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 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 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 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 Lynchburg, Tennessee.

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Jack Daniel’s Distillery, May 2007. I’ll never forget my amazing day trip to the charming little American town of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Even the drive over from Nashville was memorable, our two-hour journey taking us through a fascinating section of The Bible Belt, with its unchanging panorama of painted farmhouses, manicured hedges, white picket fences and pocket-sized churches. On arrival in Lynchburg, we headed straight to The Jack Daniel’s Distillery for our free tour of America’s oldest distillery. The woman pictured above was our friendly guide, a non-nonsense Tennessee gal with an accent so thick my then fiancé could barely understand a word the woman was saying.

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My Photographs: Top 5 The Mediterranean Steps, Gibraltar.

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The Mediterranean Steps, March 2017. The definitive highlight of my two-day visit to Gibraltar came with a hike up The Rock’s breathtaking Mediterranean Steps trail. Billed as a walking route for thrill-seekers, the path starts out innocuously enough with a modest collection of stone steps next to The Ornithological and Natural History Society. But before long the going gets pretty steep and the path rocky and slippy. There are some hairy bends too, with nothing at all between you and a sharp drop down to a state of nonexistence. But with gorgeous views across Gibraltar Strait and the faint outline of Morocco in the distance, it really is an unmissable treat!

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