Sunday, May 6, 2012

China - Overview

I went to China over Golden Week.  The main goal was to build my photography portfolio with some landscapes.  I'm pretty sure I've got some winners, but I've barely begun sorting through the ~4000 photos from the trip, so I'll post them slowly as I process over the next couple of weeks.  Between this trip and the photo project on Zamami, I've got a huge backlog of unprocessed photos and more coming as I have a lot of shoots scheduled for this month.

In order to get to my desired hub (Guilin) I had to travel through Beijing on the front end of the trip and Shanghai on the back end.  While I was only in Beijing briefly, I was not impressed.  Shanghai was another story.

[I was staying very close to Tiananmen Square so I decided to wake up at 4am to go catch the guards raising the flag.  It was.. meh, but I was impressed by its importance to Chinese tourists.]

[Getting the requisite pictures in front of Mao's portrait, though soon after I took this shot I became a more popular figure for parents to take their children's photos with.  I'm not kidding - I had hundreds of pictures snapped of me in the Square.]

[I flew to Guilin the first morning, then took minibuses for 5-6 hours to reach my destination]

[These ladies are relentless in trying to get you to pay them to carry your luggage the 30 minutes up the mountain to your hotel (the entire village exists as a series of trails - no roads))

My first destination was Dazhai Village near Longsheng.  This is waaay up in the mountains and it's famous for these rice terraces which were carved into the sides of mountains many thousands of years ago by people who apparently could not find flat land.  Unfortunately for me they hadn't really started flooding the fields yet for the spring planting, so I I didn't get the awesome morning reflection shot I'd hoped for.
[I was up here with a couple dozen other tripods at dawn, but as the sun rose I realized there was no shot to be had]

 [Since the fields were a bust I made a snap decision to concentrate my efforts on photography some of the old people who inhabit the village.  This lady let me put my arm around her for this photo because I just paid her 10 yuan to take her portrait.  Nothing is free in China.  More of these portraits soon.]

[A typical setup for me.  I did still photograph the fields and I got a few shots with nice black-and-white potential.]

[My hotel room which cost just $16/night for double occupancy.  (I was alone.))

[View from the front of the hotel]

[China's take on protecting the environment at a construction site]

 Next I made my way to Xingping, which is close to it's far-more-famous cousin, Yangshuo.  This area is known for the limestone karsts that you can see below.  It was very beautiful and I was happy to have three nights there.  I chose well on my hostel and the location and really enjoyed the company of other hostel-goers.  That's honestly a not-insignificant part of the appeal to traveling through SE and Eastern Asia.  Backpackers are cool.

[On the first evening I climbed this karst with a couple of French girls, only to find a throng of photographers set up for the nonexistent sunset.  Mediocre-to-good photos from here will come later.]

[REAL Chinese Ringneck pheasants!  I hunt these in America..]

[Xingping market fare]

[Prepping another one]

[This is a nicer picture, eh?]

[Market haircuts]

[Chinese medicine]

[Stones that look like bacon]

After Xingping I made my way back to Guilin before flying to Shanghai, where I had an afternoon/evening and morning to kill.  I quite liked the portion of Shanghai where I stayed (The Bund).  I walked around and played inside a Gap, H&M, and Uniqlo, realizing that I haven't clothes-shopped in the U.S. (or really 'anything-shopped') in over five years.  I attended the Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe's show in the evening, which was pretty cool (though a Chinese friend later told me I missed out by not doing this in Beijing.  Shanghai is apparently for the rejects).  I walked along The Bund at night which was nice, if a little lonely (it's very much a romantic, couples' activity).

[This was the only time during the week that I was separated from my big camera, but these are pretty nice for a point-and-shoot, I think]

[Me on my last morning on The Bund, killing time so well that I almost missed my plane (I arrived after the gate had closed).]

Overall it was a great trip.  I had about $1000 into the flights and another $250 into the visa, which was quite a bit more than I'd expected when I originally planned the trip, but thankfully the in-country expenses were very low and I  spent less than $300 for everything for a week.  I really liked the places I went but I was also inspired by other travelers to look into some different parts of China.  I still have one more visa entry I can use in the next 11 months so we'll see if I can find a gap in my schedule somewhere.


erin said...

We should talk China sometime soon! Also, if you go back to China and you want to go more inland, I can probably connect you with some of the PCV's there, they tend to have nice digs.

Anonymous said...

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I love you !!!