Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian

From my 'offline blog'

9th April 2010


...Anyway, we went to Gulangyu after brekkie. Originally it's the focus of the trip, before we decided to visit the earth houses as well. It’s supposed to be a place with lots of old western architecture and other sights. Originally we had planned to visit all the old houses, but we ended up buying tickets (at the hefty price of RMB 80) for the sights about Zheng Chenggong, a national hero, which turned out to be a waste of money again. @_@

The islet was packed, unlike other parts of Xiamen we had seen. Perhaps all the tourists were there? There were the stupid tour groups, the pretentious ‘bourgeois’ young people who are only into cute stuff sold in chic shops and western-style cafes, and us (I guess we don’t really fall under either of these categories…). :P The buildings were pretty nice to look at (and photograph), and many couples were taking their pre-wedding photos there. We visited a number of old buildings, the Bagualou which was formerly the Xiamen Museum and now a disappointing organ museum, the Sunlight Rock (the most stupid spot really but again it proves S’s theory that mainlanders looooove climbing ‘to the top’, no matter where or what it is), and the park where the famous statue of Zheng Chenggong, the symbol of Xiamen, is located.

Of course we also shopped around the chic shops and cafes. I was impressed by the designs found in some shops, as they’re really quite tasteful (though not very original). The quality of some of the stuff is quite high, e.g. tasteful reproductions of retro / vintage designs. That’s indeed a pleasant surprise.

We had lots of snacks for lunch, tea and dinner. The food’s not superb but a lot better than the previous two days already. Overall, it’s a pretty satisfying visit!

10th April 2010

The park surrounding Nanputuo Temple was quite nice for photos, though it’s very packed when we arrived. I like how the whole park was full of cotton trees (also seen around Gulangyu). We do have cotton trees in Hong Kong, like in the neighbourhood where I work, but you only get the chance to take photos when you’re a tourist.

After the temple we headed to Xiamen Uni which is just next door. What shocked us was that there was a security block outside the campus and we weren’t allowed in as ‘the campus was not open to tourists’. @_@ It’s just ridiculous – I’ve never heard of such a rule in other unis. We could have made up some excuse to get in, but what’s the point – it’s not really that attractive a place anyway! So we took a taxi back, and explored some old side streets in the neighbourhood. It’s interesting how the busiest street is actually quite close to some really local alleys with lots of weird stuff. That’s the real Xiamen, and we were happy to have explored the area.

After the brief exploration we had lunch in a Hakka resto I found online just yesterday; we thought we needed a more decent meal before we go back. The resto was not disappointing – it’s a proper resto, at the very least. The food was finally ‘normal’, and we finally didn’t have to bear with super oily MSG food! Of course I’m not so naïve to think that there’s no MSG used, but at least it tasted better. One of the dishes, chicken marinated in wine and salt(鹽酒河田雞), actually tasted like something my dad would make at home with granny’s rice wine! :) It’s the best dish in the whole meal. We also had Hakka-style stuffed bean curds(客家釀豆腐), which were pretty random, some unidentified veggies, and stewed fish and bean curds(黃骨魚燜豆腐), which was flavourful but a bit too salty to my liking. You can’t say it’s a good resto but it’s already one of the better places we’ve been to!

Yesterday on Gulangyu we did have other interesting food. We had bianshi (扁食, some Taiwanese wonton?, a miniature version of dumplings), longsuyanruan (龍鬚燕丸, some other kind of dumplings with a long tail…), maci (麻餈, hand-made sweet dumplings), jinbaoyin (金包銀, some dumpling again made with ‘ou-fen’ skin and with stuffing made with winter mushrooms, bamboo shoots and some other stuff), fish balls, oyster cake, tusundong (土筍凍, some kind of jelly made with WORMS!), shaoxiancao (燒仙草, grass jelly with beans, barley and some ‘QQ’), and bean paste cakes. It sounds like a lot but it’s nothing compared to street food found in Taiwan or Hong Kong!!!

We decided to go back to Gulangyu before leaving, just to kill the time we had. It’s sooooo crowded since it’s a Saturday. We just wandered around to take more photos, and went to the famous western-style cafe Zhang San Feng to have the highly celebrated milk tea. Turned out the place and the drink were both so-so – the milk tea was nothing special, just normal milk tea with some raisins and cornflakes. @_@ It definitely doesn’t live up to its name! We finished the trip with a final visit to a grass jelly drink store. I quite like the very chewy ‘QQ’ inside!

Our final taxi ride was to the airport. The taxi driver’s very nice and told us to take the Huandaolu route as ‘it is a sightseeing spot’, he claimed, and on the way he introduced other spots around to us. It’s indeed quite a nice end to the trip.

Just now we were reflecting on the trip, and here’s a little conclusion: Xiamen’s definitely got a long way to go to be comparable to Shenzhen or even Guangzhou, but it’s a place full of possibilities and opportunities. Just the islet Gulangyu is a pretty easy place to start a business – coffee shops like Babycat, Miss Zhao’s Shop, Zhang San Feng are not hard to clone, and it appears to be a super easy way to make big money actually. :P But Xiamen as a whole lacks places of interest, so I don’t think I’ll visit again!


  1. wow you wrote all this 'offline'? I am very impressed!! For me, when travelling, I could only make short notes... and then elaborate them and insert relevant images in blog posts (e.g. I haven't yet read everything in your post carefully but will revisit later. (I am liking the description of food... :))

  2. It actually took me a long time last night to type out everything, as I didn't have a netbook with me during the trip and I wrote everything by hand every night. Originally I meant to 'embed' the pictures in the writing, but I got into lots of trouble trying to upload the pictures, so eventually I gave up and posted them as a slideshow under each post instead. :(


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