No. Seriously, just head to Hawaii.
However, for the curious and adventurous who are still interested in the rising land of the dragon, here’re my most honest tips that will help you conquer Gulang Island, the Hawaii of Xiamen (China). Or at least, prepare you mentally.
This year’s fine summer, I decided to explore parts of China that’re less common. Not Beijing. Not Shanghai. Yes, Xiamen. A large part of the truth was also because Malaysian Air offered a luxurious 30kg check-in for economy class to Xiamen.
There are miserable numbers of reviews online for Xiamen, needless to say for Gulang Island. Briefly, Gulang Island is a tourist spot on an island. It happens to be like a wannabe of Singapore’s Sentosa. It has an old American navy embassy (Fort Siloso?), an underwater creatures themepark (S.E.A. Aquarium?), and a Taiwanese eatery lane (Resort World Malaysian Food Street). To be fair, it’s quite amusing with lots to eat. The thing is, how do you get to this island.
WikiTravels says, buy a RMB35 ticket and a 5mins ferry ride across. Reality says no.
Real Guide: How to get to Gulang Island (From the airport or your hotel)
1. Take a cab to Lun Du Harbour (轮渡码头). It’ll cost about RMB50 from the airport. DON’T get off at The International Cruise Terminal (邮轮中心 You Lun Zhong Xin). Cabbies tend to drop foreigners there.
No. This is the wrong place. How did I know? Cause I got off there. So trust me.
2. When you reach Lun Du Harbour, don’t expect to get any tickets issued at the official ticket counters. They don’t sell tickets based on the time their ferry departs. They sell by telling you when they will open up the counters for sales. We reached at 3.30pm. To get tickets, the booth opens up for sales at 5.30pm. Means you hobo around till 5.30pm, to start to queue up, and they can tell you that the tickets have sold out. Then if you think you can book online cause there’s a website, forget it. We met locals who booked online, and the tickets were just non-existent.
3. Instead, you will see a whole pool of black market pedlars. Don’t doubt them. Buy from them.
The pedlars in hats.
This mobile train ticket hub is legit. The tickets we bought could be used. You will need your passport to buy the tickets.
4. Official ticket price is RMB35 for foreigners (includes to and fro). They tend to sell at ~RMB90 (includes to and fro). You can tell them the rough time you want to depart towards the island, and negotiate the price. We bought 3 tickets for RMB 210.
5. Some noob pedlars would insist you need to produce an ID with CHINESE name. Fear not foreigners, we just need our passport and show them the passport number. Alternatively, you can ask if they can lend you Chinese IDs. You did not read me wrongly. We saw the pedlars doing that, in front of the police. Everything works in China, it seemed.
6. Follow the pedlar to walk away from the main ferry to a smaller ferry terminal tucked behind a dubious street. I thought they were going to kidnap me, but it wasn’t the case. Don’t let your guards down nevertheless. Remember, you’re in China, anything can happen.
The dubious alley to a secluded harbour.
8. Alight from Song Yu ferry, run straight. Turn left to the ticket booth, queue up and take out your passport (or ID), and get the next tickets to Gulang Island.
The local (in pink) that helped us. We chatted with him, took some selfies and offered some peanuts we got from the plane. In the end, he refused to charge us any additional “black ticket” fee, which is where he gets his commision from. He shared that he earns about USD$25 a day.
9. When the time for your ferry arrives, it will take you, alas, to the island.
Estimated time required: 3 hours.
Returning is much simpler. Keep your tickets, and you can board for free. Return ferries run 24hours through-out the night. Amazing! We returned to the main ferry terminal habour at Xiamen mainland through the San Qiu Tian Terminal in 10mins.
For a 10mins thing to get out. It took 3 hours to get in. This is Gulang Island. ENJOY!
Watch our Southern China adventure here to get a hang. Are you game for it?