The McAllister Family in China

Ruth and Ian McAllister

McAllister - Travel Diary.

Here's a wee story about our first holiday within China in 4.5 years:

We are Ruth, Ian, Kathryn and Rosie McAllister. We came to China 6.5 years ago and have been here for 5.5 of those years. Since our return 3.5 years ago, we have been busy visiting all sorts of other exciting Asian destinations. We will be going back to Victoria BC Canada in the summer of 2006, so I decided it was high time we went to Fujian province.

We flew to Xiamen, just an hour's flight from Guangzhou. Our return tickets, including taxes, were around 740 rmb each. From the airport, the taxi to the harbour was 43 rmb. Tell the taxi driver 'Lundou, gulangyu mattao'. There are two ways to go...the fast road costs about 100, but it really did not take very long the 'slow' way. We then took a little ferry over to a lovely small colonial island called Gulangyu. There are no cars there and it's all alleys, tourists and old buildings. The ferry is free going over and you pay 3 rmb to return. Buy a map at the Gulangyu tourist office by the ferry terminal for 6 rmb. It's also a nice souvenir. They also have postcards and books about the island and Xiamen's history.

The B and B we stayed at was a mansion from the 1930s. (nitelily).
We had a double and two single beds in one large room on the main floor, and had the use of a sitting room and the front balcony. The mansion has been renovated very stylishly. Breakfast included pancakes with real maple syrup, yoghurt, fresh fruit, excellent coffee and tea, juice, porridge, scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh bread AND toast. Wow!
The owner wasn't very warm and friendly and neither was the weather! We had some rain and blustery wind. But we had some good seafood and saw some great old buildings. Got lost only once! A good seafood place was at the eastern entrance to the tunnel by the beach. You can see the tunnel on the map. It's just a local café with the kitchen on one side and the tables right over the beach. A large crab, plate of prawns, plate of cauliflower, and excellent fried rice with beers was 105 rmb. The aquarium on Gulangyu was 70 rmb for adults, 40 for children and students. They have large displays of healthy looking fish, sharks, penguins as well as dolphin and seal shows.

Then we took a bus up to Quanzhou. We booked it from the bus ticket office just left from the ferry terminal in Xiamen. Tickets were 37 for a VERY nice bus and the clerk got us a taxi which cost 21 rmb to the bus station.
After you've been to the bakery, wander around the streets behind it.There are lots of painting, old Chinese stuff and art shops as well as a famous tea house. Also just past Isabelle's you'll see a large sign advertising the Quanzhou Puppet Museum. Amazing displays and reasonable prices for puppets. Another highlight was meeting an online Dutch friend of mine and we gave her some gouda...she was thrilled!! We had a pretty good time wandering around the streets. We have never seen so manytea shops in our lives.

One day we took a half day trip to nearby ChongWu by taxi and back for 200rmb, arranged by the OCH. It ought to have taken an hour be driven there, but the driver was a maniac and did it in half the time. We read about the city wall built in 1387 and thought it was worth a visit for a couple ofhours. The wall is still in very good shape, and the city has lots of traditional style houses and people. The folks were a bit shy for photos and it was rainy by then. They also do a lot of stone carving there and so we saw the statue park (25 rmb for adults) along the seashore.

My Dutch friend took us to a 1000 year old bridge in Luoyang (#19 bus fromthe bus station- take it to the end of the line and walk straight down themain road up and over the hill). There are lots of oyster farmers there. On the way back she stopped at a Moslem cemetery which was quiet and peaceful in the sunshine and a Shaolin temple (bus #41 from the city) Unfortunately, the kung fu guys were not wanting to perform for us and we saw a dead body (just the head at the top of the water) in a nearby canal; that really shocked my girls!

There is one street in Quanzhou with a great many restaurants. Head east onTumen Jie past the former mosque and a small temple onto Jinhuai Jie and keep going until you see a fancy Chinese gate on the north side of the street. Go through the gate across the canal and you'll find plenty ofplaces to eat. There is also a breakfast buffet (40 for adults, 20 for kids) at the Quanzhou Hotel, THE tackiest looking hotel in China. Looks like a wedding cake!

Kathryn and Rosie McAllister

Returning to Xiamen by bus (32 rmb), we visited and stayed at Xiamen University. The main gate is by a famous temple, Nanputuo Si. We had met a monk from this temple 4.5 years ago in Beijing and he had invited us to seehim there. He is quite elderly now, but still wreathed in smiles. He was so happy that we came to see him and he couldn't believe how the girls had grown. He took some snacks and fruit off the offerings in front of the buddhas as our refreshments in his tiny one room apartment. Now you know what happens to all of the fruit and snacks you see offered in temples. It's monk food! We sat with him for a while and drank some tea while Kathryncaught him up with what we have been doing. We thought we were done, and were walking back when he got another monk in a brand new Chinese 4x4 to take us to visit a new temple under construction. We actually didn't knowwhere he was taking us so were a bit puzzled! The new temple is housing a HUGE Quan Yin statue! Amazing. So we had a nice little drive around Xiamen too. Then the monk driver took us to a very small odd temple that looked like it was in someone's home...and gave us some bracelets and religious pamphlets.

We stayed at the guest house at Xiamen U which was very clean and quiet for 250rmb per room with two beds; the price included a mostly inedible breakfast. Perhaps it would have been tastier if we had been dining at 7:30am rather than 9am. There are two check- in desks in separate buildings,and one tried to rent us rooms for 450 rmb in their building. Then the girlsaid she'd give us a discount to 390rmb. We still balked at that price and were led to the other check in desk and paid 250. The rooms were pretty similar. We did find some nice small clothes&cute stuff shops in theUniversity district and a good Chinese restaurant with a huge English menu...Lin Duck House at 418 Siming Lu just by the gates of the University. Reasonable prices and fast service.
We do regret not having enough time to see the Hakka Roundhouses (tu lou)near Yongding. But we really needed two more days and good weather to go allthat way. At the time we were planning to go, the weather turned rainy and we thought that might be a bit miserable.

Happy travels, everyone!

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