So it’s terribly humid here in Gulangyu. Coupled with a passing typhoon and a weather forecast of “80% chance of rain” for the next week, I’ve been trapped in a pink coffee shop called Babycat’s Cafe for a solid five days. Coffee shops are the only place with wireless Internet access here, and since it’s too wet and humid to explore the city for more than two hours without regret, J and I have decided to just park here for the week and take advantage of the air conditioning and relatively quick internet access (J’s applying to dental school and I’m still writing).
Now what is Gulangyu like? Think narrow alleyways of cutesy coffee shops. Add a touch of pink, maybe a cat logo here and there. Some easy listening music, and ridiculously sugary and frothy drinks. Boys – this place is babe central. Summer just got out for Chinese schools and tons of kids are flocking here for break. Few are under 40, and if they’re male, they’re more often than not with their girlfriends or a group of classmates. I met a college student from Xi’an on the bullet train back from Shanghai and these were her exact words:
“I can’t wait to go to Gulangyu, stroll along the beach, listen to a concert, and sip Zhang Sanfeng’s milk tea.”
Gulangyu has always been a romanticized tourist destination for Chinese people, but in the last two years, a influx of businesses have opened dozens of adorable souvenir and cafes to cater to a growing youth tourist presence. As I mentioned in my previous post, Xiamen and Gulangyu is the closest a lot of mainlanders can get to Taiwan. And I swear, this island is the youth culture of Taiwan (minus the clubs) rolled into one massively concentrated ball.
There’s this ridiculous souvenir book that everyone buys here. It’s a empty stamp book that features all the city’s cafes and in front of each cafe, there’s a stamp that you can use to stamp your book. It’s perhaps the most ludicrous tourist trap ever but people are obsessed. I tried it for curiosity’s sake and found myself pushing and shoving dozens of high school Chinese girls while we all clamored to get a faded stamp that didn’t even work.
The plan is to finally get off the island tomorrow and actively find the last three Xiamen small eats I’ve yet to sample. But for now, it’s been wake up, eat breakfast with the family, watch Chinese game shows, coffee shop for hours, browse neighboring shops, and walk back in the rain just in time for dinner. Idyllic.