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!
Gu Lang Yu has fascinating history, splendid views, colonial architecture and quirky restaurants, cafes and shops. It is very touristy and very busy but it is definitely worth checking out. It might be a cliche, but try your best not to miss it when you’re in Xiamen (although remember your journey is your own so you don’t have to listen to me!!). The oddest part of this bit of travelling is actually that Xiamen the city is on an island itself. Having arrived in Xiamen by bus (from Shuyang Town) we then walked around, had our lunch and headed on a ferry to another Chinese Island, this one is Gu Lang Yu!
How do you get to Gu Lang Yu?
The only option at present (and probably for the future) is by ferry from Xiamen. Get yourself to the waterside harbour at Xiamen and the ferry terminal is hard to miss. Make sure you just find the cheapest ferry to Gu Lang Yu – the cheapest one often doesn’t go direct, it takes you on a tour round the island first before you land.
This by the way is totally worth doing – you get longer on the boat and you get to relax and check out the views. It’s was a bright “sunshiney” day when we were there and the views were exceptional. The ferry cost us 15 RMB each for a return (in March 2012), but the prices vary and I’ve heard you can get a free ride at off peak times if you stand. It gets busy.
What can you see and do there?
Gu Lang Yu may be a small island but it’s not short of tourist options that’s for sure and here are my highlights (there are plenty more – you can go running if you like!):
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. Pretty Cobbled Streets
Just by walking round Gu Lang Yu you will appreciate the finer things in life – such as how pretty and wonderful the street architecture and layout is. Although this type of thing may be common in Europe, it’s almost unheard of in parts of China. Walk slowly and take it all in!
4. The Music Influence
Gu Lang Yu is famous for its music. It has been nicknamed ‘Piano Island’ by locals and the Chinese. Lots of famous pianists come from Gu Lang Yu, which is incredible as its a very small island. When I was there I saw a free music parade and festival.
* There are also museums, colonial residences, a cable car ride, a Protestant church and a waterfront garden as well.
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.
Here’s some of my videos from Gu Lang Yu island:
A music parade on Gu Lang Yu island:
Near the top of Sunlight Rock on Gu Lang Yu island:
At the top of Sunlight Rock on Gu Lang Yu island:
Getting the ferryboat to Gu Lang Yu island:
Oh the joys of travel in China! Don’t Stop Living is a lifestyle of travel blog by Jonny Blair, a travelling Northern Irishman.