The term Xiamen translates to “door to the house”, which is a fitting description because of its role as the gate to China. It was previously known as Amoy. Regardless of how it’s referred to, it remains to be one of the most important ports for hundreds of years. It was in the 1980s when it became one of the earliest Special Economic Zones in China. In 2002, it won an international award as the most livable cities
It wasn’t after the First Opium War was lost that Xiamen was used as a port, along with Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai, all part of the five Treaty Ports. Gulangyu, a small island, served as a foreign enclave where consulates and luxury homes were built. This makes Gulangyu a must-visit when you holiday in Xiamen, especially now that old colonial buildings have been restored. And because Fujian became a focus of missionary activities in the late 19th and 20th centuries, there are also many historic churches in the area, some of which are scattered in Xiamen.
Although only Xiamen and Gulyang Yu are part of the Special Economic Zones, the rest of the Fujian Province was flourishing, receiving an influx of foreign investments. In Xiamen alone, Kodak, Dell and Lifetime Products are just a few of the large factories found in the area.
History of the island of Gulangyu
In 1903, it was designated as a place where Europeans, Japanese and other wealthy overseas Chinese can live in security and prosperity. The entire island is decorated with sprawling mansions, consulates and churches.
Today it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Xiamen, probably because it can be explored on foot, not that you would have any other choice. This is because the island has banned the use of any motor vehicles, creating that scenic and quiet place. Although the influx of tourist can ruin those moments of quiet and solitude, Gulangyu is generally a charming place to visit. Getting there would require you to take a 5-minute ferry ride from the harbor of Xiamen that is just across it.
This lake will give you a glimpse of the two sides of the city, because of its scenery that changes the moment the sun sets and the moon rises and vice versa. By day, you can enjoy the beauty of nature, heavily laden with the scent of the sea. By night, you will see sculptures artistically lighted and a few light shows provided by newly opened commercial buildings as part of an advertising ploy. If other cities have attractive skylines, Xiamen offers occasional dancing skylines that can be seen over Yundang Lake.
A Buddhist temple in the southern side of Xiamen that was built over a thousand years, but because of the many wars it has seen through, it has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, with the last incarnation done in the early 20th century. Today, it stands just outside the Xiamen University at Xiada Street, bustling with life as tourists, worshippers and monks flock together. Here, you will hear the sound of monks chanting and smell the scent of incense being lighted. But what makes this temple really amazing is that the front is where a lake filled will lotus flowers is found, while at the back stands a mountain that visitors can climb to get a good view of the city of Xiamen and its natural wonders. The mountain also features hundreds of Buddhist statuettes.
This massive German artillery and relic of the Westernization Movement was built in 1893. It has a canon platform with an architectural style that is popularly used during the Ming and Qing dynasty. It is composed of other platforms where you can see Dadan and Xiaodan islands, as well as the Taiwanese-occupied island of Jinmen, through a binocular.
Water Garden Expo Park occupies a land area of more than 3 sq. km and is home to the Chinese Education Park, Marine Culture Island, Spa Island, 5 exhibition park islands, 4 ecological landscape islands and 2 peninsulas.
Bailuzhou Park is a place where music, dancing and vendors converge. The best time to go around the beautiful park is at 8 in the evening.
Jiageng Park is made in memory of Tan Kah Kee, the founder of Xiamen University. Naturally, this is where you will find his final resting place, which is shaped like a turtle and covered with blue terrazzo. It is one of the state-protected historic sites in Xiamen.
The city has a wide range of restaurants that cater to different budgets, from affordable to expensive. Four of the major options include:
Food Hall at the World Trade Centre
This is where you will find a variety of Asian cuisines, featuring different flavors from Hong Kong to Korea. You can take a gastronomic journey starting from as low as Y15. The Food Hall is at the 5th floor of the World Trade Centre.
Huangzehe Peanut Soup Shop
If you’re looking for something delectably sweet, this is the place to be. This fast food restaurant is famous for its peanut soup and other popular snacks. Be sure to purchase coupons before you order your food.
JJ Bar and Grill
Found at the Hawaiian Park next to the Yundang Lake, this Texas-themed restaurant serves a choice of steaks, fajitas, barbecue and other American fare that will give you a fantastic dining experience — Western style.
Lucky Full City Seafood
Getting to this dim sum restaurant is fairly easy; simply tell the taxi driver where you’re going and he’ll take you there. That’s how popular this Chinese restaurant is. True to its reputation, you’ll have to get there early to snatch a table or wait for half an hour to be seated and get to taste delectable roast meats, shao mai and other treats.
Xiamen Sports Café is a popular sport bars that caters to both locals and expats. It has reasonably priced menu, with pizza being one of the favorites. During happy hour, affordable pints of Tiger are served.
‘Me & You 2 is a coastal bar on the Hawaiian Park area. Its menu has a mix of Asian and Western Cuisines, with Becks, Tiger and Stella on tap. Happy hour is until 8 in the evening.