My Photographs: Top 5 Xin Yang River – Zhejiang Province, China.

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Xin Yang River, August 2017. Even after all these years I still get a kick out of seeing isolated places in off-the-beaten-track China. And they don’t get much more podunk than the insignificant village of Xinyang in Zhejiang Province. Located about an hour from the city of Rui’an, my teaching buddies and I headed out on a typically hot and humid August afternoon. And it wasn’t even the village itself we were interested in, but rather this narrow stretch of river where locals go to seek respite from the unforgiving summer heat.

Xin Yang River, August 2017. There were about twelve of us that day, so we rented a wooden raft boat (70RMB one hour) and flailed about for a bit with the wooden poles in an attempt to navigate our way around the river. It was only later that I realised a much more effective way of captaining our vessel was to simply jump in the water and steer it with my hands.

Xin Yang River, August 2017. Needless to say we were the only foreigners there and the subject of much curiosity. There were families waving at us from the riverbank and a man who kept saying “Hellooooo!” over and over, like it was the funniest joke he’d ever cracked. Nearly everyone had an inflatable ring or armbands, although the water was so shallow it seemed hardly necessary.

Xin Yang River, August 2017. Indeed most of us could simply walk through the river comfortably enough. I watched this dude emerge from the trees on the far bank, beyond which lay farmer’s fields, woods and rolling mountains. As he passed our boat we were doing a role-play game in which yours truly had just been murdered. So stunned was River Man by this unlikely scene that he actually stopped to have a good old stare. So I smiled and gawked back at him with an opportunistic click.

Xin Yang River, August 2017. I feel fortunate to have got this shot of some locals chilling, particularly as they managed to stay so natural with my camera pointing in their faces. Our merry group of teachers had a great time on the river that afternoon. It was one of those days that reminded me how fantastic life in China can be.

But what I didn’t know and indeed wouldn’t find out until the following morning was that one of our friends had just lost his life back in Rui’an. And so the last few weeks have been some of the toughest in recent memory. His passing has reminded me what a fragile thing life is and how I should push myself to be the person my friends deserve. It’s taught me to be more thankful for what I have and how I should make time for more river days like this one. I wish he’d been there with us. He would have loved it and we’d have enjoyed it all the more in his company.

 In memory of Craig Church, 1989-2017.

 

 

 

My Photographs: Top 5 Haoyue Park – Gulangyu Island, China.

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Haoyue Park, August 2017. You could easily spend two or three days exploring Gulangyu. But if you find yourself on limited time, map out a walking route to the island’s northwestern tip for the dramatically located Haoyue Park. The complex can be accessed via this pretty beach and is situated on, in and around Fuding Rock. A 25RM fee is required to go inside.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Zhongshan Road – Xiamen, China.

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Zhongshan Road, August 2017. Even if shopping isn’t your cup of tea, a trip to Zhongshan Road is an essential part of any Xiamen itinerary. Teeming with stores, restaurants and cafes, this strictly pedestrianised road offers up a pleasing fusion of European architecture, chattering locals and determined, bug-eyed sales clerks armed with microphones. My first walk down this 1200-meter road came during a boiling hot afternoon and indeed the sun was so fierce most people clung to the covered walkways at the side of the street.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Bailuzhou Park – Xiamen, China.

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Bailuzhou Park, August 2017. A nomadic friend of mine once described China as a place with “lots of beautiful things to see, nothing to do”. On more than one level, I know exactly what he meant. When it comes to Chinese cities I know what I’m gonna get in a round about way – another stunning temple, delicious, cheap, rough and ready street food and at least a handful of meticulously sculpted parks and gardens. I’d like to think of myself as something of a Chinese park connoisseur, lord only knows I’ve seen enough of them over the years. In Xiamen alone there are ten in and around the city centre, so I had to do my research and handpick just a few for special attention.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Xiamen University, China.

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Xiamen University, August 2017. I hadn’t even thought of visiting Xiamen University, not until a friend of mine suggested it. “It’s one of the most beautiful campuses in China!” she claimed, so off I went, full of anticipation. When I arrived at the entrance gates I was met by a long line of people snaking down Yanwu Road and immediately found myself wondering if this was really worth it. But then fate intervened in the form of a bookish medical student who offered to take me directly inside if I agreed to speak on camera about my experiences in Xiamen. So we skipped the queue, I gave the city some gushing praise and then I was released, free to roam with what felt like half of China.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Hulishan Fortress – Xiamen, China.

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Hulishan Fortress, August 2017. Hulishan Fortress is one of Xiamen’s most defining landmarks; a sprawling granite castle perched atop a rocky hill in the south of the island. Built in 1894 in the dying days of the Qing Dynasty, the fort was armed with some of the world’s most powerful cannons and went on to play a key role in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Railroad Culture Park – Xiamen, China.

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Railroad Culture Park, August 2017. One of my favorite Xiamen experiences was this simple but ingenious nature trail in the southwest of the city. It stands as a towering testament to brilliant urban planning and creative reuse, with five kilometers of landscaped gardens set around a stretch of preserved rails. Popular with ramblers, dog walkers, joggers and people simply wanting to get from A to B, I found myself instantly charmed.

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