The plan was to ride across the causeway bridge to the island of Xiamen, and from there get a ferry across to Gulang Yu. This area was one of the first treaty ports in China, and is supposed to be a nice quiet little island, with colonial architecture, ideal for a few days rest. It had been recommended by both Chinese and Western people I’d met, and I was looking forward to stopping there. The road from Fuzhou down to here along the coast was absolutely appalling, way too busy, with hundreds of minibuses driven by people who have never driven a vehicle until last week, and get paid by the horn blast.
Roadworks for 20km at a stretch too. The Chinese have built thousands of kilometres of roads in the last few years, and maybe they’re getting good at it – although I still think they have some fundamental design issues, since they don’t do things like drainage properly, which is going to cause them major maintenance problems over the next few years. But anyway, the thing that they seem totally incapable of is traffic management during roadworks. Rather than thinking about how they are going to keep the road open, and minimise disruption, they just go ahead with whatever they’re planning, and let the traffic work out what it wants to do. So if they’re working on a dual carriageway, rather than putting in a contraflow, and completely renovating one side before switching over, instead they get a large jackhammer to tear up both sides of the road for 10km at a time, leaving traffic to bump its way over it. Not much fun on the bike.
So I got into town, and made my way down to the ferry terminal, looking for somewhere to buy a ticket. “Mei yo, mei yo!” the girl came running up to me shouting. Hmmm. Try going another way – but she’s onto me, and it seems will not let me board with my bike. Crap. I look around, and realise that there are no other Chinese boarding with bikes, although you are allowed a cartload of random stuff. Now what do I do? I had planned on staying at the hostel on Gulang Yu, but it seemed I couldn’t get there. I had read other cyclists’ accounts of staying there, but they didn’t mention any problems getting over there. I hang around for a while, hoping that there will be a shift change, and I can try my luck with a different attendant. But no luck, so I go in search of a hotel.
Dear old LP had their budget accommodation starting at 200Y per night – way too much. But I manage to find a Chinese hotel for less than that, although still a bit overpriced for what it is. I’m crap at negotiation, but it’s important to do some in China with most things, especially hotels. The usual trick is to go in, ask the prices, then turn away – this usually results in them running after you and offering better prices.
This seems a nice town, and I could stay here a few days, but I think I’ll make a push from here to Hong Kong tomorrow – maybe 6-7 more days riding. I could get the ferry from here, but I think I’ll ride it. I’ll head inland though, hopefully get some respite from the traffic along the coast.