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Fr. Australia
Title: Where to Live in Xiamen

Xiamen is such a nice place that once you have lived here for a period of time, you never want to leave. Attracted by her charm, many expatriates stay and bring their families. As a Xiamen local, I have been living in this city for nearly 20 years (excluding the years I lived in Western Fujian and Britain), but still, I can hardly get enough of her beauty. I am sure being an expatriate you would like to savor the best of Xiamen, therefore, you need to be very cautious when choosing an area to live in. Yuandang Lake, Xiada, Zhenzhuwan, Gulangyu Island, Lundu, even Lianhua, each one of them has its own attraction, you probably will get lost in making a choice. So, read on, this article may be the one that you are looking for.

I have talked with many foreigners living in Xiamen, many of them have told me that they fell in love with this city at first sight - it is such a gorgeous place that nobody can resist her, but now that you are already in Xiamen, you may find it difficult to decide where to live. Of course you will want a house or an apartment with a wonderful view of the city, you are probably hoping it will be close to the supermarkets or shopping malls, you may also expect a fine facility with many amenities, and above all, the rent must be reasonable. The problem is - where can one find paradise? Recently, the What's on Xiamen staff conducted an informational survey about this very topic. Our findings include a list of the most popular areas for living among foreigners, and brief opinions of some people living in those areas. We truly tried to find out which neighborhoods are the most suitable for expatriates. Interested? Follow me on this tour around the most attractive residential areas.



Gulangyu Island

Key Words: beach , villa , tranquility, ferry
Although Gulangyu is the most well-known tourist attraction in Xiamen, and it is always crowded with tourists during the day time, living there is still a dream for any people. Gulangyu at night is totally different from what it is like in daylight. When it gets dark, all of the tourists disappear, and the sense of tranquility invades this small island. Walking on the small paths on the island, you will enjoy the peace and quietness, while listening to the twitters of different species of birds and the sound of sea waves. And if you could live in one of the old houses and villas that were built more than a hundred years ago, it will make you feel as if you are living in the past. It sounds brilliant to live in a wonderland such as Gulangyu, but you also need to consider some of the challenges.

If you live on Gulangyu but you don't work on that small islet, you will be subject to the trouble of ferry transportation. Gulangyu is an islet without traffic - you have to walk everywhere. That means you need to spend about or more than thirty minutes more to get to your office, compared with living off the islet. What's worse, there is only one ferry each hour late at night, which would be terribly inconvenient in the case of an emergency. On the other hand, though there are hundreds of souvenir shops on the islet, as a resident there, you can hardly find a place for shopping or for entertainment. Therefore, if night life is indispensable for you, life in Gulangyu would definitely not be your cup of tea.

Voice from a resident:

Shelly - Living on an island where cars and even bicycles are forbidden means you don't need any external pressure to get yourself move. If you are lazy but dream of keeping in shape without going to the gym, then come here. Ferry shortens the distance of the strait, but if you come back too late (after midnight), you will probably have to wait one hour for the ferry, unless you want to swim across the narrow strait.



Lundu to Hexiangxi

Key words: shopping centres, convenient traffic, cafes, restaurants

Many Xiamen locals define this area as very posh. The apartments here cost you a lot whether you want to buy or to rent, because this is probably the most flourishing region of the city. It is very close to Zhongshaniu, which is the city centre in the traditional sense. And now, it is believed that Hexiangxi will take its place as the new centre gradually.

This is a wonderful place for the shoppers. Trustmart has three branches in this area, and there are four department stores on Zhongshaniu presently (there will be more in the future). You will always encounter some interesting small shops on Zhenbang Lu, Dazhong Lu, or Hexiangxi. If you would like to spend minutes relaxing yourself, then there are a number of cafes to choose from, or you may want to drop into a health care centre for a foot massage. There is also too much temptation for eager diners. Not to mention many styles of food from all over China (Canton, Hakka, Anhui, Taiwan, etc.), even several imported delicacies like Italian, Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants are easily found in this area.

But living in this area, you will suffer from noise pollution and the lack of greenbelts where you can enjoy the beauty of nature and fresh air.

Voice from a resident:

Tony - Living in this area is interesting. It is very convenient for shopping. But there are too few parking areas. Xiamen is growing more and more beautiful, but where can we park our cars? Someone has to ask the mayor.


Xiada

Key Words: University, culture, education, the sea
Out of all of the six areas, Xiada is unique for its cultural and educational background. Living next to one of the top universities in China, you may have a very different lifestyle. Don't be surprised when some young person comes up to you and strikes up a conversation - it's those diligent college students who want practice their oral English. You could join the young men on the playground for a basketball game, and if you want to play badminton or even tennis, it is not too difficult to find a court here. You may also be able to use the University library, if you manage to get a library card.

The life in Xiada is comfy, too. After dinner, you can take a walk along the sea at Baicheng. The flapping of the sea waves will help restore one's the peace of mind. You can also choose to step into a small bar or a cafe transformed from an old house in Nanhua Lu. You can buy a little drink and have a nice chat with your friends or strangers.

The Xiada area is my personal favorite, however, I can hardly afford to live there. It would take half of my income if I rented a small department near Xiada. Besides, this area is not advisable for businessmen who travel a lot, because it is quite a long distance to the airport.

Voice from a resident:

James - Xiada is a lovely place. My work brought me here, and as it was a choice between here and Shenzhen; it was a no-brainer. Xiamen wins hand down. I like the environment - clean and pleasant - but rent prices at Xiada are relatively high.


Yuandang Lake

You can hardly find a place like this in any modern city - being right in the Central Business District, you can still breathe in the rather fresh air, and have a wonderful view of the lake from your apartment. The Haiwan Park or the Yuandang Lake is an excellent place to take strolls or to sit and read.

Yuandang Lake area is probably the most popular with expatriates. With the two international hotels, the Marco Polo and the Sofitel, there are many facilities that cater to the foreigners in this area. A number of western restaurants and cafes operate here, such as: Tutto Bene, The Coffee Club, Javaromas, and Geo Geo Cafe. Plus, there is good access to numerous bars and clubs where one can dance the night away, such as True Love, La Bomba, Elite...

When it comes to listing this area's deficiencies, there are still a lot of new construction projects underway, which not only bring late night noise and lights, but also dust pollution. By the way, it is quite annoying that there are some "Ladies of the night" who always harass the foreigners passing by.

Voice from a resident:

Choi Lee - The Yuan Dang Lake has great scenery. The ambience of this area is good and the air is relatively clean. This is due to sea breezes and the clean surrounding. Living in our area is very much like living in the midst of a Xiamen middle class dream. However, communication with the neighbors is usually on polite greeting level.



Lianhua

Key Words: tradition, modernity, the new shopping centre, noisy

The community of Lianhua was developed in the 1990s, therefore, the lifestyle here is characterized by a combination of tradition and modernity. Most buildings in this area are architecturally dull because they were designed in the last century, but if you step into some small alleys you may have never paid attention to, you will be surprised! You probably will be as amazed as I was when you see the sophisticatedly designed and well managed western villas such as the one that Havana is located in. Meanwhile, you can also listen to Gezixi Opera as you walk down the street. It is a troupe employed by the residents here to celebrate special days of the year.

Compared with the other five areas, Lianhua does not have much scenery such as the beach or the lake, so if you want to enjoy the beauty of nature, you have to make do with the Lianhua Park, otherwise, walk a long distance to the Yundang Lake. But it is a very convenient area for shopping. Carrefour, Trustmart, B&Q and Laiya Department Stores are within the vicinity.

Voice from a resident:

John - Lianhua has its share of construction and traffic so it is quite noisy. It's also not without crime. However, it has all of the amenities that one could wish for and is well situated near the new Carrefour development.


Zengcuo'an to Zhenzhuwan

 
Key words: quiet, each front the sea, inconvenient traffic
Living in this area is pretty much like living on Gulangyu Island, only it is easier to get around the city, because there's no need to take the ferry. Again, there is fantastic scenery of the sea here, and when you open the window, you will be able to feel the breeze from the sea. This is an off the beaten track area of the city, because people seldom come here with the exception of those who come to relax on the beach for a few hours. As the houses and apartments are generally far enough from the Huandao Lu, I believe people living here are fortunate because they aren't annoyed by the noises of the city.

Similar with on Gulangyu, it is an inconvenient area to find restaurants to eat, to shop and for entertainment. Several bus routes can take you here, but when you take a taxi to get back home late at night, I guess the taxi fare will hurt you considering the distance from downtown.

Voice from a resident:

Eve - Zhenzhuwan is a place where one can take long walks along the beach (or on the new boardwalk), and stop to talk with neighbors, colleagues, tourists, and locals. Or you might enjoy listening to Opera at the beachfront Theatre, viewing films in an outdoor arena, or appreciating live orchestral music in Music Square. Afterwards, visit one of the several restaurants on the beach and the newly opened coffee shop outside of The Pearl Garden where I like to gather with friends over a hot cup of "Joe." If you decide to join our community, you won't want to leave very often but when you return, the ocean and rhythmic sound of the crashing waves will greet you, filling your spirit with peace and joy.

Which neighborhood is the best?

As every individual has his or her own needs, I can't give you a definite answer to this question. A close proximity to work, convenience of shopping, many amenities, public transportation, availability of friends living nearby, etc., every element bears different importance to different people. Maybe the perfect place to live doesn't exist, but only a place which suits your current needs. For me, my personal preference of the six areas would be Xiada (it is close to where I work), followed by Yundang Lake area (I love the lifestyle here).

On the other hand, remember do not jump to any conclusion when you are deciding upon an area. As my friend Graham suggests, "Be careful and make sure you look around the area first, make sure it supports the lifestyle you want. Observe the traffic congestion and the availability of cabs and buses, etc." If you do this, I am confident that you will find your home away from home.

Fang Fang

Editor of What's on Xiamen Magazine

2008-01-02

Comments:

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Male
Fr. Italy
Reply ^Top
Very interesting, can you provide me some website that sell or rent house in Xiamen.
Thanks!
2012-05-18 00:14:12
Male
Fr. South Africa
Reply ^Top
One of the most informative, well written, and simply best posts on this site.

Thanks a million!
2014-08-08 02:56:47

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