|A rendition of traditional and classical instruments, with music harking back to the Tang Dynasty and lyrics sung in Minnan Hokkien.|
The Island Ring Road at Gu Lang Yu isle, off Xiamen, is filled with tourists from both abroad and locally. The isle is a lovely way to spend a day or even consider staying over night. There are plenty to do, whether you are a foodie, a cultural academic or just out for adventure and pleasant delights.
We watched a puppet show, wonderfully performed by youngsters with flair and finesse. We enjoyed steamed fish, oyster omelette and fresh seafood of other sorts. We walked - but there was not much good coffee though. We went inside, with half and full expectations, about to old mansions, enjoying discovering historical artifacts, fully understanding the historical significance of the isle and observed everyone having a great time.
Live fish jumped in pails, gardens are well tended and vendors call out along the side. Tourists drag their luggage, youngsters provide a fresh contrast to the decaying walls. Old but loved homes are now hotels. It is a hub of personal and business enterprise. You can have your Wi-Fi at the same time studying the calligraphy framed on walls. We come across a tall representation of the Goddess of Mercy upstairs in a preserved mansion. We stand outside the locked gates of Catholic and Protestant churches. Due to the sub-tropical climate, many trees have grown large from all these years and there are sections of undergrowth.
The roads were wet but our hearts warmed up. There were many flowering hibiscus blooms greeting us as the foreigner's ferry landed at Gu Lang Yu, where we met Ms. Khaw , our guide for the day. We imagined life here as it was possibly a hundred years and more ago - the interaction between bearded Westerners, local traders, multi-national merchants, adventurers and dynastic officials. I realised this was cosmopolitanism then , even before the word was invented, and relished at the fusion in cooking, culture and community building.
Beaches with real sand, dried seafood on display, palm trees swaying and a buzz about the island - these are also my memories. Mouldy and decaying bricks, iron gates of religious institutions, strong pillars that echoed past money and the hopes of colonial expansion. This was the original Singapore, a Venice of the East (not in canals though) and a balmy location where monsoon winds and seafarers met.
European clocks sit side by side with China porcelain in vintage cupboards, hiding the reality of cruel and greedy opium addiction and trade. East met West - and still do. Gu Lang Yu has seen invaders come and go, repulsed or conquer. After the Western powers, the Japanese imperialist troops came to occupy, for it is also a strategic site.
|Ms. Khaw (right side in photograph above) is a courteous, professional and engaging guide.|
|This huge trunk fell over the road during a recent typhoon over the south China coast.|