A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

A Long City Walk & The Re-Birth of a Temple

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

It’s a long city! And when I say long, I mean it’s a long, long city!

After a day’s forced rest due to rain I checked out of my hotel in Fuzhou undecided on where to go next but with two places in mind, either head south to Putian or north to Ningde and as I knew the Ningde bus left from the south bus station I figured why not simply let the ticket decide. The trip to Ningde was supposed to only take several hours but as the highway was jam packed full of New Years motorists the bus driver strangely gave us all a choice, the mountains or the highway.

We chose the mountains. What a glorious choice as it was stunning and huge mountains were in abundance.

We left Fuzhou at half past one and finally made it to Ningde around half past five but for me the journey was too short as I was more than in the mood for a longer bus journey due to sharing the beauty of the countryside with Sheryl Crow who is one of my favourite 'travel’ musicians. If it’s a short journey then it’s usually The Cruel Sea’s ‘The Honeymoon is Over’ but if its longer then Sheryl Crow usually sits between me and whoever is occupying the seat next to me.

She has more than what it takes to settle my travel bug into the clutches of relaxation!

When we arrived I sat for a coffee at the chicken shop next to the bus station and as we were in a ‘nothing’ part of town I followed the local buses and walked over to the small city of Ningde and checked out a few hotels and then went about doing the last week’s hand washing. I then went for a short walk and found an Eat Street just up from my hotel and sat for some of the most delicious dumplings I’ve ever eaten.

In fact they were so good I had another helping before I headed back to my room. Thanks for the chat Stephen & a HUGE happy 16th to beautiful Beth.

As it was raining when I woke this morning it wasn’t long before I slipped silently back into the comforts and warmth of sleeps arms and woke several hours later to a rainless afternoon. My first stop was a temple I spotted yesterday but upon arrival I found it closed and mid way through renovations but the pavilion was so beautiful that I just had to grab some photos. After finding some wooden boxes and piling them on top of each other to take photos the ancient gate man spied me trying to take photos and nearly fell over laughing. He and his wife then invited me in for some hot tea before proudly taking me on a tour of the temple grounds.

After six years travelling all around China I can easily count the small amount of times that I have been honored to come across a temple either being born or going through the process of re-birth and this was one of them. Having visited hundred of temples all over China to actually have the privilege of being shown around one prior to all its colourful glory is something that most travellers never have a chance to witness not do they ever actually consider and why would they. You come to China and you want to see temples and you want to see them in colour but it’s not until you’ve seen so many of them that you want to actually see their skeletons as then you can only then appreciate what they will look like when viewed by future eyes.

I then decided to check out the rest of Ningde. And I walked, and walked, and walked and continued walking.

About an hour later I finally realised that my hotel was way back ‘over there’ in the old part of town. Finally colourful lights filled my views and I was then amongst the vibrant shopping streets filled with locals as they went about their daily/nightly lives all with plastic bags full of new purchases for the onslaught of the Chinese New Year.

The one thing I love so much about living in China is the fact that I can arrive in any city and find its vibrant shopping streets lined with street snacks of all kinds and origins and tonight I snacked my way around the neon light streets like a madman.

Ohhh the food I got to eat tonight was simply exquisite!

The other side to this and the un-touristy places I love to travel is that so many locals after seeing me quietly grab a snack and sit beside me wanting to practice their English and find out who I am and where I am from. Tonight was no exception and I spent hours moving from snack stall to snack stall happily chatting to so many wonderful people who are so thankful for me being here in China helping to teach their children to walk confidently into the new English speaking side of China’s future but the one thing we always agree on is that fact that China should never lose its history, culture, minority peoples and language.

Once again I find myself in an off the beat part of China full of happiness and pride that I have the courage to continue to leave a normal life behind and travel to the unknown places that I do

<u>Now For A Bit On Ningde City & It’s History</u>

Situated in the northeast of Fujian Province, Ningde city neighbors Fuzhou in the south and shares boundary with Zhejiang Province to the north and is separated by the East China Sea from Taiwan. Ningde's history dates back to the Stamped Pottery Culture System and between ten to twenty thousand years ago during the late Upper Paleolithic period of the Stone Age humans already occupied the area.

Historical records of Ningde began in the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) it was brought into the territory of present Fuzhou.

Situated roughly three hundred kilometers north of the Tropic of Cancer, the prefecture of Ningde spans nearly fourteen thousand square kilometers and like the rest of Fujian province, Ningde sits in a mountainous region but also happily enjoys almost two hundred kilometers of the East China Sea coastline.

Ningde is highly productive, growing rice, sweet potatoes and other produce.

Its tea and tea oil output tops the list of that from other parts of Fujian Province, and Gutian, known as a "home of tremella," produces the largest quantity of tremella in China. Ningde also produces such famous local and special national products and agricultural by products such as mushroom, shaddock, carambola, litchi, longan, and wine. Its major tourist spots include Tailao Mountain in Fuding, the Liyu Stream and the Jiulongji Waterfalls in Zhouning, Zhiti Mountain and the Yuanyang Stream.

The She Minority People have also created and left many precious cultural heritages in their long history. Owing to projects in recent years to protect the She heritage, three volumes of She folk tales, songs and proverbs have been published. In total, one hundred and eighty four tales, thousands of songs and six thousand proverbs have been included along with art works of She folklore and culture.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ________________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by one of Australia’s funkiest…..SWOOP. The album was &#8216;Thriller & the Waxo Principle’. _________________________________________________________________

Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

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Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

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Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

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Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

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Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

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Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

Ningde City &#38;amp; The Re-Birth of a Temple

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Beautiful Xichan Temple Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

After visiting hundreds of temples over the past six years I have been living, riding and travelling in China I have a list of 'favourites’ that I offer other travellers I meet in hostels over a beer too many. Sadly though most of them are well off the beaten track and will barely ever be seen by foreigners, but yesterday I actually found one that can be found in a major city hub.

Here in Fuzhou city, &#8216;the city that can be easily skipped en-route to Wuyishan (LP)’ I found and spent the day in a very special temple complex known as the Xi Chan Temples. Just as I had no knowledge of The Three Lanes & Seven Alleys that I stumbled across yesterday, I actually had never heard of the Xi Chan Temples until I saw the name on a street sign the other day and as I was still in Fuzhou today, this morning I decided to grab a cab, show him the photo of the street sign and hope that it wasn’t hundreds of kilometers away in Zhejiang or Guangdong Provinces.

The cab only cost fourteen Yuan and when the driver pointed it out as we drove past it a huge wave of excitement slapped me across the face as I was actually expecting a small temple, not an entire temple complex that was just as ornate and decorative as any of those of my list of favourites.

The Indian style Xi Chan Temple was built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and can be found in Yishan Fengwei Village in the west of Fuzhou City. The temple is one of the Five Great Temples of Fuzhou which includes Yong Quan Temple on Drum Mountain, Chongfu Temple on Elephant Peak, Chongsheng Temple on Snow Peak and Linyang Temple on Rui Peak.

Xi Chan Temple is a beautiful Buddhist Temple with extensive grounds and a symmetric layout that covers around seventy hectares that includes thirty six buildings in total. For some the major attraction is the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats, to be honest though I found them rather cheap when compared to the Great Hall of the Buddha and the Hall of Deities. Even so, the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats is well worth a look as the building itself is not only extremely beautiful but being six storey’s high each balcony offers more than worthy views of not only the temple grounds but the surrounding city and mountains.

The Jade Buddha Temple is another ornate experience and both levels house a huge figure of Buddha carved from gigantic pieces of jade shipped all the way from Myanmar a billion years ago (I actually forgot to take a photo of the information plaque) and for reclining Buddha fans such as myself, head directly to the second floor as she’s a real beauty. Along with several other huge Buddha statues within the temple grounds can also be found an eighteen meter high statue of Vairocana that weighs over twenty tons along with the two fifteen meter high companion statues in the Hall of the Three Sages of Huayan.

During my peaceful walk around the grounds I ran into American Mary who like me has been teaching in China for around six years but she has spent the last five in Beijing city. She was actually a guest of the Fuzhou Education Department as was being shown around the city by two lovely City Leaders. After visiting several buildings together they had to race off for a big dinner and I continued on my slow walk until the sun scampered elsewhere warmer for the night.

Today (Friday 28th) I was supposed to head north a few hours up the coast but woke with a hangover from too many Becks Beers for my nieces 18th Birthday. They were out on a Bar Hop so I decided to join them with a few too many beers and text. It was the best party I’ve never actually been too…until this morning, then it became just like all other party &#8216;morning afters’. When I woke to rise and kind of shine it was raining, cold and windy so what else does one do when they are hung over on such a day?

Go down stairs, pay for another night and sleep the day away. Hope you had the best night Freaky Chic! Beers N Noodles toya…..shane __________________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by the awesome Living Colour.

The album was the Japanese release of &#8216;Biscuits’ which took me forever to find, but with a million funky extra’s on it, it was well worth the wait. __________________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Walk Through Three Lanes & Around West Lake

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

New cameras hey, so many buttons and dials. Then add all of the choices you get when you push or turn any of them.

I headed back to the camera store ready to purchase the Canon Powershot 15X wide angle lens and just as Yan Dan (beautiful camera girl) was ringing up the total I spotted the Fuji cameras so I asked her to give me a few extra minutes. Many years ago when I was walking around happy snapping with manual film in Australia and on my year stint travelling around Asia I always used Fuji film as it always gave me what I thought were the clearest shots available and I like green more than yellow.

And there she was! The one I’d been reading about, the Fuji FinePix 305 EXR beauty. Complete with a 15X wide angle lens and the latest 360 degrees panoramic function.

So began the re-bargaining and in the end I got almost a thousand Yuan off and had them throw in an extra battery along with an eight gig SD Card. As I take so many photos and travel so much each year I’m sure that people expected me to begin walking around with one of those huge and clanky billion foot lens things that you see hanging around many tourists necks. Yes I’m sure they are amazing but they just don’t fit in a pocket now do they so they are impossible to take on a bike ride out in the hills and rice fields or into a classroom filled with seventy primary school students.

Add to that the worry one must have about it being stolen or broken. So how did BabyFuji and I get along today?

Not too well to be honest, by mid afternoon I was ready to abandon her on a street corner or the nearest bin. I now have all of these functions and a menu full of 'stuff’ I have no idea about such as shutter speed, aperture, high ISO and low Noise or low ISO and high noise. I know my camera beeps but I can’t hear it make any other noise and anyhow, how does noise affect a still photo? I just don’t get it. I spent most of the day wasting the first battery staring into the screen and changing this and that trying to figure out what the hell all of the above meant and still found many shots too dark or light. Then there was the AUTO function which I found needed to be kicked in the guts. Thankfully as the sun was setting and my patience was wearing thin I met an elderly Chinese guy who had the same camera and he seemed to be in a great mood trotting from here to there taking shots and smiling at them in the crystal clear viewing screen.

So I moved a little closer and acted surprised when I saw his camera.

He knew some English and after I told him about my troubles and that I believed my auto function was broken he laughed and said &#8216;No, No, No, the auto function not real on the EXR cameras. You must use the EXR function as that is the real auto function. Well why didn’t I think of that? Anyhow we began taking some photos together and happily using the EXR function they were identical, except for the fact that many of mine were tilted to one side Eddakath style. This made him laugh and he began doing the same but instead of just tilting the camera he leaned his entire body to one side which confused many people around us.

Anyhow, now you know how Photographically Challenged I am so enough of that.

Most of today’s photos were taken long before I knew what the EXR function was and with the wrong functions and &#8216;stuff’ so most were not what I was expecting from my new camera at the end of the day. A bit of blue in the sky would also have helped soften my entry into the world of &#8216;real cameras’ with their confusing buttons, dials and menus full of even more choices.

<u>SO WHAT DID I DO & WHERE DID I GO TODAY?</u>

<u>West Lake Park </u>

On my map there is a big green patch with the words West Lake written on it. For me, that’s more than enough of an invitation.

Here in China most big cities have a West Lake (named after the Garden of Eden found in Hangzhou city) and you can usually count on them being very peaceful and beautiful where you can spend countless hours walking with your head in the clouds, your arm around your peachy squeeze and a finger on your camera button.

On the way I realised that Fuzhou drivers, especially those riding scooters would have to be the most ferocious I’ve come up against on a footpath. Seriously, they ride in a zig zag manner as they have only one hand on the handlebars due to the fact that their other hand is glued to their mobile phone which needs surgery for it to be removed from their ear. As there are hundreds of them together at red lights I often find myself looking around for William Wallace riding his scooter back and forth before them gearing them up for their battle with the actual owners of the footpath…the pedestrians!

Situated in the northwest of Fuzhou, West Lake Park was first created over one thousand seven hundred years ago. Over the centuries it has been reconstructed and expanded many times but most of what is seen today (over thirty hectares) was planned and created by order of Lin Zexu who was a national hero during the Qing Dynasty.

<u>Three Lanes & Seven Alleys</u>

On the way to West Lake Park I literally stumbled upon this amazing area of history. I was walking along a busy shopping street and I found what I was looking for, a small alley way leading behind all the hustle and bustle of the modern day facades so I began walking and taking photos of the old architecture and I then came across one of the three lane ways that had been fully restored and was filled with tourists just like West Street in Yangshuo.

The first thing I did was find someone from the younger generation to ask where I was and they led me to a board that had the details of the huge project that was still underway. I spent the next several hours walking to and fro down each of the lanes and alleys and in and out of many of the restored homes and headed back there on my journey back down to the Min River shopping district after I left West Lake.

This is why I walk everywhere and I don’t need to tell you that I was in heaven! Below is some information I found on the internet on the area.

In the heart of downtown Fuzhou, instead of skyscrapers, you will find a large area of ancient residential buildings, which is a rarity in modern Chinese cities. This area is known as Sanfang Qixiang, literally, ''three lanes and seven alleys'' a critical symbol of Fuzhou as a historic city.

The district was first shaped in the late Western Jin Dynasty and during the Song dynasty.

The area was home to many scholar-bureaucrats and wealthy gentry and it prospered during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, especially in the middle Qing Dynasty when "Three Lanes and Seven Alleys" first appeared in local history. There are about one hundred and fifty ancient houses with complete courtyards and all are under some measure of heritage protection.

The history of Sanfang Qixiang's houses is in the very walls.

The huge bricks are unknown in modern structures and if you look at them closely you will see tiny seashells embedded in them with the sand that was collected on the beaches to make the bricks. Also characteristic of the district is the north-south orientation of the dividing walls, the green-gray tiled roofs, the white walls and the twisting, bluestone-paved laneways. Unlike other houses in China, which have a flexible layout, the dwellings of Sanfang Qixiang are symmetrically built around a central north-south axis. Covering an area of about forty hectares, Sanfang Qixiang is regarded by many experts as a museum of Ming and Qing dynasty architecture.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: The guy in the photo holding his hands in the air is Yang Wen Ming.

I met him just around the corner from my hotel where is was busking for money to continue his university studies as he is from a very poor Miao Peoples Village near Kali City in Guizhou Province where I spent one month of my summer holidays sleeping in and visiting many rural Miao Peoples Villages.

When I met him he was writing on the footpath in both Chinese and English the reasons why he was busking in Fuzhou city so we met a few hours later and I took him for his first hearty feed in a few weeks, some beer and some good conversation and left him a healthy donation towards his education. ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Chemical Brothers The album was &#8216;Live at The Social’. ____________________________________________________________

Three Lanes &#38;amp; West Lake Adventure

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Min River & The Opposing Pagodas

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Unless you are en route to Wuyi Shan, Fuzhou city can be safely skirted (LP).

With over two thousand years of history which includes me for a single day so far I can honestly say that I am more than sure that I will happily prove the Lonely Planet writer wrong once again. When I say this I mean no disrespect, I just find that when there are other destinations such as Wuyi Shan and Xiamen close by to a city/hub such as Fuzhou then most guide book writers usually tend to do what most travellers do, stay one or two nights en route to the more popular destination.

But hey, I have plenty of time to spare and I love Fujian cuisine so I’ll stay awhile! So I guess most of you are asking the same question. Where in the world is Fuzhou city?

Situated in the lower reaches of the Min River can be found the very vibrant city of Fuzhou which is also the capital of Fujian Province. Fuzhou is Fujian’s economic center as well as its center for politics, culture and transportation and was named after Mt Fu which is found to the north of the city. It is known locally as Rong Cheng City which means Banyan City as during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) many banyan trees were planted which now provide shade for most of the city’s inhabitants during the long humid summer months.

During the winter months it is renowned for the best hot springs Fujian has to offer.

After talking to many locals I was surprised with their honesty that the city’s cultural sites are not as overwhelming as many of the other top attractions and cities in China, but the one thing they do agree on and are proud of is the dazzling array of local dishes and snacks that are available on along every street and on every street corner which is something that the Lonely Planet seems to totally disagree with.

Fuzhou is both an historic and cultural city with over two thousand years of history.

From the Tang Dynasty (618-907) through to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) there were thousands of Jinshi (successful candidates in the highest imperial examinations) from Fuzhou. Many celebrated figures through Chinese history have also hailed from the land of Fuzhou and due to its long and flourishing history there are many arts related industries to be found here which include the Three Treasures of Fuzhou (lacquer work, stone sculpting and cork cutting) along with a featured dining culture and also traditional arts such as the famous Min Opera.

<u>The Journey Here & What I’ve Found So Far</u>

When I arrived at the Shaowu bus station yesterday morning I found Beer Man waiting for me and after a five and a half hour journey we said our good byes at the north bus station and I caught a taxi down to the south bus station area where I have been told the more vibrant part of the city is to be found. After checking out several over priced hotels I met an elderly gentleman who took me to his friends hotel which ended up being the Small Hilton Hotel found in the Lonely Planet Guide where I got a great room rate for the next four nights.

In fact there are actually two Small Hilton Hotels found directly opposite each other. Both offer the same rates and small yet very comfortable rooms.

Today I spent my day checking out the cities internal sites and around the time the sun was departing my world I slowly made my way down Bayiqi Road to see what the Min River had to offer and what I found was a nice surprise. Most of the walk was pretty lame but at the river I found a huge and bustling shopping district that offered a large variety of stores along with plenty of eateries and small lanes filled with snacks.

Here I also luckily found a camera store! Today my main battery for my Nokia N95 phone/camera died.

Yes all the photos found on my blog since 2007 have been taken with a simple five megapixel phone camera. Now I think it is time to leave the Nokia in my pocket and use it only for calls and texts and fork out some money on what is known as a real camera. I want to go 'all the way’ and get one of those cameras you see hanging around most Japanese and Chinese tourists necks with a huge one billion foot long camera lens.

But I know I’d never use it as I’d have no way of putting it into my pocket.

I’ve been talking to Loss’s father Stephen off and on about what to buy and I’d love to purchase his favourite Happy Snapper the Lumix LX5 but I even find this one a little too bulky for my liking so I’m sure I am going to end up with a CoolPix, a Powershot or something along the more thinner side of things. What I’d really be happy with is a camera phone such as the Nokia N95 that has a good zoom lens that is built in or that can be attached then I’d still have my phone, camera and MP3 all in one.

But life is not that easy when it comes to expenditure and commodities. Keep them separate as then the rich continue to get richer and we keep spending to allow.

<u>The Opposing Pagodas</u>

The White (Bai Ta) and Black Pagodas (Wu Ta) are the main known features of Fuzhou.

The White pagoda (built in 904) stands on the western slope of the Jade Hill Scenic Area (Yu Hill) and has been an attraction since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Its original name was Ding Guang Ta (Pagoda of Eternal Brightness) and it is forty one meters high, seven tiered, octagonal and white in color, hence its name.

At the foot of Jade Hill can be found the remains of the city wall (which once boasted seven gates) along with a huge statue of everybody’s favourite center piece, Chairman Mao.

Found a short walk to the west is what was once known as Chong Miao Bao Sheng Nian Lao Ta (Pagoda of Wisdom, Sacredness and Solidity) is thankfully now known simply as The Black Pagoda, so named because it stands on the southern slope of Black Rock Hill (Wu Shan) and is the little brother to the White Pagoda as it as it stands at thirty one meters in height, is also seven tiered and octagonal in shape.

If you have time for only one of the above I’d choose a walk on Black Rock Hill.

<u>River Min, </u>

Being the largest river in Fujian, the Min River is also the emblem of the province. Starting from the Wuyi Mountains, it is almost three thousand kilometers in length and flow’s over sixty thousand eight hundred square kilometers which is almost half of the entire province. It passes through the western part of Fuzhou where it cuts through a large valley near Min'an before feeding into the East Sea and for most of its journey it is lined by lush green hills and is famous for scenic beauty.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane _________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Enigma The album was &#8216;a shuffle of Enigma 1,2,3 & 4’ _________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

A Black N White Wuyishan Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

How long does it take an Englishman, a Frechlass, two American’s and one Aussieroo to take a two hour bus ride from Shaowu city to Wuyi Mountain in the far north west of Fujian Province? Believe it or not, due to hangovers, much wasted time and the purchasing of future train tickets to make sure of plans over the Chinese New Year it actually took two days for us to finally reach Wuyishan just as the sun was bidding us a teeth chattering goodnight.

All the while I was left shaking my head in bewilderment!

When an Englishman, a Frenchlass, two American’s and one Aussieroo arrive in Wuyishan and go in search of a hotel for several nights, how many passports do you think were readily available for check in? You would think five, between us we had two but after being turned away by a handful of reception desks we finally found one that would accept us with copies of Visa’s and Passports that thankfully were printed from emails five minutes later.

When you travel in China (or Asia for that matter) you MUST have your passport! Thankfully all settled down and soon after the BBQ was sizzling and the beer was flowing.

<u>SO WHY BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS?</u>

As I’ve been to Wuyishan many times in the three years I’ve lived off and on in Shaowu city, each time I have visited with different people and taken them on the same trails so this time I thought I would do things differently when it came to my photos. In all my years of clicking a camera, travelling and capturing 'moments frozen in time’ for future memories I have not once ever taken a single black and white photo. The fact is black and white photography has never really interested me that much I think mainly due to its rarity and expressed difficultness from other happy snappers.

Several months ago I found the black and white function on my Nokia N95 camera/phone and decided to give it a go and the results were horribly boring which is why on each of my daily walks in and around the city I made myself take at least five of them. I soon noticed that in a world that emphasises colour there is a different world to be seen when taken in black and white. Black and white offers an old world charm type feel and seems to accentuate the depth of the photograph. I’m not saying my photos will do this for you but for me (because they are taken of my reality) they have offered me a way to look at the world I live in a completely different fashion.

This visit to Wuyishan I tried to remember where I took many of my previous photos so I could then compare them and see if I liked the results and though they’ll never reach Black & White magazine I’m still pretty happy with them and I’ve also done a Facebook album of my favourite black and white photos from the past few months bike rides, walks and this visit to Wuyishan..

To read about and compare this visits photos to my last &#8216;colourful’ visit click here; <u>Another Wonderful Adventure at Wuyishan</u> Beers N Noodles toya…..shane Nest stop Fuzhou city down on the warm Fujian coastline! _________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Sheryl Crow The album was &#8216;The Best Of’. _________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)