- Posted June 21, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
China travel memories
Escaping Beijing and Shanghai
- tracyyou, CNN iReport producer
While many travelers visit China to see the immense palaces of Beijing or sprawling skyline of Shanghai, few take a break from waiting in stretching admission lines at typical tourist spots and retreat to a relaxing weekend destination. The coastal city of Xiamen, resting along the Taiwan Strait in the southeastern province of Fujian, is the complete vacation experience. Beautiful weather synonymous with the tropics, rolling waves against sandy beaches, and of course, refreshing mixed drinks with neon-colored twisted straws have made this a favorite getaway of Chinese travelers.
The city has an urban population of nearly two million people, although over one million live on Xiamen Island, connected to the mainland by four major bridges. The island is one of China’s Special Economic Zones, with more market flexibility and less government regulation, and is also home to many of the city’s attractions such as Gulangyu Island.
Gulangyu, only accessible by a five-minute ferry ride from Xiamen Island, has a heavy European heritage. Opened as a treaty port following the First Opium War, foreign nations such as France and Great Britain rushed to establish consulates on the island. Their colonial architecture still stands along with the hundreds of imported pianos they left behind, so many in fact, that the island is also known as “Piano Island.”
Although the bicycle and car-free island is less than two square kilometers in area, it is easy to get lost sampling the countless different types of fresh seafood among the narrow and winding lanes of Gulangyu. Sunlight Rock, the island’s highest peak, rises above the bustling life of these streets and offers a stunning glimpse of the cityscape. The panoramic view reveals the green hills of distant islands scattered across the bay, the towers of Xiamen Island standing against the water’s edge, and why the city of Xiamen is a perfect escape from the occasional chaos of a vacation in China.