China adventures continued… Fujian Province
So we took our first internal flight from Guanzhou in Zheijang Province to Xiamen in Fujian Province recently. The only hiccup was that our flight was delayed for two hours. It was all very civilized until the airline announced free juice and out of date biscuits – we almost got squashed in the stampede that followed.
On arrival in Xiamen it turns out that virtually nothing is in recognisable English script and no-one seems to have produced a map with any English on it. Oh, and we’ve yet to find anyone in Xiamen that understands any English (fair’s fair as there’s not much call for the English language round here and we can’t speak Chinese to people in Scotland). After much head shaking we persuaded a lovely taxi driver to take us to our hotel (or rather partially constructed building site). It took us an impressive 4 hours to figure out that we were staying quite far from the centre of town – not quite our intention. It also seems that taxi drivers like to pick their fairs and no-one wants us. So, for better or worse, we’ve had to figure out the buses – largely through trial and error.
Now we’ve got over the initial impressions of where we’re staying (like the fact our room isn’t the slightest bit secure) we’ve actually settled in very well. We’re quite near the University (that’s about as much as we’ve figured out so far) and the juxtaposition of almost shanty type dwellings and typical Chinese “house restaurants” with quirky, independent fashion shops and ubercool coffee houses is captivating and charming.
Time and time again we’ve been bowled over by people’s innate desire to help us and connect with us despite no common verbal communication. We’re managing to book rooms, use internet cafes and get to places through a series of ‘Chinglish’, drawings and charades. The fact that we’re managing well and having a great time is largely due to human kindness. We must particularly thank the waitress the other day who even ran after us down the street to make sure we got the right bus – she even wrote instructions for the bus driver in Chinese to ensure he deposited us safely back at our hotel. We felt like special Paddington Bears. It’s true though, what goes around comes around as 2 days later we had the pleasure of rescuing a woman trapped in a room at the Botanic Gardens. We managed to find a security guard and persuade her to follow us (largely by doing our best Lassie impersonation) so she could free the very irate lady.
It does seem that the further into China we travel the more of an anomaly Western people seem to become. We went deep into Fujian Province yesterday to Hua’an County where we spent a day with Master Lei learning and tasting his amazing Organic Tieguanyin Oolong Teas. The local school kids spent a long time following and watching us pasty strange Scottish people. The fact that we’re both left-handed is also causing much hilarity – apparently that’s also a rarity in these parts. More on our amazing time exploring Oolong teas in the mountains of Daishan soon.