Another city that we visited was Hangzhou – famous mainly because of the West Lake which is for the tourists what honey is for Winnie the Pooh (In China probably more appropriate comparison would be with a panda bear and bamboo shoot ;)).
Because the lake is located to the west of the center of Hangzhou, name is quite logical. The area was really picturesque. We watched the musical fountain show at the shore of the lake and a group of locals dancing on the squares along the shore. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy a lantern festival (the last day of Chinese New Year) . We left into the city in the evening, the streets were full with people and we followed the crowd. It turned out however, that in the living sea of people we just drifted in the wrong direction. The next day we saw a huge paper statues – naturally dominated by figures of horses, because of the horse year. Anyway good mood didn’t leave us – we enjoyed the gardens on the shores of the lake and the fact that we found a buffet, where after paying 2 yuan/1 złoty for a bowl of rice we could refill it.
Our next stop was Xiamen, also known as Amoy . It was once a town located on an island off the coast of Fujian province – now it’s also on the mainland next to it. We stayed on the island. With further kilometers south we could finally enjoy good weather, and we could happily stroll through Amoy’s streets. A really nice Chinese girl, met on couchsurfing, offered us an accommodation. As it turned out she was the owner of a small hostel where we slept for two nights for free. During our stay we decided to see the colonial island of Gulangyu. However, it got very, very rainy. Our ferry sailed through the milky fog like into a different world. There were a newly-weds on the ferry. Bride wore a white western dress, as if she was a friend of surrounding fog. The traditional Chinese color for the bride is the Chinese color of luck – red. But times are changing – proud red is left here and there, on communist banners.
On the island of Gulangyu time slowed down . There were many charming streets that were getting crowded with the marching columns of Chinese tourists from the mainland, then armed with umbrellas because of the relentless rain. We also saw the temple Nanputuo with a mysterious statue of Guanyin with a thousand arms, an interesting museum of Chinese immigrants where we learned that Fujian Province is a land of people connected with the sea and ancestors of many of today’s inhabitants of Taiwan. Oblong park established along the disused railway track and the idea of a rapid public transport in the form of buses moving on the designated road (BRT – Bus Rapid Transit) surprised us. At the entrance to the BRT platform the most superficial control of security ever happened to us – guard with a mechanical gesture opened our backpack and immediately closed it, absolutely not interested in the content.
We filled up our experience with the taste of sweet soup made of peanuts ( which Chinese eat a lot, and in many forms ) . The main course was a beautiful manifestation of Chinese hospitality, other couchsurfer from Xiamen invited us to a ‘hot pot’ restaurant Hai Di Lao. The best thing about hot pot is putting ingredients (meat, tofu, various kinds of vegetables ) to the boiling broth by yourself and then from eating them with chopsticks (what a fun!). Restaurants Hai Di Lao network is aiming to impress customers with quality service – the waiters sang for us and handed us gifts and for dessert a bag of sweet popcorn, one of the best we’ve had in our life. Next day we took the train to Shenzhen, the next stage of our journey.