Sunday, December 02, 2018

Xiamen, China: The Beach and Shuzhuang Gardens (& Piano Museum) in Gulangyu Island

Xiamen is not one of those "Bucket List" or "Tick-the-Box" types of travel destination for non-Chinese tourists. To be honest, I am liking the idea that I have been here because of this, hehe.

The Forty-four Bridge facing the sea.

I am a rebel sometimes. I go against the flow. I support the underdog. Like going to less popular towns and cities. Just try something different really. It is refreshing in my opinion.

So I have been to 56 countries (and independent states) so far and I am almost reaching the ceiling of countries and places I want to visit. I do not ambition however to visit all countries but I want to travel to unique, exotic and off-the-beaten places. Where mass tourism hasn't had a foot in the door.

Anyway, in Xiamen, I highly recommend visiting Gulangyu Island. What a beautiful place, with so much international history and architecture.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

In Xiamen, I climbed the Sunlight Rock which is a Buddhist temple, a man-made nature park and a lookout point.

While standing on the peak of the rock facing the south, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful rocky seaside garden with a white bridge. I quickly searched my Xiamen guide, a pamphlet with a map and names of the important attractions on the island. I am looking for the garden on the beach. Trust me, there's a lot of attractions on this small island!

And I found it! -- Shuzhuang Gardens -- Ah, my next destination for sure, that is if I am able to get down from this massive rock I am standing on.

The Beach and Fish/Squid Balls

I just love these fish/squid balls.

On my way to the garden, I cannot resist but snack on a stick of fish/squid balls that I happen to pass by.

These street food deep fried balls remind me of my childhood. I love buying them outside the school, just by the gate during recess or after the class. I can still remember them going at 10 cents each. When you only have a few pesos as school allowance, the 10 cents each price tag can be pretty expensive. I love dipping the fish/squid balls first in the hot chili vinegar, letting the spiciness and sourness hit the meat, and then I dip them into the sweet gravy sauce for the final oomph.

Writing this makes my mouth water already.

Well, the fish/squid ball vendor in Gulangyu didn't have any accompanying vinegar or sauce. I am content anyway to eat it without. The memories are enough.

Street (beach) vendors selling chilled coconut juice, drinks, and ice cream.

The beach on the southern part of the island was crowded!

It's winter, so nobody really is swimming. But I just know that even if its summer, nobody is going to lay down in a bikini on a sunbed with a parasol. Asians are just not like this at all. It is not in their DNA to worship the sun. Surely not the Chinese. I didn't expect anyone to be swimming anyway. The beach, however, was busy, people were everywhere.

People were walking on the beach, some were sitting with their bare feet on the sand, enjoying the balmy winter, the fresh air, and the view.

Some people like digging their feet into the sand. It's not my thing. I prefer to wear slippers or my beach shoes.

The beach was well laid out, organised and clean.

Checking out the waters.

Shuzhuang Gardens

After enjoying the beach scenery for a bit, I walked to the villa garden, the Shuzhuang Gardens.

There is an entrance fee to get into the garden. It is a minimal fee, which is not comparable to what you can take away from this visit. There is a small museum of antiquities housing an interesting collection at the entrance. The museum is part of the fee already. I went in but didn't stay there long.

Moi on the bridge promenade just outside the museum of antiquities.

Two of the interesting items in the museum.

At the promenade outside of the museum, I could see the Sunlight Rock.

So I learned that the gardens used to be a private villa of Lin Erija, a very wealthy Chinese businessman whose family came from the Fujian province in China, and who later migrated to Taiwan. However, in the 1890s, Japan invaded Taiwan, and this prompted the Lin family to leave Taiwan and return to Fujian.

Lin Erija built the villa here on Gulangyu Island exactly the same as the villa he had in his hometown in Taiwan. The gardens, however, were said to be added to the design. There are two (2) gardens and they are Canghai Garden (aka Hiding the Sea Garden) and Bushan Garden (aka Making Up Hills Garden). Basically, the one facing the sea, and the other one, the hills.

I must admit that I liked the Forty-four Bridge because of its dramatic backdrop, the sea, and the rolling waves. It's very windy here!

The gardens are well tended and are such a delight. I was really glad that I made it here. The rocky formations reminded me of Quinta da Regaleria's gardens in Sintra, Portugal that I visited many moons ago. It was like a fantasy world fit for fairies, dragons, and elves. But this one in Shuzhuang, let's just say has some East Asian-Chinese flair to it.

The villa and the gardens are now the property of the state after the Lin family donated it in 1955.

Can you spot the crowd?

The Forty-four Bridge and the Sunlight Rock in the background.

It is very windy here!

Beautiful Chinese architecture such as pavilions and pagodas dot the garden. This corner here is a popular spot for people to do selfies or take a group picture.

Yup, I did have a selfie with my camera.

The Piano Museum

I was quite relieved to know that the entrance to the Piano Museum was already included in the ticket price of the gardens. You see, I'm not big in musical instruments, although I can appreciate a piano for its worth. But I would not shell out extra money to visit.

Pianos remind me as well of my childhood. I have learned to play the piano, well, just a bit, as a kid but never really graduated from the "Old McDonald had a Farm, EIEIO" song, lol. Music is not in my veins but I can listen to it.

The piano collection here at the Shuzhuang Gardens is pretty impressive.

Beautiful vintage pianos.

The view to the beach and the lower part of the gardens from the Piano Museum.

Just outside the museum, I spotted a bed of sunflowers. Here is another interesting corner piano. Huh, it must feel awkward playing it?

The Piano Museum is located on a high-level ground.

Catching views to the Forty-four Bridge on the seaside.

The hidden garden with a koi pond and lots of interesting corners and spaces everywhere.

This carved out rocky stone wall reminds me of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Gulangyu Island, Xiamen (Fujian), China

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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