Street Badminton, July 2009. The concrete jungle of Jinan lies some five hours south of Beijing, a comparatively swift three hours if you treat yourself to the high-speed bullet train. As the capital of Shandong Province, the city is home to a whopping seven million people and is a major economic and transportation hub. Despite this, there are few reasons for foreigners to stick around. The only reason for adding Jinan to my itinerary was to break up the journey to Zhujiayu, a fascinating little village forty-five kilometres to the east. Nevertheless, I thought I’d give Jinan a chance and was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Wandering the city streets on my first night, I came across this friendly husband and wife playing badminton outside their apartment block. They were incredibly excited to meet me, so much so that the lady insisted I take over from her. I ended up playing her husband for a good twenty-minutes, with this group photo the icing on the cake of a memorable experience.
Five Dragon Pool Park, July 2009. At first glance, Jinan can come across as a charmless sprawl. But the city is actually home to a number of beautiful parks with natural springs. Determined to pop my head into a number of them, my first stop was this landscaped garden complex. There are lush green lawns, ancient Chinese architecture and of course the pool itself, said to be the deepest circulating artesian spring in Jinan. Amusingly, the locals seemed as stunned by the sight of me as I was by the park’s beauty. Judging by the numerous open-mouthed stares I received, I guessed they’d never seen a Leighton before.
Thousand Buddha Park, July 2009. I’ve always enjoyed a good old climb. Happily then, this mountain park, located just to the south of the city, didn’t disappoint. Neither did the resulting views from the summit, despite the afternoon smog’s best efforts. Not just about the hike though, there are enough distractions on the way up to keep one entertained for an entire day. Adorned with caves, temples, pavilions, terraces and of course Buddhas, there is even a cable car lift for the lazy (Sorry Chinese tourists, but I’m looking at you).
Downtown, July 2009. I’d just come out of a city bakery with a bag of miscellaneous sweet bread things when I bumped into this delightful mother and daughter. The girl spoke a few words of English, so we did the small talk thing for a bit and they happily posed for a photo. It made a nice change for me to be photographing Chinese people rather than the other way round. A wonderful picture that not even a fat pile of bricks could ruin.
Baotu Spring Park, July 2009. Another spring park absolutely teeming with people. Home to around thirty springs; you can actually see the water bubbling up from one of the lakes. There was also a stunning Chrysanthemum exhibition, boat rides on the canal and buns for sale to feed the fish. Or, like this guy, you can sit looking miserable under an umbrella. For a deeper insight into my time in Jinan, check out my short stories The City and the village Part I and The City and the Village Part II.