This Historic Fujian Island is a Must-Visit China Destination

By Ryan Gandolfo, April 12, 2019

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Out of Towner is a regular column that aims to help people get the most out of their PRD experience by proposing fun excursions that can be made over the course of one weekend to explore the local culture and nature of the region.

Located in Fujian province right off the coast of Xiamen city, Gulangyu Island has several hundred years of history. In 1903, settlers from other countries began to make the island home in the wake of the Opium Wars, which, much as in other spots in China with a colonial past, left a mixed cultural footprint that is still apparent today. 

In 2017, the island was listed as one of China’s UNESCO National Heritage Sites – and for good reason. Here, we introduce you to the sights, sounds and tastes of Xiamen’s beautiful Gulangyu Island – a slice of Chinese paradise.

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Image by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s

See

On our visit, we head to the island extra early to avoid the inevitable crowds that will engulf the area later on in the day (this is China, right?). After taking a ferry from Xiamen Lundu Port to Sanqiutian Wharf, we arrive on the famed island, which has drawn comparisons to Shamian Island in Guangzhou. But thankfully, once we move beyond a small area reminiscent of the popular Canton island, Gulangyu starts to take on its own shape. 

We spend hours wandering the island’s maze of laneways, which are dotted with historic structures that demonstrate an eclectic array of design elements in which architecture nerds will revel. The diversity visible on Gulangyu’s backstreets will leave a lasting impression of this multicultural hub, especially if you brush up on the island’s history before your arrival.

Interestingly, the island earned its name from the drumming sound of the East China Sea waves crashing into the numerous reefs that surround the peaceful island. Hit the island’s seawall and hear the soothing sound of the waves for yourself. 

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Image by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s

Do 

There’s surprisingly a lot to do on the 1.8-square-kilometer island, which currently hosts a population of around 20,000. Whether you’re into museums, beaches, temples or lounging around at an old school cafe, Gulangyu has what you crave. On our visit, we hike up Sunlight Rock to get arguably the best view in all of Fujian province. Aside from outdoor exploring, the island boasts a 450-square-meter piano museum that showcases ancient pianos brought over from around the world.

gulangyu-11.jpgImage by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s 

Taste

Walking along Longtou Jie is an inevitable part of visiting the island, and a stroll down the popular pedestrian street offers ample opportunities to snack, gorge yourself and shop for souvenirs. One foodstuff we try is the famous fish ball noodles, which come highly recommended but are a bit of a letdown (although we must admit we aren’t the biggest fans of fish balls). 

Stay

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Image by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s

The island is also home to a number of quaint hotels. Former consulates and family houses have been turned into tourist accommodations to meet the growing demand, while also providing a fun and historically interesting hotel stay. 

As with elsewhere in China, be sure that you book in advance if you're planning on coming during the holidays, as the island is a popular tourist destination during the high season.

How to get there:

From Shenzhen: 
Take a high-speed train from Shenzhen North Station to Xiamen North Station, and then take BRT Bus 1 from the railway station to No. 1 Wharf (the terminal station of the route). From there, walk 10 minutes north to catch a ferry to the island.

From Guangzhou: 
Take a high-speed train from Guangzhou South Station to Shenzhen North Station and transfer trains to head to Xiamen North, then follow the same directions as listed above.


For more Out of Towner, click here

[Cover image by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s]

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