Back in August of 2005, I was opportuned to be given a chance to step foot into the land of one of the oldest civilizations. Through my client, Dell Inc., I was assigned for three weeks for official business to their factory in Xiamen, China.
Xiamen is in the Fujian province, nearest to Taiwan. It is an island connected to the mainland by bridges. Later did I learned that this once used to be called Amoy. Amoy has been known to be where many Filipino-Chinese families hailed from, including both of my grandparents. This made me more excited as it was like a heritage walk for me.
Initially, I’ve had a picture of Chinese cities to be very crowded, busy, polluted, and filled with bicycles. But when I arrived in Xiamen, it was very different. Xiamen is very clean and orderly, not too crowded, not traffic-congested, and is a modern city. Later I learned that Xiamen is considered a garden city of China.
Together with me on my flight to Xiamen was my wife whom I haven’t courted yet back in those days. We are initially booked with Crowne Plaza Hotel Harbourview Xiamen where we stayed for a week before moving to the then newer Hotel Sofitel Plaza Xiamen.
Crowne Plaza is located near the tourist district and the ferry terminal to Gulangyu island. While Sofitel is located near the Bailuzhou Park.
During our three weeks of stay in this island city, we were able to see all that this town can offer. More than twice did we visit the Gulangyu island, the main tourist destination. Gulangyu is accessible via ferry and is a site where people only walk around and no motorized vehicle may be seen except for a fire truck. It had narrow streets and colonial houses on this island. It is also characterized by a stone statue of Chinese general on one end. We frequent the island for shopping of souvenirs and pearls. Gulangyu is beautifully lit at night also.
One weekend, together with three colleagues, one of which is now my wife, took a tour of the whole island. One day we visited the Nanputuo Temple, one of the main tourist destinations of the island. It is situated on a hill side and has a seven tiered pagoda. Beside it is the Xiamen University, a center of education of the city. Around the vicinity of the university, we also took some time to shop around.
On another day, planned to take a tour around the whole island up to the northern tip. On this trip we fist stopped by Hulishan Fort, that dates back to the 17th Century. The Krupp Cannon, known as the King of Cannons may be found here and is the largest and oldest coastal cannon. This fort also had a number of armaments and cannons.
Our next stop was the Xiamen International Conference and Exhibition Center which faces the open seas. There was a weather disturbance in the region that time we were there and the winds and waves are lashing to the sea barrier. Located near the XICEC, are colorful man-like statues which we in turn take pictures of it. It was beautiful.
When we have moved to Sofitel, I had opportunities of walking to one of Xiamen’s biggest parks which is in Bailuzhou Park. This park is situated in the middle of a reservoir which is surrounded by modern structures. It was a beautiful park.
Anyway, Xiamen indeed looked like a modern city where hutong districts are being converted into big malls or high rise condominiums. Traces of the old city of Amoy seemed to have disappeared already.
One thing one should remember in touring around this city is to try to learn Chinese or make sure you ask your hotel’s concierge to write down your destination on a card or paper. You’ll use it to show your taxi driver who know no English.