Deemed China's "cleanest city," this island community off the northeast coast in the Fujian province continues to rocket to the top of vacation destination lists. It possesses all of the manifestations of a major city while still maintaining the alluring charisma of a vacation resort. Towering four-star hotels with highbrow international restaurants and trendy nightclubs share the streets with ancient temples and classic colonial style buildings, exhibiting a rare display of synchronic vision for the past and present. An aura of white beaches and green mountains complement its urban offerings, lending it the kind of vacation options normally only associated with small South Pacific islands.
Like most of China's other coastal cities, Xiamen has a past of endless control struggles. During the 1600s, the Dutch attempted to incorporate it into their fattening colonial empire, but were rebuffed by the legendary Zheng Chenggong, a local warrior whose military heroics are immortalized with statues and museums throughout the Xiamen area. Later, following China's defeat in the Great Opium Wars, the British took up residency and opened Xiamen's harbor to other nations such as France, Germany and Portugal. The resulting architecture of that time initially symbolized humiliation with the locals, but is now fully embraced as one of the foundations of Xiamen's character and burgeoning tourism industry.
Xiamen, itself, comprises seven different districts, including neighboring Gulangyu Island.
Gulangyu This island that is tiny in size, but huge in attraction reigns as the superstar of Xiamen's tourism industry. Accessible only by ferry, its winding cobblestone streets wander past endless rows of old colonial buildings canopied by lush green trees, creating the kind of idealistic setting that even the folks at Disney cannot recreate. A ban on cars heightens its impossible charm, making the pedestrian king of the streets.
Kaiyuan District Better known as downtown, its streets pulse with humanity. Yet, somehow, the Xiamen magic shines through and instead of feeling annoyingly busy, it instead comes across as excitingly vibrant. The lodging options are many and include the
Huli Located north of downtown, this district houses the
Siming Situated to the east of downtown, it serves as Xiamen's organic side. The Xiamen beach area makes endless summers a possibility, while the bordering mountains lend for plenty of hiking options.
Jimei Yet another tourist jewel, it represents the first mainland stop after exiting Xiamen via the causeway. The scenic village of
Tong'an This mainland district of almost 550,000 people challenges Xiamen's "Garden of the Sea" label. Known mainly for its industry, with a heavy lean on technology, it is vastly important within the business sector.
Xinglin Located northwest of downtown on the mainland, this district takes great pride in being the birthplace of Xiamen industry. Electronics, machinery, chemicals and textiles are the pillars of this district's economic scene.