China adventures

Our New Colombo Plan trip to Xiamen and Hong Kong departed Adelaide on 3 July, the day after exams finished for some of the students. With 15 students and 2 staff from the University of Adelaide our early morning venture into the streets of Xiamen for breakfast was interesting with most places much smaller than our group. Eventually we found some great fresh fruit at a local market and some street vendors selling what I describe as flattened bread and small donut size thick pancake like items (kompyang?) – yum! Our ventures that day included a visit to Nanputo temple and walk up the hill to a great look out over the city guided by some of the students from Xiamen University, lunch at a small restaurant, and a walk around the old campus of Xiamen University before heading to the new campus of the University. Here, Weiwei and Emily gave us an introduction to marine science at Xiamen, aquaculture in Dongshan and the places we’d visit, as a prelude to our activities over the next few days. After a tour of the labs we headed to an evening meal with the students and staff from Xiamen University who were to spend the next few days with us.

Day 2 was dedicated to visiting aquaculture farms in the Dongshan area, a 2½ h drive from Xiamen – first up, was a visit to a land-based abalone farm with a hatchery and grow out tanks. Over 80% of Chinese abalone production occurs in Fujian province. The next stop was a seahorse aquaculture company that also has a commercial processing plant. This company was only ~3 years old and was working towards supplying the traditional Chinese medicine market. It claimed that by doing so it would prevent overfishing of wild populations which would lead to conservation of endangered species, and that sea horses benefit human health! Our final visit was to marine underwater enclosures holding a variety of species with a restaurant – we walked along a narrow rickety jetty to reach the enclosures. Our aquaculture tour continued the next morning with a visit to a farm using ponds to grow finfish (grouper, rabbitfish, goby) and shrimp/prawns.

We then headed towards Fujian Nanjing Tulou area, a UNESCO World Heritage area, which was an absolute highlight of the trip. These mountainous rural dwellings were mostly constructed between the 12th and 20th century, and are large, earthen usually circular buildings 3-5 stories high capable of housing around 800 people. The countryside itself with rice paddies, tea plantations, and other agricultural products was stunning. Contrasting with the green subtropical vegetation was the amazing brightly coloured clothing of local people working the fields. Wandering through the tulou area, staying overnight in a tulou alongside a stream and with a musical performance from one of the Xiamen students on an old Chinese instrument was wonderful. Over the last two nights each of our students shared a room with a Chinese student really getting to know one another – each of our students now has a Chinese name and all the Chinese students now have an English name or an Australianised name if they already had an English name.

On route back to Xiamen we visited the extraordinary land reclamation site of Double Happiness Island and the information centre. Back in 2009 this site was a rock and a lighthouse. Since then it has been transformed such that 2.2km2 of land has been reclaimed, using the hillside on the adjacent mainland, in the shape of several dolphins. Back in January 2016 when I first visited the bridge to the island was still being developed. By July 2016 we were able to drive across the bridge to the island. The vision is by 2022 that two extraordinary dolphin shaped islands, reflecting Chinese white dolphins whose home is Xiamen Bay, will be complete along with vegetation and buildings. The vision is “We are not only imagining but also acting”.

Typhoon Nepartak was heading towards Taiwan and meant a revised schedule in Xiamen – unfortunately we missed out on visiting several mangrove sites and also the local fish markets. Instead we visited Xiamen Museum and KTV, and the students had a few mornings to work on their assessment tasks. Luckily our flight to Hong Kong was not affected by the typhoon. More on Hong Kong coming up soon.