I want to tell you a story.
A few of the lads from the school and I decided to go away for the weekend to Meizhou Island. And so began a progression of misfortune and surreal events like I’ve never experienced before.
We begin in Fuzhou, up bright and early (ish) to get the train from Fuzhou to Putian, the city by the island itself. Foreigners are required to bring a passport in order to buy train tickets in China. Foreigners are not required to remember to bring them.
While we wait for everyone to collect the documentation we look for somewhere to have breakfast. The McDonalds is one of those tiny one-man spots where a single cramped teenager flails around their ceramic cage attempting to distribute McFlurries. So we go to ‘Dicos’, the Chinese attempt at KFC. It’s much as you would expect. We order our food, it arrives gradually, in a random order, in 5 minute intervals (Icecream -> Burger -> Fries -> Drink). Stuff gets spilled for reasons I forget, we make a mess. Sod it, never mind. To the train!
We order tickets. We have ages, an hour or so to kill. Oh no wait, double check the tickets, we have 6 minutes. Time for our morning exercise. Minor lads weekend incompetency to get us warmed up.
Cut to the ferry. We step on this tetanus infested rust-bucket and decide to head to the front to get a view of the idyllic island we are to spend our time away on. The image that was presented to us was almost comically gothic. The weather was pretty good in Putian but the island we were heading towards was draped in dark, foreboding clouds. They were definitely ‘go away’ clouds. But, of course, clouds don’t have agendas. At least, clouds in any normal place…
We take our first step onto the island and it starts raining. I shit you not, the first step. Again, almost comically clichéd Gothic horror-esque events. We were getting absolutely covered in pathetic fallacy, full of the stuff despite my attempts to deflect it with my umbrella. Coastal weather is always pretty changeable though right? It’ll clear up in no time.
As we’re walking towards where we believe the hotel to be we are constantly accosted by pushy Chinese people driving strange golf-cart type vehicles, clearly wishing to kindly offer their services in driving us around the island and, presumably, ripping us off at every turn. We are explicit as we can possibly be regarding how little we wish to be driven around by any of them but they just keep pursuing, albeit incredibly slowly, until we have our own little posse of strange golf cart men. This is a bad sign. This means we are, possibly, the only business on the island, or they would piss off for more lucrative pastures.
So what we thought was the hotel is actually some kind of energy company HQ, albeit seemingly abandoned. Maybe they didn’t use ‘energy’ on this island, god knows. We approach the least annoying golf cart man and request he take us to wherever the hotel actually is. He’s fine with this, he seems like a decent bloke and he has a nice purple polo shirt, so we hop in.
The rain now turns from rain to RAIN. I’ve never before had to use my umbrella while already inside a vehicle, which is testament to how unsuitable golf cart van things are for transporting people in a subtropical climate. After the shock of the rain begins to wear off we realise we have no idea where the hell we are. All we can see are paddy fields and farmland. Where in gods name is this bloke taking us in this storm. On this insane island. But we’ll bear with him. We’ve approached the stage of awkward laughing ‘Where are we! What is going on!’ to cover our concern. As a building becomes visible through the typhoon it appears our faith was well placed, we’ve arrived at the hotel. Finally to dry off, dump our stuff and grab some beers till the storm finishes. We walk inside, dripping wet. The place is absolutely dead, not a single other person in the, pretty big, lobby but the receptionist. This is to be expected as it’s not holiday season here, but it was still a little shining-y for my liking. Of course, the rooms are twice as expensive as we’d been told to expect. God damn it. At this stage it’s also pretty clear we’re miles away from anything remotely resembling civilisation so it’s perhaps not the best place to stay anyway. We decide, at this point, to get some food and consider our options.
Things get much worse from here, stay tuned for part 2!