Su Causeway, October 2017. This 2.6 km walkway through West Lake was constructed in 1086 by the famous poet and Hangzhou governor Su Shi. It was a time of great poverty and drought, so Su ordered the dredging of the lake and used the resulting mud to build a new causeway. Later on six bridges were added and willow trees planted on each side. This photo is an aerial view of the causeway taken from the top floor of Leifeng Pagoda.
Shuangtou Bridge, October 2017. I must have covered every inch of West Lake’s gorgeous parkland during my five days in Hangzhou. This beautiful little bridge, located in Changqiao Park near Tangyun Art Gallery, is probably my favorite West Lake spot.
Orioles Singing in the Willows, October 2017. A trip to the Chinese city of Hangzhou is all about one thing: the shimmering, dreamy majesty of West Lake. Surrounded by misty green hills and lush parkland as far as the eye can see, this booming city of 8.7 million stands as one of China’s most adored holiday spots. No surprise then that I chose Hangzhou for a five-day visit during the National Holiday Golden week. Having checked into my grubby but smartly located hostel digs, I wasted no time in getting lakeside with a visit to the gorgeous Singing in the Willows Park.
Jing’an Temple, August 2009. If, like me, you’ve spent a fair amount of time exploring Asia, you’ll know that there comes a moment when you get all templed out. So by the time I rolled up in Shanghai I decided to limit my temple explorations to the charms of this A-list structure on West Nanjing Road. Dating back to AD 1216, it was all but completely destroyed by a fire in 1972. After a full restoration, Jing’an reopened in its current form in 1990.
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.
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.
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
I was right on the verge of blissful slumber when the red dot flickered across my face, settling right in the middle of my forehead, jarring me from my restful state. What the ****? Straining to focus through my drowsiness, I could make out some manner of form standing to my side, a futuristic gun gripped in a small, pale hand. Aimed right at me, there was a lone beep followed by an equally unsettling metallic click. And then, much to my relief, it was withdrawn. “Thirty six degrees” purred the air stewardess with a robotic smile. And then she was gone with a swish of her red and yellow tie scarf, a faint trail of perfume hanging in the air. “No Swine flu for you then” chuckled S, rubbing my arm. And then she was asleep again, such was her ability.