A week in Xiamen, China: Part One of Three

Before my dear friend Kerrie moved to Xiamen to teach English, I had never ever heard of such a place. I couldn’t even pronounce it (for those unsure it’s SharrrrMEN). Also before ending The Dragon Trip in Fuijan and having to get a public coach (on my lonesome) to Xiamen I was told I would arrive at the end destination at a bus station at 5pm, so as 5pm came around and I kept passing through small towns, I got nervous and thought to myself…I hope this isn’t it! As many of the towns were little villages with not much to them – not even local shops. But as I saw skyscrapers, mountains and bright lights in the distance I really hoped it would be the place. And it was! Yay!!

On arrival I was unfortunately dropped off at the side of the road and told to get off the bus. It was 6.45pm at this point. I could not see a bus station or any other buses. I had been dropped off in the ghetto.

After wandering the streets alone in the dark asking random people for a pay phone or wifi, I found an English speaking local! At the same time a middle aged man came running over to me shouting and pointing over to some taxi cabs. I naturally thought he was taxi driver hailing me into his cab, but he was very persistent to get me over to the cars. When I asked the English speaker to translate he said he was shouting: “There’s a white girl over there.” *phew!*

After a teary reunion with Kerrie after arriving 2 hours late we went to get some dinner. She took me to eat a Xiamen speciality noodles called Sha cha mian which is a peanutty soup with noodles, veg, fish meatballs, muscles and squid. It was delicious, I loved the flavour of the best soup so much that I finished off Kerrie’s meal too.

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Sha cha mian

Kerrie moved to Xiamen to teach English in 2012 and before she left she didn’t speak a word of Mandarin and there she was speaking fluently to her boyfriend Dongdong. I felt extremely proud of her as I watched in amazement – I also realised that I was the half Chinese one can’t speak the language *bows head in shame*.

Kerrie and Dongdong were kind enough to take me in for the week in their 9th floor apartment in the centre of town. After all the budget hotels across China I was amazed to have a double bed, dressing table, private bathroom, western toilet and my own balcony. They even have a washing machine!!! Luxury!

Day one in Xiamen Kerrie and I went for a wonder around the local area and Kerrie showed me where she’s been living all this time – it was so much more than I ever imagined, like a mini London. We came across her local park where I saw some very interesting things taking place. I had never seen anything like this before so naturally I had to watch in amazement and take photos!

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On this day I probably spotted about 15 bridal shoots but apparently this isn’t the most popular park. Why are they having their wedding photos? Well it turns out this isn’t any of their wedding days, they get the photos done early (or potentially even after the wedding) so it doesn’t interfere with their big day. Which seems like a good idea really when you think of the stress of a wedding day! But it is crazy how over the top they go!

I don’t think my posing in the park could compare that day…

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Following this we went to Once Bookstore for tea and to met up with Kerrie’s friends Mel and Jenny who also teach English in Xiamen. Mel is from Zambia and Jenny from Italy. It was really nice to meet them and talk about my China experiences and also find out more about them and what they do here! I was amazed by all the teaching and private lessons they do but still have time to fit in activities like Beach volleyball, flying yoga, calligraphy and more. Xiamen definitely sounds like a cool place to live.

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Me, Kerrie and Jenny at Once Bookstore

That evening Kerrie, Dongdong and went for a seafood dinner where we had crab, muscles, fish and green beans. I had never eaten crab before but they were nice but very messy to eat. After dinner we went for a few drinks at a chain bar called Helen’s where I learnt the dice drinking game I had overseen all over China.

Day Two in Xiamen we woke up early to visit the island Gu Lang Yu. Now at the time in the morning all I wanted was coffee so after arriving by Ferry we wondered around and found a little cafe where I ordered a caramel latte. This café sold some very strange items.

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Now I don’t know much about anything but I do know what kind of coffee I am expecting when I order a caramel latte. So when the guy serves me a instant black coffee with caramel syrup I wasn’t going to accept that especially when it was the most expensive drink I’d ordered in China so far – when I asked where the frothy milk was and I refused to take the sachets of milk he tried handing to us he eventually gave in and made me the drink I ordered. Thank you very much.

The island was very nice and is apparently the go to place if you ever visit Xiamen. There was a beach, historic buildings, monuments and little tourist shops. I just enjoyed wandering around, people watching and enjoying the company of my friend.

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I’m looking forward to the next few days here… Xiamen appears to be a little hidden gem of China.

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