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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Back in China: Xiamen & Hangzhou

Amazing differences between the East and West of China...

In Bangkok nothing special happened. The only real fun thing we did was paying a visit to a restaurant called "Tony Roma's" (sounds like a pizza joint, but is a ribs and steak place). According to my sister they have the best ribs ever there, so of course I had to try. And I must say that they were delicious. The rest of the night my stomach was a little upset, not because the food was bad but probably because I'm not used to eating those amounts of meat anymore ;-) But is was definitely worth the "splurge"!!!
On Wednesday we flew back to China, Xiamen to be precise. Before we took off a flight crew member informed us that there was an accident with our bag: a bottle of whisky had been broken... Nothing we could do about it at that time, but we were wondering how bad it would be. It took AirAsia over three hours to get us to Xiamen and when we arrived we were unpleasantly "surprised" that not one, but both our bottles of Laos Tiger Whisky were broken. The entire bag including its contents smelled like whisky. After some arguing with the ground personnel of the airport we agreed to a 100RMB compensation for laundry (doesn't seem like much, but it covers expenses in China).
And the other "surprise" might even have been worse: it was f*$#ing COLD!!! We were used to approx. 30 degrees (Celsius that is) for over a month and in Xiamen it was a mere 5 degrees... We took buses to the train station to secure a sleeper ticket to Hangzhou for Friday and then needed to find a place to crash for the night (it was already 22.30). We ended up in some Chinese lady's apartment that had been converted into a cheap hotel. Kind of sketchy, but it got us through the first night with only "minor" disturbances ;-)
The second day we switched hotel and explores Xiamen. The cool thing about Xiamen is that we both thought it was an updated version of Kunming. Not too big, some really nice places to hang out, still that real Chinese touch, but way more modern! Most of that day we spent trying to buy plane tickets back to Kunming (which is a little harder than in Western countries, especially when you wan to do it online) and checking out the university area. The last day we made a trip to Gulangyu, an island 3 minutes away from the mainland. The cool thing is that there are no cars on the island and it has beaches!!! Seriously a nice place to spend a day. At 22.14 our night train to Hangzhou departed and we said goodbye to Xiamen.
Hangzhou is a lot bigger than Kunming and/or Xiamen. It also seemed to be a lot more modern than either of those. Supposedly it is a big tourist attraction for Chinese because of the "original" West Lake can be found here. And it has to be said: the lake and its surroundings are beautiful. The downside of being there at this time of the year: it is cold!! At several places you could still see piles of snow... In the afternoon we visited Julia, who we met in Laos. After a great home cooked meal and lots of talking we went back to our hostel, watched a movie and called it the night. The next day we took an "early" train to Shanghai and not just any train, but one of the new "bullet trains". They are a big improvement from the traditional trains here, but to call them bullet trains... The highest speed we reached was 171 km/h, nice but not that exciting.

More about Shanghai in the next post. However the first impressions can be given relatively quickly: awesome city!!!
Just a few more days of traveling around and then we'll be back home in Kunming!

Groetjes uit Oost-China,
Ruudje en Shos

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