Jinshanling Section, May 2010. I’ll never forget my first ever Great Wall experience, back during my maiden year in China. I was living in Beijing at the time, which meant there were a bunch of routes to choose from. While I had no desire whatsoever to subject myself to the overcrowded Disney circus act of Badaling, I also figured It might be wise to leave some of the more wild stretches for later on. In the end the Jinshanling section fit the bill perfectly, a ten-kilometer trek that took in some of the country’s most stunning Great Wall scenery.
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.
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.