Apparently, if you have a good whinge about the local weather online, China hears you and has a word with the sun. It has been BEAUTIFUL here for the last week.
Feeling as though we hadn’t had a trip in a while, we got the Shanghai Crew back together and went for a tour of XiaMen City. It also happens that one of our Shanghai Crew is leaving next week, so it felt like a good send off for her, seeing as she had never been. Rushing from work on the Sunday night, we caught our High Speed Rail for two hours and landed in XiaMen City around 9.30pm.
The hostel was incredibly difficult to find, and so we were walking around, asking every Tom, Dick, and Harry for directions. Finally, one of them called the hostel and someone came to find us. The Chinese are always very helpful and we were so glad that we were finally found. (It wasn’t difficult to find at all, I walked straight to it, turned around, and realised the girls had wandered off , so had to backtrack for 10 mins to find them- Callum) Through a key-fobbed iron gate and down some narrow rickety stairs, we were all a little apprehensive as to what the hostel might look like. One described it as a hippy-style-opium-den, though I thought it was beautiful.
Finding our rooms sparse, with a bed on the floor (or bunk beds for the other two), a couple of Van Gogh style wooden chairs, and a squat toilet, the other members of our Crew had a moan, and so we headed out to find something to eat.
We didn’t find much. After eating hotpot in a local restaurant, we went for a walk in search of icecream. Instead we found a university campus, and stopping in a cute little cafe run by two beautiful, giggly, Chinese girls, we were offered egg-waffle cones of icecream with strawberries and marshmallows, along side a place to stay for the night. Declining the girls lovely offer of a bed, but not the dessert, we wandered back to the hostel for an early(ish) night.
Waking early (for us) we headed out in search of some food and a local temple. All taxi drivers were declining our request to head into the city for traffic reasons, and we stopped to ask one where was good to go; somewhere without too much traffic maybe. Taking out a map he was happy to show us a great place to go yachting, windsurfing, and dolphin spotting on the coast, miles from anywhere. We graciously declined, but with few other options and his irritating enthusiasm, we gave in and jumped in his cab. After the promise of good food, we agreed to let him take us. He drove us right to the windsurfing office, showed us the tickets, and asked for an extortionate amount of money to get on the water, promising to provide food once we had paid. It was then we realised that we had been swindled – he, and all the other taxis, were on commission for each person they brought to various tourist traps across the island. We made a sneaky get away, which did indeed involve some running when his back was turned, and tried to get back to where it was that we originally wanted to go. Walking for a little, we located an empty taxi, jumped in and asked for the temple. Meter on, we started towards the highway. However, we had gone less than half a mile when he broke out his phone and started to show us photos of dolphins. Re-itterating that we wanted to go to the temple, he stated very clearly in English that we should get out and take the bus. It stops over there.
Out the taxi we got, no closer to food or getting on the way to find food, we located a tourist information centre and asked a lovely lady which bus we should take to get to some food, or the temple. We really didn’t want to see dolphins. She pointed us in the right direction, and after three busses that stopped but were too full to squeeze into, we crammed ourselves uncomfortably into the fourth one. This bus was packed to the point of a London Bus on the school run, with people sitting on each others laps and the driver constantly shouting for us to move down. With an armpit in my face and an elbow in my ribs, it made for an uncomfortable but familiar ride into the city.
We found a cafe-cum-bakery close to the art quarter for a much needed breakfast at around 11am and headed to ShaPoWei for a look around. ShaPoWei is the art quarter of XiaMen; one street lined with local arts and crafts, handmade soap and perfume shops, craft food type take away stands and the odd local restaurant. We located where it was that we were to eat that night and carried on to the temple.
The temple is situated near to the University Campus, and so was a little bit of a walk. We found the entrance, crowded yet remarkable, with a little building work going on in preparation for the summer tourists. Unfortunately we didn’t stop there for very long but I suppose that means we will have to go back.
Getting a taxi towards the Western area of town, we stopped short of the river and walked along a beautiful boardwalk that went out into the river along the underside of a bridge. With the sun on our shoulders, the blue of the water beneath us, and the green of the plants surrounding us, it felt as though we were in a tropical paradise. Not for long, however, as we soon entered the forest of tower blocks once again in search of a Western restaurant. Stopping in The Londoner for a cold pint of IPA and a cider (which is SUPER rare in China!) we slowly made our way to Coyote; Coyote being a chain of Mexican restaurants, for lunch.
From here, a little tipsy and a lot-tle full, we taxi-ed back along the promenade towards a beach to watch the sun set. The beach we chose was hidden from the horizon by a network of roads built on stilts over the ocean. As this weekend is a National Holiday in China, there were many people there flying kites, including an incredible team of a three year old and his adorable little sister who were flying their kite with such skill and panache, the chappy trying to impress his girlfriend along the beach looked as though he was failing miserably.
The red sun set, with the kites in the sky, and the temperature dropped. Aside from the drooly dog running around our feet, the world was calm. Sat on the beach we all realised how lucky we were to be in this part of the world, and the stress of this mornings taxi palava set with the sun. As the temperature dropped we walked back along the promenade, stopping in a gourmet make-your-own coffee shop that looked like a chemistry lab. We spent the evening here watching Apollo 13 on the large screen TV and petting the beautiful white cat that came to make us coffee.
From here we made our way back to ShaPoWei in to eat a good, European burger. Burgers are rare in FuZhou so this was something of a treat for us – we haven’t eaten a real burger in six months! Starting with some home-brewed gin and elderflower (!) and a home-brewed stout, we finally got to eat the mother of all burgers in what used to be an ice factory. It had the same industrial feel as a few of the newer burger places back home, and we even heard a few English and American accents. It was like a little sniff of home.
The next day we woke early and headed out towards GuLangYu island in the bay. We got there by boat through a terminal that looked like an airport, and off the other side into an almost Mediterranean town. Colonial architecture and shady courtyards blended beautifully with Chinese tea gardens and koi ponds to make one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever visited. The roofs were orange, the pavements tiled, the streets lined with palm trees. The sun was out, the world was bright.
We didn’t particularly have a destination but spent the day walking around the island, enjoying the sights, sun, and beaches. I shall let the photos do the talking.
After the island, but before our return to civilisation, we stopped at a French restaurant called LaBistro. The food here was incredible, the wine cold and sparkly, and with the owner chatting away in french in the background, it was easy to forget where we were.
But back to reality, a taxi ride took us back to the station, for a sleepy trip home to the chaos and bustle of Fuzhou.