The Typhoon and The Temple Cafe

Trip Start Mar 28, 2010
Trip End May 31, 2011

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Cory & Jazz's place

Flag of China  , Fujian,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

The first 15 hours or so of our journey from the village of Xiao Likeng to Xiamen went fairly smoothly but it was all downhill after that – yes, it was a very long journey that lasted about 28 hours in total: a 30 minute taxi ride to Wuyuan followed by a 4 hour bus ride to Nanchang, then a 4 hour wait followed up with a 16 hour night train and 3 hours of searching for our final destination once in Xiamen.

Due to something getting lost in translation, we ended up with a couple soft sleeper beds on the night train from Nanchang to Xiamen. Although this cost us a little more than hard sleepers would have, we weren't bothered by it too much as we assumed we’d sleep much more soundly in a first class car. Bad assumption on our part. The first 5 hours or so of the ride was great - we had a couple noodle bowls for dinner and watched a couple episodes of Mad Men (great show by the way) before tucking in for the night. With only one other guy in our cabin we knew the remaining empty bed would get filled at some point during the night but we didn’t anticipate that ruining the rest of our ride. When a young lady entered our cabin around midnight with a cranky young child it became apparent our sleep time for the night was more or less over. The seriously annoying child cried and whimpered almost nonstop all night. Rather than do the commonsense thing of taking her child out of the cabin until he stopped fussing so the rest of us could maybe get a little sleep, the mother instead just sat there with the child like there was no one else around and it wasn’t the middle of the night. And of course, just when the child finally stopped squealing in the early morning and we started to dose off, the train’s PA system was turned on at an obnoxiously loud volume, broadcasting what we can only guess was a series of commercials. Rough night. Interestingly, when the mother and child got up to exit the train at their stop we noticed the child’s diaper was clearly loaded to the gills and their bed was covered in urine. You think maybe that’s why the child was crying all night? Some people just don’t have any clue.

Unfortunately, the painful moments didn’t end there for us as once off the train we spent well over 2 hours walking up and down the hilly side streets of a Xiamen neighbourhood with our packs on trying to locate our friend’s house – our main reason for visiting Xiamen was to visit Cory and Jasmine (Cory is from Shane’s hometown but has lived in Taiwan/China for 12 or 13 years).  Turns out Google Maps isn’t always right as it had us in an entirely wrong section of town – we’ve since noticed a few other problems with the Google maps of various places in China so don’t count on them being right if you ever visit. Perhaps this is a result of the bad blood between the Chinese government and Google? Anyways, to make a very long story short, after talking to and attempting to talk to many, many people, we finally made it to Cory’s village with the assistance of a kind young lady who spoke decent English and put us in a taxi once she figured out where we need to go based on the address we had.

As Cory was occupied with his annual Ryder Cup competition (golf tourney) for most of the day we arrived, we spent our first night in Xiamen just down the road from his place at a spot called Dreamer House... a decent enough place but the restaurant was a little suspect – the bacon and egg sandwich they served us for breakfast had peanut butter on it? After a few reunion beers with Cory (it had been at least a few years since Shane last saw him) the evening of our arrival, we finally tucked in once again for some much needed sleep. Sadly, a good sleep just wasn’t meant to be for us just yet as  about an hour or so later we were shocked awake by the blistering winds of China’s 11th and largest typhoon of the year (no, we had not been aware of the storm before our arrival – seems the typhoon had been sitting in limbo off the coast for quite some time and hadn’t been expected to move). This being our first typhoon we weren’t really sure what to expect and we weren’t really comforted at all by watching the local news - similar to what you would get from, say, a CNN in North America, watching the local news would have you believe that the world was about to end. That said, after peeking outside and seeing a lot of stuff being violently blown around we decided to stay away from the windows and ride out the storm from bed.

At around noon the following day we figured it was safe enough to make our way to Cory’s, where we would spend the next five days.  We questioned our decision very early into the walk over when we saw a satellite dish be ripped off a roof landing on a car not far from us. We were on ultra-high alert after that. Luckily, the walk wasn’t very far and we made it to Cory’s without incident. Once inside, and much to our delight, we discovered the remainder of the day was deemed a movie day... typhoons can be good for something! Having not watched a movie from the comfort of a real living room for almost 6 months, we were ecstatic to be trapped inside for the day with a great TV, a DVD player, good company, a few dogs, and some popcorn – it actually did wonders for our mental health. In case you are wondering, although the storm did a fair amount of damage – including ripping up a section of Xiamen’s boardwalk and knocking down many large trees onto vehicles, fences, etc – there were luckily no reported deaths in the area.

Over the next few days we simply lived a more normal existence, which included, among other things, a trip to the local computer market with Cory and one of his coworkers and a night out at an expat bar called the Londoner for Quiz Night - it was great fun and we had a good run near the top but ultimately lost due to very poor performance during the World Dictators round... we blame Cory. Another noteworthy highlight for us was hanging out at The Temple Cafe – Cory and Jazz’s bar/restaurant. The Temple Cafe is in an old temple (still active) that they’ve converted into a bar/restaurant. They’ve done a great job with it. The decor is authentic and the atmosphere amazing. To top it all off, the food is fantastic – not only is the local cuisine top-notch, they serve the best Western style dishes we’ve had since being on the road... if you happen to find yourself in the Zeng Cuo An area of Xiamen, make sure to pop in.

Thanks again to Cory and Jazz for your hospitality and generosity. As we said, it did wonders for our travel-worn bodies to live in a normal house and sleep in a comfy bed for a few days. We are now recharged and ready to tackle Hong Kong!
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