15 Sep - 17 Sep 2012 Xiamen

East Asia
People’s Republic of China aka Red China
Fujian (aka Fukien or Hokkien) Province
Xiamen City
Jiutiao Alley 24
Old Town Youth Hostel +8613313848939 xiamenhostel@hotmail.com
Simple but cosy double room with shared bathroom, for CNY 140.- or US$ 22.10 per night.
Free broadband internet. 15% discount for members of the Konni & Matt Travel Blog.
Very friendly and helpful English-speaking staff.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of the Old Town Youth Hostel in Xiamen, which we would recommend, and for directions:
Note the random 0 - 500 m misalignment between Google’s maps and satellite views of the motherland, courtesy of the paranoid Chinese Communist Party.

Exploring Xiamen’s lively waterfront with its captivating old-world charm, located directly opposite the small island of Gulang Yu, treating our pescetarian taste buds with a first taste of Taiwan in the Taiwanese Food Street, a busy night market with red lanterns, plenty of ice-cold cheap Tsingtao beer (only CNY 4.- per 600-ml bottle) and all kind of Fujian and Taiwanese seafood delicacies, especially lobster, crab, shrimp, snail and shellfish, eating our way through the night and finding time for (i) succulent oyster omelettes (CNY 15.- or US$ 2.40 per plate), (ii) delicious shark fishball noodles (CNY 9.- or US$ 1.40 per bowl) and (iii) spicy red crabs (CNY 25.- or US$ 4.- per portion).

Following the crowds of domestic tourists and discovering the European heritage of tiny Gulang Yu (CNY 5.- per person for the wobbly 10-min boat ride between Xiamen jetty and Gulang Yu jetty), an over-visited island off Xiamen and a living time capsule which offers the best of the colonial and Chinese intersection, wandering along its meandering lanes and shaded warrens of backstreets which are packed with hundreds of crumbling colonial villas, breezy seaside gardens and abandoned consulates, and relaxing afterwards on the island’s south beach (… and trying, together with many day-trippers from the motherland, to catch a glimpse of Kinmen Island which already belongs to democratic Taiwan aka Republic of China, our next destination).

Saying zaijian to Xiamen’s growing urban sprawl, buying a day tour from our hostel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gaobei (CNY 180.- or US$ 28.50 per person, all inclusive: air-con coach with a Mandarin-yakking-and-jabbering guide, pescetarian food, cluster admission) and heading out to see some 18th-century CE Hakka tulou (roundhouses), the massive packed-earth structures (whose walls are made of rammed earth and glutinous rice, reinforced with strips of bamboo and wood chips) and ancient equivalents of modern-day apartments which can accommodate hundreds of people and are noted for their architectural uniqueness.
“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone's home and backyard.”

Gathering updated intel from our competent Chinese friend Ryan (Amoy Trip and Shangri-La Tour) about the current border-crossing procedures and leaving the "mainland" as well as the liveable and lovable city of Xiamen, one of China’s most attractive harbour cities, thus taking city bus no. 84 (CNY 1.- per person) from our hostel to the international ferry terminal, clearing uneventfully Chinese immigration and customs, embarking on the fast ferry He Ping Zhi Xing (CNY 160.- or US$ 25.- per person) for the 1-hour ride to oh-so-near Kinmen/Taiwan, coming smoothly in from the cold and being issued with a 90-day-visit permit to the Republic of China on arrival (visa exemption without any red tape), free of charge, and, thereafter, taking bus no. 7 (TWD 12.- or US$ 0.40 per person) straight to Kincheng's well-organised bus station; welcome back to the Free World.

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