An uneventful banana breakfast is followed by packing and an eventful final lunch in Xiamen. We go back to the friendly restaurant next door and do what we call ‘build your own’ where you pick veg and protein from a vast selection and the chefs cook it in a broth. When it arrives it looks beautiful, red chilli flecked broth in a blue and white bowl topped with green coriander. The smell of Sichuan flower pepper wafts from it and we dive in. By the time we wave bye bye Al doesn’t need to ask if my bald patch is leaking as rivers of sweat are running down my head. If any chilli fiends out there haven’t tried Sichuan cooking I would recommend it.
Hostel turf out time is noon so with nothing to do we go to the ferry terminal. International Ferries to Taiwan are signposted in English but when we get to the indicated gate 10 there is nothing there. We have been told to pick up our tickets by 16.30 from the Cosco counter. Al relaxes with the bags while I try and find it.
Attempt 1 involves me riding an escalator into a posh seafood restaurant where I mistakenly think Gate 10 is. The door staff welcome me then giggle when I ask about tickets.
Attempt 2 involves me riding a lift to floor three where the ticket counters are. I emerge on the floor I was already on. A cleaner gives me a funny look.
Attempt 3 involves me finding the Cosco ticket counter! Hurrah! I notice all the computers have bin liners over them and three people are eating their lunch. I point at the cosco sign and one of the diners comes over and says ‘We are NOT cosco’
There is no attempt 4. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing (Zen). I read my book.
About 2.30 I notice two blokes talking to a woman in a check shirt behind the Cosco counter. I stroll over and have a nose. They ignore me. I walk round to the other side of the counter and see she has one of the PCs on and has a spreadsheet open. I have hope. A security guard comes over and asks the two blokes to move the sacks they have left in the middle of the terminal. They begrudgingly walk off and I sense an opportunity and minutes later have tickets in my triumphant hands.
As the afternoon slowly shuffles forward the terminal fills with Chinese tour parties and by five when the doors are opened there are probably 100 Chinese tourists, us and two Danish lads.
We board with excited anticipation as we are off to a new country and we love ferry trips. Our four bed dorm has only us in there which is a bonus but on the ‘not-quite-a-bonus’ side we are the first dorm so everyone will pass our door which is a wild west bar style with no top or bottom and therefore no soundproofing.
Also on the ‘not-quite-a-bonus’ list is the fact there is NO BAR and nothing worthwhile in duty free. There is a karaoke room but its closed and there is a sauna but its not on. We head to the restaurant and spend time looking at the pictures of food outside, because, let’s face it, we have time. Inside we are handed a laminate with four choices. We both go for fried rice and it arrives at least 15 seconds after sitting at our table. It is presented on a wonderful white plastic tray. We ponder if we are on a prison ship and try to get the other inmates to bang their cutlery on the tables while we sing “self preservation society”. No one joins in.
We watch the lights of Xiamen fade into the distance but the wind and rain drive us inside, so at 7pm, with nothing to do we head to our cell to read, looking forward to getting a good nights sleep……..