My Photographs: Top 5 Lee House – Gulangyu Island, China.

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Lee House, August 2017. Many of Gulangyu Island’s grand old colonial buildings are now home to shops, restaurants and luxury boutiques. Whilst I have very little interest in shopping, it was still cool to duck into some of these amazing buildings and check out the courtyards and architecture. One of the coolest structures is the huge four-storey Lee House, a listed Xiamen Municipal Government Building dating back o the 1920s. Today it’s home to the Chinese retail company ‘Sincere Co’.

Lee House, August 2017. Just head right up the entrance steps and through the ground floor archways to experience mass Chinese tourism in all its madness. You’ll be met by table upon table of tour groups sampling high-end tea, cake and dried fruit. Each table has its own assigned saleswoman, equipped with a clipboard, walkie-talkie and microphone. It’s an unnecessarily noisy affair and the mantra is clear: Sell! Sell! Sell!

Lee House, August 2017. The local pastry, amusingly translated as Kung Fu Pie, is actually pretty tasty! They’re basically sweet, flaky balls with a selection of fillings including mango, red date and lemon. I was looking through all the different boxes when I suddenly thought of someone special and spontaneously decided to grab a pack as a gift. After much deliberation, I opted for the pineapple variety.

Lee House, August 2017. The real reason to seek out Lee House is for its little advertised top floor viewing deck where, completely free of salivating shopaholics, you can bask in 360-degree views of the island. Take the wide wooden staircase to the fourth floor until you come out onto the rooftop. In this photo you can see Sunlight Rock, Gulangyu’s highest point at 92.7 meters.


Lee House, August 2017.
I think I spent at least half an hour up on that rooftop enjoying Gulangyu’s different angles. Not one other person came to join me in that time, though the serenity was occasionally invaded by the uncompromising shriek of a saleswoman back down on the ground floor. She was quoting tea prices. She sounded desperate.

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 Gulangyu Island.

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Gulangyu Island, August 2017. As amazing as the Chinese city of Xiamen undoubtedly is, the real inspiration for my trip to Fujian Province was the prospect of a visit to Gulangyu Island. Reached via a fifteen-minute ferry ride from Xiamen International Passenger Terminal, I was horribly unprepared for what an almighty battle it would be to get a spot on one of the hourly boats! Actually, the behavior I encountered in the ticket office queue was one of the most distasteful experiences from all my Chinese adventures. There’s so much I could write about that crappy morning, but I shall save it for a future short story. In the end, all that mattered was that I got my ticket, fought my way onboard and, a short while later, planted both feet on Gulangyu.

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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 Qufu, China.

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Street Card Game, July 2009. The town of Qufu is one of the top sights in Shandong Province. As the hometown of Confucius, arguably the world’s most revered philosopher, thousands of people flock here every day to pay testament to the old sage’s far-reaching influence. And it felt to me like this pocket-sized town, with a population of just sixty thousand, could barely cope with the strain. Still, away from the madness of Qufu’s Confucius attractions, one can still seek out a taste of local life. Work your way into the back streets and you’ll find restaurant owners fanning barbecues and circles of chain-smoking men playing cards.

Confucius Temple, July 2009. “Chinese people so crazy for Confucius!” giggled the receptionist at Qufu International Youth Hostel. She wasn’t kidding. The real reason, the only reason one might argue, for coming to Qufu was to check out San Kong, the town’s three hallowed Confucius sights. Spread out across a walled complex of sixteen thousand square meters, Confucius World, as one might call it, is so vast it actually takes up one fifth of Qufu’s total land mass. This is the temple area, a wondrous mix of stone courtyards, towering trees, crumbling bridges and a green, algae-infested stream.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Tianjin, China.

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Tianjin Port, July 2009. How can I ever forget the modest city of Tianjin, the first stop of my great Chinese road trip in 2009? Tianjin isn’t the most exciting place in China, but it did provide a gentle, hassle-free start to an amazing four-week adventure. This photo was taken on our first day as we wandered aimlessly around the pretty port. In fact, I think it may have been the first time I was stopped by Chinese tourists and asked if they could have their photo taken with me. Little did I know it, but the novelty would rapidly wear off.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Tai’an, China.

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Mount Tai, July 2009. Should one of the world’s most sacred Buddhist mountains ever find itself onto your bucket list, then look no further than the Chinese city of Tai’an in Shandong Province. It’s an intriguing little place of traditional markets, towering shopping malls and the unmissable Dai Temple Complex. But at the end of the day, a visit to Tai’an is all about hiking up Mount Tai (Tai Shan), a fascinating natural museum of temples, gardens, statues, scriptures, shrines, streams, cliffs and cypress trees. And let’s not forget the unforgiving stone slabs you’ll have to conquer to reach the top, all 6,293 of them! Like me, you’ll undoubtedly need a few breathers along the way. 

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