You might remember from my first couple of posts about Xiamen (IIVB) that we’d been a little underwhelmed by it all, we’d got the distinct impression of just another Chinese city which happened to be on the coast and was largely inhabited by a temporary heaving mass of the dreaded bus tour groups.
Well, on day 3 we’d done the tulou tour, which had been awesome and as we woke on the 4th morning (a tuesday as it happens) we were a bit stuck for what to do next. In the end we decided to just pop for a look at Nanputuoshan temple, which was very close to our hotel and had been recommended by Tina.
The first thing we saw on arriving at the temple was a large pond with quite a number of people looking into the water. We wandered over for a look and ended up spending about half an hour there, the thing was positively humming with turtles (probably terrapins to be exact), I had no idea it was even possible for so many to survive in one place. The floating turtle coop in the centre of the pond was underwater due to the sheer weight of turtles, stacked 3 or 4 deep on top and everywhere you looked in the water turtles swam and I was surprised to see that somehow large catfish had managed to survive until adulthood and were competing for food alongside the turtles.
H grabbed some berries from a nearby bush and started dropping them in the water attracting a large group of turtles over towards us, several families started doing the same, the kids were having a great time pinging berries off the back of the turtles. After a couple of minutes H pointed to a group of turtles and shouted LOOK LOOK, I looked over to see that one of the large turtles had grabbed one of the baby turtles by the head and was pulling on it like crazy. Within a couple of seconds its head was off and then the other turtles all joined in tearing chunks off wherever they could, all the while being pelted with berries by the unimpressed watching kids. We decided it was time to take a look at the temple..
Somehow we managed to get in without paying, there was a gate where people were walking through and we just kind of followed, then we noticed attendants at the gate who weren’t really doing anything as we walked past and that other people seemed to be holding tickets, it was all a bit late by this point though, we were already through, unchallenged.
The temple was nice enough, but having just been on a trip to Beijing with my family and visited the Forbidden City (for like the 4th time..) and the Summer Palace we were having fits of deja vu and quickly lost interest. The arrival of a couple of coach tours quickly made our mind up and after playing around throwing coins into the mini-pagodas (it never gets boring..) and taking a few photos we headed back to the hotel for lunch and a nap (well we were on holiday you know…..)
After a couple of hours solid nap we scanned the map and seeing where the majority of attractions were we promptly decided to head in the opposite direction, right across the island to the beach on the other side for a walk and hopefully a bit of P and Q. We jumped in a taxi outside the hotel, pointed to the beach on the map and headed off.
He dropped us off seemingly in the middle of nowhere on the side of a minor highway which followed the coast, he insisted that this was the spot we had pointed to but I noted that the point coincided with the only pedestrian we’d seen for a good few km and who happened to be trying to flag down a taxi. H had a few choice words with the driver but I could already see the beach and what I saw looked good (which I pointed out to H as she finally paused for breath) so we paid the driver and walked down to the beach.
The beach was nice, really nice, clean sand, palm trees at the edge of the beach and we almost had it to ourselves, there were literally only 3 or 4 people as far as the eye could see.
We decided to head south, back towards civilisation as we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find a taxi later on, the flip-flops were off and we walked along the waters edge collecting shells for my niece. We had great fun standing in the surf, sinking slowly into the sand as the retreating waves leached the sand from under our soles, I couldn’t believe that H had never done this before, I guess beach holidays are primarily a Western obsession..
The beach eventually became pretty rocky but there was a really nice terrace over the rocks which you could follow round the coast, the tide was out though and we managed to find our way through without climbing up.
In the rocks we came across rock pools, I wanted to take a look but H thought they were pointless until we we sneaked up one and saw a large crab disappearing into a crack in the rock. We must have stayed there for 20 minutes, lying as still as possible watching the crabs slowly reappear, along with shrimps and small fish, I figure the last time I’d done this must have been almost 30 years ago, on our annual caravan holiday at Crantock (near Newquay) in Cornwall.
It started getting very rocky at one point and we ended up having to go up onto the terrace, leaving the rocks to a group of locals out collecting shellfish. After 100m or so things opened up again and we came down onto a beach, we could see groups of people ahead, apparently we were getting closer to civilisation.
The groups were all wedding parties, posing ridiculously to the instructions of the bored photographers, surely they have bets with each other on what ridiculous things they can make the couple do? One group in particular (who I wish I’d photographed) were posing behind two bottles of bright green Mountain Dew inserted so their necks crossed in the sand, with the photographer pretty much lying on the ground to get the bottles in the foreground. Surely ANYTHING would be better than mountain dew, even two bottles of Tsingtao if they can’t afford some fizz??
We walked another kilometre or so until we reached a bundle of restaurants / bars on the side of the beach and decided to stop for a drink. Basically all of them were closed for refurbishment though, I guess this area must get quite busy during the main holiday season.. We were pretty tired by this point though (walking through soft sand is surprisingly taxing what what) and ended up just taking a taxi back to the hotel for a well needed shower.
That night we had an easy evening eating seafood and had an early night to bed with plans to rise early for a long morning walk around the botanical gardens next to our hotel before checking out at midday and then flying back mid-afternoon. Well, that all sounded like a good idea but we ended up sleeping in till 10am and by the time we’d packed and eaten breakfast we only had around an hour to see the botanical gardens. We nearly didn’t go at all, it was tempting just to sit in the room and watch tv for an hour (my preference over botanical gardens), but we ended up going anyway on H’s insistence.
Now, normally if someone suggested going to a botanical garden I’d look at them as if they’d just asked me if I’d like to jump off a high bridge and then ask if all the bars were closed or something, I guess marriage has tempered me though and H really wanted to see it so I relented and agreed to take her, let me tell you I’ve completely changed my mind now and I’m ALL OVER botanical gardens, they were awesome!
We barely had any time once we got there, just chance to walk round the very pretty lake and see a couple of other areas (bamboo area, rainforest etc) and then we had to leave. The place was pretty much deserted and we were pretty much by ourselves walking through dense, very picturesque greenery. At one point we heard music and found an elderly couple playing flutes in a shelter by the banks of the lake (they didn’t want their picture taken). The downside is that the place was alive with mosquitos and I must have forgotten to apply “qu wen” because I got bitten to death (not literally). Worst of all, because I was wearing flipflops my feet were bitten five or six times, which made walking in shoes agony for the best part of the next week..
As we walked round the pond to the building in the pic above we could hear an extremely loud woman talking, when we walked inside we found a middle aged woman pretty much screaming into the phone while trying to catch frogs in a smaller pond inside, presumably the noise stunned them because she’d already got a carrier bag with five or six sizeable specimens for her dinner pot..
We were really sorry we didn’t have more time in the end, we must have only seen a fifth of the gardens and there was a really cool looking cactus area on the far side. It was just too far away though, so we made-do with a slow walk round the lake and wandered back to the hotel to check out.
Hmm, 5 pounds to the first person who asks if I’ve “gone gay”..