Finally… we could put our feet in the sea! In the last two months we’ve seen many beautiful and interesting places, but most of these have had two things in common: they were relatively cold (from freezing point in St Petersburg to -10C in the Gobi desert to +15 C in Shanghai) and all places (except Shanghai) have been landlocked! So arriving to our last stay in China was quite special the moment we got off the bus, took off our shoes/socks, bought a coconut with a straw and dipped our feet into the salty water of the South China Sea. Of course it was freezing cold, but it couldn’t cool the warm feeling inside!
Originally we planned a stay in Xiamen mainly as fall-out base for the Tulu roundhouses west of the coastline, which we read about in the Lonely Planet. However earlier we decided we would stay in Hangzhou 2 more nights and this would make it logistically difficult to visit these historic buildings. Additionally we were happy to stay 3 nights in one spot. This turned out to be a good decision as we liked Xiamen, mainly because of the sea and it’s fruits (sea-food).
Xiamen is a ‘small’ city (1/2 million people) of which the main part is located on an island. We got out of the train at the Northern train-station and took line 1 (bus) into town. We found it amazing that this transfer-bus had not only its own lane on the road, but big parts of the 40 minutes drive it also had its private road towering above the ‘normal’ road. So no traffic-lights, no other cars, only bus-stops. This bus took us to the ferry-terminal/waterfront close to the (shopping) heart of the city, where most (foreign) visitors will stay during their visit. Mainly due to limited availability and high prices (we arrived during the weekend) we had to look for accommodation at the south of the island and settled into the Me2 Lovers Guesthouse (yes I know). This guesthouse is located at the end of a lively area made up of small alleys filled with predominantely young Chinese visitors enjoying the many restaurants, food-stands, bars and shops. To make it even better, this area was across the road from the beach, so perfect location!
We spent half a day on the island of Gulang-yu, often described as the main highlight of a visit to Xiamen. After a 10 min ferry-ride we arrived to Gulang-yu with hundreds of other tourists ready to explore this car-free island by foot. The main (paid) sites are pretty gardens, a bird sanctuary, cliffs and a few temples, but the (free) abandoned colonial buildings, views of the sea and small streets are worth it as well. The entry fees were quite high compared to other sites we visited in China, but if you want to visit these take a full day. We mainly just walked around the island and about half a day was enough for us. Like many attractions in China it gets quite busy with local tourists, especially on weekends, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Another popular reason for visiting Gulang-yu (and Xiamen) is to get pictures taken as a couple. Nothing strange you’d say, but we were told that here they dress up as newly-weds (wedding-dress and -suit) even if there are no wedding plans yet?! It seems to be big business as we saw couples with a photographer and a light-reflection-round-silver-screen-holder everywhere!
The rest of our time we spent in Xiamen mainly enjoyed delicious sea-food (already featured in our earlier post ‘Chinese Kitchen’) consisting of crabs, squid, shrimp and fish. Not just the sea-food, but also the side-dishes like grilled eggplant and variety of steamed vegetables were amazing and very often covered in garlic. An added bonus was that every time we asked for the bill we couldn’t help ourselves thinking of how much money we ‘saved’ compared to ordering these delicacies in Europe.
On a day in the main part of town we took some time for an always entertaining activity in a city: people-watching. Throughout our trip in China we were often the subject of people-watching, this time we turned it around. After walking up and down a main shopping and architecturally significant street in Xiamen and trying a bowl of famous peanut-soup (sweet, a bit strange, but tasty) we sat down at a terrace and started taking pictures of by-passing shoppers to also give you an idea of how a normal Chinese street looks like. You’ll find a compilation below:
We rounded up our stay in Xiamen with a beer in a karaoke bar and Mark’s first travel haircut. Although the sounds and intonations of the Chinese language are still quite strange to us, we could tell that apart from one guy (the owner we believe) the quality of singing was pretty horrible. It was funny at first, but we left it to one beer. The haircut took place in a barbershop/living room next to our guesthouse. After an initial attempt to explain with gestures how Mark would like to have his hair cut, he let the lady do her thing which she did with admirable speed and at first sight a pretty decent result. After further inspection Lucia concluded it was a waste of 20 yuan (2.5 Eur) – or rather ‘you get what you pay for’ – as there were still spikes of long hair sticking out at several parts. For the people that know Mark and his hair-do, you know that it really doesn’t make much of a difference anyway so we decided to leave it and get it done properly a few weeks later.
Xiamen airlines then took us to Taipei (Taiwan) early morning on Nov 25th which was the end of an incredible 29 days in China. We’ll write up something summarising our overall insights about China and its people soon!
Konecne sme si mohli namocit nohy v mori! Posledne dva mesiace sme sice videli mnoho krasnych a zaujimavych miest, ale vacsina z nich mali dva spolocne cinitele: boli relativne chladne (pocnuc nulou v Petrohrade, cez -10 v pusti Gobi az +15 v Shanghaji) a vsetky (teoreticky okrem Shanghaju) boli vo vnutrozemi. Takze pochopitelne, nas prichod do nasej poslednej destinacie v Cine bol specialny a takmer hned, ako sme vystupili z autobusu, sme si vyzuli tenisky, kupili kokosovy orech so slamkou a namocili si nohy do slanej vody Juhocinskeho mora. Bolo sice dost studene, ale ten pocit!
Povodne sme planovali nas pobyt v Xiamene skor ako zakladnu pre vylet do Tulu – starovekych okruhlych domov, ktore sa nachadzaju na zapad od pobrezia, a o ktorych sme citali v Lonely Planet. Nas plan sa ale zmenil uz v Hangzhou, kde – ako ste citali tu – sme ostali dve noci navyse a tak sme uz tieto zaujimave historicke budovy nestihli navstivit. Navyse sme boli radi, ze v Xiamene mozeme stravit az tri noci, kedze sa nam tam vdaka moru a jeho plodom velmi zapacilo.
Xiamen je na cinske pomery ‘male’ mesto (0.5 mil obyvatelov), ktoreho velka cast lezi na ostrove kusok od pobrezia. Nas vlak nas vysadil na xiamenskej Severnej vlakovej stanici, odkial sme sa autobusom (cislo 1) odviezli do mesta. Prislo nam nepredstavitelne, ze by napriklad v Europe mal autobus nielen vlastny pruh na ceste, ale dokonca i postavenu akosu rampu, ktora – podobne ako nadzemne metro v americkych mestach – viedla cez velku cast mesta a bola vyhradena len a len pre autobusy MHD. To znamenalo samozrejme ziadne auta, zapchy ci semafory a len zastavky, ktore boli podobne tym metrovym. Autobusom sme isli az na konecnu, kde sa nachadza pristav trajektov a hlavna nakupna ulica mesta, okolo ktorej byva ubytovana vacsina turistov. Hlavne kvoli vysokej obsadenosti a cenam (prisli sme akurat na vikend), sme si nasli ubytovanie v juznej casti ostrova v Me2 Lovers Guesthouse. Tento hotelik sa nachadza na kraji rusnej oblasti, ktora pozostava z malych uliciek plnych restauracii, poulicnych stankov s jedlom, obchodikov a cinskych (vacsinou mladych) turistov. Tato oblast bola navyse hned cez cestu od plaze, takze sme boli spokojni s nasim vyberom.
Pol dna sme stravili na ostrove Gulang Yu, ktory je casto ospevovany ako najvacsia aktrakcia Xiamenu. Po 10-minutovej plavbe lodou sme sa spolu so stovkami cinskych turistov vylodili na tomto malom ostrove bez aut. Hlavnymi (a platenymi) atrakciami ostrova su jeho pekne zahrady, vtacia voliera, skala s vyhladom do okolia a par chramov, ale (bezplatne) opustene kolonialne budovy, plaze s vyhladom na more a male ulicky tiez stoja za to. Vstupne je v porovnani k inym atrakciam, ktore sme v Cine navstivili celkom vysoke, ale ak sa rozhodnete investovat a prejst ich vsetky, stravite na ostrove cely den. My sme sa ostrovom len prechadzali a tak pol dna bolo tak akurat. Tak ako vacsina atrakcii v Cine, aj tu bolo pekne plno. I ked stoji za to ostrov navstivit, narozdiel od doporuceni z Lonely Planet, sme nevideli dovod ostat i na noc.
Zvysok casu sme stravili v Xiamene a na obed ci veceru sme si uzivali vynikajuce morske plody (viac v blogu o Cinskej Kuchyni tu): kraby, kalamare, krevety a ryby. Nielen tieto, ale aj prevazne zeleninove prilohy – za zmienku stoji grilovany baklazan – zvycajne pokryte kopou cesnaku, chutili bajecne. Bonusom lahodnych pokrmov bola ich cena a vzdy, ked sme dostali ucet, sme si nemohli pomoct a pocitat, kolko by podobne hody stali v Europe.
V den, ktory sme stravili v centre mesta, sme sa okrem prechadzok ulicami zastavili, aby sme sa oddali popularnej mestskej aktivite: pozorovaniu ludi. Pocas celeho vyletu Cinou sme sa casto stavali my objektami mnohych pohladov, tentokrat sa karta obratila. Po prechadzke a ochutnavke popularnej arasidovej polievky (sladka, trochu divna, ale chutna) sme si sadli na terasu a popijajuc ladovy caj zacali cvakat. V anglickom texte hore najdete You-tube video kompliaciu takych beznych cinanov v cinskej ulici.
Pobyt v Xiamene sme uzavreli pivom v karaoke bare a Markovym prvym cestovnych strihom. I ked zvuky cinstiny su pre nas stale tak trochu divne, dokazali sme celkom jasne rozpoznat, ze okrem jedneho ‘spevaka’ (ktory vyzeral ako samotny sef), kvalita vystupeni bola celkom strasna. Najprv sa nam to zdalo vtipne, ale po jednom pive sme utiekli. Strihanie sa odohravalo v holicstve/obyvacke vedla naseho hotela. Po snahe nohami-rukami vysvetlit, aky uces by si pan prial, to Mark vzdal a nechal pani nech urobi, co uzna za vhodne. Po obdivuhodne rychlych strihoch to na prvy pohlad vyzeralo na slusny vysledok… Az do (ani nie tak detailnej) inspekcie Luciou, ktora zhodnotila, ze strih bol akurat tak adekvatny 2,5 EUR, ktore Mark zaplatil, kedze niektore vlasy ostali nahodne nedotknute. Pre tych, co poznaju Marka a jeho uces, vedia, ze to asi nebude tak vazne a my sme sa tiez rozhodli to nechat tak a skusit stastie znova za par tyzdnov.
Xiamenske aerolinky nas rano 25. novembra doviezli do hlavneho mesta Tajvanu – Taipei – a tym sa i skoncilo nasich 29 dni v Cine. Dufame, ze coskoro budeme pre vas mat aj blog, ktory zhodnoti nase dojmy o Cine a jej ludoch vseobecne.