Maria Holland

A Lesson in Trip Planning

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2009 at 10:07 pm

This weekend I went to Ningde with some friends.  The content of the group changed continuously up until the moment we left XiaDa, when it included me, Aleid (the Netherlands), Kristina (Slovenia), Arina (Russia), Hannah (Ukraine), and Christine (Germany).  Aleid, Kristina, and I had originally been planning on going with some guy friends who backed out, and then Arina and her friends joined us. 

We chose Ningde for two reasons: 1) Wuyi Mountain, the best tourist spot in our province, was too far for a weekend, and 2) because of this review in the book Magic Xiamen:

Ningde – Birthplace of Southern Chinese Civilization

Taimu Mtn. Nature & Religion
     36 Temples, 36 Scenic Spots
Xiapu – Japanese holy place
     Yangjiaxi Bamboo Raft Ride
Sandu’ao World’s Deepest Ice-free Harbor
Zhouning – Natural A/C City
     Liyu Village Carp Worshippers, Kung Fu Fighters
     9 Dragon Falls, China’s Largest falls Complex
Baishuiyang – Walk on Water

I bought this book because it is generally acknowledged to be the authoritative guide to Xiamen.  It was written by an American who has been living and teaching here for 20+ years and it does have some useful information on Xiamen.  However, I now have a new reason to dislike the book (besides the bad grammar, horrible puns, and cheesy clip-art): it is totally useless for information about Fujian. 

For illustration, I would like to describe Tulsa in a way similar to this review of Ningde:

Tulsa – Center of Southern Culture

Oklahoma City – State Capital
     Bricktown, Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
Altus – Rural Oklahoman Life
     Wichita Mtns. Wildlife Refuge – buffalo!
Ft. Sill – Modern and Historical Base
     Cannon Walk, Cricket’s Corner, Geronimo’s Cell
Little Rock – President Clinton’s Boyhood Home
     Clinton Presidential Library, Hot Springs National Park
Dallas – the Metroplex
     Concerts, Sports, Rodeo

Wow, doesn’t Tulsa sound amazing?  One small problem: none of those places are actually IN Tulsa.  In fact, the nearest is about 2 hours away by car or bus.  Oops, did I forget to mention that?  No biggie.  Of course, when you were planning your trip to Tulsa, you factored in all that travel time, right??

If you can’t tell by the sarcasm above, we didn’t know that when the author said all these places were “in Ningde”, he actually meant “Ningde is a good starting point” for these places. 

You should also have figured out by now that this trip was not nearly as smooth as our idyllic vacation in Taiwan.  It all started before we even left XiaDa, when we realized that only some buses start running at 6; the one we needed didn’t come until 6:40, when we had planned to leave at 6:15.  Once we got to the bus station, we were told that the bus we wanted was leaving from the other station.  This really annoyed me because first of all, the man at the XiaDa travel agency said that the bus left from “the” long-distance bus station, and even agreed when I said it was by the lake (which it, of course, was not actually).  Secondly, Xiamen is an island with one bridge to the mainland.  Therefore, any bus leaving the island must go the same way . . . so why on earth would there be two long-distance bus stations??  China never fails to surprise and confound.

We took a taxi and got to the correct bus station and were even pleasantly surprised to find out that Ningde was only 4 hours away, not 12 like we had heard from someone.  We got to Ningde no problem and found a nice hotel where we each had our own clean bed for only 35 yuan, and it looked like things were going to be smooth from then on. 

Then we went to buy tickets to one of the many nearby attractions.  This was when we discovered that Nine Dragon Falls was 4 1/2 hours away, and Taimu Shan was just a bit closer.  Out of necessity, we settled for BaiShuiYang (‘only’ 2 1/2 hours) and bought tickets there – stupidly, before inquiring about return buses.  Another surprised awaited us next, in that the last bus returning from BaiShuiYang was at 4:50.  This meant we were looking at 5 hours in a bus for a half hour at this place . . . We managed to get the tickets exchanged for the next morning, but this left us with nothing to do for the rest of the day in Ningde, as our list of places to go was all out of reach.

We walked around the city for a while, which was not very enjoyable.  Living in Xiamen, it’s easy to forget what the rest of China is like, but Ningde was a reminder.  It was dirty (actually closer to filthy), loud (because outside Xiamen, where honking is not allowed, Chinese drivers use their horns more than the average American driver uses their blinker), and our presence was regarded with more curiosity than a band of bearded ladies . . . with no arms . . . riding unicycles.  It gets pretty tiring when everyone sees you as an English-speaking dollar bill. 

I finally asked a local girl if there were any 好玩儿的地方 (interesting places) around, and she suggest Baishuiyang – totally not helpful!  If someone asked me what to do in Coon Rapids, I would not tell them to go to Duluth!  Goodness . . . She finally told us about a park nearby, so we went there and climbed for awhile to pass the time.  We did get a good view of the city, which reminds me of nothing more than Mexico City (besides the tall pagoda on the hill).

DSCN5515

We also walked around the city for awhile, grabbing an mediocre dinner and some DELICIOUS cream puffs off the street.

Back at the hotel, we gathered in one room to play cards.  First, Kristina taught us a game that was somewhat similar to Spoons.  I think all of our countries had versions, more or less, of this same game, but we decided to play with Slovenian rules.  Basically, the deck only contains as many sets of 4 as there are players, and only one card is being passed at a time.  The game is over when someone has spelled out O-S-E-L, or ‘donkey’. 

It was pretty boring, though, so I told them about a game I wanted to teach them – King Mao.  Basically, it’s a game that you learn by playing: usually one person knows the rules and the others don’t, so you just start playing and the leader fines the others whenever they do something wrong.  New players have to figure out the rules as they’re playing, but it was even hard for me because I had to translate all the rules I was used to into Chinese.  It’s hard for me to say too much without giving the game away, but trust me – it was hilarious.  Most of the game was played in Chinese, but one of the rules had a word that we didn’t know how to say in Chinese, so everyone just used their own language.  I now know how to say “spade” in Russian and Dutch!  I also learned a couple words of Chinese: shuffle, clap, turn. 

I just really enjoyed playing the game because it was the only time that day that I was really confident everyone was having a good time.  Hannah, Arina, and Christine are quiet, quieter, and quietest, and I felt bad all day for how the trip was turning out.  But everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves while we played, so I really loved it.  Also, I get to cross an item off my bucket list: Teach someone King Mao in Chinese.

After playing several rounds, Aleid, Kristina, and I turned off the lights and went to bed.  We continued talking a little bit, like a slumber party or something . . . I think it ended up working out very well to just have girls on the trip :)

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  1. Great story and pictures…but you misspelled “handsome”!

    Please save us some of those ““toughness biscuits” for when we come in January, okay? You’re amazing.

    Dad

  2. Did you guys buy socks to “walk on the water” or were they part of the tour? I noticed that you all had the same socks on and in your solo shot thought that you’d used your own socks and wondered how you continued your trip with wet socks. Just wondering….

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