their success once they've been tested.

The weekend has ended on a high as I decided how I'm going to spend my birthday in a couple of weeks. Rather than visit Nanjing or Shangahi as I originally planned (it's no coincidence that both those places currently have pandas), I've decided to be an adult and base my decision on factors other than panda bear proximity for a change. So, the plan is to go to Yangzhou where you can enjoy scenic gardens and one of the most famous lakes in China, and it's all just 40 minutes away by bus. I'll just have to put the pandas on ice until the summer break... 
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tgreider on

After finishing a book that discusses the power we hold in our minds to physically impact the world, we should see what happens when we BOTH shout the word "gwen" in our heads the next time someone blatantly stares or takes a picture...

godfrey_du on


I happened to find your travelogue here during my search of posts about travellers' impressions on Shanghai, and I liked your writings the best.

About the "gwen" expression, my German friend Martin has actually used it more than a couple of times to the hawkers on Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai -- against my best advice. The facial expressions in response were kinda priceless. Mostly disblief in what they might or might not have heard with a strong air of anger and irritation.

Mark Chambers on

Hiya mate,

My advice would be next time someone stops you in the street and says "Waiguoren", I would say the Chinese word for "Where!", turnaround and generally look confused. Although I wouldn't be surprised if you had something like this in mind already.

Let me know how it goes.

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