I arrived today in a new city: Xiamen. It’s in the same province as Wenzhou, which I was at within the last month, and it’s another coastal city. I haven’t done much since I got here, checked into my hotel and had a nap, ate dinner, successfully completed some projector troubleshooting, and set out on the street to find some internets.
I walked up the street with Kim at the advice of the hotel concierge who told me that there was an internet bar not far away. We walked up and down the street twice and couldn’t find it; after asking a few people who didn’t know, we decided to head back, but before we made it back I thought to ask a kid of maybe 13. He said there was one and he’d take us to it.
The kid leads us down the main street and takes us down a cross street which becomes really narrow, and then leads us through dark alleys. This was strange because usually internet places are on major streets in plain view; at least, these are the internet places I’ve been going to. We’re led through more alleys until one alley opens up into another huge alley which is a giant market, with everything for sale that you could imagine. We walk through the market and through more dark alleys.
We make about 10 turns and have no idea where we are; each turn into another alley reveals people and bustling acitivity. Each alley is different; from who’s on it, to what they’re doing, to what it looks like, to what it smells like. Imagine 15 minutes of this, just following this kid through this gigantic network. One alley opened up into an outdoor billiards area where there were probably 20 tables with huge crowds surrounding all of the tables. Another was a food market, with fruits, vegetables, and assorted fish and seafood. Another was a clothes market, with mens, womens, childrens clothes, and one vendor with dozens of belts hanging from the top of his cart. The variation was unbelievable; I can only relate it to flying down a train track in a bullet train, getting only a glimpse at the landscape you’re passing which you know is incredible, but you don’t have the time to stop and really appreciate it.
When we finally found the place it was tucked inside the side of a building behind a closed door with no sign; I know to look for the characters for internet cafe in Chinese, which are usually clearly visible outside of these places. The inside is filled with Chinese people who cannot believe that a pair of foreigners found their way here.
I wish the trip to the internet place was always this much of an adventure.
We brought a bag of beer with us; the brand is called Great White Shark. On the label there’s a happy-looking cartoon of great white shark with sunglasses on holding a mug of beer in one fin. Oh God Bless you, China.