Xiamen – 3. Day: Botanical Garden

For today, I had planned to pay the Botanical Garden a visit and then go on through the neighbouring mountains, maybe down to Nanputuo Temple. Well, it turned out that the Botanical Garden was less Botanical and less Garden after all, but more like park. I spend a good 4 hours there and didn’t see everything. But as I got up late and wanted to be back early to catch the flight, it made up my day.

It was worth it, definitely. It has an AAAA rating for some good reason.

Again the only foreigner, one of the officials at the entrance gate came after me to hand me a brochure. First, I was reserved as people often want to sell things when approaching me. That is a bit annoying and got a bit worse in Xiamen. But the lady actually wore an official badge and didn’t want to have anything in return. So I tried my best to at least thank her well.

That brochure features lots of pictures with Chinese subtitles. And a very very rough map, the only thing which at least has some English words on it. It turned out that the map was only good to give the direction on the compass, but there were way way more ways and paths then that small map showed. So for actual navigation it was useless. However, the biggest attractions were listed, which allowed to plan a bit.

01. It all starts off at the Wanshi Lake (万石湖)…

04. …from two opposite angles.

03. This other lake was somewhere next to it, attached to the “Fir & Pine Garden”

05. The Bamboo Garden.

06. Watch the waste bin on the bottom right corner: They change shape in different gardens to match the local plants!

As all the gardens also the Bamboo Garden features dozens of different types. However, for a non-expert like me they are nearly not distinguishable. Some carry name tags, but all in Chinese and it looks to me like that tag anyway only offers the official botanical definitions. So from an educational point of view this garden is pretty useless. But most people treated it more like a recreational park anyway. And for that pupose the park is great!

08. The Palm garden. Well, many differently styled palms.

09. And palm-tree like-waste bins!

07. According to my great brochure’s map this is the “Nature Entertainment Bridge”. Looks more like nature entertains itself here…

36. Only a lot later I came down to the small pavilion, which you could also find on the right of the very first picture. I actually also sank under water surface niveau… Looks like nature also needs a little rest every once in a while. I could actually still hop into that pavillion and enjoyed half a calm hour just alone with a good book (Ma Jian, “Red Dust – A Path Through China”).

10. Tourist! Get an idea how beautiful nature is! Now!

11. Well, not too many roses in the Rose Garden, but the lawn was really nicely arranged with a small lake and lots of areas to rest.

13. Most tourists actually used it to have a picnic.

Now only the fun started. All the above was fairly close to the main lake, Wanshi Lake. But that lake covered only one quarter of the gardens dimensions. The rest of it was built into the rising mountains in the back. And that meant going upstairs.

14. Here, the way was actually still very clear.

15. Nothing for too tall people though: Not only once the way went underneath low-hanging rocks.

18. Hm, also not for tall people, but the stairs still well visible.

Actually, it was really fun! As so often when it gets more difficult you concentrate on the way and forget to take pictures. The above ones show the simple parts. The higher I came the smaller and worn-out the paths actually got. I really wanted to reach the “Cactus & Succulent Zone” (and, hey, it was forth it! See later!), which was at the upper end of the botanical garden. And the paths became smaller and smaller, often split, no signs, no idea which way to take. Only the general direction was clear: uphill. Some of the paths I took were probably not used for quite some while before, or only so rarely that leafs and twigs did not vanish. I finally hit the “Cactus & Succulent” house pretty much from the back, surprising and frightening two workers having a break. But, hey, only five meters before I stumbled over the holes digged around the house I came across a tiny, but definitely consciously prepared bridge. So the way was an official way! At least once upon a time…

The cactus area was really great! And it was hot, so you could feel with them! Just enjoy the pics:

20. Inside the second house,…

21. …which I reached first through the very back door.

22. In front of…

23. …this second house.

24. Nice decoration! It really fits! Inclusive white sand.

25. On the way to…

26. …the first house.

27., 28. The first house features…

29., 30., 31. …many color-ful small cactus in different, partly funny shapes.

With my splendid knowledge of the Chinese language (nobody spoke only a word of English up there) I managed to get a cooled Chinese ice tea and headed down again, looking this time for the official way. Well, I found were the way officially arrived at the cactus area. But only 50m after leaving that place there were already the first crossing paths and it was no longer clear at all where to go. Well, I made my way somehow…

32. Other people did not find their way… I can imagine there are people who give up in this labyrinth and jump off the rocks in desperation. This is why the garden officials had to put up warning signs like the one on this picture, so that not other travellers get hurt by falling men.

33. Somewhere on the way there was a great rock, which offered a splendid panoramic sight. On this picture there is Guluang Island in the back and the waterfront buildings of Xiamen in the middle. Even my hotel can be identified here.

34. This one shows large portions of the Botanical Garden and some Xiamen residential buildings in the back.

35. On the way down I came across a place with lots of carvings forming tables and stools. This is the largest piece of the exhibition: The table shows a laughing buddha, a popular subject.

Getting Back

That’s the end of the pictures. But not the end of the journey. The rest is mostly not really exciting, though. I headed back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. I was fairly early, but I didn’t want to take chances. I mean, I had a flight with the world-famous “Xiamen Airlines”. No idea how organized they are… So I did not even ask for the hotel’s airport shuttle but ordered a taxi.

That was actually a very good dicision, however, comparably expensive (80 RMB). But for that money the driver did take a great route. Remember my intro on the first day, complaining of the unadvantageous way the bus took? I swear, I did not know that there actually IS such a great different connection between hotel and airport! But the taxi drove me along kilometers of fantastic sea-side promenades and beaches. One after the other. Never ending. Splendid views on the ocean. Every once in a while sand-beaches. Inbetween green, and walk- and bike-ways. It was really great. You can spend an entire week there if you want! I was really briefly thinking of returning and extending by another day to see at least some of these promenades a bit closer. No clue at all, why the hotel bus took that way through the back door. I’m pretty sure I would have planned my days differently if I had known that Xiamen features these fantastic spots. Well, and the way was even simpler: We never turned…just one road from Xiamen’s waterfront up to the airport. So if you ever have to go from the airport to Xiamen ask the taxi to go along Xiamen’s east-cost. It’s definitely worth it!

Xiamen Airport and Xiamen Airlines proofed to be extremely efficient: Check-in in 30 seconds. Done. I was now a good hour too early. I found a cafe on the second floor, which had no guests but promised on request to have a good coffee, even cappuccino. They also successfully sold me a warm and not too bad sandwhich and some nuts, so that I spent there an hour reading. And charged me breath-taking 111 RMB for it… Xiamen International Airport has international airport prices…

(Just out of curiosity checked my hotel bill: The Chinese dinner last night in an upper-class Cantonese restaurant with 3 dishes and a beer was 155 RMB.)

I can actually recommend Xiamen Airlines: The plane was either new or very well maintained, absolutely clean and finally not the boring blue most other airlines use as interieur color, but a dark red. It was a small Boing (6 seats per row) and full. I guess it was not new, as I still could see some scandinavian words below a Chinese sticker on the seat table. So probably bought from any scandinavian airline.

I cannot say that the staff was very friendly, but they were extremely efficient and professional. And, believe it or not, for this 1:20h flight we got a warm dinner! Sure, was just some simple rice with chicken (and no choice between different dishes), but on China Eastern we just got some cold cake, bread roll, and fruit chips. A very similar package was also served on Xiamen Airlines, but instead of just fruit chips, there was actually a real banana! Because of their efficiency they could serve drinks to everybody twice. China Eastern managed only once. The Xiamen Airlines flight was 100 RMB less than the China Eastern one. We started and landed on the minute. Any questions…? Book Xiamen Air!

Back in Shanghai Hongqiao Airport I queued up on the short-distance taxi queue as I just wanted a taxi to the next subway station, Zhong Shan Park (funny, Xiamen also has such a park, see first document on Xiamen [added 16-NOV-2007: I found the reason for so many Zhong Shan Parks/Streets a lot later in Tapei]). But the official, who organized the taxi queue, sent me off to the long-distance queue when I told her where I wanted to go. I find it a bit funny to consider the next subway station already long-distance (it’s a 30-RMB ride), but what could I do? I went back and saw a huge queue of people waiting. The queue of taxis is endless, I know that; they wait in queues of several hundred meters. The bus I used now already twice to get to the airport passes all along this queue of taxis. (But I never found the return bus stop…) So it’s not a matter of not getting a taxi but of waiting until probably a hundred other guests stored away their luggage and boarded a taxi.

I decided to solve it the Chinese way, shouldered my bag, made my way across the parking space, exited the airport on foot, and even before I could cross the street to the correct side the first taxi already stopped, I jumped on, and off we were. And the guy was good. He found a way to the subway for just 23 RMB!

I got on the metro and back to my home station, Technology Museum. When getting off there I had to see that the returning metro was full ’til under the roof. Something must have had going on above the surface, probably yet another firworks event in the Century Park. Seeing that many people streaming down into the subway station I gave up all hope of getting any means of public transportation back to the appartment. Well, it’s just a 15 minutes walk, but the bag was heavy. I walked.

Categories: Shanghai

Originally Created: 10/06/2005 05:01:51 PM
Last Edited: 10/06/2005