2. Xiamen (夏门） and GuLang Yu （鼓浪屿）
12.01.2011 - 15.01.2011
After an 8 hour train ride (short by Chinese standards!), we arrived in Xiamen, a coastal city which is technically an island! It definitely has a lot of 'old world' charm and used to be known as 'Amoy' in the west. Unfortunately, it wasn't as warm as I thought it would be - perhaps I had an overly optimistic anticipation of southern China consisting of t-shirt-wearing climes! Having wondered around the shops nearby (including one which sold fake glasses?!) and got ourselves a cheap bowl of noodles for dinner, we soon retired to our hostel.
January the 13th
The next day, we explored the nearby Nanputuo Temple, an active temple complete with chanting monks and worshippers murmuring their prayers - the whole works! Despite not being religious, I always feel compelled to buy some incense and say a few words...this time was no different. Hmm, perhaps that classifies me as 'spiritual' instead (or just hedging my bets!).
Behind the temple was a rock-stewn hill which made for a great climbing opportunity as well as a chance to explore crevices which were filled with various statues currently not used in the main temple complex. We had intended to dine with the monks but we forgot that noon was already too late as everyone in China likes to eat lunch early! Disappointed that we had missed this chance to eat at the temple, we conspicuously followed some monks out of the temple and into a specialist vegetarian restaurant nearby. Perhaps this is where the high-brow monks come to eat! MMmmmmm...even this self-confessed carnivore could be turned by dishes such as these! The 'lamb kebabs' were particularly good.
Money permitting, we would have tried a lot more dishes! What we did have was delicious!
As night closed in, we hopped onto a boat and 10 minutes later, we were on another island called 'Gulang Yu' island, also nicknamed 'piano island' due to its love for classical music; a remnant from its colonial past. However, I thought that a more fitting nickname would have been 'cat island' due to its strange fascination with cats...
January the 14th
With its winding streets around European style villas and its walkways shaded by old banyan trees, GuLang Yu island really was a delightful place to spend a few days wandering around. The weather had improved immeasurably and as we walked along the beaches, stopping to pick up a coconut or two, you couldn't help but think that winter was finally gone (despite it still being January!).
Although there were several old colonial consulates and buildings to visit, we thought it best just to save the money and go where our feet took us as we soaked up the calming charms of the island. By night, we were still leisurely strolling around with our milk-tea from one of several cat-themed cafes dotted about. The number of kooky independent shops ranging from hand-painted shoes and t-shirts to themed 'cute' stationary made me think that this was definitely a place my family would enjoy coming to.
I cannot recommend the service
January the 15th
Soon it was time to say goodbye to Gulang Yu and after an Y8 RMB return boat to Xiamen and a cheap-but-filling lunch of dumplings, we hopped onto a bus and went onwards into Yongding County.