After 8 months of mentioning our desire to take a day trip, Aleid and I took a day trip today! Aleid made all the plans, so I just hopped in a taxi with my wallet and a camera and we headed to the bus station. We took a bus from Xiamen to Quanzhou, about an hour away. Quanzhou appears to be a cookie-cutter Chinese mid-sized city (of course, by ‘mid-sized, I mean the population is around 800,000).
[Side note on Chinese cities: When my dad came to China, he was reading a book that contained a quote something along the lines of “There are 40 cities in China with over a million people, and you’ve never heard of 37 of them.” So I started wondering, how many Chinese cities does the average American know? And how many do I know? So, average Americans (although of course you’re not average, because you’re reading my blog about my life in a Chinese city): what’s the number? First, write down a list of every Chinese city you can think of, without any references! Names remembered from my blog are fair game. Then, check out this list of the top 100+ Chinese cities by population. How many have you even heard of before? For me, the number was 35.]
Quanzhou, as a cookie-cutter city, was much less crowded than Xiamen was yesterday. Despite this, it is much louder than Xiamen ever is. Cars, buses, and motorcycles honk incessantly, as if the action itself made the vehicle move. Touts of all varieties surround the bus station and went crazy as we walked by them. We had to brave them because our connecting bus was leaving from a different bus station. This always happens; I swear if a city only had one bus station they would build another upon our arrival just to mess with us.
When a woman helped us cut in line to buy our tickets to Chongwu, we thought we were on the fast track to the beach! . . . but then we realized we had to wait in line. Although we managed to keep people from cutting (Aleid freaked the hell out of one lady when she turned to her and said, in Mandarin, “You cut in line!”, causing the woman to sheepishly return to her former spot), it still took over an hour to get on a bus. We took advantage of the wait to make two separate trips to the KFC next door – one for sugar-coated 油条 (oil sticks) that were easily the closest thing to a churro that I’ve had since Uruguay, and one for french fries and a Peking-Duck-style chicken wrap. No wonder KFC does so well in China; their menu is barely recognizable!
Chongwu is a nice small city. The distinction between mid-sized cities and small cities is largely evident in fast food franchises. Mid-sized cities have Maidanglao (McDonalds) and KFC; small cities have Maikecai (a.k.a. “Fake McDonalds”) and CBC (a.k.a. “Fake KFC).
It was relatively quiet, not too crowded, and the day was 75 and sunny, so we really felt lucky to be there. The main attractions in Chongwu are the beach and the old city wall, so we walked across town to the park. The city wall is quite nice but obviously has nothing on the Great Wall – hence, we dubbed it the “Good Wall”.
We quickly got distracted by the gorgeous beach. Some areas, with white waves crashing on black rocks, reminded me of Lake Superior.
Other places, with white rocks and blue-green sea, made me think of pictures of Greece.
We lounged on the rocks for a few hours, enjoying the solar energy from the sun on our backs and the stored thermal energy of the rocks beneath us. There was a breeze to keep us cool, kites in the sky to watch, and Chinese tourists to take pictures with.
Then we walked around a bit until we stumbled upon a forest of hammocks!
We gleefully jumped into them and basked for 5 minutes before being told that we owed 1 kuai. Personally, I think that was one of the best 1 kuai I’ve ever spent in China.
Of all the things that people try to sell tourists, 5 minutes on a hammock is the most brilliant idea. They had a great location, too – right off the beach, but under the shade of a small grove of trees.
Then it was time to head back home, a journey that went worse than the way out. We got on a bus to Quanzhou almost immediately, but they let a ton of people on to stand, which made the ride uncomfortable for everyone. Then our bus from Quanzhou was delayed a half hour before boarding, a half hour after boarding, and a half hour en route. Basically, this trip served as Aleid’s introduction towards “adventuring”.
We made it to Chongwu, had a good day, and eventually made it home, so . . . Adventure successful!