I have recently come across a new program called ‘Security Kiss’ which is significantly faster than FreeU when it comes to uploading pictures, so hopefully these updates will be less cumbersome (previously it would take me about 3-4 hours to upload the photos for these posts, so I really wasn’t too enthused to do it. Now it take me about 20 minutes to upload 3 times as many photos).
Xiamen is a medium-sized city on the southern coast of China in Fujian province. In recent years it has been consistently ranked as one of the top three most livable cities in China. In its history, Xiamen has been used as an international seaport, a strategic outpost against pirates, and as one of the five treaty ports established after the first opium war.
The southern coast of China promised a return to the warmer weather which I was desperately seeking, and upon my rival I was not disappointed to remove a few of my layers and my gloves to walk around in just a light jacket. I got in around 4 PM and I was able to locate the youth hostel I was staying at. It was located in a surprisingly lively area with a number of small, cozy cafes and artsy graffiti dotting the visible area. After checking in and getting settled I explored for a bit and grabbed a bite to eat. When I returned to the hostel I met three Chinese girls who were going to watch a girl play guitar at one of the aforementioned cafes. They invited me along, so I joined them.
I didn’t find the night out to be that fun, and actually headed back to the hostel around 9:30 to catch some good sleep.
The next day I woke up around 8 AM and began exploring Xiamen. My friend Lin was supposed to arrive that day around 3 PM, so I had to kill the morning and early afternoon before I could meet her. I decided to walk south of the hostel, toward Xiamen University and the nearby Nanputuo Buddhist temple.
Nanputuo temple is a rather famous temple from the Tang dynasty in China. It is surrounded by the ocean and the Wulao peaks, making it quite scenic from every angle. On the day that I visited I found it to be overwhelmingly crowded.
I explored the lower grounds for a bit, taking in the scenery. Unfortunately, at this point in my career as an Asian explorer I have grown rather fatigued of temples such as this. They really are mostly the same, and as I continued to explore Nanputuo I found it to hold little of interest.
This mountain, however, looked to be an interesting place to explore. I began eagerly making my way toward it, passing a large pagoda filled with fire.
The beginning of the mountain ascent was marred by a large amount of people who had similar expectations.
Unfortunately, ‘climbing’ mountains in China often refers to walking up a series of stairs carved into the mountainside. I had no interest in pursuing this course of action and at the first opportunity began climbing a different set of rocks and hills off the beaten path…
Eventually I met back up with the path, jumping down from a ledge 6 or 7 feet high and scaring the hell out of two young Chinese people. I continued onward until I reached the main terrace view of the city.
My ascent and descent took nearly an hour each way, and by the time I had arrived at the ground it was nearly 11:30. The temple was serving free vegetarian lunches made of rice porridge with mushrooms and various other vegetables. I was super excited to taste the delights of the Buddhist veg cooking…
I almost went back for seconds, but I decided instead that I wasn’t wanting to take from the people who really needed it. Instead I headed out the gate of the temple and began making my way toward the Xiamen beach and Hu Li Shan fortress. The walk there took about 30 minutes, and included a walk down a large and empty pier. Finally I arrived at a place of immense beauty.
I took my shoes off and played in the sand for some time, going up to my knees in the water. It was too cold, however, to do much more. I continued along the beach, all the way to the piece of land jutting out in the center of the above picture.
As I walked around the wooden bridge I eventually arrived on the southern edge of Hu Li Shan fortress. The fortress is built strategically to guard the channel between Xiamen and Gulangyu Island, and was used extensively during the first Opium War and again during the Nationalist-Communist civil war in the 1950s.
The military thing really isn’t my gig, and it was almost 2 PM, so I decided to head back toward the youth hostel where Lin would soon be arriving. I stopped off for a snack of some crispy vegan duck at the Da Fang vegetarian restaurant, but I wasn’t overly impressed with it.
Lin arrived at the hostel and checked in. We decided to cross the channel to Gulangyu and explore a bit in the early evening/nighttime.
Gulangyu was a traditional stronghold of foreigners in China. When Xiamen became a treaty port, Gulangyu became the location at which many of the foreign countries constructed their consulates. As such, much of the architecture which survives today at Gulangyu is foreign in origin and is supposed to be quite beautiful. The island is also significant as there is no motorized transportation on it. It is probably THE most peaceful place in all of China. But other than that I found it boring. We walked around for a couple of hours, but I didn’t find anything of interest. I snapped some photos that you can see on my Facebook, but it’s really not worth writing about.
Eventually we headed back to the youth hostel. I didn’t find Lin to be very good travel company, and the next morning I slept in a bit to prepare my things for traveling while she went off to explore Nanputuo temple. We met up later in the morning and I did a bit of back tracking with her to visit the beach again. She wasn’t very adventurous, and ended up just walking around in her shoes down the length of the beach. I didn’t think it was a good trip to take, so I instead enjoyed sucking on my first coconut of the trip… Delicious!
Finally we both headed back to the train station where I said a hurried goodbye and boarded my train to Guangzhou. Guangzhou was not an original destination in the trip, but there were no connection trains from Xiamen to Nanning, my true goal. I had resolved to find some way in Guangzhou to get to Nanning, and so as I boarded the train I realized for the first time that my plans had run out. I was winging it from that point onward. I only had one goal, really: To get the eff out of China ASAP. I settled in on my sleeper bunk with a nice book and a few snacks and began the 15 hour journey.
You can see more pictures of Xiamen here. I hope you enjoyed this blog!