Edit Blog Post
Published: February 24th 2012
To Xiamen Island
lake over china somewhere
XIAMEN AND GUYANGYU ISLAND,
INCLUDES SIDE TRIPS TO HAKKA ROUNDHOUSES, QUANGZHOU AND CHONGWU.
I spent about 9 days traveling in south China before the mad Chinese holiday season started.
Close to the mainland connected by bridge in a large bay is the island /city of Xiamen (pron. “Sharmin”) ;a place I have always wanted to visit; and so far, it has lived up to it’s reputation. The hotel is in the back alleys of the old city and on first visit you need to be personally guided in. As owners say “even the locals get lost in here”. It is run by an American and his Chinese wife.
Now I know my way in and out and even found another ‘short cut’ thru fish (and other live animals) street market in alleys past Catholic Church. This whole area is so cramped for space. Today the church was busy, being Christmas and when I went in to have a look inside, almost stepped in a bucket of live fish!!
The alleys are about a meter wide. You can touch both sides of the alley with both elbows at the same time. It is very easy
a amaze of alleyways
hotel- lost in alleyways
to step into an open doorway instead of an alley; not that anybody gets upset about it. Privacy here does not seem to be an issue. Even the hotel is very small.
It is almost as if you are living in the same house with hallways separating rooms, not alleyways. This is how most people in old Chinese cities would have lived. When you hear people talking, watching TV, cooking, coughing, walking etc, you don’t know if it is in the hotel or across the alley. Luckily, they mostly seem to go to bed early and wake up late
So, it is a bit weird being the only person in a four story hotel when there are so many people crowded in the buildings around me. It is a bit like Australia being next to Asia I guess.
This island is an old Portuguese colony (1700s) then British (from 1840s as claimed as a trading port after Opium Wars and other European powers, then Japanese. The botanic gardens has large cacti garden at top and slightly below, tropical rainforest with deserted colonial mansion overgrown with jungle. How plants from cold, wet, hot and dry areas can all
Catholic-Buddhist shine with pink bike and ornate toilet furniture-somewhere different.
survive well together, I am not sure but they do.
GULANGYU- COLONIAL ISLAND – The main attraction is the smaller island off the main island (five minutes via ferry) which has no cars, but a lot of faded and derelict colonial buildings in among tropical and European /alpine plants. Some of the old mansions are dated “1936”; one year before the Japanese invasion. I have no trouble sleeping being exhausted every day from walking around getting lost in more interesting places for a change. Luckily the locals are friendly and helpful. Also, more locals speak English here than my last city; one of the ‘advantages’ of being an ex-British colonial city I guess…..
OTHER DAY TRIPS IN THE AREA
HAKKA ROUND HOUSE AREA-Ethnic ‘Hakka’communities live in ‘roundhouses’ of rammed earth and mud brick, housing several hundred people. I went on Chinese day bus tour with a couple of other Australians from the hotel this was much easier than local busesQUANZHOU -in a bay was settled by Arabs and was the start of the ‘Maritime Silk
Road’ (trading via boats past India to the Middle East). Some of the original mosque and old town are still standing- a rarity in China. All the buildings (including skyscrapers) seem to have Arabic influence and curved boat designs on top; similar to the old boats in the river. I did manage to go to this place alone, without getting too lost.CHONGWU -further up on a peninsular, (next day via extra local buses and back of motor bike) is a stone city with wall, built to repel Japanese pirates centuries ago. The wall and old city inside are made of huge granite slabs. The local people also are slightly different to the normal Han Chinese and there is an Arab influence here too.
All these places in Fujian Province (subtropical, like home, so winter now here is not too bad) have a variety of old places and cultures, but the new cities are all starting to look alike. Luckily, because of local and international tourism, at least some of the old areas are being preserved.
Even most of more laid-back Xiamen Island is a mish-mash of
rapid bus transport above city
everything, without much town planning. Put skyscrapers, old towns, expressways, amusement parks, factories, hills, tunnels, parks, temples, high rise apartments, anything and everything in a blender and switch on and you have China. One thing they all seem to have in common is not much space.
So I have learnt to avoid the negatives and pick out the interesting bits, which there a lot of. It has been a good week and ‘am now leaving China before the mad holiday season starts to avoid the tourists.
There are a lot of interesting places in China, but they are so hard to get to if you are a foreigner (but even the Chinese have a hard time) because the information on getting around is so vague and contradictory. China is hard work, but worth it.
South East Asia is so much easier. Now for very short holiday with out much travel.
***** SCROLL DOWN PAST ADS TO MORE PHOTOS *****
Tot: 0.609s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 14; qc: 64; dbt: 0.0565s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb