4 Days in Xiamen, China
August 23, 2019 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm an American attending a conference in Xiamen soon. I've tacked 4 days onto the trip after the 4-day conference concludes for vacation / sightseeing. I've never been to China before. What's the best way to spend those days? Are there interesting things in Xiamen to occupy those days or should I plan to move around a bit?

I have some preference for staying in Xiamen (for the sake of simplicity), and I will be accompanied by my girlfriend who also has never been to China. However, if there are things that are easy enough to get to from Xiamen that a first-time-visitor to China should not miss, I'd like to know about it.
posted by u2604ab to Travel & Transportation around Xiamen, China (1 answer total)
If you have a multi-entry Chinese visa, you could consider going to Kinmen, which is an island a half-hour ferry ride away from Xiamen that is governed by Taiwan*.

It is one of the two main groups of islands right off the Chinese mainland (the other one being Matsu) that was successfully held by the Nationalist government after the Chinese civil war. Because of that, the island was shelled incessantly by the PRC (which was, after all, only several miles away) until the late 1970s, resulting in famous Kinmen knives that are made from artillery casing.

I'd say the two primary appeals of Kinmen are the high concentration of beautiful traditional Fujianese architecture and villages and the numerous remnants of military infrastructure, tunnels, barracks, bunkers and forts from when the Nationalist government was in a shelling and propaganda war with the PRC. (Beaches are often not totally open because they are still sewn with landmines, so access is blocked.) That said, it's a bit of a quiet and laid-back place; the pace of life is slow, certainly a lot slower than Xiamen.

I wouldn't say that Kinmen is a priority for a first-time visitor to this part of the world, but unless you plan to return to Xiamen it will also probably never be easier to get there. (That being said, there are numerous flights from Taiwan island.) If you're interested in military history or traditional architecture, I'd say to look into it -- you could always do 2 days of sightseeing in Xiamen and 2 days/1 night in Kinmen.

*This is why I stress you must have a multi-entry Chinese visa -- leaving Xiamen for Kinmen involves passport control and leaving the PRC, and returning to Xiamen will involve re-entering the PRC. Not a problem if you have a multi-entry PRC visa, a big problem if you have a single-entry PRC visa. Taiwan offers 90-day visa free travel to US passport holders, so no problem there.
posted by andrewesque at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2019

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