Gulangyu, literally translated as “Drum Wave Islet” is an island just off the coast of Xiamen, with a population of about 15,000 and an area of about 1.9 square kilometres. The name “Drum Wave Islet” came from the waves pounding the reefs of the island, hence creating a sound not unlike that of drums. What makes Gulangyu unique is that it’s the only island that bans motorized vehicles such as cars and motorcycles on land. The only mode of transportation found is electric buggies, but one does not really need it since it’s best to explore the quaint and charming island on foot. Exploring it on foot was what we did on one fine day, after a short (5 minutes) ferry ride across from the jetty. Might I also add that the ferry ride was free of charge?
Trees in Xiamen
Gulangyu island in the distance
Our traveling partners
Soon, we were on board the ferry, moving steadily and slowly, while we observed the buildings that we were leaving behind. Can you spot the gigantic Wyndham building? That’s the hotel that we were staying in, and the jetty is just next to it in the picture.
Wyndham Hotel from afar
Once we stepped into Gulangyu, an indescribable feeling of calm and serenity surrounded me. I felt foreign but at peace. It was a nice change to be able to walk around the roads without worrying about traffic, not to mention the somewhat cleaner air that we were inhaling.
The clean and quiet streets of Gulangyu
Walking around the islet made me wonder if I was still on China lands, for I started to see buildings with Western influence in it. It was then that I found out that after the Opium War, Gulangyu became an international settlement with multiple countries setting up consular residences there. This led to a huge variety of architectural styles, blending the Chinese culture with the Western, resulting in what was known as a World Architectural Cocktail.
Another Western-inspired building
All aroung Gulangyu we spotted many small and charming shops selling souvenirs and cookies.
One of the souvenir shops
A famous Xiamen delicacy that can be found in Gulangyu is Stuffed Biscuits.
Shop selling stuffed biscuits and coffee
Also known as ‘xian bing’, this biscuit is made from pork lard and sugar and has a flaky pastry exterior. The fillings are varied from red bean, green bean (my favourite), peanut, strawberry and so on. Word has it that the best stuffed biscuits are from Gulangyu so don’t give up until you find them. They are perfect as souvenirs too!
Stuffed Biscuits with a variety of fillings
Prices of the ‘xian bing’
Another souvenir shop
One of the main attraction of Gulangyu is none other than the Sunlight Rock, the highest peak of Gulangyu that allows one to see a panoramic view of the Xiamen island. Being the premier attraction spot of Xiamen, one is said to never have travelled to Xiamen if one hasn’t been to the Sunlight Rock.
Sunlight Rock Temple – one of the top 4 Buddhist temples in Xiamen
Inscriptions on the rock in red
After purchasing the entrance ticket to the Sunlight Rock (CNY60/person), we started our ascend up the rocky path. It was quite an easy climb up compared to the one at Nanputuo, so this was a breeze for us!
Ascending the Sunlight Rock
Knights in shining armour?
An old cannon
We were soon at the peak of Sunlight Rock, and were greeted with a most amazing sight of Xiamen! Weather was rather hazy that day so I had to make do with whatever I managed to capture with our camera.
Panoramic view of Xiamen #1
Panoramic view of Xiamen #2
Panoramic view of Xiamen #3
Saucer saying high from above
After Sunlight Rock, we took the cable car that was connected to the Piano Garden. Every ticket holder was entitled one complimentary cable car ride each.
Cable car ride
Amazing view from the cable car
The Zhao’s in front of us
When we landed at the other side of the cable car, we were able to marvel at the majestic Sunlight Rock garden situated on the highest peak of Gulangyu.
with Zhao Jie in front of the Sunlight Rock
The amazing view of Gulangyu from the Sunlight Rock is something not to be missed when one is in Xiamen. Couple that with the calm and serene surroundings of Gulangyu, a visit to Xiamen wouldn’t be complete without hopping onto that ferry to cross over for a day or two. Our journey on Gulangyu continues after this, but that’s a story for another time.
The Sunlight Rock at Gulangyu