Learning how to pronounce Xiamen

(“Sha-men.”) This morning we flew on Xiamen Airlines to Shanghai, and I slept through the whole thing, except for two minutes when I was eating the breakfast dumplings they served us.  One of the things Jon has learned about me over the past six weeks is that I can and will sleep anywhere.  Shanghai is awesome, but I already miss Xiamen.  Here are some photos to show you why!

Can you tell what this pretty restaurant is? Oh yes, it's the most gourmet Pizza Hut you will ever see! Why don't we get these in America?

Can you tell what this pretty restaurant is? Oh yes, it's the most gourmet Pizza Hut you will ever see! Why don't we get these in America?

This is the puppy (with his mom) who lived at the hostel, who I stalked.

This is the puppy (with his mom) who lived at the hostel, who I stalked.

The biggest attraction in Xiamen is Nanputuo Temple, a large complex that houses many Buddhist monks.  We showed up thinking it was going to be a peaceful experience, much like the rest of the temples we’ve seen in Asia.  Not so!  There were literally hundreds of people there, all Chinese, carrying flowers and incense like I’ve never seen.  Many of them had bags full of papers and other gifts to the gods.  (Papers represent gifts for the gods in the next life, and they are burned so that they can reach the gods.)  It turns out that one of the gods of the temple had a feast day, so many people came to pray and give gifts.  We were very lucky to be there on such a busy day!

one of the buildings at Nanputuo Temple

one of the buildings at Nanputuo Temple

Just one of the many piles of bags filled with gifts for the gods

Just one of the many piles of bags filled with gifts for the gods

What we loved the most about Xiamen was the slower pace of life compared with what we expected from China.  This was especially apparent on the small island of Gulang Yu, which is just a short (free) boat ride away from Xiamen Island.  There are no cars allowed on Gulang Yu, and it is mostly filled with gardens and green space, along with the required restaurants and tourist shops.

On the edge of Gulang Yu stands Koxinga, a national hero who conquored Taiwan and is now the biggest sculpture of a historical figure in China

On the edge of Gulang Yu stands Koxinga, a national hero who conquered Taiwan and is now the biggest sculpture of a historical figure in China

Without cars, Gulang Yu is a great place to wander around the narrow streets. Doesn't look like what you'd picture as China, eh?

Without cars, Gulang Yu is a great place to wander around the narrow streets. Doesn't look like what you'd picture as China, eh?

Our friend who worked at the hostel told us that Xiamen is consistently ranked as one of the top three happiest cities in China.  It’s easy to see why: beaches, islands, adorable puppies, gourmet Pizza Huts, bubble tea for fifty cents, and a huge university with multiple soccer fields.  (We found a soccer ball and played a bit before most of the students woke up!)

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