After 3 short but wonderful days in Kinmen, we took the ferry across the straits to spend 2 nights in Xiamen (厦门). Commonly known as ‘The Gate to China’, Xiamen is one small island city very much like Singapore. The sub-provincial city of Fujian province is located along southeast of China where many emigrants to Southeast Asia had originated from. It was named as one of China’s Special Economic Zones in the early 1980s, giving its economy a significant boost.
This modern city is blessed with a mild maritime climate, a good network of public transportation and a highly regarded Xiamen University. The coastal city was even once voted as China’s second “most suitable city for living”. Xiamen is home to more than 3 million even though the land area is smaller than Singapore.
Cruise around Xiamen
Next morning, we took a short cruise ride from Xiamen Ferry Terminal that circles around Xiamen coastline. We took a good look at Gulangyu Island (鼓浪屿) as the cruise slowly makes it way towards Taiwan Straits.
No sighting of any high rise buildings compared to Xiamen main islands. One thing which stood out prominently is the granite statue of Zheng Chenggong (郑成功) on top of a huge rock.
The picture below is the grand Zheng Chenggong (Kongxiga) statue in Gulangyu.
Shortly after, an announcement that we are approaching Kinmen Island and urged all passengers to see it on the deck. The crews who were not seen most of the time now walk around with a basket of binoculars for rental. The cruise stopped briefly at one of the all-important buoys indicating the international border between the two nations.
From here, we could see Taiwan Dadan Island (大膽島) and the big wordings of 三民主義統一中國.
And with that, the cruise started making its way back to the ferry terminal. Personally, the cruise trip is not worth the time and I would rather visit other places in Xiamen.
A walk around Gulangyu
The queue for Gulangyu ferry was maddening by the time we reached the ferry terminal. Every departing ferry was swarmed with loads of people and seemingly overloaded. The ferry ride is free for the lower decks – a nice gesture. It took a while before our turn and thankfully, the ‘sardine’ ride lasted only 10 odd minutes.
We spotted this nice looking rock not too far away from the ferry terminal where we alighted. The streets were crowded with tourists even on a weekday.
Gulangyu is indeed very picturesque with plenty of beautiful European architecture. Charming colonial style mansions populating the little island are a stark contrast to those buildings seen in Xiamen. Walking along the narrow and twisty cobbled street make me feel as if I’m in some European countries instead.
Unlike Xiamen islands, the roads here are free from cars. So there are no vehicle noises or needless honking. It’s nice to wander the streets without worrying about moving vehicles which I rather enjoyed. Bulky items are moved around with human-powered two-wheeled carts.
Despite all the nice things about Gulangyu, I found the place a little too touristy to my liking. This popular Xiamen attraction is somehow filled with vendors waiting to rip off tourists, everything found here is much more expensive than Xiamen islands. Bargain hard if you really have to buy anything here.
We also checked out the largest old villa in Gulangyu – Hi Heaven. I can’t remember how much we paid for the entrance fees though. The exotic villa blends both Chinese and Western style together, a unique appearance.
For the return trip, we opt to pay for a speedboat ride back instead of taking the ferry again.
That evening, we dropped by Zhongshan Road for shopping and food hunting. The popular shopping district has plenty of shops and stalls lining up along both sides of the road. And with that, we concluded our short trip to Xiamen.