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 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 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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My Photographs: Top 5 Xiamen, China.

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Hexiang West Road, August 2017. My five-day trip to the island city of Xiamen very nearly didn’t happen. In the days preceding my visit, Typhoon Nesat swept through southern China, causing considerable mayhem to Taiwan and mainland Fujian Province. In fact, just the day before my journey all trains to Xiamen had been cancelled! Luckily for me god wagged his finger, the clouds parted and the train schedules were brought back from the dead. Happier still, my three and a half hour train journey from Rui’an turned out to be mercifully straightforward. On arrival I found a city engulfed in rain, light winds and an eerie afternoon darkness. The streets in and around my hotel were virtually deserted, save for the carcasses of unearthed plants, broken bushes and fallen trees.

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