Monday, 30 November 2015

Travel: Part 2: China, The Mainland

As it says in the previous post to this, China was pretty up there on my buscket list, and like any traveller who loves photography or any photographer that loves travel, my goal is to walk away with a selection of images that tells a story, that trys to summarise where ive been and what ive experienced. In the 20 days I was in China I travelled over 1300km, and managed to see so many highlights that I had dreamed of for years. These photos are very small selection, more of which can be seen on my website gallery HERE.

When I arrived in Beijing I had 3 days to myself before I joined a small western tour group that I would travel south to Shanghai with, via Xian and Suzhou. One of these days I climbed the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China (see this post) and the other 2 I wandered around in the heat on foot exploring temples, hutongs and markets.

Once I joined the tour group it became a pretty fast flow of famous landmarks, private gardens, crazy food markets, sleeper trains, long coach rides, laughing with locals, fast-walking tours and desperate sleeping; but I'm pretty happy with the photographic outcome for such a short trip. One day I hope to return to rural china and spend more time with the people, travelling up through Mongolia to Russia.

I dont think I need to write much here, the photos tell the story...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Travel: Part 1, China, The Great Wall

My greatest desire in life is to travel and see as many corners of the world as possible, I want to photograph it all. The feeling of marveling at something, of a truly unique once-off experience, is like no other, and perhaps I am addicted to that feeling. Like many people in their late-20s, I have a pretty extensive bucket-list of destinations and at the start of 2015 I decided to book a trip to tick one of the big ones off- to walk on the Great Wall Of China.

As is my nature, I approached my trip with a ridiculous amount of planning, with only 20 days in China, I wanted to see as many aspects as possible. 24hours after I arrived in Beijing I met my private guide who I had booked to take me to Jinshanling, a much less popular part of the wall (as I didnt want my photos to have thousands of people in them like at Badaling or Mutianyu sections).

We arrived at the bottom and (thank god) there was a small gondola that takes you up to the walls edge. The first photo you see below is taken from the car on the 3.5 hour drive to the wall from Beijing. The second photo is the first time I saw the wall up close when we were walking from the gondola station to the first tower of our trek.

My female guide and I hiked for 5 hours until sunset, often in silence, although she was very friendly, I was often either gobsmacked by the view or out of breathe. Jinshanling is a really difficult part of the wall, with large sections very broken down and some parts an almost a vertical climb using both hands. We only saw 3 people the entire time we were up there. One man was a security guard who walked up and down the 8km stretch all day, everyday. The other was a very old man, at least 70 years old, who was sitting in a shady corner selling berries and seeds to nobody. I bought some large dried seeds from him and sat sharing his shade and wondering how on earth he climbs up there everyday. The third person was a woman from Sweden who gave me a real fright; my guide and I were sitting on a steep edge of the wall as the sun was going down and she appeared suddenly from the direction we were headed, apparently hiking the entire wall on her own, I was the first western person she had seen in a days. 

We sat on top of a broken-down tower as the sun went down and it really was one of those movie moments; completely silent and still with never ending mountains rolling out infont of me and I subconsciously put a big fat tick on my bucket list. We then had to walk backwards to a small door in the wall and then hike 2.5 more hours downhill in the pitch black through bush back to our car and driver, that was an adventure in itself! I slept the entire way back to Beijing.

2 days later I met up with my tour group which I was going to be with for the journey from Beijing to Shanghai via Xian and Suzhou. With this group I also visited the Mutianyu section of the wall which made me so grateful that I had booked my Jinshanling hike. There were THOUSANDS of people at this part of the wall, there was Coke stands and trinket stalls, there was even a luge ride to the carpark, it was insane. As the Mutianyu section (400m a.s.l) has been largely repaired and is substantially lower down than Jinshanling (800m a.s.l) so there were beautiful autumn colours which contrasted against the wall, but it was extremely difficult to get any photos without people in them.

I was really glad to experience The Great Wall in these 2 different ways, on either it was still magnificent and mind-boggling, and definatley something Ill never forget.

Jinshanling towards Simatai


On the Mutianyu Section of the wall, 3 days later: