Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gulang Yu

On the third day of my trip, I came back from the tulou buildings and toured Gulang Yu. Even though my hotel was on the Gulang Yu island across from Xiamen, I had not yet had a chance to check it out. It's a relatively small island so you can walk across the whole thing in not too much time. The famous part of Gulang Yu is that it used to be occupied by Europeans, so a lot of the buildings are European in style.
Gulang Yu at Night
During my stay, the number of tourists at Gulang Yu was a little unbearable for my taste, especially after spending such a fun day seeing the tulou in Yongding. While a lot of the sites were pretty interesting and there were some great views, there were at times so many people that it was difficult to really enjoy it. You can pay 80 RMB (~$12) to see all the main tourist sites on the island, so I just bought that ticket and spent the day walking around. The first one is a large statue of a famous Chinese hero.
Statue of Zheng Chenggong
Statue of Zheng Chenggong
In that park there is also a good view of one side of the island and the ocean.
Gulang Yu Ocean
The next main site is a piano museum and a surround garden. Gulang Yu used to be knows as piano island when it was under European control, as their used to be a lot of piano bars at that time. The pianos were interesting, but the garden was the best part.
Piano Museum
Ocean Meeting the Garden
Rocks in the Garden Just a Few People Swimming
After that, I hiked up to the highest point of the island, which is probably the best main site because the view is really nice. However, the crowds were terrible at the top. A lot of times in China the concept of a line doesn't exist and people were constantly cutting to the front. Also, the amount of personal space people expect is much less. It was really annoying and I got really tired of being crowded and pushed constantly the whole time to the top. Honestly, this is one of the worse parts of traveling to really popular tourist sites like Gulang Yu. I know it is China and there are a lot of people, but even after the amount of time in China I've spent so far, I can't get used to people jumping in line in front of me and giving me no personal space. Despite all that, though, the view was pretty amazing and you could see the whole island and across the bay to Xiamen. The weather was perfect that day, so the views were that much better.
The Peak
Crowd at the Top
Gulang Yu with Xiamen Across the Bay
Gulang Yu
After the peak, you can take a tram to another part of the island to see an aviary. They had some interesting birds there.
The best thing about Gulang Yu, in some ways, is not the paid tourist sites, but just walking down all the narrow alleys and streets. No cars are allowed on Gulang Yu, so you can just walk around at your leisure without having to dodge cars and crazy drivers like in most places in China. There are a lot of European style buildings, houses, churches, shops, and everything else. In the end, Gulang Yu does have a lot to offer, with great views, parks, interesting streets, buildings, and all those other things. However, as I mentioned, I've never been a huge fan of seeing Europe in China, so I probably wouldn't go back to Xiamen/Gulang Yu unless I wanted to see the tulou buildings as a day trip again. Unfortunately, I think that I visited the island during the peak time of Chinese New Year, so there were an especially large number of tourists, which made it less enjoyable as well. If I had gone another time, maybe I would have liked it a lot more. Another installment of pictures of Chinese people is in order. I'm not sure if I'll have pictures for every post like this, but it is interesting to show some local Chinese people.
Shop Owner
In China, it is very common to see some poor Chinese man carrying, pushing, biking, pulling, etc. huge loads. Sometimes I am not sure how they are strong enough to do it and I am almost positive it can't be worth the little amount of money they get paid.
Chinese Men Pushing Big Shipment
There are more pics on picasa for those interested:


Jenny said...

Ah, so jealous! You should have gone into that piano shop and started playing "Chopsticks" on them.