Thursday, 16 November 2017

Xiamen Attractions from my 4 Days 3 Nights Itinerary

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Enjoyed a marvellous four days in beautiful Xiamen 厦门. A well planned city off China's Fujian province with lots of greenery, parks, lakes, bays, history and modernity. Not as congested as megapolis like Shanghai or Beijing - population and infrastructure are well balanced. A clean and green city with good air quality.

For comparison, Xiamen Island is 132 km² in size with 2 million people. Singapore 719 km² and Penang 293 km².

(This post contains some highlights from my trip. I will write separate, detailed posts on individual places we visited during the trip.)

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We departed Singapore Changi Airport by Xiamen Air MF874 at 8:55am. Xiamen Air uses 180-seat Boeing B737 aircraft for this route. I like this early flight as it gives us a full day when we arrive in Xiamen (Gaoqi International Airport).

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After arriving in Xiamen via Xiamen Air MF874 at 1pm we had the whole afternoon to explore the city. Our first stop was Huihe Stone Cultural Park. I enjoyed visiting the Stone Carving Art Museum which has an interesting collection of about 200 stone carvings - I saw some dating back to the Tang Dynasty (years 618 - 907).

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This pork belly looks soooo.... delicious 😋 This is made of stone, it is always fresh 😂

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The lady guides in the museum are dressed in traditional Hui'an 惠安 dress. There are just 1 million Hui'an people and they live on the southern coast of Fujian province (just northeast of Xiamen). They speak a dialect of Hokkien and have traditionally been quarry miners and stone (granite) carvers. Their work can be seen in Xiamen, many places in China and even around the world. (I wonder if the Chinese stone carvers of Singapore and Malaysia are also from Hui'an.)

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The young Hui'an generation demonstrates the community's tradition at the Huihe Stone Cultural Park. The small stone plaque she is making takes four days of intricate work.

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Then, it was time for dinner, our first meal in Xiamen. We were hosted at Lakeside Hotel by Xiamen Air. There's crab, oyster, abalone, fish, duck and more.

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But, my most memorable dish from the sumptuous dinner was....... worms 😂 It's actually sand worms. Known euphemistically as Ground Bamboo Jelly or Tusun Jelly 土笋冻, it's sand worms boiled in water till the worms give up their collagen. The gooey slimey "soup" is allowed to cool and congeal into a jelly with the worms inside. Then, it is ready to serve 😄

The worm is rough but tender. It has no flavour on its own. The jelly (aspic) has a mild savoury taste like diluted soy sauce. If you come to Xiamen, try Tusun Jelly at least once 😄

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We spent the night at Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort which is on the Chinese mainland, one and a half hour's drive north from Xiamen Island.

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The next morning, we woke up in a tropical paradise 😄

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Riyuegu Hotsprings Resort is like a theme park of waterfalls, saunas, cold rooms, and huge collection of natural hot spring pools among lush greenery.

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The hot spring pools come in different "flavours" - there's oolong tea, coffee, red wine, white wine, chocolate 😄 etc.

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When I commented that I wished that I could live here, I was told that there are many overseas guests who stay up to a month at the resort as they like the lifestyle so much. Hmm... that would be a dream come true 😄

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Our next stop was Tan Kah Kee Memorial Shrine in Jimei which is just across the water from Xiamen Island.

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As we walked along the large pond towards the Tan Kah Kee Memorial, we could see some of the buildings of the elementary, middle school and university which the businessman philanthropist built.

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Elementary school children having their day in the sun - the legacy of Tan Kah Kee's philanthropy lives on in the next generation. I hope his generous spirit lives on in these children too.

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Tan Kah Kee came to Singapore in 1890, at age 16. From the ashes of his father's failed rice business which collapsed in 1903, Tan Kah Kee built an empire in rice, rubber, timber, canning, real estate, import / export and shipping. Though he attended only elementary school, TKK is best known for school building in Southeast Asia and China. In Singapore, Tan Kah Kee founded Tao Nan School, Chinese High (now Hwa Chong Institution), and Nanyang University. He passed away at age 86 in Beijing and was buried a hero here in Xiamen, his hometown.

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From Tan Kah Kee Memorial we went to Xiamen Air headquarters which is located at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (right across the water from Jimei). First, we were treated to a scrumptious in-flight meal normally served in Xiamen Air business class.

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We had the honour to be the first media to visit Xiamen Air in-flight catering centre since it opened in 1988.

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We also visited Xiamen Air crew training centre and customer service centre. I saw the great emphasis Xiamen Air puts in on ensuring flight safety, good food and excellent customer service.

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We had dinner at 天天渔港 Seafood Restaurant - a Xiamen homegrown brand with several outlets on the island.

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After dinner, we took a walk along the 白鹭洲公园 and Yundang lake side. We watched a musical light show at the Egret Goddess Statue.

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After the light show, we walked to Yundang Road which the locals called Coffee Street 咖啡一條街 because of the strip of hipster cafes here. Coffee culture is relatively new in China which is historically a tea country. The folks here are mostly young locals.

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A 5 minutes walk from Coffee Street is Bar Street 酒吧一條街 which is actually Quanren Road. A different crowd here with more expats and older folks.

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Spent the night at Lakeside Hotel by Ximen Air which was very clean and comfortable. I like this hotel.

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Our first stop on Day 3 was Above the Clouds - Xiamen. It's the viewing deck on the 55th floor in Tower B of the Shimao Straits (Twin) Towers - the tallest buildings in Xiamen.

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From Above the Clouds, visitors view landmarks like Gulangyu Island, Xiamen University, Shapowei, and Huandao Road. On a clear day, visitors can even see Kinmen Island and the Taiwan Straits with the help of telescopes. The buildings were veiled with a light mist during our visit 😐

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Shapowei 沙坡尾 is minutes walk away from Shimao Straits Towers. Once a fishing village, where fishing boats moored right up to the fishermen's doorsteps, the homes today are re-purposed into cafes, trinket shops and art studios.

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Behind me, sea water splashing onto the foot paths and right up to the door steps as the tide rises. If the water level goes up just a couple of inches higher (due to global warming), the shop houses will be flooded.

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We visited the historic 朝宗宮 temple near Shapowei. 朝宗宮 is dedicated to the Deity 媽祖.

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For centuries, people who cross the straits from Fujian to Taiwan worship at 朝宗宮 for safe passage before departing Shapowei 沙坡尾. Shapowei fishermen also pray to Deity 媽祖 for safety, mercy and blessings as they made their living from the sea. 

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Lunch was at 南普陀素菜馆 which is about 15 minutes walk from Shapowei - it is located inside Nanputuo Temple. Nanputuo Temple dates back to the Tang Dynasty.

The vegetable dishes at 南普陀素菜馆 are popular with tourists and locals. Nanputuo Vegetable Restaurant is reputedly 天下第一素宴, the Number One Vegetarian Restaurant under the Heavens.

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Any visit to Xiamen must of course include a day trip to Gulangyu island 鼓浪屿. We took a short 20 minute ferry ride from Xiamen Harbour Passenger Terminal 厦门港客运站 to Gulangyu.

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Gulangyu is a UNESCO World Culture Heritage Site thanks to its collection of Victorian-era buildings. When the International Settlement was established following China's defeat in the Opium War in 1842, 13 Western powers built consulates, churches, schools and villas etc on Gulangyu. The island is now like a museum of 18th Century international architecture.

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Gulangyu used to be the exclusive playground of the rich, powerful and famous because of its ideal sub-tropical climate and sandy beaches. Now, these beautiful private gardens are open for public enjoyment.

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Gulangyu is also known as the "Island of Music" as its 20,000 people are passionate about music. Many of China's world renowned musicians are Gulangyu natives. Amazingly, there are actually more pianos than people in Gulangyu. Gulangyu is the home of China's largest Piano Museum with over 200 pieces, including many unique pianos.

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After crossing back over to Xiamen from Gulangyu, we had our dinner at Weiyou Restaurant 厦门味友. We like the food here especially their signature mee sua with duck soup 面线鸭汤 and extra crispy fried oysters. Their fish soup with yam is also delicious. Of course, they also do a good sand worm aspic or Tusun Jelly. I would love to taste the food at Weiyou again.

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After dinner, we took a walk around the famous Zhongshan Road Walking Street. Zhongshan Road is a pedestrianised mall just like Shanghai's Nanjing Road and Beijing's Wangfujing. Most of the retail shops were closed for the day by the time we got there but there were still queues at the food stalls.

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The fried oyster omelette and the grilled duck intestine stalls enjoyed the longest queues.

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I am intrigued by these trays overflowing with lobsters, crabs, prawns, clams etc which will be served in spicy hot Sichuan style "mala" broth. Many stalls at the food courts around Zhong Shan Road offer these. Too full already tonight. Shall try these next time with loads of beer 😄

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Another foodie experience I want to come back for near Zhongshan Road is eating "peanut soup" at 余阿姨花生湯 on tiny stools along the narrow corridor. I love going local 😋

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A second night at Lakeside Hotel (by Xiamen Air). I like it here - the room is clean and smells fresh (I lose sleep in rooms that smell of tobacco and/ or body odour - so I have a phobia 😱 ). I walked at least 50,000 steps today, so a good comfortable bed is a real blessing.

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When you are having a good time, 4 Days 3 Nights seemed to fly by so quickly. This was the day we flew back to Singapore but not before visiting Hulishan Cannon Fort 胡里山砲台. The fort built in 1894 has been protecting the coasts of Fujian Province since the Ching Dynasty (1636 - 1912).

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The once feared 280mm (diameter) Krupp shore cannon (from Germany) - its boom once shook the earth but it has not been heard for decades. The silent gun is today a popular prop for tourist photos 😄 This is the only Krupp cannon left in the world.

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We can see Kinmen Island from Hulishan.

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Not far from Hulishan is Zeng Cuo An 曾厝垵. One of the oldest fishing villages in Xiamen - today it's a bustling tourist attraction with many stalls selling souvenirs, food and former fishermen homes offering lodging for tourists.

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We spent an hour here browsing the dozens of little food and trinket stalls. I had my last sand worm jelly tasting here before leaving Xiamen 😄

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We had our last lunch in Xiamen at 佳丽海鲜酒楼(环岛路店) which is a short walk from 曾厝垵. This well established restaurant is known for it's live seafood and a clear view of Kinmen Island from its dining rooms.

After our sumptuous lunch, it was time to make our way to Gaoqi International Airport to catch Xiamen Air MF873 flight departing at 5:40pm for Singapore. (I like this timing as we can still do some touring, have a good leisurely lunch and some shopping before heading for the airport. Back in Singapore at 9:40pm, there is ample time to settle down and rest for the night before the next day.)

We took Huandao Road 环岛路 - the 31 km long scenic coastal road to Gaoqi International Airport. The entire beach and sea fronting stretch was paved with tree lined bicycle lanes and jogging tracks. The annual Xiamen Marathon is held here - it's such a beautiful place to walk, run, cycle or even to just sit on a park bench to enjoy the sea breeze and watch the sun rise.

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On the way to Gaoqi International Airport, we stopped a while at the jetty near 五缘大桥 Wuyuan Bridge. Folks were enjoying fishing and walking on the breezy esplanade and boardwalk. I wish I could spend a day here fishing in the Wuyuan Bay and watching colourful sailboats glide under the imposing bridge.

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👉 I saw only a very small bit of Xiamen 厦门 during the 4 Day trip - too short 😂 From the little that I saw, I love this beautiful little city of hospitable people. Would love to be back to explore more of the city's attractions (historic and modern) and try the local cuisine, especially street food (which I didn't have the chance to try this round). Our gracious hosts fed us banquet food at every meal 😄 Xiamen is very accessible as Xiamen Air have two flights everyday between Singapore and Xiamen. I will be back 😄

My other posts on Xiamen:

Sand worm or Tusun Jelly 👈 click
Visit to Xiamen Air HQ 👈 click
Gulangyu Island 👈 click


A post shared by Tony Johor Kaki (@johorkaki) on

✈ Xiamen Airlines MF874 departs Singapore for Xiamen at 8:55am everyday. Xiamen Airlines MF852 departs Singapore for Xiamen at 3:15pm everyday.

✈ Xiamen Airlines MF851 departs Xiamen for Singapore at 9:45am everyday. Xiamen Airlines MF873 departs Xiamen for Singapore at 5:40pm everyday.

Date visited: 2 - 5 Nov 2017



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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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