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October 2018. Introduced by the government back in 1949 to commemorate the founding of The People’s Republic of China, Golden Week is an annual national holiday that falls between the 1st and 7th of October. This is a holiday period like no other in the world, with just about half the population scampering around the country to reunite with family and go sightseeing. For those of you who’ve never witnessed this phenomenon, trust me when I say it’s absolutely mental. Traffic is gridlock, public transport is overloaded and certain tourist attractions can be #hellonearth. Maybe I was an idiot for even attempting to visit Nanjing Massacre Memorial, quite possibly the most popular site in the city. But at the end of the day I had five days vacation just like everyone else and I wasn’t going to leave Nanjing without seeing this incredible museum.
October 2018. I was expecting manic crowds when I emerged from exit 2 of Yunjin Lu Subway Station at about 10:00 on Tuesday October the 2nd. But at first glance it didn’t seem that bad. After all, I could see a long line moving steadily outside the main entrance. So we took the zebra crossing over with a spring in our step and… oh… hang on… why was the line moving away from the entrance gate?
October 2018. It took Jaylin and I about twenty minutes to get to the back of the queue. “Leighton, this is going to be hours!!!” she implored with widening eyes. The poor girl had already seen the memorial on a previous visit and was less than enamored by the prospect of god knows how long stuck in Nanjing’s very own human centipede. Luckily there was a giant mall across the road she could decamp to with a cinema. So suddenly I was alone… well… just me and about sixteen million others! Half an hour later and I don’t know how far forward I’d gone, but it seemed like very slow progress. These girls behind me were frantically searching for something on their phone and then shouting at someone on the other end. I couldn’t figure out what they were up to, but then sometime later a delivery dude scooted up next to us on his moped and delivered two bowls of dumplings right into their hands. They’d only gone and ordered breakfast!!! I will never know how the hell that guy managed to find them.
October 2018. According to the timer on my iPhone stopwatch it took me about an hour and ten minutes to double back on myself and get on the side of the queue that was actually heading in the right direction. This was obviously a positive development, but at the same time the queue was just crawling and with the clock ticking I couldn’t help but wonder what the cutoff point would be for getting in.
October 2018. Some way ahead I saw people cutting into the queue from the other side of the road. What!?!? First a group of teenage boys, then a hand-in-hand couple. Finally an entire family with hobbling grandmother to boot! This was when I decided to take matters into my own hands. Luckily for me it was fairly easy to start skipping large sections of the line. After all I was just a lone body able to silently drift between the trees, past all the shuffling zombies with their heads in their phones. I must have leapfrogged 100-150 people until my advancement was halted by the appearance of numerous security guards. These guys got pretty hands on with anyone who tried to cheat the queue, so I figured for the moment at least I was gonna have to play by the rules. Happily though the entrance gate was now in sight, which meant I was almost there. Right?
To find out how horribly wrong I was and to read about the unprecedented madness that lay ahead, have a look at my article How To Get Into Nanjing Massacre Memorial During China’s Golden Week Part II.
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