Fujian Province, 109km (68 miles) S of Quanzhou, 770km (481 miles) E of Guangzhou
The island of Xiamen, then better known to foreigners by its Fujian name of Amoy, became a foreign concession in 1903, with most of the foreigners living on the tiny islet of Gulang Yu just off Xiamen itself. By the 1930s there were about 500 resident foreigners and nine consulates, several of which still stand, as do the vast, European-style mansions of Chinese who returned wealthy from overseas.
Much of the island is a hideous white-tiled wasteland to match anything else in China, but even so, the odd turret and spire reflect the city's pride in its stock of original European-style architecture. The rest of the island is a refreshing change and full of character -- narrow alleys connecting sinuous streets are laced together with power and telephone cables and house DVD shops, noodle restaurants, and hair salons where no hair is ever cut. Vehicle-free Gulang Yu, a few minutes away by ferry, was until recently all pleasant strolls and quiet back streets full of mansions overgrown with brilliant bougainvillea. Be warned that this is now one of the busiest tourist locations in China. As the tourism boom continues, for rooms below ¥400, demand far outstrips supply, and will probably continue to be the case in the near future as more hot moneys fuels even greater property speculation.