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Trip 37 — Jeju and Xiamen Walks

Xiamen day 3: Wuyuan Bay to Yundang Lake
Monday, 7 August 2023

Today: 41069 steps/31.80 km/19.76 mi/6h 5m
Total: 77223 steps/60.78 km/37.77 mi/11h 32m

Expecting a six-hour walk, I took six napkins from the DoubleTree's breakfast. I would allot one per hour for mopping my eyelids, eyebrows, and forehead. I cared primarily about keeping sunscreen and sweat out of my eyes; runny, pupil-stinging sunscreen was the most frustrating thing about its use. I didn't care if I otherwise sweated a barrel's worth.

I discovered almost instantly that this strategy was far too ambitious and I'd be lucky to use one napkin per half-hour, replenishing at lunchtime. There was no wind, not a whisper, and the heat was just as high as yesterday.

I started making my way clockwise around Wuyuan Bay. In the opposite direction, at the coast, I could have taken the Wuyuan Bridge and shaved an hour off the journey. Or taken a shortcut across any of five other bridges spanning the bay. But Xiamen is a relatively small island in the Abecedarian Walks, and I wanted to make the most of its inlets. So I treated the bay like a fjord.

The path was quiet and beautifully landscaped, with intermittent shade from trees and with public toilets every few minutes. I rounded a sandy bend. On the way back up the west side, the path divided into a lane for bikes and another for walkers. The cycling lane had more shade, though, and I hoped that the cameras catching me using it wouldn't deem me a scofflaw and render me unable to leave the country.

I approached the Wuyuan Bridge and looked across the bay at the marina and the mall where I dined last night. Amidst all the enormous buildings were at least two dozen others being built. The construction frenzy started by Lai Changxing has continued since his downfall.

A few people were fishing where I reached the coast and turned left. I knew I was heading into an hour or two of unmitigated heat along the blue-marked coastal path. There would be no shade except under the access roads of the bridges to the mainland. I was already well into napkin number three.

I reached the Jimei Bridge and passed under. As I emerged from its brief shelter, the sky gasped the faintest hint of wind, as if ashamed of it and hoping no one would notice.

Xiamen's airport occupies the northwestern part of the island, which meant a long, lonely trek along its zone and under the landing path; the landing lights rose out from the water. The airport had more traffic than I would have thought, a plane landing every five minutes or so, largely those of Xiamen Air.

Yesterday's walk had passed an abundance of convenience stores; today's had none for hours, and I was on my last napkin and running out of my bottled water, which was now hot. I finally saw a cluster of stores across the way and scurried over. I needed hydration and a pause. But what looked like a convenience store from the coastal path was actually a car dealership.

I harrumphed — I've dealt with enough cars on the streets; I didn't need them inside buildings taking up space that could have otherwise held refreshing drinks — but an approaching golden retriever put me in a better mood to tide me over until I got to the next block of buildings. Here, among little cafes, was the right kind of store, and I bought a liter and a half of cold water, sat outside in the shade, and downed it all in three minutes.

I waited a little while before moving on. I wasn't hungry (the breakfast buffet at the DoubleTree was big), but I didn't want to jolt my body back into motion so soon. There was no rush to reach today's destination.

It can't have been just the water I drank, but the temperature then seemed to go down about 15 degrees and stayed like that for the afternoon. Over on the mainland, the sky was growling, with dark clouds. Above me was the one aperture through which the sun's rays hit Xiamen, but it, too, succumbed eventually, and we were overcast. Apart from a few drops, we never got the rain.

I got my own drizzle, however. Back on the coastal path, there were shrubs for a few minutes, and the sprayers spritzing them misted me as well. I had to cut inland a bit just after Xiamen Bridge due to an inlet. This put me in an area of fish and seafood distributors, blocks and blocks of them.

Somewhere under the moans of the machinery and forklifts, Helga was telling me my pace was better than I estimated. I crossed another airplane landing path. I never saw any planes go up, but I assume the airport offers that feature as well. I hope so; I'm expecting to use it tomorrow.

The seafood distributors gave way to towers of shipping containers and then a more general trade area. The road was busy with the concomitant trucks and the beeping of scooters, and then suddenly I stumbled upon an entrance to a walking path along a disused rail line. The tracks had been preserved alongside an easy pathway protected from the noise of the road, and it was lovely with shrubs and flowers.

I enjoyed this paradise for about half an hour. From the safety of the trail I could avoid the traffic of the main building of the Xiamen Area of China (Fujian) Pilot Free Tarde Zone, as it was very specifically signed, and the Red Star Macalline International Free Trade Home Furniture just after, and Sam's Club (yes, the American one) next to that. Then the path was blocked for rehabilitation. When I found it again, it was the domain of goats, and I soon encountered a locked gate. Back to the busy road it was, down to the entrance to Yundang Lake.

Here, as this morning, I wound my way around the water rather than take the bridge. The bridge is probably short enough that it doesn't even really count as a bridge and I needn't have concerned myself with the extra distance, but once again, I decided to call this lakeside — more a long inlet than a lake — part of the perimeter of the island. Besides, my hotel was near its inner reaches. In one side today and out the other tomorrow.

At its start, the lake was more of a dam, with water gushing through a narrow opening next to vegetation enjoyed by egrets. Photographers with lens attachments the length of road bollards were examining the birds down to the cell level. I wondered whether this time of afternoon was a particularly good time to watch them, or whether there were always people there. Regardless, it was a nice place to spot for a few minutes.

I followed the tranquil waterway around. On the street on its north side was a string of cafes and fashion boutiques; Alice had mentioned it as a popular nightlife area. My body was no longer too hot but I'd been ignoring my feet, which hadn't had much of a break, so I picked a cafe, had a mango smoothie, and decided that this was a very agreeable place.

On to the last hour. My feet might have been happier with a longer break — days, perhaps. Suddenly they seemed more tired than usual, and I'd acquired a blister. I continued along the elongated lake, which had a small, lush island in the middle. When it ended, I took a bridge south.

It was just a few blocks to the hotel. This was a busy part of the city, with a wide avenue and the usual cars, scooters, and bikes to be aware of. The food aroma wafting from the little storefronts was sweet and inviting. I could have easily stopped for a snack or three, but it was getting on 6:00, I was ready to take off my still-soaked shirt, and the place on the map was just ahead. I crossed the last street, saw the nice building, and strode confidently up to...a China Telecom office.

"Oh, no, not again," I said.

Google Maps placed the Andaz hotel here, or next door. There was a hotel next door, but it wasn't mine. I approached the receptionist, directed a few silent epithets toward Google while he assisted another guest, and then abruptly turned a smile and asked if he knew where the Andaz was.

He hadn't heard of it, so I gave him the address. I was on the street with the correct name — Hubin East Road — but the Andaz was at number 101 and here I was at number 9. I hoped these weren't the kind of addresses like in Russia where each building number occupies a whole city block.

He found the address and told me it was around the corner — back up one block to the big Mixc shopping mall and then one block to the left. I found the building, but I couldn't find the entrance. I looked down the next road and it didn't seem to be there, so I figured it must be through the mall plaza.

I took an escalator up to where it seemed to be, but it was an off-limits area and the man in front of it shooed me away.

"Hotel?" I asked. "Andaz?"

Back down the escalator and behind, he indicated with his hands.

I descended and found the Andaz sign. It was above another set of escalators, so I went up and found myself back at the same opening with the man. I went down again and realized I was supposed to go behind this second set of escalators. For a 20-story building, this place sure had an obscure way in.

At last I was inside. It was one of those trendy places where the reception area looks like a few people in a corner futzing around on their tablets, but they presented themselves convincingly as agents of the business, and my assurance was bolstered when one of them handed me a room key and escorted me to the just-as-hard-to-find room elevators.

Then he mentioned free wine until seven and a pool open until ten. Happy to indulge on both counts.

Go on to Xiamen day 4