Xiamen – Putian – Xiamen (July 2nd – July 7th 2015)
After arriving at Xiamen train station, the adventure to find the bus to Putian is beginning. It was raining so people were quite nervous and running here and there. We easily found the way to the bus-station by crossing a bridge. Not exactly sure where to buy the tickets (on board or at the counter), we had to go back to the station and line up in the queue. With tickets in our hands again we were told to hurry. We crossed the bridge to get on the bus, but where was the bus? It was not there, so again we ran back to the station. Asking some people it seemed we where on the right way. No, wrong again. Asking here and there we finally found out that the tickets was for the “dongche” (bullet-train) and we had missed it! Bullet train line in Fujian was something new to us, China is developing very fast. Again line up in a different queue to change tickets, no problem. This time we had good time to find the terminal and we where first in line when it was time to check in. Standing in the line was like getting ready to a race. Clock counting down and guard asking to check if machine works. Red light, no, wait WAIT, the guard is shouting. Now, hurry, try again, green, lets go!
Xiamen to Putian is close, it was a smooth ride in around 200 km/h. Once there we were welcomed by friends, Martha and Faye, who helped us with the hotel and treated us with an excellent dinner together with the whole family of three generations!
The next day we went by ferry to the Meizhou Island. Of course, the ATM did not work on the mainland, but there was plenty on the island! To make sure things should go smooth this is where we headed first. However, it turns out most banks and ATM, even with Visa and Mastercard written on them, do not work with foreign Visa or Mastercards. The machine just entered maintenance mode and did a reboot (windows sounds and all)! All the machines we tried “went to sleep”, so guess we crashed down the whole island`s ATM system! 🙂 Perfect, not enough money and where to get it? Friends stepped in, pulled some connections (“guanxi”) and, after taking a one-motorbike-taxi-ride, we could borrow some RMB from – an island government official! Finally our sightseeing could begin!
Mazu Temple is a beautiful and lively sight, crested on the green hilltops and with lots of people who go here to pay their tribute, burning hell-money and insense.
An occasional monkey (dressed up person) gives the impression that this could be a scene from the Jungle book. Dragana explained that the monkey character is Sun Wukong, one of the heroes from the Chinese classic “The Journey to the West”.
On the very top, the Mazu goddess surveys the sea and protects the land from the typhoon. From the hill close to the big Mazu statue one can see not only colourfull dragon-shaped roof tops, but also islands belonging partly to Putian and partly to Taiwan!
A bag full of lyche (Putian fruit) protects us from hunger. Perfect refreshing snack in hot weather. Chinese ladies use a different method: everywhere we have gone so far, we say thousands of big and small, bright and dark-coloursed – umbrellas (!) that protect the people from the sun! Not parasols- umbrellas! Guess it is because many people simply run dramatically from the streets when it begins to rain, so “rain umbrellas” are here pretty much useless as we know them. 🙂
Back on the mainland we head for the downtown Putian. Much has changed here in 10 years. The little town (of 3 million people!!!) has become a city with skyskapers everywhere. The cozy walking streets with “holes in the walls” with excellent local food turned into a little highway and the modern fashion and electronic shops were lined up side by side. Some areas are still the same though; looking behind the modern facades and digging into the alleyways, we found the school where Dragana lived and worked 10 years ago!
Next day, the journey continues to Xiamen. This is a rapidly evolving, partly mainland (suburbs), partly island (the real thing) city that attracts quite a large amount of locals, as well as a few foreign tourists. You reach the island by going through the underwater tunnel. It has lots of Western colonial architecture and was a well known port for foreign trade at the time. Xiamen has managed to keep some of its old charm with traditional narrow alleys, street sellers only few steps from modern walking streets with modern fashion.
One can experience different things in this growing city; while those prefering “food for the soul” head for the Zhongshan park and enjoy singing of a gathered Chinese choir in one of the traditional resting places (亭子), qigong, taiji and dancing groups or simply close their eyes and drift, those hungry for a speedy speedy life, shoping and modernization stroll down the walking Zhongshan road and get one with the crowd! Our local friends thou showed us something alternative: we saw the old railway track and went through the very nice tunnel that used to be active many many years ago. Now this place is called the Railway Cultural Park and our hosts explain that the tourist seldom find this place by themselves. Worth visiting and experiencing!
Gulangyu Island, a short ferry ride from the city, has well preserved architecture, beautiful beaches and several museums. It is CROWDED, especially at the ferry, but well worth a visit to get out of the city for a day. Don’t forget to sample local fish soup and grilled sea food in the streets! We tried those huge grilled squids in the street, our faces became orange and all that stuff, but we ENJOYED it as we finished it all with a can of Qingdao beer! Healthy food can wait a bit! 😀
As you can see, we had a short, but lovely time in a beautiful green Fujian province! As we are writing this draft, we are sitting on another “dongche” bullet train (not bus!:), this time crossing Zhejiang province and heading to Shanghai. We got up at 04.45 am, and before this “dong che”, took a local Xiamen`s blue BRT bus (not train!) which is elevated above the city and takes in anyone who can push, be pushed, squished and breathe in a most crowded possible vehicle!
Well that`s it for now. We are staying in Shanghai for the next three days and plan also to visit the neighbouring Hangzhou and Suzhou.
Stay tuned, folks! k&d