China – Gulangyu Island
Hong Kong is not the only notable island city in China. One – Gulangyu Island – is just a few minutes off the coast of Xiamen, north of its world famous cousin. But it might as well be in another country. Where Hong Kong is all hustle and bustle, Gulangyu Island is as laid back as a tiny village in the Caribbean.
Gulangyu Island provides an array of things for tourists to do, including the option of doing nothing at all. Though the port at Xiamen is busy shipping goods to and from Hong Kong, the island is a beach lover’s paradise. Sunny, friendly and easy going.
No automobiles or motorcycles are allowed, so the transportation is by bicycle or electric scooter. But most people walk, if they go anywhere at all. Enjoying the breeze and the blue sky are a popular option. But for those who have rested and had their fill (temporarily at least) of soaking up the sun, there are a dozen interesting sights to see.
Sunlight Rock is a popular spot. It’s the island’s highest peak at just over 300 feet (92m). Either looking at it or from it, visitors will get a great view. Its granite face provides an impressive facade and the view from the top is breathtaking. At the base is a small museum called Memorial Hall, dedicated to a local hero, Zheng Chenggong, who chased off Dutch colonists and re-captured Taiwan.
Hiking up the path, one can read some of the many inscriptions left by poets over the generations, some of which date back 400 years. Nearby are the long abandoned training grounds for Chenggong’s soldiers. Not far away is a fascinating cave called Gu Bishu Dong (Old Summer Cave).
The island houses a number of fine gardens, as well. The Shuzhuang Garden is one of the best. Built in 1931 by a private owner, it was opened to the public in 1955. Since then, thousands have come to enjoy its Garden of the Hiding Sea and Garden of Making-Up Hills.
Walking along the tall bamboo, the ocean is invisible, making its presence known by the hint of cool breeze. Climbing up the Tower of Tide-Viewing allows for a spectacular view of the ocean generating that wafting sea air. There are numerous paths to saunter along and you can take a rest at one point to get a great view of Sunlight Rock.
But one of the most notable features of Gulangyu Island is something that gives the place its nickname of Piano Island: the Piano Museum. Not long after the turn of the 20th century piano fever struck the Westerners occupying the island. Everyone who was anyone just had to learn. The objects of their passion are now enshrined in the Piano Museum. Miniatures, roll pianos, accordion pianos and many more are on display.
Whether it’s for the delightful museum, the Gothic cathedral or just to sit atop Sunlight Rock and enjoy a great view of Xiamen City across the water, you’ll find many delightful activities on Gulangyu Island.