In which I head to Gulangyu island, Xiamen
Gulangyu is a small islet off the larger island of Xiamen, in Fujian province. Obviously, the only way to get there is by ferry. For ¥8 I bought a return ticket, which is actually a token which you swipe to go each way.
The ferry itself only took a few minutes to cross the short expanse of water between Xiamen and Gulangyu. You could pay an extra ¥1 to stand on the top deck, which to be honest I did on the outward journey as the bottom deck was pretty crowded.
Having got to the islet, the first courtyard you see reminds me a little of a theme park, what with shops, KFC and McDonalds ever present.
I grabbed my combined ticket for the “attractions” on the island, so I’d only have one ticket to worry about, which was good. Not included though, and somewhere I did want to go, was the Underwater SeaWorld.
It was sold to me as having penguins, so obviously I was going to go! Unfortunately, teachers across Xiamen had decided to use this day of teaching to go on a school trip and the place was flooded with school groups.
Having dodged one trip I’d run into another group of chattering kids. Being a teacher myself, I don’t mind children obviously, but sometimes you just don’t want it!
The penguins were a little bit of a disappointment too, there were only three of them and they were in a fairly small enclosure, but it is China.
There was an underwater tunnel which had sharks and schools of tuna swimming around. It also had a kind of conveyor belt which you stood on to go around, which was neat but again, to avoid the schoolchildren I had to dodge around this too. Apparently there was also a sea lion show, but I had no idea where to go for it, the signage wasn’t clear and again, there would have been too many kids for my liking. In all, the SeaWorld place was a bit of a disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend it, as there are much better aquariums elsewhere. One positive though was that I bought a new penguin. Having decided last year that I would only buy “practical penguins” after a little bit of a clear out, I had to justify this purchase somehow. In the end, I decided that he could be my representative in photos. I had my hair pinned back off my face because it was hot and I don’t look good in photos like that, so my new penguin represents me.
Gulangyu is smaller than Brownsea Island (after a quick Wikipedia search) and therefore was easy to get around. My first stop after the disappointment of the aquarium was the Organ museum. Now to be honest, I’ve never heard of an organ museum before, but I thought it could be a first for me. The building it was housed in was magnificent, beautifully domed and pillared on the outside.
There were many old organs inside which smelt a bit musty to be honest, but the house would have been very large and magnificent in its hey-day. The next stop was so called Sunlight Rock. Now, I’m presuming it’s called this because it is the highest point on the islet, and the busiest. I don’t know when peak season is, but I doubt that when I went was peak season, and it was still busy. You do get a good view back over to Xiamen though and across Gulangyu as a whole.
To be honest, the view across Gulangyu reminded me a little of when I was in San Remo, Italy 意大利, before doing my summer camps. The terracotta coloured roofs, plus the design of the houses all seemed very continental, so if you tried hard enough you could imagine that you were in Europe, and not 5000 odd miles away in Asia.
There is also an aviary near Sunlight Rock, which you seemed to get to via the cable car, which wasn’t running. I’m sure there was another entrance, but I wasn’t too fussed about seeing birds. I moved on to find one of the beaches on Gulangyu, passing many more tropical trees, heaven.
Now, the Chinese don’t seem to know how to use beaches properly. I blame it entirely on the fact that they live in a mostly landlocked country, whereas I come from an island country.
As I was standing, agape at what was going on front of me, a couple of American/Australian guys (we didn’t talk long enough for me to establish the nationality) came over. Here is the conversation we had:
Man: “Using the beach Chinese style”
Me: “A waste – they’re not even swimming!”
Man 2: “Yeah, some haven’t even taken their shoes off!”
And that was that. A simple conversation expressing our distress at the lack of sunbathing/swimming and general knowledge of how to use a beach. I ended up walking around a bit further to find a less crowded beach and had a wander, shoes off of course. I managed to find a load of sea glass and pottery, so Mum, that’s coming your way when I come back to England 英国! I had a bit of a lie down, only for a short while as I was fully aware that I had not put any sun cream on, though that didn’t change the fact that I did get a little burnt anyway. What a true Brit abroad eh?!
I continued my wander around Gulangyu in the sun, taking photos with my new penguin friend. Unfortunately, my camera has decided to be even more of a nuisance than usual, so I’m now going to have to find somewhere to try and get it fixed. I did however, take a photo of the passion fruit that I had. I was given a straw and you had to suck out the insides.
Very dignified, but the normal Chinese way.
Back to Xiamen on the ferry again!
How about these signs I saw?:
Xiamen will probably become a fairly regular day trip for me. It is a lovely city, I can get there cheaply (¥22 single by nice bus or ¥30 single by taxi) and I can’t deny that the beaches are a strong attraction. I think I can even get a ferry to Taiwan from there, but that has to be explored. I’m lucky with my flights to London in the summer too, as I fly direct from Xiamen to Amsterdam, which is very useful, and the same on the way back too.