Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Colonial Memories

Gulang Yu is a small island off of Xiamen and you can take a ferry to get there.

The five-minute or so journey is fine for 8RMB, but for most of the travelers it's standing room only and you sometimes wonder if the book is overcrowded...

But once you get on Gulang Yu, there are no gas-powered vehicles -- only power carts that seem to zoom around blasting bizarre western songs like Auld Lang Syne for people to get out of the way.

There isn't really a need for the cart -- the island is easy to walk around and it's even better exploring it this way.

Once you get away from the commercial stores selling shells, seafood, tea, and other tacky souvenirs, then the beauty of the island appears.

Xiamen, which was known as Amoy in colonial times, was home to many Europeans and the Japanese. And many had houses on this island. The European-style architecture still remains, many in deteriorated condition, others fixed up and still have people living in them.

It's this architecture of a time gone by that you just stop and admire and wonder what life must have been like a century ago. The detailing of the houses are still there, from the window sills to the gates, but some are half destroyed or have gone neglected through the decades.

The place has inspired many a visitor to buy a beachfront house and fix it up...

There are also many music and art schools here, and even some footpaths have musical notes on them.

A Dr Lin Qiaozhi was born on Gulang Yu in 1901 and died in the 1980s. She was doctor of gynacology and obstetrics and when she died she willed that her 30,000RMB in savings be donated to kindergartens and arts schools on the island.

In return the island immortalized her, creating a garden in her name and even a white marble statue of her likeness.

The walk around looking at the colonial architecture transported us to another world, but soon after we made our way back towards the ferry, the crass commercialism was a big turn off.

On the beach there were kids fumbling around in big plastic balls floating in the water; people on paddle boats, tons of green coconuts discarded on piles on the floor and kids holding balloons and snacks.

While it's great the island has enforced the no car rule, perhaps the tourism board should look into regulating the tourism industry on Gulang Yu. It deserves to keep its quiet atmosphere as a respect to its past.

1 comment:

ks said...

much is the same as discovery bay in hong kong. it is a place for quiet living and respite.