“I’d love to get you, on a slow boat to China, all to myself, alone…”
Ok, so maybe we weren’t alone, and maybe our “boat” was actually a not-so-slow, luxury cruise ship. But hey, whenever I have a chance to quote some Jimmy Buffett song lyrics, I’ll take it.
On our last international trip, we had the opportunity to experience China (and several other Asian countries) for the first time, visiting a few towns and cities near the coast. One of the interesting things about China (at least the places we saw) is that you have ancient villages right smack beside some of the most high-tech metropolitan areas in the world. From a photographer’s perspective, this is pretty convenient because you don’t have to travel too far to get a diverse collection of street photography.
We spent the most time, by far, in the Shanghai area. While we were on board, the ship made three stops there, which totaled about eight days to explore. On day one, I bought a small travel guide for Shanghai and the surrounding areas, and over those eight days, we basically knocked off every major thing in that guide… from ancient water villages to the world’s tallest skyscrapers. There are several different districts in Shanghai, and of you’re ever going, I’d recommend spending a day in each one.
We also made two stops in the Xiamen area. On the first visit, we explored the downtown area of Xiamen, and on the second visit, we took a ferry to the neighboring island of Gulangyu, which is pedestrian-only and loaded with fun things to explore and photograph. Theres a bustling market, a tea museum, piano museum, temples, and quiet streets with interesting architecture. Much of it feels untouched by time, which was a nice contrast to the modern city not so far away.
I’m not going to blab a lot here. I’ll mainly let the pictures do the talking, but I will give my general take on the experience. I loved the ancient buildings, the super modern architecture and the unique shops. We also really enjoyed the dim sum! I did not, however, connect with the culture too much. There is lots of pushing, butting in lines and spitting in public. I understand that it’s just the way it is, at least in the areas we visited, and I am always respectful and accepting of all the different cultures we see and visit. I just didn’t connect with it. That’s all. One thing is for sure though… China can be a visual feast, especially if it’s your first time visiting the country, as it was for us!
The last English signage we saw after arriving in Xiamen. Getting around in Asian countries where the words look like symbols can either be like a game, or a nightmare, depending on your personality type.
A colorful street in Xiamen is home to dozens of food and tea vendors.
There’s lots of cuteness in China. And I’m always down with cuteness.
This guy knows how to pack.
A cute little temple on the island of Gulangyu, a short ferry ride from Xiamen, China.
Street scene in Gulangyu
This is what the quiet streets in Gulangyu look like. Look! An English sign!
Every mirror is a selfie opportunity
The food only gets weirder from here.
This is seriously where our ship docked. Right in the heart of downtown! We saw this view out of our stateroom window. Not too shabby! Here I am doing a little bow-pulling pose on deck. This was one of the few instances we caught a glimpse of sun in Shanghai. For most of our stay, it was cloudy and so smoggy that you couldn’t see the tops of those sky scrapers in the distance.
Navigating the city was a little interesting. Always an adventure!
One of the food vendors at the huge market in the Old City. I’m kind of glad I couldn’t read the names of those food items.
Another market stall. We were pretty adventurous when it comes to driving different foods in China, but the only thing I actually enjoyed was the dim sum.
There’s an “antique street” in Shanghai that is lined with crowded stalls of old stuff. I just loved this snoozing vendor.
Another sight on the antique street. We spent a lot of time here shooting and just checking out all the funky wares.
I’m guessing this guy was delivering stuff to one of the antique stalls. They really know how to load their bikes in Asia!
Here’s a scene from the ancient water village of Zhujiajiao. (I can’t pronounce it either.)
In Zhujiajiao Village, lots of shops and eateries line the water.
Me and the mister.
One of the food shops lining the streets in the crowded Zhujiajiao Village. Speaking of crowds, you don’t know the true meaning of the word “crowded” until you’ve been to China. The streets in this town were so crowded that you were literally pressed against other people as you walked around. You could probably lift your feet off the ground and keep moving down the street. I was holding on to Ben’s backpack so I wouldn’t lose him.
I never miss the opportunity to photograph awesome dogs.
I believe this was the entrance to the post office in Zhujiajiao Village.
Two kids look out on the crowds from a second story restaurant in Zhujiajiao Village.
This is a view of Qibao, another water village accessible by the Shanghai subway system.
Selfie in Qibao
The doorway to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai.
The interior of the Jade Buddha Temple.