Xiamen was the second city I visited on my recent China trip, but in most ways it was the first. I first flew to Quanzhou and arrived in a tropical storm, the plane rocking side to side even after we landed. In Quanzhou, after checking in at my hotel, I thought ” What have I done?” When I realised that no-one spoke English and I spoke no Mandarin.
But then I recalibrated and took the train down the coast to Xiamen.
After settling in to my hotel I walked down the street and was greeted by a group of young people.
“What’s your name…where are you from?” The lovely group of youngsters who wanted to take selfies with me and practice their English were like a welcoming committee. As I explored this fascinating and historic city I felt that same feeling of openness and welcome. Xiamen was once known as Amoy, its the place from which tea was sent to the US before the revolution. Its a famous departure point for Chinese emigration over the centuries to the new worlds.
The street my hotel was in was full of life; early morning street food stalls, shops selling every type of fuit and vegetable and of course fish and every variety of seafood befitting a coastal city.
There was a funky, arty feel to the area I was staying in; the shops had their own unique stye and it was short walk to the vibrant harbour.
When exploring, one shop in particular caught my eye “Le Chat Miao”
A cat cafe! It looked so fascinating and the cats of course were disdainful of humans in their palace. I vowed to return later.
When I returned that afternoon I met a young woman, Manuela who was an au pair for a local family and had lived in the city for 6 months. Her Mandarin was impressive! We hit it off and she invited me to meet some of her local friends the next day.
After a lovely lunch we went to cat street ! Yes cats rule in Xiamen
We spent the evening walking and talking; visiting the beach, the beautiful Xiamen University grounds, funky market and food streets, all the while sharing thoughts, feelings and perpectives. They asked my view on many aspects of life; in China elder wisdom is respected. But it was getting late and I was leaving for Xi’an the next day and Dylan was flying to France to make a film.
We ended the night having a beer at a local bar where Manuela met some American friends who spoke Mandarin and were teaching English to local students.
It was the perfect end to a lovely day in this warm and vibrant city