Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gulang Yu & Xiamen

I'll have a few posts about a trip I made to Fujian Province a few months ago. Fujian Province is along the southern coast of China, directly across from Taiwan. I had been to Fujian Province before, on a company field trip to Wuyi Mountain. I had considered a trip back ever since then, and so I was delighted that the return trip was also excellent. Some places more than others, but it was generally a sustained high point.

My first stop on the trip was to Xiamen & Gulang Yu. Xiamen is one of the major cities of Fujian, I've also heard it referred to by the name Amoy, which comes from the local dialect. It's a large, sprawling city, although the downtown area was fun to wander around. The city is built on an island, with the Eastern Coast being the downtown of the city:

The picture was taken from the small Gulang Yu island, which was an interesting if heavily-touristed area. More than a century ago, Xiamen was the center of foreign operations in China, and Gulang Yu was where the foreigners lived. A lot of their houses remain, in various states of repair:

And the streets have a charming randomness to them, with a lot of thin alleys leading every which-way:

It's all very beautiful, and with a strong foreign feel. There were a number of small and relatively inexpensive hotels and hostels, dramatically sticking up in the air, to the left of the ferry peir. It was all very beautiful, and I've never seen so many cameras in my life - and in China, that's really saying something! There were plenty of old film cameras or Holgas in use, and also a large number of couples getting their marriage photos taken - it's a big Chinese custom, done a few weeks before the actual wedding:

But while Gulang Yu is beautiful, it's not the most exciting place. There's a cheap five-minute ferry to downtown Xiamen, and the shopping street of Zhongshan Lu. It's a large pedestrian street that's pretty similar to the other large shopping streets in any large Chinese city. However it did have plenty snack foods, some interesting side streets, and a few activities, like these people performing traditional Chinese music:

And there's also Nan Pu Tuo temple, a large active Buddhist temple with an interesting series of hills to the rear of the temple ground:

All-in-all, I don't know if Xiamen and Gulang Yu merit a special trip on their own, but they're relaxed and beautiful and generally interesting places to be.

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