Chinese Festivals, Cultural, Travel, Weekend Trips

InternChina trip: Xiamen and Fujian

InternChina planned another fun trip for their interns during the Dragon Boat Festival, this time going to Xiamen! The city is a mere 12 hour bus ride away, which only costs 300 RMB (36.5 €). Having left at 8:00pm Sunday night, we arrived at 8:00am Monday morning, and straight away started our sight-seeing.
First stop: Xiamen University, said to be the most beautiful university in all of China. Across the street was a beautiful temple, with a mountain to climb to see the city views.

Xiamen’s beach is very beautiful and has a lot of fun activities, one of which is to rent a 3-person bicycle and ride down the coast. So after visiting the university and temple, we all had fun jumping into the water (most jumped in with all their clothes on!) and enjoying a cool-down in the summer heat.

After lunch, we took the bus and ferry to Gulangyu Island to experience the romantic beauty of the island at night. Gulangyu Island is a car-free island and is home to around 20,000 people. Having been a treaty port after the First Opium War, the island is filled with Victorian-era style architecture and British influence. There is a great international culture of pub drinking and relaxing in the evening with friends. We all enjoyed walking around the island, having a local dinner and relaxing in the main square with a couple of beers.

There was an abundance of street BBQ everywhere, selling delicious-smelling sea-food.

The last ferry leaves Gulangyu Island at 12:00am. Xiamen has many Bar-streets, so if you’re not spending the night on the island there are plenty of other places in the city to have a good night!

The following morning, we checked out of our hotel and set out for our journey to the Tea Villages of Fujian, a five hour bus ride away from Xiamen. Although everyone was exhausted from the night before, the scenery viewed from the bus was too stunning to miss; beautiful mountains with tea farms, rice terraces and banana plantations.

We arrived at the World Cultural Heritage – NaJing Yun Shui Yao, where we would spend the next two days. Fujian is important to China, as it produces black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea and scented tea, of which only the green tea was not pioneered in Fujian. This tea is sold all over China. For all tea-lovers, this is the place to stock up! Yana (a Russian intern) and I bought two 1-kg bags of tea for as little as 65 RMB (8 €)! The Chinese that came on the trip of course left with bags and bags of tea to bring home.

We ate lunch in a local restaurant that was situated in a vegetable garden. All the food that we ate was grown in that vegetable garden, which made the meal very special.

Afterwards, we went to the famous Round Houses of Fujian. These were built by families around 700 years ago to protect themselves against brigands. The houses only consist of one entrance and small windows on the outside walls and do not have walls on the ground level. The center holds a courtyard and a small temple. The external walls are typically 1 meter thick, and are three- to four-stories high. Each Round House could house up to 100 people, the typical size of one family during the period. The architectural style of the Round Houses are very unique in China, as most houses usually only consist of one- or two-stories. The houses are set in a landscape of flowing hills covered with Tea plantations.

We were able to go into the houses and see how they look and are set up. Most of the houses still have families living in them, and they were very kind to us. There were little shops set up inside, and Ruary (a British intern) had the benefit of learning how to play the Chinese flute!

There were also many tea-stalls, where they gave us some tea-samples and did the traditional tea-pouring ceremony.

The lovely hotel we were staying in on the river made us dinner and sat us in the hotel courtyard where we enjoyed a cozy and delicious dinner, and afterwards an abundance of beer and games. Because of the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival, we were setting off fire-crackers and fireworks all night, as was everyone else in Fujian!

The next morning was one of leisure. Having been playing games and listening to music, some of us only got to bed at 4:00am in the morning, and were really excited to sleep in. Fire-crackers were going off all night and morning, so I was awoken to what I thought was a bomb. We had a couple of hours to kill before the bus would leave for Zhuhai at 1:00pm, so we all set out to find some local lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the tea village.

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