Maria Holland

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Changtai

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 12:52 am

This morning is SO typical of China.  Behold:

We meet at Baicheng at 7:30 (just for the record, this was a mere 2 1/2 hours after the football match ended last night) to set off for our day trip.  Nathalie’s running late so as we cram the five of us into the taxi we urge the driver to go faster – we have an 8:10 bus to catch!  At the bus station, XuLei goes to buy tickets while we go to find our bus.  The woman at the information says, “Changtai?  There are no buses to Changtai from here.”  Ah, the old wrong-bus-station trick; I’ve fallen for that one a good many times.

But this was apparently part of the plan.  XuLei comes back with tickets to Changtai as well as bus passes that will get us to the correct bus station.  It’s a short drive away, a small transportation hub hidden so cleverly in a mall that none of us knew it existed.  We navigate our way through the station, finally get on our bus to Changtai, and I fall asleep.

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 2

XuLei wakes me up after calling the rafting place, our destination in Changtai.  Due to the flooding affecting the entire province (except our island, apparently), there is no rafting today.  I understand that weather affects outdoor activities, but what makes this something that could only happen in China is that a) XuLei ordered tickets online last night and b) the place was also closed yesterday.  XuLei confers with the driver and finds an alternate destination; a few minutes later we are dropped off on the side of the road.

It’s the JiaLong theme park, a completely artificial wonderland filled with a zoo, fruit garden, hot springs, pools, fishing, and a [90m] ‘mountain’.  Despite a very enthusiastic employee, we unanimously decided to seek greener pastures (or at least higher mountains).

But there were no direct buses to our next choice, Xiamen University’s campus in Zhangzhou.  I mean, technically there were no direct buses to anywhere, but we did manage to get on a bus to Xiamen after walking a ways and standing on the side of the road looking helpless (fortunately, sometimes I happen to excel at). 

The vehicle we boarded was the bus equivalent of the Jeepucha from the farm.  The Jeepucha was the very first stick shift I ever drove, a feat that was complicated somewhat by its complete lack of power steering, suspension, or brakes of any sort.  The seat belts were sketchy – heck, the seats were sketchy – and only a few windows remained.  This bus was pretty much like that.  It sparked a mild debate between us as to how old this thing could be; Aleid thought 30 years but Nathalie and I disagreed, saying that vehicles don’t get driven like this and last 30 years.  XuLei guessed 10. 

It got us safely to DongDu, where we caught a bus to Lundu, where we got on the ferry to Zhangzhou.  Yeah, we felt a little silly about our route thus far, which had taken us from Xiamen to Zhangzhou, back to Xiamen, and now returning to Zhangzhou, but we agreed that the scenic tour had been nice.

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 4, boat – 1

We took a local bus from the ferry to the campus, where we decided to have lunch (as it was already noon).  We first had snacks, some 烧仙草.  Lester described it as “milk with peanuts, red beans, stuff, and other stuff” (where the other stuff is coconut jelly and suspicious black jelly), but I’m personally partial to the name of the stand at West Gate: Fubu Burns the Fairy Grass.

Then we went to a restaurant for lunch, where we were treated to some truly notable service.  They really don’t see many foreigners out there in the country, and the poor waiter was so confused that he asked XuLei if she could speak Chinese.  Then, as we ordered food, he offered a commentary on whether or not we would like it.  “Chinese food is not the same as Western food,” he began, going on to tell us that “we aren’t accustomed” to eating this type of fish and that type of meat.  I’m surprised he didn’t bring us forks and knives, actually.  I would have been insulted by how condescending he was if I hadn’t found the whole thing so hilarious. 

It was my first real meal in about 6 days, and even though it was quite hot my stomach had no problem.  We all struggled a little with the hot peppers, but luckily discovered that lychee really help to put out the fire.  They may be my new addiction . . .

We walked around the campus after lunch, seeing XiaDa students (including XuLei) spent their freshman and sophomore years.  It’s a beautiful campus, with many of the things that make our campus on the island so beautiful – water and mountains, fusion architecture, tropical plants. 


But it’s only a few years and the trees aren’t very big, so I think in maybe 10 years it will be able to compete with its big brother. 


The main draw is the library, a piece of architecture so famous that there was a CCTV special on it.  It’s huge, airy, open, and fabulous.  There’s a giant courtyard/arboretum inside illuminated by sunlight (filtered so it’s not so harsh) and filled with couches and plants. 

As soon as we sat down on one of said couches, we were approached by group after group of students wanting to get their pictures taken with us.  What can I say, we’re cute!


Lester felt left out because no one wanted a picture with someone who looks Chinese, so I took a picture with him.


And we got someone to take a group picture, too. 


Then it was time to go home.  Bus to the ferry, ferry to the bus stop, bus to campus. 

Transportation tally: taxi – 1, bus – 7, boat – 2

What a day – and all while we were “adventuring towards rafting in Changtai”!

  1. A true “adventuring” adventure.

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