Fujian - the homeland...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Xiamen - Fujian Province: the homeland. Apparently. Well, Mum says so and so does Dad, but less convincingly. I'll take their word for it. I mean, what the fuck do I know anyway? The idea of it excites me at least. Before coming here, I had these visions of running into a parallel universe Mark, that had been living in CHina all this time instead of being born abroad. My vision is kind of 'Back-to-the-future-esque' (by the way - what happened to Michael J. Fox - i really want to watch Teenwolf now), and that if we ever meet, the world's will collide and implode. Dramatic indeed, and unlikely, but you can never be too careful. I wonder if I'd recognise him...

5 bowls of instant noodles after leaving Hangzhou, winding through some spectacular Yangshuo like scenery, I arrived in Xiamen. In Australia, such an instant noodle eating feat would be greeted by bright sunshine. In China, as it is such a common place achievement, only gloom and rain await. On the gloomiest day in the history of China, my first in Xiamen, I manage to find my hostel on the small island of Gulang Yu and enjoy a hot shower which is undoubtedly Top 5 in all China. Brilliant. First impression of Xiamen - and first impressions last - the weather's a bitch. But following advice from the song, I decided to bring the delightful Hangzhou weather with me and it paid dividends, with beautiful weather for the rest of my stay in Xiamen. How good is good weather? Rain is average...

So, my first impression of Xiamen faded, in particular, due to the delightful Gulang Yu. It's this little island only about 200m of Xiamen, devoid of traffic, quiet and beautiful, filled with ye olde world colonial shit. From what I have come to understand about Xiamen, it seems every bloody country has had Xiamen at some stage or another. I will refrain from any unsavoury metaphors as, inter alia, it's the homeland. But during these periods of colonial invasions, many buildings were constructed on the undulating island, making for some amazing walks for the modern traveller. And there's no one around. Yes. Indeed. Brilliant. On one of the gloomiest days in the history of China, I ascended the poorly named Sunlight rock (a misnomer equal or greater than the demilitarised zone in Korea), the highest point on the hilly Gulang Yu. As beautiful as it was from the top, the winding alleys and cobblestone paths along the steep Gulang Yu rises make the island, and are certainly the most memorable part of my time in Xiamen.

Well, actually, I lie. There was probably something more memorable, as much for the sheer "I can't fucking believe it" factor. Sometimes things just work out so brilliantly it seems ridiculous. You see, trying to track the Australia v Greece game on the internet and receiving SMS updates from Jensen ("Aus 1 - Greece 0 - Josip Skoko from a set play"), I notice a post on an Australian soccer forum entitled "Aus v Greece live in China". What? Huh? What? CCTV 5? I run downstairs, turn on the TV, and Mark Viduka is on the ball passing the ball to Marco Bresciano. Celebration ensue. I still can't believe it. That's right - living the dream. Bring on Germany. Snags - don't forget my tickets.

Of all the cities I've visited in China, this is the most Perth. Laid back lifestyle, relaxing coastal breeze, beaches. The beaches? Average. Better than Qingdao, but still terribly average. It's amazing how much you come to appreciate our beaches the more you are presented with poor excuses for them. Yeah, I'm a beach snob, but deal with it. Xiamen isn't the most exciting city to be honest - perhaps another Perth likeness. I think 'pleasant' is the word. But like Perth, it's probably a 'live in city' and a place you need to be more than passing through to appreciate its qualities.

By the way, how good is being a student? Working? Average. Sitting around doing nothing, shopping, hanging out with your friends, occasionally plagiarising an assignment. Genius. Having not been around a uni for so long, I forgot what a complete bludge it was. A trip to the famously beautiful Xiamen University changed that. Kids just doing nothing. Everywhere. Playing football, killing 5 hours between classes. Maybe I'll go back to uni when I get back to Perth. Xiamen University, by the way, in my opinion - overrated. Not a patch on UWA.

Following the distribution of preferences and several countbacks, the Hangzhou Survey of the Devil of the Death has been completed. Polls are now closed. The assessment of the survey - and the survey is always right - is that Hangzhou is a solid 4 star city. Lucky, because I can't afford counselling. A large minority of the voting public favoured the view probably espoused by Margaret Pomeranz, which would have probably gone along the lines of:
"Oh David. C'Mon. Hangzhou was beautiful in every way. It was just delightful".
David Stratton: No. I don't agree Margaret. It just didn't have the dramatic beauty which I've come to expect from these Chinese cities."
Margaret Pomeranz: Oh David. Hangzhou is an absolutely gorgeous city. This is why I go travelling. 5 stars."

Now it's Hong Kong time, a place that excites me no end. I can't wait.

So, on leaving China proper, I've thought back on my trip in China by numbers. The Top 5 will reflect this. The topic for this Top 5, the last in mainland China, is "Top 5 random statistics from my trip in China":

5. Least expensive day (a real day, including accommodation, food, everything): 38 yuan = $6.
4. Most expensive internet = 20 yuan per hour. Bastards.
3. Out of the cities visited, proportion of cities with a population of 5 million or more: 9/14
2. Hours spent on trains: 142
1. Number of chinese characters that I can recognise: 68

Hong Kong it up...
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