Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Xiamen - Lookaround

Photobucket Map courtesy of Google Maps.

Xiamen 厦门

Some Interesting Facts About Xiamen

Xiamen is actually not the provincial capital of Fujian province, but is arguably the most prosperous city in the province. Being situated close to the sea and as a special adminstrative city, the city enjoys autonomy from the central government for many of its policies.

Xiamen city comprises of an island, much alike Singapore, and is bodered by several townships to her west and north, such as Tong An and Ji Mei. This distinction is especially important, as most buses work on a zonal fare system and charges a premium when one travels out of Xiamen island to the surrouding townships.

Gulangyu Island 鼓浪屿

Gulangyu Island is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Xiamen and is located off the west coast of Xiamen Island. The island gets its name from a rock which makes a sound like a drum being pounded when it is hit by oncoming waves. In addition, Gulangyu is also renowned for its many colonial houses and cheap sea produce.

Gulangyu town centre as seen from Xiamen Island
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A view of the southern end of the island. The statue is that of Zheng Cheng Gong 郑成功.
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One of the many ferries which ply between Xiamen and Gulangyu. It costs RMB8 (S$1.70)for a return trip and the fare is only collected in the direction towards Xiamen. It costs an additional RMB1 each way to ride on the upper deck.
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One of the first things which one would realise upon setting foot on the island is the lack of motor vehicles. There uses to be only three kinds of motor vehicles allowed on the island (police, fire service and ambulance), but a number of electric carts had been allowed to run on the island in recent years. It costs RMB50 for an entire round of the island, or RMB10 between stops.
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It is a very common sight to see workers pulling carts around the island ferrying goods.
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Although a number of the old colonial mansions are still for residential purposes, the bulk of them had been converted into cafes and boutique hotels.
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Road sign in Gulangyu with the province name as the name of the road.
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Remmants of a once grand German embassy.
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A memorial on the island also pays tribute to one of China's pioneering gynaecologist, Dr Lin Qiaozhi 林巧稚.
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Gulangyu is also often referred to as "Piano Island 琴岛" as there are a large number of musicians who had chosen to settle here.
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Xiamen Coastal Road 环岛路

This stretch near Hu Li Shan 胡里山 is one of the more unusual stretches of this newly built panaromic road along the southern coast of the Xiamen.

Locals flock to the beach during low tide to collect "la-la" and cockles during low tide. The island in the distance is actually Jinmen Island 金门, which is governed by Taiwan instead.
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A huge billboard is placed along the beach by the Chinese government to send a message to the Taiwanese government that a unified country with two seperate systems is the best solution to the political quagmire. In return, the Taiwanese authorities had also put up a similar installation with white characters instead on Jinmen Island.
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Nanputuo Temple 南普陀寺

Nanputuo Temple is one of the most famous temples in Xiamen and is different from other temples by virtue of an additional seperate hall which houses the Goddess of Mercy. In addition, many devotees hike up the hill located behind the temple as a form of pilgrimage.

Main Temple Entrance
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Both ancient and modern high rise structures provide an interesting contrast in this modern city.
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The Goddess of Mercy hall is also octogonal in shape, which is considered as a very unusual design.
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Rear view of the hall.
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Bai Lu Dong 白鹿洞 and Hu Xi Yan 虎溪岩

As Xiamen is a relatively hilly island, the locals had taken advantage of the shelter offered by the natural landforms and built a number of temples in such a manner.

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"Yi Xian Tian 一线天" formation caused by 2 stones coming very close to each other. However, I think that the gap is still far too wide to be classified as one as compared to other similar landforms in China!
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Bai Lu Dong and Hu Xi Yan are located on opposite sides of the hill and could be easily accessed from either temple. A plaque is erected on the peak to commemorate a general's vicitory in driving out foreigners from Xiamen in the past. The chinese word "Hong Yi 红夷" means Caucasian. However, the term is seldom used today.
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It was said that a learnt man had hewn this space out of solid rock in the past for a quiet place to meditate. As it resembled the mouth of a tiger, the rock and the temple built below it became known as Hu Xi Yan.
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A number of rather amusing stone statues of monks adorn the courtyard of the temple
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The rock actually forms the ceiling of the rooms which were built underneath it.
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A giant stone "wooden fish" stands guard at the main entrance to the temple.
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Bai Lu Zhou Garden 白鹭洲公园

Bai Lu Zhou Garden is located in the heart of the city and also serves as a reservation for the city bird, the white egret 白鹭.
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A close up of the statue. A stylised form of the egret is also used as the logo of Xiamen Airlines.
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Strange Slope 怪坡(Wen Ping Lu 文屏路)

This slope looks like it is uphill, but it is actually downhill due to a clever optical illusion caused by the gradient of the adjacent road and the trees. This "attraction" was created when a new road was built besides the old road.
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Similarly, it looks that it is downhill from this photo but vehicles roll backwards when in free gear. There are numerous vendors who rent bicycles out to visitors for them to experience this illusion first hand, for RMB1 ($0.21) per round.
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Xiamen Night Scene

A night view of Haicang bridge 海沧大桥, which is one of the longest cantilevered bridges in Asia.
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Xiamen Financial District by night.
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Musical fountain at People's Square 人民广场.
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Q好清香Cafe

Q好清香 Cafe is a new restaurant concept which is similar to that of a fast food outlet, except that its menu comprises of Xiamen's local specialities instead of the usual fast food. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are rather generous as well. The establishment is a subsidiary of its parent 好清香 , which is located just besides it and is a regular restaurant. Having sampled identical dishes from both restaurants, I personally feel that the dishes taste better at less expensive cafe instead!

One of the "must try" in Fujian is the fried oyster 蚝煎, or commonly known as "or jin". There are different styles of presenting the dish, and the Fuzhou and Chaozhou version differs slightly from the Xiamen version pictured below. The Xiamen version has spring onions mixed in the batter while the other two doesn't. However, one common similarity is that the dish is packed full of oysters, as compared to the few miserable oysters being fried in a large amount of batter in Singapore / Malaysia. RMB8 (S$1.70). Location: 湖滨中路

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SM City Mall 城市广场

SM City Mall is the largest shopping mall in Xiamen. Most interntional brands could be found in the huge shopping centre, and the mall is anchored by Walmart hypermarket located at the basement level.
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There is a themed foodcourt located on the fifth level of the shopping centre which serves a wide variety of Fujian street food and delicacies. For hygiene reasons, payment could only be made by using a stored value card. However, no deposit is required and the full card balance could be easily refunded. In addition, usual offerings such as this chicken cutlet meal are also available. RMB14 (S$3). Oh did I mention there's unlimited refill of rice and soup?
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A gigantic mango ice 芒果刨冰 which costs only RMB15 (S$3.10) and a bowl of guilingao 龟苓膏 RMB5, (S$1.10).
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Zhongsan Road 中山路

Zhongsan Road is located near the ferry terminal and is a pedestrian shopping street set among restored colonial buildings.
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A 2004 Ferrari F1 car exhibited at a departmental store attracted scores of curious onlookers.
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Next Post: Xiamen - Ride (BRT)

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