It took us ten years to come back to the wonderful island of Gulangu, off Xiamen in Fujian province. Since the Island was added on the UNESCO World heritage in 2017, even bigger crowds of tourists are coming to visit it. While it is surely packed on some days, being off season and with the help of the rain helped us find again the feeling we had in previous trips.
Thanks to gwulo.com, I came with a historic map of the island from 1947 for historical orientation. Since last trip in 2012, the first big change was the harbor. Massive ferries now go to a redeveloped port in a less touristic part of the island, with the original and ferry harbor being reserved for inhabitants. The area around the new port has seen some new construction, matching the old style so it keeps some of the characters. The new port is close to the large tunnel, that it taking people on a quieter side of the island, where we stayed this time and did not know much about before. The new port has directed some tourists to a less developed part of the island, which is good for spreading crowds.
Although historic houses are also found in this part of the island, they tend to be less grand and less numerous than the ones facing Xiamen on the other side. This area was the main fishing port, where the Amoy tinning Co was located, a major employer on the island (Amoy tinning company moved to Hong Kong in the early 50’s but the brand still exist). This whole surrounding area is now a park all along the Coast of the Island. No road or park was indicated on old maps and the harbor reduced quite a bit compared with the old time.
Going around the island, we reached the (now) main port again, passing by the former American Consulate. I remember that it originally had great view over Xiamen, it is now partly obstructed by new constructions, but still visible.
With intermittent rain falling, we managed to reach the other side of the island where the largest villas are and we stayed several times (See post “The revival of Gulangyu“). This area has several churches including the beautiful catholic church. Some of the large mansion have been turned to museums, like the Hai Tian Tang Gou Mansion (海天堂构) that was under renovation during our first trip in 2007 trip. The new one is transformation of the beautiful Huang RongYuan mansion into the China Record museum. I think I came to look at this house and took the same picture every time I came Gulangyu. Finally being able to visit it was really enjoyable. I’ll write a post dedicated to the museum itself later.
A nice addition to the area is a massive bookstore in a beautifully renovated old mansion and few steps away from the entrance of both museum, it is impossible to miss. Great place to stop for a coffee break in the pouring rain.
Night on Gulangyu is always a magical time, so I took a stroll after dark. With very few people and very little noise, the island was once again just for me to stroll. Our last day was a Saturday and the weather was much better. Crowd was much larger but not enough to make it unpleasant. Coming to Gulangyu in off peak times is still the best way to enjoy it. We’ll be definitely back again.