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 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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The Jellyfish Factor – a short story from China.

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After a happy, prolonged period of stabilisation and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in grey, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.

We’d been hanging out in Qingdao for just over a week when S and I decided on a change of scenery. Not that we were getting sick of the place; quite the opposite! By now we’d uncovered the best beaches on the outskirts of town, taken a major chunk out of the restaurant scene and were pretty much part of the furniture at The Lennon Bar. “Where you go?” whined Paul Ramon, affable lead singer of the pub’s resident rock band. “To Yantai!” I replied excitedly. “Just for a break… we’ll be back in a few days”. “Ok, ok” he hummed thoughtfully, “Yantai is ok… but be careful about jellyfish… they fucking everywhere”. Smiling politely, I couldn’t work out if he meant that a) there were lots of Jellyfish, b) loads of them having sex or c) both.

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Don’t Let Me Down – a short story from China.

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After a happy, prolonged period of stabilisation and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in grey, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.

1-bus-from-shanghai-to-qingdao“Well… this hasn’t worked out too bad for us” I said, peering down from my top bunk. “Mm” responded S from her lower bed as we watched the situation unfold. Down at the entrance door people were still swarming inside and I couldn’t help but be amused by their expressions as they realised there wasn’t anywhere for them to actually go. All the beds were occupied, so they had no choice but to sit in the painfully narrow aisle, knees folded up to their chins. The driver spared not an inch of space as he ushered the last passengers inside. He wore a wry smile, a look that suggested the proceeds of these tickets were going straight into his pocket. All part of a day’s work for a bus driver in China I supposed.

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Take No Notice – a short story from China.

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After a happy, prolonged period of stabilisation and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in gray, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.

I was beginning to think we’d never get to Qufu. The journey from Tai’an was only supposed to take an hour, but our sweatbox of a bus had been stopping at five-minute intervals to pick up the entire province (and their mothers). As a result, the vehicle was now audibly straining under the weight of its occupants and the fans were broken, an experience that was every bit as shitty as it sounds.

Another downside was our moron of a driver; a pubescent rake of a boy dressed in a silly cap and oversized trousers. He had no concept at all of how to appropriately use the brake and honked his way through the entire journey. He honked at other vehicles to tell them to get out of the way. He honked at the people he was about to pick up on the side of the road. He honked at the sun for shining so damn brightly and when there was nothing left to honk about he honked some more just because he could. When we finally honked into Qufu, there was a palpable sense of relief for everyone on board as we oozed out of the bus like molten liquid. “Thank god that’s over!” puffed S.

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Two Men and a Refrigerator – a short story from China.

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After a happy, prolonged period of stabilization and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in gray, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.

“This is pretty kooky,” I laughed, admiring the large black and white canvas of Audrey Hepburn at reception. “I wonder if they have Oscar-winning rooms too”. Approaching the grinning mannequin of a receptionist, I asked her if we could see a double, before making a self-satisfying joke about Gregory Peck. But of course she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. “Hotel name is movie?” she asked during my messy explanation, her furrowed brow dislodging a few flakes of her ridiculously thick makeup.  

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The City and the Village Part II – a short story from China.

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After a happy, prolonged period of stabilisation and life-altering romance, I finally bid farewell to Belgium in the summer of 2009. Uninspired by life in grey, uneventful Brussels, my girl and I headed off to China for an unforgettable year of teaching and travelling.

“Gooooood moooooorning Jinan!!!” It was a blistering hot day of thirty degrees and S and I were in fine spirits. Life on the Chinese road was turning out to be great fun and the city of Jinan had defied all expectations. In fact, after a bit of online research, I discovered just how spectacularly wrong all the Jinan haters had been. Known throughout China as The Spring City, our plan for the day was to seek out a few of its urban parks; renowned for their beauty and home to over seventy artesian springs.  

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