rt2k6 - Korea to Britain the hard way

2006-03-22 10:44

Wi Xiamen

There's a joke, right:

q: How does Bob Marley like his sandwiches?
a: Wi' Xiamen.

And another one:

q: How do The Wailers like their sandwiches?
a: We hope they like Xiamen too.

It probably doesn't work unless you realise that Xiamen is pronounced a bit like 'Jammin'.

I like Xiamen, too. It's a clean and interesting city, small enough to walk around. It's actually on an island, but there's an even smaller island called Gulang Yu which once housed foreign delegations, and now houses tourists. There are no cars or motorcycles on Gulang Yu, except the electric golf carts run by the big hotels for fat bastards who are too bloody lazy to walk around an island about a kilometre across. The ferry from Xiamen is free to come here, but costs 3 kuai to get back - a crafty trick indeed. It's good to be in a warm, seaside climate again - the weather here reminds me a bit of Auckland - warm but not really hot, moist and muggy. It drizzled warmly all day yesterday, and we got caught in a rainstorm trying to find somewhere for a beer and a snack before availing ourselves of the many kinds of scaled, shelled and carapaced critters on offer here.

We haven't really done much except wander about, but we got our washing done, and eventually got our passports into the Public Security Bureau, aka the Department of Preventing People From Doing Anything Without Official Permission. I say eventually, because we turned up at the office (after getting lost in windy streets) only to find that lunch time is 11:45 until 14:40. Good deal. Came back after it reopened, and after queuing for an hour or so, were told that we needed to supply a photocopy of our visas, a photocopy of our ID page, and that the docket from our hotel had to be stamped by them. Upon jumping through these hoops, it turns out that it requires six working days to process. These requirements, and the processing time for a visa extension, varies wildly from place to place. In Beijing it takes three days, you need a hotel docket but it needn't be stamped, and you don't need any photos. In Yinchuan, it's three days. In Luoyang, it took Os four days, and they didn't care about the hotel docket at all, but in Xiamen they appear to do things By The Book. And slowly. This two-day delay causes a few problems with our plans for Vietnamese visas. There's also some confusion about HOW to get a Vietnamese visa in China - we have two Ronery Pranets; one says there's a consular office in Guangzhou but doesn't mention Nanning or Kunming; the other says nothing about Guangzhou, but mentions a consular office in Kunming and says you can get a visa through CITS in Nanning. They both agree that there is an embassy in Beijing, which is something. we called the Guangzhou number, and got a 'doesn't exist' signal - the trouble is that Guangzhou is reasonably close, but Kunming is about 1000km out of our way. It looks at this point like Ossie will head straight to Nanning from here, and we'll catch up once our visa extensions go through. He'll almost certainly have to cross the border before us, because he's on his final extension. The Nanning visa takes longer than normal and costs more, presumably because they have to courier the passports to Kunming or Beijing.

Gulang Yu is full of seafood restaurants where all manner of bugs and slugs and things are kept in buckets or tanks in or outside the shop, and you buy by the jin, which is about half a kilo. The quality's pretty high, and so are the prices, particularly since you're buying live critters, in the shell. Crayfish at 180 kuai (NZ$30) per jin, big greenshell mussels just like we have in NZ for 20 per jin. We ended up with an enormous clam-like thing, a jin of mussels, a jin of langoustines (like a big prawn, only straight instead of bent), a jin of smaller clams, and a jin of little red mangrove crabs which were more work than they were worth to extract meat from.

Afterwards, a cafe caught our eye, and someone (it wasn't me) misread the sign. Cafes in asia are without exception a complete waste of time and money. The sign was thought to have said Tsingtao beer for 6 kuai - in fact, that was the price for diet coke, the item below. On Chinese signs and menus, the Chinese name comes first - unlike in Korea. Tsingtao was actually 12 kuai, and that for a smmall bottle. The real killer was that the sign also has meat pies listed for 10 kuai, which we promptly ordered. Eventually we got warm doughy things filled with diced onion and sugar, about the size of a cupcake. No meat. No pie. In the end it appears we were charged only 1 kuai each for them.

The craziness continues.