Two Nights in Xiamen

Visiting Xiamen is like visiting two different cities that are vastly unique.

International Settlement:

Located near the ocean, Xiamen is famous for it’s UNESCO heritage Tulou structures and the former International Settlement island of Gulanyu. Time stands still in Gulanyu. English, Portuguese and Dutch influenced houses with lush trees line the narrow cobbled streets. On one end of the island is the bustling city of Xiamen and the other side of the island is the Piano Museum, which hosts the worlds biggest collection of pianos and organs collected from the homes on Gulanyu over the years.

Like other seaside cities throughout the world, Xiamen is known for it’s street side seafood stalls. Like the seaside town of Lisbon, restaurants along the pier offer a variety of seafood dishes baked and cooked any style. Along the ferry dock on Gulanyu Island, streets are lined with tiny restaurants serving grilled, BBQ’ed or baked seafood (oysters baked with garlic) including Taiwanese night-market foods, since the island city is so close to Taiwan.

Traditionally Chinese

About three hours drive from Xiamen, there is the ancient Tulous of Fujian. Tulous host four generations of a family under a roof. First floor is the kitchen area arranged in a circular shape. All living spaces are arranged according to rank by floor. So, elderly will take second floor and next generation will take the third floor etc… There is no common restrooms within the Tulou. Therefore, you will notice a collection pot in front of each bedroom to collect human waste.

Tulous are built like a short tower to prevent burglars from jumping inside, hence the fort-like exterior.

To date, Tulous are still a functioning housing unit.

View of Xiamen from the shores of Gulanyu

Windy streets of Gulanyu

Piano Museum

Night market of Gulanyu full of seafood and bustling people

Tulou structure

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Originally published at on December 27, 2014.