When the Chinese say that Nanjing is one of the country’s “3 Fire Pits” (of Hell), they ain’t kidding. The city is not often a sunny place, but the humidity is a constant 98%. When the sun comes out, it becomes positively sweltering.
The local folk know this. When the sun comes out, do they head outside for some Vitamin D? Oh no, they board up their windows and watch soaps on TV, whilst the air-con blasts.
I, clever me, do not know this. When I wake up on a Sunday mid-morning and see the bright light streaming in, I decide it is the perfect day to play at being a tourist. I decide to go visit some historic mausoleums, up in the mountains, where I can go hiking.
One bus transfer and a long walk later (I got off a stop too early), I arrive at the gates of Mingxiaoling ( 明孝陵 míng xiào lín ).
Perhaps it was the heat, but the usual teeming tourists were missing. A happy thing for me, as I don’t like touristing when I have to vie in line for the views. Also, there’s no one to make fun of me when I take 5 minutes to read a plaque in Chinese that takes others 15 seconds.
Mingxiaoling is the burial ground for the Ming Dynasty’s first emperor and empress. You can’t enter the tomb, but you can climb the mound by way of many stone steps winding through a small forest. The shallow hike is actually quite nice, the shade a welcome cover from the heat.
Unfortunately, my companions on the hike were less than welcome. Halfway up the hill, as I’m counting the steps for fun, a man’s voice interrupts my rhythm:
Well shit. I look down and see no less than a dozen mosquitoes feasting happily away on me.
If it took me 20 minutes to get halfway up the hill, well, going the rest of the way up and down took only another 15 because I sprinted the rest of the way.
Lesson learned: Never leave home without mosquito spray.