1. Hexiang West Road, August 2017. My five-day trip to the island city of Xiamen very nearly didn’t happen. In the days preceding my visit, Typhoon Nesat swept through southern China, causing considerable mayhem to Taiwan and mainland Fujian Province. In fact, just the day before my journey all trains to Xiamen had been cancelled! Luckily for me god wagged his finger, the clouds parted and the train schedules were brought back from the dead. Happier still, my three and a half hour train journey from Rui’an turned out to be mercifully straightforward. On arrival I found a city engulfed in rain, light winds and an eerie afternoon darkness. The streets in and around my hotel were virtually deserted, save for the carcasses of unearthed plants, broken bushes and fallen trees.
2. Zhongshan Park, August 2017. The weather didn’t improve that first evening, so I only managed a local stroll to this pretty park. There were very few people around, just an old man walking his dog and a jogging woman. By now actual nightfall was descending and my thoughts were quickly turning to the dinner I would have at a nearby Korean joint.
3. War Memorial, August 2017. Weather wise my second day in Xiamen wasn’t much better, the city enslaved by beating rain and a dogged, sinister looking fog. To make matters worse, my attempts to find a functioning café proved futile. Prior to my trip I’d drawn up a hit list of highly recommended places. But infuriatingly, one by one, I discovered they were all closed. Wet, tired and increasingly dismayed, I just kept on walking until I stumbled upon this striking memorial commemorating the Chinese Army’s efforts in the war against Taiwan. Set on a sprawling hill and accessed via a lofty staircase of stone steps, at the top I came across a Chinese man and his son. The father seemed to be giving his little one a passionate history lesson, with much chest beating and a heightened sense of patriotism.
4. Dingyuanzi Road, August 2017. It was mid afternoon when, quite suddenly, the rain stopped and Xiamen finally brightened up. I’d been hiding out in a bakery and when I popped my head out I witnessed a city transforming! There was actual foot traffic, with shops and restaurants reopening for business, their sleep-eyed owners emerging as if from hibernation. I was so happy I bought a celebratory apple from this fruit and veg vendor and rolled up my proverbial sleeves, ready to start exploring!
5. Street Food, August 2017. My favorite street food discovery came here, courtesy of this charming husband and wife. I can only describe it as a mushy savory pancake made up of onion, potato and egg. Having been fried within an inch of its life by Mama Pancake, Papa Pancake stepped in to whisk it from the pan and add toppings of beef shavings, coriander, sweet pickles and a dollop of creamy peanut sauce. Yes, yes, yes and yes!!!!
For more snapshots of this amazing city, check out My 5s from around Xiamen.
Or maybe search further afield with my zillion articles from across China.
I’ve also written a short story series called Challenged in China.