Due to the number of responsibilities that I’ve taken on this year, I haven’t had much free time to travel. I’ve pretty much stayed in Shanghai since I came back to mainland China from Tokyo. However, after being shaken up by my last visa run to Hong Kong which resulted in me being held in a small room on the Shenzhen side and interrogated by border agents for thirty minutes, I decided a different route was in order. However, rather than get upset, I decided to make the best of it by having some fun in Xiamen and Kinmen.
After an eight-hour train ride from Hongqiao to Xiamen North, I got to my hostel and passed out right away around 11PM.
The second day, I woke up around 8:30 a.m., then took a taxi to the station which was further away from the hostel than I realized. There weren’t many people at the port so I got through customs pretty quickly. They seemed much nicer and more efficient than the ones in Shenzhen.
When I arrived on the island, I noticed a lively and colorful celebration. Even on such a cloudy day, the locals didn’t stop their outdoor activities.
I exited the arrival hall and saw a car and scooter rental shop across the street. Articles on the internet say you need a driver’s license to rent a scooter, but that’s not true. They simply scanned my passport, accepted a 500 NTD rental fee, and took a cash deposit of 300 RMB which I got back at the end of the day. It was already almost noon by the time the paperwork had been processed so I decided not to bother renting a sim card. The money would be better spent on other things.
I hadn’t driven a scooter in ages. The wind on my face and the open road up ahead helped ease some of my recent worries. However, my bliss soon turned to panic as I’d taken a dirt road to a dead end and met the ire of some aggressive, unleashed rottweilers.
I decided to stop at the first tourist attraction on my route; a stone tower that looked like a robot penis. I can’t read traditional Chinese characters so I have no idea about its actual purpose. A series of stone steps lead up to the summit where I could see most of the island, including the harbor and the residential areas to the west.
After that, I tried finding somewhere to eat. I drove around for a few more hours before I saw slight signs of civilization. As others have written in Chinese and English, there’s nothing good to eat on the island, especially if you can’t eat meat and don’t like bland food. Fortunately, 7/11 has cold soba noodles, potato chips, and beer; the makings of a quality, nutritious vegan meal.
Two cashiers stood behind the register. They were absolutely fascinated with my hair. I imagine they don’t see many black people or folks with braids. They tried to guess how I washed it. They even practiced the few English phrases they knew such as “hello” and “where are you from”. In the past, this kind of stuff really irritated me but now I find the attention flattering. In Shanghai, a lot of people just ignore me or give me dirty looks so it’s kinda nice to feel special for a change.
If you live in mainland China, it’s a good idea to use any vacation you have abroad to shop for foreign makeup and clothing as the quality will be higher and the price will be much cheaper. Mainland China has incredibly high taxes on all imported products which has led to the creation of an entire industry dedicated to making a profit off of this situation: daigou. Purchasing agents’ fees are still cheaper than the taxes.
Next, I went a school, a lake, and an old military station.
Kinmen has a lot of temples and is a great place to go shopping if you live in or around Fujian province. Though there aren’t that many exciting places on the island and the food isn’t good, I’d still recommend it for a day trip or visa run. It’s infinitely cheaper and more relaxed than Hong Kong as long as you spend the night in Xiamen. Renting a scooter is necessary to get around the island so don’t forgo this important step.
I arrived back in Xiamen around 6 p.m. and met with a friend’s friend for dinner. Xiamen locals are friendly and more than willing to show foreigners around. We went out for dinner and clubbing but after hiking and driving a scooter all day, I was too exhausted to stay after midnight.
I’m looking forward to visiting Xiamen again.