Xiamen #1: Hulishan Fortess and Nanputuo Temple

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February 16th 2018
Published: May 24th 2018
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I left things rather late in planning for my Chinese New Year holiday. I had very limited options as my passport was at the immigration office, meaning that I could only travel by train. Since it was New Year, most of the trains were fully booked. I had a couple of option head north to Shandong province to visit a couple of places I really wanted to go to there, or head South to Xiamen and the warmer weather. My friends advised !e to head south and I'm glad I headed their advice. I had arrived in Xiamen the previous evening and was so happy that the weather wasn't cold. I woke up to an overcast but warm day and after enjoying breakfast al fresco in the hostel's courtyard, I set off to explore.

My map app wasn't working very well, it never does in China, so I didn't really know if I was headed in the right direction, but I hoped I was heading towards the beach and ultimately Hulishan fortress. The walk through the neighbourhood I was staying in was nice. Even though it was New Year, there was still life about the place, it hadn't become a complete ghost town. After about 15-20 minutes, I came to a really big road, and evetually, I figured out that the beach was on the other side. The beach was pretty nice, lots of sand and stretched in both directions as far as the eye could see. However, the view out to sea wasn't so great, I don't know whether it was mist or pollution smog, but I am betting on the latter, so the view was very hazy. I could see the fishing boats in the foreground, but the land across the way was just some outlines. The beach had a boardwalk, so I walked along that until I reached Hulishan fortess. Then entrance was tucked away, off the beach. It was pretty busy, but luckily there was only a very small queue at the ticket booth.

Hulishan fortress was built in 1894 during the Qing dynasty to protect the island from foreign invasion. as I made my way inside, I found that I had got there in time to watch the firing of the canon show that they do a couple of times a day. The place was already packed but I managed to get a spot. I had a bit of a view, but it wasn't too great. The parade was interesting and I enjoyed watching it, but similar to other things I've seen in Asia. I then wandered around the fortress. It wasn't as big as I thought it would have been. The gardens were nice and well kept. I headed to the front of the fortress, which had a lot of canons to protect the area for invasion by sea. The fortress is in the Guiness Book of World Record for having the world's largest and oldest coastal artillery of the 19th century.

Once I had finished looking around the fortress, I headed back down to the beach and followed the boardwalk some more. I came to what must be the main be a b as it was busier than the other beaches. I could see lots of tall, modern buildings in the distance and it reminded me a bit of Busan. For me Xiamen was a mix of Busan and Hong Kong, it just reminded of those places. I had though Busan traffic was bad, but here it was even worse. The motorway extended out over the top of the far end of the beach, above the sea, and curved round to rejoin the land on the other side. I was headed in the direction of Nanputuo Temple, which was only a couple of kilometres walk away. If course, I missed the street I was meant to take, I continue if the route I took was longer, but, oh boy, it was slow. The street was just a sea of people and I was swept up in the crowd. After a longer than expected walk I finally came close to the temple's entrance. Even just crossing the road was a nightmare due to all the people, but finally I managed and walked into the temple's grounds.

I decided to do what a lot of other people were doing and I found a spot on the grass with a tree that I could lean against and I sat relaxing and reading for a bit. There were loads of families there, chilling and having picnics. The outer grounds of the temple although busy had a relaxing vibe. I then went for a bit of a walk around, checking out the ponds and pagoda that are located in the outer area. The temple looked really pretty, too, as there were lots of red lanterns string up on its outer facade and I could see the mountain rising behind it. It reminded me a little of Korea and all the temples I had visited awhile hiking. I headed into the temple and took a look around the inside, which was filled with people praying for the New Year. Nanputuo Temple was founded during the Tang Dynasty. The temple's name literally means south of Putuoshan, the Buddhist holy sight in Zhejiang province, close-ish to where I live. This wasn't the original name of the temple and it seems to have had a few different names over the years. The temple was really pretty and very popular.

While walking around the back of the temple, I came upon a path leading up the mountain. I hadn't been planning on going for a hike, but since the weather had cleared up and was nice and sunny now, I decided to head up the trail and see what there was to see. I'm really glad that I did. The hike took me maybe an hour, although I wasn't really timing it. There are quite a few places to stop on the way up, which gave me a chance to catch my breath and also take in the view, which was a little hazy. The here were also a few enclaves which were filled with lots of small Buddha statues. They were really cool. I made it to the top of the mountain, which was a bit anti-climatic as the views were better a bit further down and there was like a random, shut-up house up there. There was also an entrance to the botanical gardens and I contemplated visiting since it was on my list of things I wanted to do in Xiamen, but decided to wait so I could devote more time to it. After a brief rest, I made my way back down the mountain. I was so thirsty by this point, as the weather was really warm, it certainly didn't feel like February but summertime. On the way down, I came across a shop that sold food and drinks, so got an icy cold lemonade. It was so good and just what I needed. I headed out of the temple and made my way back the way I had come earlier.

I was starving by this point so I decided to head into the McDonalds I had seen earlier for something to eat. The place was rammed, so I got my food to go and sat on the wall outside to eat it. Feeling full, I headed back along the streets to reach the beach. There were still a lot of people about and the traffic was jam packed. The beach was also a lot busier when I got back there. Now that the sun was going down more people had ventured out. The sand was basically covered with a sea of people, I don't think I've ever seen so many people in a beach. It seemed like there was more than I had seen at Haeundae in Busan, which in peak season is rammed. The walk along the boardwalk was a lot slower due to the volume of people and the fact most were dilly dallying. I say for a while on one of the quieter stretches of the beach, taking in the views and reading. Then I made my way back to the hostel. I had done a lot of walking, and with the unexpected short hike, my legs were pretty tired. I was ready to spend the evening relaxing.

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