We had arranged our driver to pick us at 9am and he arrived shortly after we were done with checking out.
Before getting on the expressway to Xiamen, he had to make a pit stop at the petrol station.
The total journey was slightly more than two hours due to traffic jam when we entered Xiamen. For most part of the journey, the scenery looked like this:-
It was around noon when we arrived at Gem Hotel.
We had booked this hotel on Ctrip at a rate of 184 CNY per room. First impression wasn’t good; there was a strange odor at the lobby when we were checking in.
Although we were given keys to all three rooms, only one was ready. After staying in a huge room the previous night, it was hard getting used to such a small one.
Taken later at night:-
The hotel was old and tired-looking. The carpet at the corridor didn’t seem very clean. The shower door didn’t close properly and area outside it would be wet after showers. We would probably go for a nicer hotel next time.
After putting down our bags, we decided to visit Gulangyu. To get to the jetty, we would need to traverse Zhongshan Road, Xiamen’s premier shopping street.
There were some familiar faces and interesting shops en-route to the ferry terminal.
The crowds started to became as we got closer to the ferry terminal. We needed to use the underpass to cross Lujiang Road to get to it.
It took us around 20 minutes to reach the ferry terminal. There are many ticket packages available with different admissions thrown in. We decided to just purchase the return ferry ticket for 8 CNY each.
While waiting in line to buy the ferry tickets, there were touts asking if we were interested in taking the speedboat instead. We were glad that we didn’t after seeing the speedboats on water. It must be incredibly bumpy and scary and the passengers were half-soaked by the seawater.
There were two decks on the ferry; apparently it cost 1 CNY more on the upper deck. It was standing room only but it didn’t really matter as it took around 10 minutes to reach Gulangyu.
There was a counter which indicated the number of visitors for the day. It sure felt like 20000 visitors were all cramped together at the Gulangyu jetty. We rejected several offers to be our guides and bought a map instead.
One of the cool things about Gulangyu is that cars and bicycles are not allowed on the island. However, I was still overwhelmed by the huge number of visitors. There was even a queue to use the gents.
We popped in to a random place for lunch which was relatively decent. Fresh abalone was sold at 8 CNY each.
After the meal we walked down the street and found that there were many vendors selling fresh seafood.
One could buy and ask the restaurants to prepare them for a meal.
Following the map that we had bought earlier, we entered a really crowded part of the island. My parents and brother had visited Gulangyu before but they couldn’t recognize the place. They mentioned that there weren’t so many shops in the past but many of the formerly abandoned buildings were converted to retail/food shops, Taiwan-style.
My mom popped into one of the dried seafood shops to get some produce and Ying took the opportunity to test her photography skills.
We just strolled around the island for the rest of the afternoon.
It seemed that the residents weren’t too happy with the influx of tourists either.
Not quite sure what the guy was protesting about.
Gulangyu is a popular place to take wedding shots for the locals. However I wonder how it was possible to get any good shots with the crowds.
We needed to traverse Zhongshan Lu again after getting off the ferry.
We had arranged to meet our relatives for dinner and decided to eat at a xiaolongbao place one block away from our hotel.
The 11 of us filled up the entire shop and ordered xiaolongbaos, dumplings, soups and noodles.
It was an incredibly cheap yet satisfying meal; the total bill was only around 100 CNY for all of us.
After dinner Ying and I went to take a stroll on Zhongshan Lu again. We also picked up some snacks for the evening.
Ying couldn’t resist the ginger soup and bought twice.
While I went back to watch EPL, the rest of my family decided to go for foot reflexology (around 100 CNY for 1.5 hour) at a nice place opposite our hotel. Apparently if one spent over a certain amount (think 150 CNY), one could stay the night there.
I didn’t think that our time at Xiamen was particularly memorable. Gulangyu is definitely overrated as a destination. Not worth jostling with the crowds to visit on a weekend.