Whew, I think this will be my second to last recap of my China adventure! Honestly, I could have pushed these recaps much more quickly, but I have truly relished savoring each day of my trip and remembering it all as slowly as possible. After this post you will probably hear of nothing truly remarkable from me. That is until I:
A. take my personal training certification test B. go on my next big trip to China? Maybe. C. solidify plans to move next year (!)
But for now, here a recap of my last couple of days in Xiamen!
Day 8- The hot springs of Xiamen
Exhausted from a full day on Gulangyu Island, we decide to take advantage of the hot springs that Kevin, our airport friend, had told us about the night before. Following precise directions from Kevin’s parents, we head north off of Xiamen Island and onto the mainland. After 45 minutes we reach the end of the bus line and grab a cab for another good 30 minutes. The Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort is located in the Haicang District immediately off of the Expressway.
When I think of hotsprings, I imagine natural occurring bodies of water in rock formations directly from the ground. Kind of like those tourism commercials for Iceland. But instead, we find ourselves at a huge resort, checking in at the front desk and entering a huge locker room to change into our swimsuits, robes, and sandals. Hmmm… The locker room is swanky with rooms of individual showers, stations with hair dryers and vanity mirrors, and a towel service area. I head directly to the bathroom, the Chinese diet finally catching up to me after a week. Let’s just say it is neither pretty nor comfortable. Suddenly the idea of sitting in hot water all day seems less pleasant. After spending my sweet time there, an attendant approaches me and in broken English says “Your husband is waiting for you.” How adorable.
Finally I emerge to find Peter waiting anxiously, sipping hot tea from one of the many tea stations. We begin to walk and discover that these “hotsprings” are really just various pools with water jets, submerged massage chairs, and smooth stone floors. Each pool, stream, and tub is called something different like Lotus Island, Energy Bay, Spring of Bliss and has different healing powers according to the signs. My favorite is the Tea Garden which has four different pools of various temperatures and large tea bags steeping inside. Here is a description of the Tea Garden from their website: “Immerse in a selection of teas simmered in natural hot spring water. Strengthen your immune system and balance the ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’ energies within the body…” You get the picture. We are skeptical of the health benefit claims but enjoy relaxing in the hot tubs anyways.
We eat some good food on the porch of the dining area that overlooks the lush green hills within which the resort is situated. The sky is gray and dreary and it begins to rain. The air is thick with humidity and the rain is welcome. It adds excitement to an already water soaked day. What could be better than swimming during a rainstorm? Like a couple of kids we run off to the big pool and cannonball into the cool water. We also get some laughs watching the Chinese guests in their funny bathing suits and swim caps. However, they must have been laughing as us with me in my bikini and Peter in his board shorts. In China the bathing suit situation is flipped, the boys wear skimpier suits than the girls!
After an amazing massage at the spa, we prepare to leave as the skies open and it starts to pour. Good thing we are already wet! We get dressed and board a bus at the resort that takes us back to the port of Xiamen where we were yesterday. Back at the hotel, we promptly get ready for dinner. You know, to recharge after such an exhausting day. Hehe.
We head back to the park where Kevin brought us before to try another bar on the water. But before, we stop at the little amusement park and take a ride… On this bad boy!!Ok this picture is from my study abroad in Denmark, but this is the ride. This time we had an incredible view of the city and the ocean which I promptly forgot while screaming in terror. In a dress. Awesome.
After screaming my face off (Peter was too calm, no fair), we sat down outside at a fun Mexican restaurant with an incredible band playing beautiful Spanish songs with sweet harmonies. Good music with good harmonies gets me every time. We eat some tacos, ogle a long table of models (who are actually scary looking in person, too thin methinks), and drink some sangria. Ok I lied, I don’t remember what we drank but I hope it was sangria. An old Chinese woman selling flowers to the seated tourists plucks a rose from her stash and hands it me for free. “Beautiful” she says with a smile and slowly shuffles away.
Take that models!
Day 9- Xiamen Beaches and Sandcastles with Kevin
On our last day in Xiamen, Kevin promised to take us to the beach before our late flight. After meeting at a train station where Peter kindly buys cranky Kirsten some fruit, Kevin treats us to lunch at a place nearby. Let’s just say plates of delicious dumplings are consumed and I am happy. We then board a bus to Kevin’s parent’s home a little bit outside the main city. Kevin has told his parents that Peter is his classmate from school since they might feel uncomfortable with complete strangers. His parents, grandmother, and cousins welcome us inside their apartment and quickly dash around to bring us fruit, tea, and a fan. The day is hot hot hot and their apartment is very warm and I am grateful for their concern and hospitality. They are taken with Peter and his Chinese as I sit politely, smiling at the little cousins.
We take a cab to a nearby beach in the hopes of going for a swim. The sun is high and intense and there is no place to hide. We pass a beautiful temple with the most intricate and ornate decorations I have seen in China thus far.
We then come upon a landscape of towering sculptures exploding from the sand. During the World Expo, a park with massive sandcastles was built, representing different countries and Chinese legends. These sandcastles still exist and are as hard as rock. For some stupid reason we pay the fee to enter the park. It is hot as blazes and I feel like I am about to start hallucinating in the desert heat. As quickly as we entered the park, we exit and head straight to the water. The water looks much cleaner than the beaches of Gulangyu Island. Overwhelmed by the heat, Peter and I peel off our clothes and rush into the ocean. The water engulfs me in a cool embrace and it feels incredible. While Kevin guards our belongings from the shore, Peter and I frolic in the surf. After getting nice and cool, we make our way back across the burning sand. With feet on fire, we rush through the blazing heat.
Back at Kevin’s place I try to clean myself off and get dressed. The bathroom is sweltering in the heat and I’m sweating off my makeup as quickly as I’m putting in on. I feel like I am still swimming in the ocean.
We then go to my number one request for my China trip…. KARAOKE!! That’s right, I love to sing and have never done karaoke. Good thing KTV is open like 24/7. At 4pm, the three of us get a private room and sing to our hearts desire for almost two hours. Time sure does fly when you’re singing Celine Dion and BSB right??
For our last hour in Xiamen, we eat a farewell dinner with Kevin and I eat horse ankle. Yes. You read that correctly. I ate the ankle of a horse. It came in a stew. You eat it like a chicken wing. It wasn’t too bad. Peter and I realize that we forgot sunscreen today and now have horrible sunburns. Our flesh is turning pinker and pinker by the minute and my face flushes warm. What a surprise. The warmth is intensified as we squeeze into a horribly crowded bus back to Kevin’s place. Now I know what a sardine must feel like. Squished and smelly.
Quickly grabbing our things, we say goodbye to Kevin and grab a cab to the airport. In the rush I forget my new fedora!!! So sad :-(. After chugging gross hot water (for tea) from the water dispensers in the airport, I give up and buy cool bottled water. So. Much. Better. Hot water straight up is gross. My face and arms are bright red like a tomato and I receive a plenty of stares. The plane is delayed and we don’t get back to Shanghai till very late. Despite the craziness of the trip, we came back with great memories and great pictures.
Whew. What a trip. I am excited to finish out my vacation strong in Shanghai. Stay tuned for the final installment!