Monday, January 28, 2013

Fujian's island of Gu Lang Yu

By Jonny Blair

Another of my incredible China adventures in recent times involved a visit to this crazy island known as Gu Lang Yu! Basically it's an island off the coast of the Fujian Province and is reached by ferry from the city of Xiamen, itself another interesting Chinese city which I have yet to write about separately!

There is decent history on Gu Lang Yu, music and colonial wise. Indeed a few countries all influence the architecture on the streets of Gu Lang Yu. If you make it to Xiamen, most people head to Gu Lang Yu anyway and if you read on you'll see why it shouldn't be missed. An unusual part of your trip to Gu Lang Yu is the fact that to get there you have to pass through the island of Xiamen anyway! You can reach Xiamen by bus - I came from Shuyang Town and get a ferry from Xiamen seafront harbour direct to Gu Lang Yu.

Getting there? - The only real option is to take the ferry - it leaves from the port of Xiamen - get yourself to the harbour and you can't miss it. There is a ferry that goes straight to Gu Lang Yu - i.e. directly across, the other option takes a detour and gives you a decent view of the city and the island.

I would recommend getting the slower, cheaper boat simply for the view - you can relax and enjoy the views of the harbour and if the weather is good, the city looks stunning. The ferry was 15 RMB return at the time we went almost a year ago, but there are cheaper and even free off peak times so look out for that!

What is there for me to see and do on Gu Lang Yu? - Despite being a small island, this is a great island and here are my top sightseeing tips:

1. Climb to Sunlight Rock - Climbing to the highest point of the island of Gulang Yu is recommended. Sunlight Rock is the English translation and the views are exquisite and the exercise of the climb up is also good for you. To get there basically follow signs for Sunlight Rock climb when you are on the island and you will find it, through the flurry of cobbled streets. Entrance to walk up there is a fee of 60 RMB which also includes a small memorial hall. It's a rip off and it's over-priced, especially for China, BUT I'd say do it as the view is spectacular as you can see.

2. Colonial Style Buildings - Gu Lang Yu features a bizarre varied range of Colonial Style Buildings. For some unknown reason it reminded me of Macau in parts. There are British, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and Chinese style buildings showing a diverse influence on this island. There is probably not another place in China that is like this (I class Hong Kong and Macau as separate to China).

3. The Cobbled Streets - these cool, pokey streets get busy at times but make for an excellent stroll, plenty of restaurants and cafes too.

Gu Lang Yu is very different to mainland China - just by walking through it you get to appreciate a few of the finer things in life - the amazing architecture. Take your time to walk and admire - this type of street design maybe common in Europe but not in China!

4. Music - there is a heavy music influence on Gu Lang Yu and it's famous for it. Famous pianists have hailed from this small island and there are regular music events and festivals worth watching.

* Aside from this there are museums, a cable car option, even a Protestant Church and some colonial dwelling places to see.

Where to stay on Gu Lang Yu? - There's a hostel on Gu Lang Yu which is difficult to miss, it's on one of the main streets when you arrive by ferry and is prominent. It's a Hostelling International - it's probably the cheapest option on the island.

In a nutshell that's actually it - staying the night there could be an option and you could enjoy the bars and restaurants after dark, I visited Gu Lang Yu Island as a day trip only though, and that's enough time to see everything you want. At least in my opinion. For details of the bus trip to Xiamen, check this post here: Shuyang Town to Xiamen and the amazing Fujian Buildings are covered in 9 different posts, here's The Chengqi Building.

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