Fujian’s folks are mainly of Han origin and it’s one of China’s most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces. It’s an old part of China going back to prehistoric times but it flourished during the Tang Dynasty which goes back almost 1,500 years. Many migrants from other parts of China came to settle during this time. The Westerners were there during their foray into the Far-East.
Xiamen used to be called Amoy and many of South-East Asia’s Chinese used its port as well as Shantou (Swatow) in North-East Guangdong province as exit points when they left China. Though in Guangdong province, Shantou’s people are predominantly Teochew and which is a completely different dialect from Cantonese.
Tolou is a World Heritage site and is located some 2.5 hrs. drive away from Xiamen. Zhangzhou on the other hand is about an hour or so away from Xiamen and is a pleasant city. Though not as big and modern as Xiamen, it may be surprising to learn that it has a higher population. This is owed to it having a way larger area. The city of Xiamen will catch you by surprise in its modernity, organization, network of fine roads and tunnels and the amount of wealth that seems to permeate the shiny city. Moreover it is a very clean city where roads are practically washed frequently. Visiting the market and old part of inner Xiamen city is highly recommended.
Gulangyu Island and which is pronounced Gulangyii is hardly 30 mins. ferry ride away. It seems close enough to swim there. This island has a long history with Christian missionaries in this part of China. The island is treasured hence vehicles are not allowed on the island apart from a few electric ones. There is so much green here and an old city with lots of colonial-styled buildings. It’s highly touristy though, but they are usually spread out and most come only for a couple of hours or so.
The city of Zhangzhou is more characteristically Chinese and easy enough to walk around. There is a huge lake north of the city. What’s amazing with the cities of Xiamen and Zhangzhou is that they are green cities with lots of trees. Boulevards, dividers and streets are mostly lined with trees and they are big trees.
Zhangzhou is also cheaper than Xiamen with many parks within walking distance apart. There is also an area called the Ancient City which again is by a beautiful park. It appears that the Chinese treat parks rather sacredly. In the mornings, there are perhaps more people in the parks than at the markets. Many people dance in parks and age is of no barrier while musical instruments are played and artists do sketching.
Shantou is what we can call a Teochew city where the dialect is almost exclusively spoken there. Cantonese can go as well since it’s in Guangdong province and to a lesser extent perhaps, Hokkien – the dialect of Fujian. The old city is being rebuild and there are also the modern parts with tall buildings and wide boulevards. Strangely so, it appears that prices in Shantou are slightly higher than in Fujian. If you ever visit Shantou visit Nan’ao island as well. Shantou is some 4-hrs. bus ride to or from Xiamen.
Many parts of China are great destinations for an inexpensive holiday. The south east provinces are among them. You don’t feel a sense of remoteness since there’s so much going on. You can travel comfortably since there are always options available. Some of these cities have bullet train services too. Xiamen is among them.