Hello and Welcome to Nanjing Nian!

Myrtle leaves

Dead tree in mist 1

Why hello there! And welcome to Nanjing Nian, my blog about a year living and studying in the city of Nanjing, China.

Yep, you guessed it…Nanjing means, well, Nanjing in Chinese, and Nian means year. This is Nanjing in Chinese characters: 南京 And this is year: 年. So 南京 (Nanjing) + 年 (Nian) = 南京年 (Nanjing Nian)!

I’m excited about the year ahead, and can’t wait to share it with you. And I promise to write every week, from now until December 31st, 2015.

I don’t promise every post will be interesting – or about China – but as an exercise in discipline for myself, I am putting it out there that I will write at least once a week. Can you hold me to account dear reader? It would be mucho appreciated.

You can click here to find out who I am and why I’m going to China. But I don’t leave until February, so until then, I think I should cut my blogging teeth on other things. Namely…Tasmania!

I’m currently in beautiful Tasmania, or Tassie as we ‘mainlanders’ call it. Actually, pretty sure everyone calls it Tassie. I just want to use the word mainlander as often as possible.

Brooding Lake St CAlthough Nanjing is not as polluted as other cities in China, like Beijing or Xi’an, the air quality is still pretty bad compared to our high Australian standards.

And where could the air be cleaner than Tasmania, an island covered in 50% forest? So I am here for a week, breathing in as much as possible. Which, admittedly, is difficult to do considering that wherever we are, we breathe pretty much the same amount every day. But hey. The thought was there.

Other reasons for coming to Tassie were a) reading Anna Krien’s excellent book Into the Woods and feeling inspired to see Tassie’s forests first hand before they are all chopped down by loggers and b) various other bloggers such as Pip Lincolne from Meet Me At Mikes, Kate Berry from Lunch Lady, and Michelle from Hugo and Elsa making it look so damn stunning and c) having some frequent flyer points available. That last reason was just the final tick…Tassie is so great that it’s ACTUALLY WORTH PAYING TO GET HERE.

  1. Edited Lake St Clair 1 Echidna

I am travelling solo this time around, and I must admit, I am a bit of a shy traveller. I find it hard to ‘make friends’ with strangers when I travel. And, in a way, I don’t really want to make friends on a short trip. I am fine with my own company, and while I’m happy to have a chat with a fellow hosteller, or someone on the bus, I don’t need to hang out all day, y’know? Are you like that, or are you more of a social traveller?

Yesterday, I went on a boat cruise up the Gordon River. We took off from the port of Strahan (pronounced like ‘straw’ with ‘n’ on the end – took me a while to get that), a quiet fishing town on Tassie’s wild west coast that feels like it’s seen better days. It was the sight of the famous Franklin River protests in the early 1980s, which the Strahan Backpackers manager was very keen to tell me about. ‘Perhaps you’re too young, but have you heard of Bob Brown?’ he asked. I assured him that, despite my meagre 30 years on earth, I had indeed heard of Bob Brown, former senator and leader of the Australian Greens. ‘Well back in 1982, Strahan was where Bob and everyone came for the protests – the town was full of media, police, activists…’ His face lit up. Then he told me how Strahan Backpackers had nearly gone broke in recent years, and it was only until it was bought by a big tour company that it could continue to operate. He looked like he really missed the good ole protesting days.

The Gordon River itself and the rainforest surrounding it is out of a movie – I won’t wax lyrical as hopefully the photos do it justice.

Macquarie Harbour 4Edited not really Macquarie Harbour 5Instead of using words to describe a World Heritage Area that defies description, I was about to bitch and moan about how annoying the other 50 passengers on the boat were, clumping around in big sheep-like groups through the rainforest, rushing up to the buffet lunch to be first served…but I won’t. The blog I most admire is Meet Me At Mikes and the main reason is its positive tone, so I will try to follow suit. Thank you Pip for inspiring me not to moan!

Besides all the obvious things that are great about Tassie (MONA, trees, lakes, blah blah blah, you can watch any Tourism Tasmania ad to work that out), a highlight has been Airbnb.

If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, you need to get on to it. It is the BEST! For half the price of what you would pay for a hotel room, you get to stay in someone’s house. I have now done this in Sydney, Bendigo, Brussels, London, Shanghai and now Hobart, and it is unfailingly wonderful. The people have always been kind, helpful and the opposite of weirdos. And your money goes to your average Joe or Joanna instead of Best Western or Travelodge…it’s a no brainer for me. Have you used Airbnb before? Or maybe hosted?

I stayed in the front room of a terrace house in North Hobart. The owner was off camping with her daughter (how terribly Tasmanian) so I was greeted by the owner’s Mum, Val, as well as two cats: one old and one whippersnapper named ‘Kitten’. Val was the best! When she is not house sitting for her daughter, she lives on a small farm outside Launceston with her husband Geoff (or is it Jeff? Sorry Val!).

Funky North Hobart edited
Street art in funky North Hobart

Edited Kitten

One night, I came home from a day seeing the sights of Hobart and we watched Antique Roadshow and then Sherlock together, while she knitted socks for her granddaughter, and Kitten blissed out on my lap, her intense purring vibrating her whole tiny body. We talked about Tasmanian politics, refugees, the Overland Track, and how her husband is taking a group of Chinese tourists bird-watching in October (should he take them to the South West to see the orange bellied parrot or not? That was the question). Then I retired to my lovely big room with a view of Mt Wellington. Can you get all that at the local Best Western? I don’t think so.

Have you ever been to Tassie? Where did you go? What did you do? I would love to know! Or even if you just really want to visit one day…I’d be interested in that too!

Big love from the Apple Isle

x Iz

11 thoughts on “Hello and Welcome to Nanjing Nian!

  1. How beautiful! I look forward reading more of your travels. Will you be advising on good places to get dumplings in Nanjing? Also: not even a small bitch and moan? What about a one per month quota?


    1. Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your comment! From time to time, I may have a guest blogger who advises on the best food places in Nanjing (by the way – this is you). And the idea is to keep things upbeat – perhaps a very occasional bitch and moan, but only for good reason.
      Because, after all, tourists are tourists and if I choose to go on a cruise with other tourists, I can hardly be surprised when they do annoying things.


  2. Hi Isabel. I have never been to Tasmania, in spite of being an incredibly old mainlander. Your photos and blog make it very inviting. I’m in favour of travelling alone sometimes because you do make an extra effort to chat to people you may not normally bother to get to know. I’ve met some very interesting people when travelling alone, over a hotel breakfast, including a Kenyan health demographer and a bevy of Nigerian bishops. Flying alone can sometimes offer the same opportunities. On planes I’ve learned some interesting things about the Mormon religion and practised my French with a young student on her way to an Australian working holiday. Happy blogging!


    1. A bevy of bishops…I like it! And I agree, you do tend to be more open to new people when you travel alone. As a young(ish) woman, I have to try hard to not assume the worst of men who speak to me, but I am getting braver as I get older I think. As an ‘incredibly old mainlander’ (your words not mine!) you really must go to Tassie sometime. It’s very close and very lovely! Not unlike NZ really. Thanks for reading!


  3. Hi Isabel
    Enjoyed your fresh perspective on Tasmania. Great place to visit.
    I’m an Airbnb host and it certainly does bring interesting and diverse folk through your door!

    Keep safe & enjoy your adventures!


    1. Hi Robyn,
      Oh you’re a host, how fantastic! Is hosting quite competitive where you are in Melbourne? I tried to sub-let our apartment last year and there was just too much competition in St Kilda, we didn’t find any takers.
      Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 Isabel


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