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While not a "must see" destination, it has a number of attractions, an interesting history and is tourist friendly.
Until 1840, Western "barbarians" were allowed to trade only in Guangzhou, and only under strict controls. After China lost the First Opium War, Britain took Hong Kong and China was forced to open five "Treaty Ports": Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.
In Xiamen, the island Gulang Yu became a foreign enclave with consulates and luxurious homes. Today is a quiet area (no cars or motorcycles) five minutes by ferry from downtown, and still quite scenic.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fujian was a focus of missionary activity. There are still many historic churches in the region.
In the 1970s, Xiamen was made a Special Economic Zone to encourage development. This has worked. Xiamen has more Taiwan investment than any other mainland city, partly because the Minnan dialect spoken around Xiamen is nearly identical to Taiwanese. There is also a major influx of other foreign investment.
It is not Shanghai or Hong Kong, but compared to many other cities in China, Xiamen is definitely a very vibrant, affluent and modern place.
Xiamen has an international airport as well as the expected train and bus services.
You may come across references to a ferry service with Hong Kong. It no longer operates (as of November 2004). However, there is a bus service linking the city with Hong Kong, and this is recommended if you are originating from a non-Asian country which has no direct flight to Xiamen. It has the added benefit of seeing how travel, life and culture interconnect within the Southern cities.
You could enjoy Xiamen's unique sceneries not only in the day but also in the night. Take a breather and walk beside the Yuandang lake in the evening and you could see how Xiamen transforms into a different setting - mushrooming lighted artistic sculptures, scent of the sea, and romantic lovers by the lake. Enjoy your stroll and notice that some residential and commercial buildings even have a "battle of the lights at night" (which is actually a battle of the business) - "simple" laser and light shows which attract attention - this is some form of an "advertisement" mostly by newly opened commercial buildings and some residentials to say that their business has opened or that business is ongoing as usual. When it's time for commercial businesses and residentials to close or "sleep" in the night, the simple lights attraction can't be seen anymore - this is one of those on-going efforts of the people on energy conservation. Be sure to see these places of interest, and see what are the differences viewing them during the day and night:
Gulang Yu is the place to stay if you desire a peaceful and attractive environment.
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