School closed for winter vacation, and we had 6 weeks free. Our plan was to explore a number of cities, spread over 5 different countries!! First stop – Xiamen, an island off the south east coast of China, in the Fujian province. This city has been chosen as one of China’s best cities to live in.
First day of our vacation: Excited!!
We woke up early and caught a cab.
We had called Texas the night before, so in the morning we only had to get up and leave. With our bags already packed, we got up early, and made our way to a hotel that has an airport shuttle to Jinan. Our flight was unfortunately not from Dongying, because our local airport is pathetic! Last time we flew from Jinan, we took an ordinary 4 hour bus to he city, and then a frantic cab ride, which ended up costing about 200 yuan!! We nearly didn’t make it to the airport… In fact, we arrived 2 minutes before check in closed!
This time, we wanted to be sure that we arrived early, and that there were not an unnecessary costs, or stresses. Our friend, Josh, is always a good source of information, and he knew someone who took a bus directly from our city, to Jinan airport. We got the directions, and had them translated into Mandarin, so that we could show a taxi driver.
Waiting for our bus.
The bus was small, and there were only 8 of us. The trip went smoothly. We arrived at the airport with 3 hours to spare before check in. This didn’t bother us, because we would prefer that over the rush of our last Jinan airport encounter.
A couple hours to kill in Jinan Airport.
We played games on the iPad, and waited for the time to pass. Amazing that we can play full “board” games on that little thing. The flight went well, and we were happy to get some dinner in the plane. The instant noodles at the airport didn’t keep us satisfied for long!!
A cheap snack at the airport
Yay, a Christmas Tree!!
Once in Xiamen, we made our way to the Tourism Info Office. There we were told what we already knew: that we would need to take a taxi to the other side of Xiamen, in order to get to our hostel. We knew that there must be a cheaper way, so we left the airport grounds, and wandered around looking for a local bus stop. We had taken the only map available on the airport, however it was not in English! After not too long, we spotted a bus stop… We pointed to the area we wanted to get to, and a kind man told us that we should get bus 84 to reach the Xiamen downtown area. What a relief, he spoke some English!
We were quite impressed with ourselves by that point, and I was already gawking at how beautiful Xiamen looked. Since we had entered the marathon in this city, we did a lot of research on the area. I really love the look of it, and when we started walking around I was even more impressed!!
We took a short taxi ride after the bus dropped us downtown. This was a clever move, because we saved some money on the trip. Being New Year’s Eve, we knew the roads would be busy, and we would be spending money on drinks that night.
Our hostel is very nice. We are members of the Yha ( an International Hostel association). We are always very happy when we go to YHA hostels. They are helpful, and there is always a great atmosphere at these hostels. Ordinarily, we would get a private double room, however because this trip was long, we wanted to sleep in dorm rooms, and save money to do activities! I was slightly nervous about what the room, and people, would be like!
Beer on sale at the hostel.
Flags painted on the stones. South Korea 🙂
Outside area of the hostel.
Our dorm room.
Our room had 6 beds in it. For our first night, we shared with 4 friends. They were from Shanghai, and they were all Chinese. I assumed we would share with foreigners, but I actually didn’t see many in the hostel while we were there.
Shortly after arriving, we freshened up, and made our way to the nearby recommended bar, “Hellems”, to join in whatever New Years party we could find. Chinese New Year celebrations would only be in full force around January 22nd, so we just hoped to run into a few foreigners, and at least, do a countdown.
No “Hellem’s”, but we found “Helen’s”!!
The bar was packed, so we couldn’t get a table. We stood to one side a drank beers for a couple of hours. It was fun. There were a lot of Chinese people, but still a number of westerners.
Just before midnight, we got a table (with a group of Chinese people), and we ordered some pizza and more beer.
One of the girls had a little brown dog. I held him for a while.
All foreigners were issued a raffle ticket. Justin won us drinks on both tickets 🙂
About 15-20 seconds before our watches struck 12, some people started counting down. Unable to beat them, we joined in, and wished each other a happy new year. Those around us (Chinese) were totally unfazed by our cheering. When they realized what was happening, they turned to us, lifted their drinks and toasted us. When our watches hit 12, we kissed again. It was fun.
Last year we entered the new year on Jeju Island (South Korea) alone, huddled in bed, watching movies. This year we were on another island, alone again, but still loving every second together!
BEST WISHES FOR 2012!!