City Guide

Four Hours in Nanjing

31 Aug 2008 by business traveller
Margie T Logarta explores one of China’s most historic hubs, enjoying a river cruise, getting a ginger leg pack and more.  


Proximity to the Yangtze River has yielded rich fodder for Nanjing’s cuisine such as fish and shellfish. So it’s not uncommon to see heaping platters of crab and crayfish load tables in local restaurants being attacked with gusto by diners. The venerable Jinling Hotel serves that and more in its Plum Garden restaurant, which is an institution among foodies in the city. Lately, the establishment, as well as the other F&B outlets, have taken to offering organic ingredients in their dishes, the result of an agreement with an organic farm in Lishui County. Plum Garden recently hosted an organic food festival, which should be the first of many. Xin Jie Kou Square, Nanjing 210005, China, tel 86 25 8471 1888. Open daily from 1130 to 1430 and from 1800 to 2200.


Okay, so it’s the touristy thing to do, but a Qinhuai river cruise fills up an hour or two before a yummy dinner with friends. It’s also a quick way to get an idea of the city’s origins and layout, from the ancient walls to houses of ordinary folks by the river banks. It’s just too bad the commentary of the guide is in Mandarin, but it does give one a chance to let imagination take over and sweep one back into the past when neon lights and loud music were non-existent. Ticket charge: CNY70 (US$10).


Every prospering Chinese city wants its own Lan Kwai Fong or Xintiandi entertainment hub, and so does Nanjing. It boasts the Nanjing 1912 Entertainment Block – 1912 referring to the year Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek appointed Nanjing as the capital of his Guomintang government. Located downtown near the Presidential Palace, in roughly a city block or two, are Chinese restaurants, cafés and karaoke bars set in mock-historic two- and three-storey buildings with paved courtyards in between. There are also a few spas and upmarket clothing boutiques thrown into the mix. The massage centre (tel 86 25 8452 1919), which we tried, provided a free ginger leg pack therapy – a wonderful muscle relaxer.


The Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre is not an easy place to visit, but it is necessary to do so, at least once for repeat visitors to the city. Actually a museum built over killing fields and a graveyard, the attraction – yes, you could call it that since it draws record crowds on any day of the week – commemorates one of the darkest hours in humankind and also celebrates the survival of goodness and decency in a world gone mad. Be prepared – some of the exhibits are utterly shocking, if not incredible. The documentation and research work that went into creating this version of the Chinese holocaust is stunning. 481 Shuiximen Street, tel 86 25 8661 2230, Open Tuesday to Sunday from 0830 to 1700.


Believe it or not, a strong whiff of Bali in the bucolic Chinese countryside. The Kayumanis group, which operates properties in Nusa Dua, Jimbaran and Ubud, has stretched its reach to the foothills of Tangshan Mountain, renowned for its healing waters once reserved only for royalty. Kayumanis Nanjing consists of 21 villas in varying configurations and charmingly themed (Peranakan or Straits Chinese, Javanese and Chinese among others) with plunge pools (one for swimming and the other can be filled with special spring water), a spa and a restaurant overlooking a lily pond and rice fields. This is the perfect place to do nothing at all. Visit for details.
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