Xiamen: Gate of the Grand Mansion Part 3

I never had a chance to write this weekend, and I regret it but also know that it couldn’t be helped.  We had to pack up the rest of our Christmas presents and bring them down to the post office so that they make it to Canada in time for the Holidays.  This may seem simple: buy presents, pack them up, and ship!  But in China, nothing is simple.  It takes hours sometimes to find even the most basic things.  When everything is unfamiliar (from language to brand names), finding the ‘right stuff’ can be difficult.

There's no lack of selection in China, but when all the name brands are unfamiliar, and when there is little English on the packages, it can be a little overwhelming.  It's much better now than it was 2006, but still...to find drain cleaner, we had to look at each individual bottle until we found a label with a drain on it.  The most simple tasks in Canada can be a nightmare out East
There’s no lack of selection in China, but when all the name brands are unfamiliar, and when there is little English on the packages, it can be a little overwhelming. It’s much better now than it was 2006, but still…to find drain cleaner, we had to look at each individual bottle until we found a label with a drain on it. The most simple tasks in Canada can be a nightmare out East

We purchased a lot of our Christmas shopping in Guilin, while we were on holidays.  So it might seem like all we had to do was stick it all in boxes and ship it off to Canada.  But customs can be quite difficult…so if they decide to open our box up, everything might end up a mess when it arrives.  I experienced this in Xiamen, so this time I labeled everything as best as I could, so that our friends and family on the receiving end know whose gift is whose.  I also included a letter with each box detailing which item was for which person as a back up.

Oh...and when I say I made '46 labels'....this is what a 'Marie' label looks like.  I don't half-do anything lol!  I got paint...construction paper and glue (2/3 of those items too ages to find!)
Oh…and when I say I made ’46 labels’….this is what a ‘Marie’ label looks like. I don’t half-do anything lol! I got paint…construction paper and glue (2/3 of those items too ages to find!)

Then, we had to go to the post office and ask for boxes and wrapping materials (in Chinese).  Of course, this should have also been simple, but the women there sold us boxes that were too small for their labels, so in the end, we had to pack everything up twice (as well as buy a second round of boxes).  Oh China!

Just some of the boxes we have left to ship/have left over.  In total, I had 46 labels to make, including all of our nieces, nephews, siblings and our close friends.  Our living room looks like the cardboard monster threw up in there!!
Just some of the boxes we have left to ship/have left over. In total, I had 46 labels to make, including all of our nieces, nephews, siblings and our close friends. Our living room looks like the cardboard monster threw up in there!!

Then, of course, there’s the long list of items that cannot be shipped anymore.  Although we were careful with our purchases, knowing that they’d have to be sent via China Post, several items were removed from our boxes, leaving certain family members and friends with half-gifts.  Some things in particular were especially confusing.  Milk products aren’t allowed to be shipped.  We were told this rather abruptly today, however, we have no idea which of the gifts we were sending contained milk!  They didn’t take the item out.  They left it in and scolded us instead.  It is all terribly confusing.

This is a blank copy of the form we had to fill in before we could ship each box.  Behind it are 8 carbon copies.  When I finished writing it all up, (after we'd already been there for an hour), the guy told me to fill in the right side of the page in Chinese.  I looked at him, pointed to myself and snapped 'lao wei!!' He got the point that I wasn't happy and said 'Ingwen ye hao da' (English is okay too).
This is a blank copy of the form we had to fill in before we could ship each box. Behind it are 8 carbon copies. When I finished writing it all up, (after we’d already been there for an hour), the guy told me to fill in the right side of the page in Chinese. I looked at him, pointed to myself and snapped ‘lao wei!!’ He got the point that I wasn’t happy and said ‘Ingwen ye hao da’ (English is okay too).

But have no fear, we will manage to ship the rest of them before too long.  Tonight, I’m taking a break from that stress so that I can finish writing about our last 2 days in Xiamen!  I bet you thought I’d never get around to it, eh??

We only had 3 days to enjoy in Amoy city, so we had to spend them wisely.  We woke up early on Friday October 3rd and checked out at the hostel.  We weren’t too terribly sad to go, as the hostel wasn’t the greatest we’d stayed in.  It’s only redeeming quality was the excellent bartender who was both friendly and nearly fluent in English.

Unlike the sheets in our room...
Unlike the sheets in our room…

Our first stop was Nanpu Tuo or “The South Temple”.  The location of this temple goes back 2000 years, and it has been called Nanputuo since the 1600s, when it was rebuilt.  It received another facelift since I’d seen it last, and it now has even more elaborate wood structures and its old stone statues have been replaced by newer ones.

Nanputuo Temple from afar.  Years ago, I climbed the mountain behind it.  This year, it was too busy and crowded so we decided to skip the trek up.
Nanputuo Temple from afar. Years ago, I climbed the mountain behind it. This year, it was too busy and crowded so we decided to skip the trek up.
One of the new structures.  It is very well painted and the woodwork is beautiful.
One of the new structures. It is very well painted and the woodwork is beautiful.
Me at Nanputuo in 2006.  The entrance and the elephants were both a lot more plain then.
Me at Nanputuo in 2006. The entrance and the elephants were both a lot more plain then.
I'm not the only one who got an upgrade!
I’m not the only one who got an upgrade!

After escaping the crowds, we head back to the hostel to pick up our luggage.  Along the way, we ran into some fellow Lao Wei on the street. The following story is one I shall name:

“OMG…as…freaken….if” (Said in the tone of the ValleyGirl)

They were dressed up, done up and wearing excessive make up (not really a culturally appropriate thing in China, aside from at clubs…).  They were lost and asked us if we live in Xiamen.  I told them that I used to, and gave them some directions to where they were headed (the shopping street I mentioned in my previous post).  We chatted there a little while and I asked them if they were also staying at the hostel (we were right outside it when we ran into them).  One of the girls laughed and said ‘oh wow no.  We’re staying at so and so hotel’.  We uncomfortably laughed with them and congratulated them for having the money to stay in a hotel (the cost of accommodations triples during National Week).  They then asked us where they could eat on Zhong Shan Lu.  I piped up (because food is my favorite thing ever) and recommended trying some of the fantastic street food found on the strip.  The same girl laughed again and replied “yeah…we don’t do street food”.  At that point we moved on and left them to find their way.

These three honestly came to mind during this conversation...
These three honestly came to mind during this conversation…

A word of advice to any fellow travelers reading this blog: Don’t be THAT Lao Wei!!!  It’s fine if you’d rather stay in a swank hotel and it’s fine if you don’t want to risk street food, but don’t be the type of traveler that looks down on those of us who stay in China, wanting to STAY IN CHINA!!  That’s one of the big draws this part of the world still has after all:  it hasn’t been sanitized, westernized and robbed of it’s culture yet (well…not completely!).  And THAT’S why I love it.  It hasn’t turned into North America and that’s awesome.  So don’t be the type of Lao Wei here that only eat western food, do western things and act western.  It’s not cool….

Back to the rest of our trip…

I’ve already written about the insane trip over to Gulang Island, so I’ll keep this post short (er) by leaving that info out.  (You can read about it in my post: Chinese National Day).  Once we arrived at our hostel, and checked into our room, we set off to wander the island.  What I was most looking forward to showing Dave, was the view of Xiamen Island from Gulang.  At night, the buildings are all lit up and it’s absolutely beautiful.

From here you can hear the crowds and the music on ZhongShan Lu.
From here you can hear the crowds and the music on ZhongShan Lu.

As I've mentioned before...Xiamen is a TALL city.  4 million people are crammed onto an island 1/4 the size of Winnipeg.  The buildings here are high!

This is my favorite of the night shots I took (our camera didn't do the view justice, which is why I included a professional pic as the feature image for this post).  In the foreground, you can see a small boat.  It is carrying supplies either to or from Gulang Island, most likely for one of the many restaurants there
This is my favorite of the night shots I took (our camera didn’t do the view justice, which is why I included a professional pic as the feature image for this post). In the foreground, you can see a small boat. It is carrying supplies either to or from Gulang Island, most likely for one of the many restaurants there

As our stomach’s began to grumble, we made our way into the island’s center, where there are shops and food vendors waiting to be explored.  I had my heart set on some fresh Xiamen Seafood, so we spent some time looking for just the right place.

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The live seafood is kept outside restaurants on GulangYu. You can choose your fish, eel, clam, oyster etc…
mmexport1412784023570
The fish we chose. It may not look like much, but it was very tasty 🙂

We spent the rest of the evening drinking beer, journaling and relaxing after a hot day in the sun.  We did get adventurous at one point and tried to find some wine to enjoy out on the terrace.  We did find some wine, but it was a tad difficult to enjoy.  I love many things about China: the food, the beer, the people….But I do not enjoy Chinese wine!!  We called it quits at around 1am and jumped in the most comfortable bed we’d slept in since we arrived here in Mid August (a western style bed is a HUGE selling point for any hotel in the Orient!!)

The terrace where we sat writing and enjoying some Chinese beer :)
The terrace where we sat writing and enjoying some Chinese beer 🙂
A view of the hotel from where we were sitting
A view of the hotel from where we were sitting
Gulang Island is beautiful any time of day
Gulang Island is beautiful any time of day

The following morning, we set out to explore the island some more, but with 80,000 people in such a small space, it was a bit rough to get anywhere.  We did manage to enjoy some very good skewered potato as well as some steam dumplings and other treats as we walked the paths and squeezed through the crowds

I pity all those who do not 'do street food'
I pity all those who do not ‘do street food’

Eventually, we began to feel the effects of the sun, so we set off down a shaded path that was mostly empty.  The lack of tourists lead us to believe that there wouldn’t be much to see, but I can say that the time we spent in that shade was the best I had on our last day in Xiamen.  There is so much interesting architecture on Gulang Island, and it’s all so well kept!  We took our time, taking photos of the beautiful walls and the winding path.  Eventually we found our way into a mini-shopping area, where we discovered a bar with free Wifi.  We spent about an hour in there, trying a Chinese iced cream dessert and chatting with Dave’s brother William on Skype.  This was definitely another highlight of our day!

Part of this wonderfully quiet path
Part of this wonderfully quiet path

IMG_2749

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Nice place to stop for a photo :)  This tree was growing up against a wall
Nice place to stop for a photo 🙂 The tree behind us was growing up against a wall

This quiet path eventually lead us back to our hotel, where our bags were waiting to be taken with us to the airport.  It was time to leave.  But this time, at least I left Xiamen on my own terms.

I can’t say enough times how lucky I felt to visit this hometown of mine.  Part of me has always stayed in Xiamen, and it’s hard to put into words how much this trip meant to me.

Stay tuned!  I’ve got many more stories and pictures to come!!

4 thoughts on “Xiamen: Gate of the Grand Mansion Part 3”

  1. Hey guys!! Happy to read you are still doing well. I am happy you got to go back there! I remember you telling me stories from living there in 2006, and showing me pictures on Google when we got bored at work lol. Miss you!!

    Lexi

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    1. Miss you too Miss Lexington!!! It was so neat being there…so much changed that it hardly felt like the same city. But seeing my old apartment…and going to Gulang Island, which hasn’t changed much at all…was just so cool!!!

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    1. Glad you’re still reading!!! With my new phone, I’m taking way more pictures when I’m out and about in Guiyang too, so soon I’ll be able to post about our daily lives here as well!!!

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