1 Sunlight Rock To start your visit, take the cable car to the top of Sunlight Rock. Here, 90 metres above sea level, in the middle of Xiamen Bay, you get an idea of just how well this city has managed to balance old and new. To the east, the skyscrapers of Special Economic Zone Xiamen rise like a wannabe Hong Kong. To the northeast, the city's crumbling colonial-style old quarter staggers on as it has for more than a century (although now it's covered in washing lines and rooftop huts). And to the west, just 3.6km away and endlessly patrolled by naval and tourist ships alike, is Quemoy Island, the Taiwanese-controlled island nearest to the mainland. Best of all is Sunlight Rock itself, at the centre of enchanting Gulang Yu Island. It's an inspiring view - and a celebrated proposal spot. The nearby stall does a roaring trade in red roses. Cable car: 40 yuan. 2 Gulang Yu This pedestrian-only island, about the size of Hong Kong's Peng Chau, is one of China's most famous tourist attractions. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was home to western traders and legations, particularly the Portuguese. Today, its narrow cobblestone streets are crammed with crumbling, creeper-covered colonial-style buildings. A large number are deserted and derelict; others have been taken over, their ornate ballrooms and drawing rooms partitioned into apartments. The island also contains many old churches and graveyards, offering fascinating glimpses of the past. The five-minute ferry ride to Gulang Yu leaves every 15 minutes from a pier opposite the Lujiang Hotel on Zhongshan Road. It's free on the way over and two yuan on the way back. An extra yuan gets you a seat upstairs. 3 The House Down a quiet side street on Bai He Lu is the House (tel:  592 204 4358), the city's best western restaurant. You can go for the full white tablecloth and candle experience or just drop in for coffee. It makes full use of a beautifully restored 1940s Art Deco townhouse with a big garden terrace, balcony and its mascot Chubby - a huge, friendly St Bernard. The Californian-style menu, devised by Tomer Biran of Los Angeles' hip 208 Rodeo, specialises in pasta, steaks and great desserts. Upstairs is the bar, with a pool table. 4 Piano Island Even if you don't like classical music, catch a show at Gulang Yu Music Hall (1 Huangyan Road, tel:  592 206 6730) on Piano Island. The island is the spiritual home of piano music in China, and home to many of the country's best musicians. It's said there are more than 500 pianos on the 1,500-home island, not including 30 antiques in the piano museum, and one in each of the island's 15 Christian churches. This is also the home of China's famous musical family, the Yins. In 1967, just as Red Guards were preparing to denounce and destroy the mainland's pianos as bourgeois, patriarch Yin Chengzong (the composer of Yellow River) rolled a piano into Tiananmen Square and, by playing odes to Mao Zedong for three days, put his instrument at the heart of the revolution and out of harm's way. Gulang Yu's Music Hall is an intimate, baroque and romantic theatre, surrounded by banyan trees. It has concerts most days. 5 Island Road Tension Tour (Huang Dao Lu) In Xiamen, you don't go to the beach just to swim and tan. You go there to shake your fist at renegade Taiwan. Tension tourism makes for a great afternoon out. Begin at Huli Shan Fort, built in 1896 out of sand, clay, and glutinous rice (locals like to joke that, besides protection, the fort also served as a tasty snack). The main attraction is a huge, German-made, 60-tonne gun, which was placed there in the late 1950s pointing at Quemoy Island. Another fun device is a 25-metre-long megaphone. On a fine day, with the wind behind you, it can carry propaganda slogans right across the strait. Outside the fort, rent a bicycle, tandem or tri-ped, and make your way north towards the convention centre. It's a beautiful, 10km stretch of undulating coast road, with fishermen repairing their nets and punctuated by entrepreneurs renting telescopes for a peep at the renegade state. The tour ends at the convention centre, where you can pose for pictures outside China's biggest propaganda sign. Some 30 metres high and 150 metres across, it reads: 'One Country, Two Systems'. 6 Nan Bu Tuo This functioning Buddhist temple is picturesque and great fun. Built into the mountain next to Xiamen University, its multiple layers rise almost to the summit, offering fantastic views of the city and harbour. Pilgrims - who have been coming here since the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) - have left thousands of statues of Buddha at each stage of the climb, and also placed branches under the mountain's boulders so it looks as if they're resting on twigs. At the foot of the mountain, the main temple is a bell-chiming, incense-smoking complex of lotus ponds, statue houses, altars and wishing wells. There's also a vegetarian restaurant and dormitory for the faithful. Admission is three yuan (Sinming Road, tel  592 202 2908). 7 Boat hire Junk hire in Hong Kong must have started like this. Head down to pier one (di ye ma tou) with a Chinese speaker and wander among the blue fishing junks until you see one you like. After friendly haggling, offer 300 yuan for a six-hour trip, then haul the beer, friends and music box aboard, and away you go. Xiamen is surrounded by small, uninhabited islands, with gorgeous secluded beaches. It's also fascinating to see a little of the city's marine activity: Xiamen is China's oyster capital. 8 Quemoy Island One day, Quemoy will be a great beach. But for now it's covered in barbed wire. This 45-yuan boat trip across the strait to view the island is a mainland favourite. The boat doesn't land on the island, but it gets close enough for you to see the Taiwanese fortifications and shout 'One country, two systems' at the bored security patrol. The boat leaves from the pier opposite Lujiang Hotel, Zhongshan Road. Or rent a four-seat speedboat to whizz you around the island for 100 yuan. The trip takes about 40 minutes. Contact the Xiamen Tourist Office on  592 205 4022. 9 Tea Do you long for oolong? The city has 4,300 teashops and an obsession with the ritual preparation and consumption of the semi-fermented leaf. (English owes the word 'tea' to Xiamen people, who call it 'te' in the local dialect.) The area around Xiamen produces a quarter of China's oolong and is famed for 'monkey-picked' tieguanyin (iron goddess of mercy), a highly prized semi-oxidised leaf which can cost up to 120,000 yuan per 100 grams. But 150 yuan can get you a vacuum-packed 250-gram bag of good quality oolong. The little brown teapot and aluminium splash tray cost a further 70 yuan. It's the first step on the road to an exquisite habit, and a great souvenir or present. Ten Fu Tea Shop, which has 18 branches around Xiamen, is particularly good. Starbucks, eat your heart out. 10 BBQ Street Coastal Xiamen brims with seafood restaurants. But if you only have one night to spare, head to the noisy, chaotic, oyster-strewn grid of open-air tables that is BBQ Street. Here, at the junction of Jin Bang Lu and Hu Bin Lu, perhaps more than anywhere else, you can fully appreciate the city's obsession with seafood. There are about 20 food stalls and you can pick and point. Since each stall specialises in just a few dishes, the ingredients are fresh and the preparation expert. The BBQ garlic oysters (at 15 yuan for 20) and the grilled prawns (50 yuan per jin) are delicious. Ice-cold beers can be had from the shop on the corner (which also supplies the stalls with electricity) for about six yuan a bottle.