Difference between revisions of "Xiamen"
Revision as of 17:34, 6 January 2011
Xiamen (厦门; Xiàmén) is a coastal city in Fujian Province in China.It became one of China's earliest Special Economic Zones in the 1980s. It was recently named China's 2nd 'most suitable city for living. Most tourists come to Xiamen to visit Gulangyu Island, a small island which contains some beautiful colonial buildings and is car free.
Most of the city is on Xiamen island. The smaller island Gulangyu and the mainland areas Jimei and Haicang, just across bridges, are administratively parts of the same city, but geographically distinct.
Until 1840, Western "barbarians" were allowed to trade only in Guangzhou (which they called Canton), and only under strict controls. After China lost the First Opium War, Britain took Hong Kong and China was forced to open five Treaty Ports: Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.
In Xiamen, the island Gulangyu became a foreign enclave with consulates and luxurious homes. Today it is a quiet area (no cars or motorcycles) and five minutes by ferry from downtown, and still quite scenic.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fujian was a focus of missionary activity. There are still many historic churches in the region.
In the 1970s, Xiamen was made a Special Economic Zone to encourage development and since it has flourished. Technically, only Xiamen island and Gulyang Yu are in the SEZ, but the whole region is flourishing. Xiamen has more Taiwan investment than any other mainland city, partly because Taiwanese is a dialect of Minnan (Southern Min) a family of Chinese languages which are spoken in southern Fujian. There is also a major influx of other foreign investment; among the foreign companies with large factories in Xiamen are Dell and Kodak.
It is not Shanghai or Hong Kong, but compared to many other cities in China, Xiamen is definitely a very vibrant, affluent and modern place. It got an international award in a contest for most livable cities in 2002, neighboring Quanzhou won the following year.
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (XMN) is on Xiamen island and conveniently close to downtown, ¥30-40 and 20 minutes by taxi. Xiamen Airlines  use XMN as their hub. They have connections all over China and some international flights to Asian destinations. Several other Chinese airlines also fly to Xiamen.
If you are flying to Xiamen from North America, consider Korean Air. They offer great discounts, and the Seoul Airport is the most user-friendly on the planet, free internet and nice free lounges with couches to stretch out on. If you are coming from elsewhere, look for cheap flights direct to Xiamen from Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.
Starting March 27, 2011, KLM will offer direct flights between Amsterdam and Xiamen, creating the first direct intercontinental link for Xiamen. Flights are scheduled three times per week: Xiamen-Amsterdam on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays; Amsterdam-Xiamen on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The bullet train on the Fuzhou-Xiamen high speed railway began service in April 2010 (which takes about 100 minutes). The Fuzhou-Shanghai line has already been in service for long, so Xiamen have good connections north. There is also regular train service running north and south (from Fuzhou, Shantou or Hong Kong), and though this is the cheaper option, transportation is slow since the railroads travel a circuitous route through mountains. For southbound trips to the coastal cities to the south or to Shenzhen and Hong Kong, take a bus.
Trains to Xiamen include
Buses to Xiamen include
Taxis are cheap, starting at ¥8 for the first 3 kilometers. You can go anywhere on Xiamen island, including the airport, for under ¥40. But be wary that some taxi drivers might take advantage of you if they know that you are not a local and might take the longer route to your destination.
The local bus system is very good, but the bus routes are listed in Chinese and do not have English on them. The BRT is Bus Rapid Transit, on elevated bus-only roads; very fast and comfortable but of course it does not go everywhere. Fare is usually ¥1 per person.
There is a frequent ferry service to/from Gulangyu. The ferry terminal is just north of the Liujiang Waterfront Hotel. No charge for the journey out; buy tickets near the pier on Gulangyu for the return trip, ¥8. More comfortable seating on the upper deck for an extra ¥1 going either direction; you pay for that on the ferry.
To go around by bike is a great way to explore this gifted Island. Try the Seaside Road (Huandao Lu) which has an extra path for bicycles in most of its parts. Start at Xiamen University Beach and go up until the International Exhibition Center. There are various rental stations on the Huandao Road, starting at CNY 3o per day. Enjoy the sunshine while cruising next to the sea. If you are leaving the path for bicycles, execute caution of the traffic.
Exploring Xiamen by motorbike is a great way as well, although it is forbidden on the whole island! Enforcement is strict in the vivid areas (e.g. Yuandang Lake, Zhongshan Road, etc.). If caught, be prepared to pay a fine, or even to get your motorbike taken into custody. Elsewhere in Xiamen, the enforcement of the motorbike law is more easy. Riding a motorbike outside the island (e.g. Jimei Area, Tongan Area, Haicang Area) is allowed.
The Xiamen dialect of Minnan is taken to be the standard dialect (it is also known as Taiwanese), so Xiamen is an excellent starting place to learn Minnan. Minnan is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, Cantonese or any of the other Min dialects.
Mandarin is almost universally spoken by younger people as it is the only language used in the education system. English is not widely spoken, though staff in higher end hotels will usually be able to communicate in English.
You can enjoy Xiamen's unique scenery not only in the day but also in the night. Take a breather and walk beside Yundang Lake in the evening and you can see how Xiamen transforms into a different setting: lighted artistic sculptures, scent of the sea, and romantic lovers by the lake. Enjoy your stroll and notice that some buildings even have a light show at night, simple laser/light shows that attract attention, which is some form of an advertisement mostly done by newly opened commercial buildings and some residential complexes to draw attention to their business.
With its clear waters, long and wide sandy beaches as well as its stable winds, Xiamen is one of the major hot spots for Kite Surfing in China, and often hosts various domestic and international competitions. Regularly there is a huge crowd who hails from all over China, and sometimes even from abroad to kite in Xiamen. Kite Surfing can be done at best at Haiyuntai, close to the Asia Golden Bay Hotel (Huandao Road).
From April till December you will find perfect cross-shore winds and warm to mild water temperatures. The water is quite flat, choppy waves are seldom. Watch out for some rocks in the water when the tide is low. Swimmers in that area are also seldom which makes it safe to Kite here, even if your skills are not perfect yet. Since there are lots of other Kiters here who always have an eye for each other and will help each other, it will enhance the safety. 11 meters Kite are fine most of the year, however you sometimes might consider a 9 or 14 meter Kite, depending on the wind. From October till April a 5mm wetsuit will keep you comfortable warm.
A Kitesurfing School with Chinese and English speaking IKO-certified Instructors, including equipment for sale and storage, compressor and shower facilities is located on the beach, at the Rasa Sayang Restaurant.
Different nearby facilities like restaurants, hotel or guest houses offers all you need. The seaside patio of the Rasa Sayang, with daily BBQ in the evening, is an amazing chill-out area for Kiters and their friends.
Xiamen has a rich and vibrant nightlife, which is still affordable, compared to Shanghai or Beijing. In all major luxurious hotels you will Filipino-Bands in the Lobby in the evening, creating a perfect atmosphere for a drink after the work is done.
The Discoteques "1801" and "Dushang", a distance of only 200 m, draw a big crowd all night. Although crowded, these places are safe in generally. If you come after 11 p.m. on a saturday night your entry may be denied, since then the place is overcrowded already.
The main hot spot for nightlife the Haiwan Park, next to the Yuandang Lake. Here you find different Clubs, Pubs and Discoteques. "The Key" is a favourite hot spot, with a Fillipino and a Taiwan Band who bringing the spirit to the top every night. The Discotheque "KK" is worth visiting, but you should be cautious, since fights between drunken people happen here sometimes.
Alternative and cheaper nightlife, with lots of students and younger people, can be found at Zhengcuoan, near to Xiamen University. Here you find a lot of cheap pubs, open-air BBQ´s and casual gatherings of young people who enjoy the sunset and mild Xiamen nights over a drink.
There is a whole strip of cafes and bars along the lake next to Marco Polo Hotel, most with patios or balconies with a view of the lake. On the side street off the lake are several more places.
Tea Houses are popular in Xiamen. You will see relaxing people making tea in front of their houses in daytime.
This lists accommodation in Xiamen only. For accomadation on Gulangyu island, see Gulangyu.