Strange days: Xiamen's magic slope

Culture | by Aimee Groom
Posted: December 15th, 2011 | Updated: July 13th, 2012 | Comments
Xiamen strange slope_guai po When my buddies and I Shanghai, it's usually with the sole intent of hitting the beach and doing some kitesurfing (though eating some great seafood and soaking up Xiamen's super relaxed vibe is always high on the agenda as well). We've been going kitesurfing in Xiamen for a few years now, but not, admittedly, in December, which was when we headed out on our latest excursion. While the sun was shining, the water was cold and on day two we found ourselves waiting for the wind which never really arrived. We'd spent much of the night partying in Solo Bar, a shoe-box sized bar in Zeng Cuo An Village (Zéng Cuò Ăn Cūn, 曾厝垵村). The village is a small hamlet that presents a face of neon-lit seafood restaurants to the the passing traffic, but behind the facade is a maze of lanes filled with cool guesthouses, bars, cafes and boutiques that appeal to a local and international beach-loving crowd. So instead of testing our shaky limbs on the sea, we went inland to pitch them instead against gravity itself, at the Strange Slope. A dramatic and slightly exaggerated introduction perhaps, but this little spot up in the hills was a fun Sunday afternoon stop for a group that felt they'd already explored many of the other attractions in Xiamen. A friend had come across this video of VPN or proxy in China to view the link), showing the unusual phenomenon in action, and we decided to check it out. xiamen guia po strange slope We jumped in a taxi and asked for it in Chinese: Guài Pō (怪坡). After about 15 minutes of intense lane changing, pedestrian dodging and horn honking (the lifestyle in Xiamen may be more relaxed than elsewhere in China, but the driving still leaves much to be desired), we were up in the hills and arriving at the Strange Slope. An unassuming small lane, it branches off from the main mountain road and it is here that the illusion begins. The main road is angled slightly downward, and together with the trees and surrounding rock when you turn onto it you get the impression that you ought to be going up. Though by no means a steep climb, when the taxi cut the engine and the car kept on rolling along, it was an odd sensation, as if we were being drawn forward by a magnetic force. Once out of the car and standing mid-slope, the effect wasn't quite as pronounced but surrounded by hawkers touting a ride on their bikes for RMB 1, how could we refuse? Wheels are definitely the way to experience Guai Po, as you move unpropelled up the hill. We only made a quick stop there on this trip, and truth be told, you don't need more than a few minutes. But the surrounding area is also well-worth exploring and next time we're bound for Xiamen, we'll be headed for those hills to see what other mysteries they have to offer!
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