CHINA – Gulangyu Island
the exotic island
Since our first trip meeting, the part I was most excited about was “spending a night on an exotic island.” Our teachers told us there’s no cars allowed on Gulangyu, and it’s inhabited by rare birds and aquatic life!
I dress as quickly as possible to get out of our stifling hotel room in Xiamen and go find a payphone to call home before we board the ferry. I find out my nephew’s been named Truman! 5lbs 8oz.
It’s a short ferry to the exotic island. So short in fact, you can still see Xiamen. Huh, I thought it’d be a little more remote. The first view after we disembark is of two golden arches. The exotic island has a McDonald’s. Ok, this is not at all what I was expecting. They don’t allow cars, but they do allow golf carts, which is actually a good thing because we don’t have to schlep our bags all the way to the hotel.
The island becomes more enchanting the farther we walk from the ferry terminal. The home’s we pass look like haunted mansions, especially the vacant ones. Dead vines droop over cracking Victorian facades. Stray dogs wander around the streets and empty yards. The iron gate of a music school is mobbed by these cute kids, who run up to greet us and sing a Chinese song. We sing an English one in return.
Our hotel is near the beach. It’s the first stretch of sand and wave we’ve encountered on the trip, so we make a beeline there. We’re swarmed by the Chinese beach goers like we’re celebrities. Everyone wants to take a photo with us. We’re the only ones who swim in the murky, grey water. The other tourists just splash their feet. As I look at the industrial pier in the distance, I wonder if maybe we shouldn’t be swimming…
Soon after we arrive at the beach, though, it starts raining, and the weather cools considerably. The only day we’re at a beach and we get pouring rain. We head up the hill to an aviary. The birds are going insane because of the storm. There’s no one in the whole place, except the man in the booth selling tickets. We pass a line of screaming cockatoos and macaws chained to a metal pole. We’re so soaked by the time we get back to the hotel, my shirt makes a pop sound like it’s suctioned cup to my chest when I try to take it off.
DAY 24 June 11