A Travelogue of Fujian, China
Text by: Crispin Lee, Travel Photographer.
15th August 2014, Singapore – Traveling and photography has always been my passions. Combining travel with photography to interesting places like Fujian Xiapu (霞浦) and Tu lou (土楼) has always been part of my dream. Through Xing Asia, a licensed traveling agency that caters specifically to the needs of traveling photographers, my dream came true when I joined Xing Asia’s recent 8D7N Fujian Adventure in May 2014.
During this highly anticipated photography trip, we were exposed to many shooting situations from landscapes to street photography and from street photography to portraitures. We have brought back good images and picked up valuable skills during the trip with our master photographer & tour guide, Michael Lee and fellow photographers, we also enjoyed the interesting food and rich culture of Fujian along our journey. I must say, it was an enjoyable and fruitful trip that far exceeds my expectations.
Our journey started with our arrival at Fujian Xiamen via Silk Air at around noon on the first day. After a delicious seafood lunch, our first point of interest in Xiamen was to visit a very famous temple founded in Tang Dynasty called South Pu Tuo Temple (南普陀寺). Our second stop of the day was to visit the Hu Li Hill Fort (胡里山炮台) before we checked in to our hotel.
The actual photography adventure started on the second day with a 3 hours bus ride to Nanjing County where we visited a few Tu lou clusters. I was amazed to find out that there are various types and sizes of Tu lou ranging from traditional round circle to square and rectangle types. Some of them was built more than 600 years ago. In fact, the smallest Tu lou houses 10-15 households, and the biggest, on the other hand, can house up to 300+ Residents. If you like to take pictures on human interests and special architectures or buildings, this trip provides you with many great opportunities to do so.
After the Tu lou tour, we arrived at our next destination called Yun Shui Yao (云水谣), an ancient small town known as one of the beautiful villages in China. We spent our late afternoon walking and taking photographs on a relatively peaceful country side. After our dinner, some of us continued our night photography at this quiet and cosy small town before we called it a day.
On our third day journey in Fujian, we visited a village called Ta xia village (塔下村) – a 600 years Hakka exquisite village built during Ming Dynasty. We also visited the Zhang shrine in the village – an ancestry temple commonly seen in China villages before heading to our ultimate destination via 2.5 hours high speed train ride to Xiapu.
Shortly after arriving at Xiapu, our first stop is to visit a village of She people (畲家山寨), the largest minority ethnic group in Fujian province. Our first day stay in Xiapu was kept simple because we need to have a good rest before waking up at around 3-4 am early in the morning to catch the sun rise.
Known as the most charming fishing village of China, Xiapu is located at the northeast part of China’s Fujian province, somewhere in between Wenzhou and Fuzhou. It has a long coastal line of 400km, with a large portion of sea shore protected by mountains and rocks, making the bay area calm and safe. It is a perfect place for villagers to cultivate seaweeds and oysters which have been a tradition for many centuries.
As a small region along the southeast China coastline, Xiapu nevertheless has the largest mudflat in the country, encompassing 40 square km of its more than 400 km of coastline. Xiapu ranks the first place on the list of “Top 10 Paradises for Photographers” by some chinese professional photography magazines. These years, Xiapu has attracted many tourists and photographers from home and abroad.
Our stay in Xiapu were very hectic and tiring but a very fulfilling one as we need to wake up very early in the morning to find a good spot for sun rise. We also needed to rush to a nice location to shoot the sun set or waiting for the sea tide to come in as the weather was very unpredictable. One interesting fact was, we were shooting while equipped with our umbrellas and raincoats most of the time due to the wet weather. However, our local photography guide, with the advice from Michael Lee, was flexible enough to arrange alternate shooting locations and adjusted our itinerary so that we don’t waste any time due to the weather.
Having a knowledgeable and resourceful local guide is very important for taking great pictures in Xiapu as the person must know the place, the people, the weather, the view, and the timing. With the help of our guide, we were able to witness amazing tidal effect at the sea shore, within 20-30 minutes, a seemingly boring place “suddenly” becomes a spectacular zebra-like oyster field; a muddy place suddenly becomes clear white as water fill up.
However, our itineraries in Xiapu were not just about landscapes. We were also given the opportunity to visit the fishing and oyster villages to witness the busy and lively activities of the local villagers and this open us to some street photography. We spent about 3 days and 2 nights in Xiapu taking amazing pictures and enjoying dinners after dinners and our “in-between Kopi” (coffee) time.
On our last day in Xiapu, before we catching the high speed train back to Xiamen, we went to a beautiful country side known as Yang Jia Xi (杨家溪) where we shoot local villagers and farmers with buffalo under clusters of banyan trees (with the oldest tree being more than 800 years).
Before we realized how time had passed, it was our last night of the trip. We were back in Xiamen enjoying our last dinner and relaxing by a wonderful river and cruising on Lujiang, a straits between Xiamen inland and Gulangyu Island.
Xiapu has a lot to offer to every photographer whether you are beginner or an experienced hand. Its tiger-striped beaches, large scale of floating village, infinite seaweed field, thousands of rows of bamboo planted in sea shore, endless numbers of fishery boats going to high sea, crew of fishers carrying their catches to the land, colourful and contrasting sand bed, breath-taking sunrise and sunshine, those are unique and abundant things that many photographers who visited the place will remember – forever.
We were grateful that Michael Lee possess in-depth knowledge of the places that we had visited. He has good connections with the local guides and drivers thus making our photography trip smooth and enjoyable. In addition, the itinerary was well planned to open us to various opportunities to shoot in many interesting situations. Most importantly he is willing to share and able to advise us before we reached the shooting location on the recommended lenses and the settings so that we were well prepared and able to get the best results out of every scene. This trip is highly recommended.
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