I was back in China again on a family holiday. This time in Xiamen China. We were previously in Shanghai and Beijing just before my big trip. My sister Candie has an account of our Great Wall adventure.

Xiamen is a major coastal city in Fujian Province. It’s also the ancestral home of many overseas Chinese scattered around Southeast Asia. If you haven’t already guessed where I’m going with this, my parents’ are from here (Fujian). My dad actually went to school in Xiamen City, so this is sort of a homecoming for him. He hasn’t been back there for over 30 years though, and with the mega urbanization that went on in mainland China in the recent years, he’s as much of a tourist as we  are.


To Tour or Not to Tour


I have nothing against tour groups. Tour group is actually a good way to see many things in a short period of time, if this is what you want. It is also designed to be painless by having everything prearranged for you. Unless of course, you’re my family. We’re too erratic to fit into any group.

Xiamen Family Photo

See? We can’t even take a proper family photo (with the tour guide)


So learning from past mistakes, I did the arranging myself. And why not me? I’m a “self-claimed” travel expert! But really, with all the information available online these days, it’s so easy to plan for a trip to anywhere, even if you don’t speak the language. And we all do, both Mandarin and Minnan yu (South Fukien Language).


Our Family Holiday Tradition

It’s been a tradition for some years now that we have family holidays (with our parents) once or twice a year. This happens either on Holy Week or New Year or sometimes both; usually once abroad and once locally.

Our family holidays are hardly holidays to tell you the truth. It involves a lot of stress because everyone is fiercely independent and opinionated, but we love each other to bits and live for all the bickers and banters. My family’s great and anyone who knows us collectively enjoys our comical dynamics. If you’ve ever watched the American sitcom Modern Family, we’re like the real life version of it, subtitle needed. Especially when we’re traveling.

waiting to check in

family waiting to check in (with some random Chinaese lady)


Surviving the Holiday

Like the art of backpacking, it is best to not pack too much into our trip. We’ve purposely booked a longer trip so we will not be cramped with time. My dad is not as mobile as before and needs to be on a wheelchair for longer walks. This is the main reason why we cannot join a tour, because we get embarrassed holding people up. So instead, we rented a van for ourselves to go around, and a tour guide for special trip to Yong Ding. We also only schedule one touristy activity per day.

This trip is also about my dad visiting friends. It’s especially sweet when his old friend 长寿 from way back came to meet us. They haven’t seen each other in 31 years. My mum haven’t even met them before. It has been an afternoon of reminiscing and recollection. We were happy to take part in this happy reunion.

Long time friend

“waah, you’re so old!”

Group Shot

with 长寿  (a decorated retired PLA) and his wife


I thought this trip went rather well, except for the 2 stressful days when it rained incessantly the whole day. I like it that we are not bound by tour itineraries. We are able to experience the city intimately going around on our own, at our pace. We go to the restaurant next door where school kids take their lunches. We talk to the shop owners who were curious where we’re from. One of my favorite part of a trip is when you finally get your bearings of the city; when you almost feel local.


signature photo with my sisters when one is missing


Traveling with parents is not easy. But I think it is worth the trouble because once survived, the stories are always good. Do you travel with your parents?