A travel and photography blog by Loke Chee Meng
About the title shot :
In the autumn of 2009, I found Little Bugsie, of all places, on a toilet sink in the Days Landscape Hotel located at the foot of Changbaishan, Jilin, China. I invited Bugsie into the room. I gave it the 'red carpet' welcome and took the shot above with a Panasonic DMC-LX3.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Xiapu, the most beautiful mudflats in China and maybe in the world

As I walked out of the Xiapu train station one early afternoon in the spring of 2014, my guide Xiao Zhang, immediately identified me from amongst the throng even though we had never met before. Later, he told me he was able to do so because of my dressing.  I took that as a compliment because I was putting on a Northface windbreaker with a Lowepro backpack on my back.

(Learning point #1 – Be alert, Singaporeans do stand out amongst the Chinese.)

Xiapu, the 'city', is the county city of the coastal Xiapu 'county' located at the northeastern end of the Fujian province in China.  Dotting the coast of the county are numerous  fishing villages and mudflats that are reputedly the most beautiful in China if not the world.

It was a cold spring and the weather along the eastern coast of China was foggy and rainy.  Xiao Zhang told me that our itinerary for the next few days would have to be adjusted according to the weather and the tide.

(Learning point #2 – The best period to shoot the mudflats is the few days around the 15th of lunar month.)

(Learning point #3 – It is important to get a guide that understands photography and adjust the itinerary according to weather and tide best suited for shooting.)

That afternoon we started shooting at the XiaQingShan bridge.  This is a long concrete bridge straddling across the bay with scarcely any traffic. But one needs to be alert of the occasional speeding vehicles.  Below the bridge on both sides are fish and oyster farms.  From that location, one can shoot sunrise, sunset as well as moonrise. As it was a foggy day, the shots that I took of fishing boats and poles look better in B&W. I went back two days later for my sunset and moonrise shots.  Yes, moonrise.  This was possible because the bridge runs from north to south.

Shot from Xiaqinqshan bridge

Sunset at Xiaqingshan bridge
Scheduled departure time for D2 was 6 am. The high point of a photo shoot at YangJiaXia must the classic staged shot of the silhouetted farmer and his buffalo under the old Banyan trees with the sun ray piercing thru’ the tree top.

But it was drizzling that morning. So, no farmer, no buffalo and no sun ray for me; only the old Banyan tree.  Nevertheless, we proceeded to Yangjiaxi hoping to catch the mist floating on the river.  Yangjiaxi means the Yang family’s brook, so named as it was the place where the legendary Yang family female warriors of the Sung dynasty once stayed. The walk along the brook that morning was refreshing and serene.

The morning mist of Yangjiaxi
As it would take place everyday over the duration of the trip, the morning shooting session would start at 5 or 6 am, then return to the hotel just in time to catch breakfast.  The afternoon session would start at 2 or 3 pm and return to hotel after the sunset shoot.  It’s siesta from 10 am to 2 pm.

The next day, Xiao Zhang checked the weather forecast and the tide before we set off for the sunrise shoot at Huaju. He would do that every time before we set off.  We were quite happy because we could also see the stars that morning.  On reaching Huaju, we climbed a little slope in the dark and found a good niche to position ourselves for the much anticipated sunrise shoot.  But alas, the sky never seemed to brighten up and soon it opened up.  That morning was a total washout.  I did return to Huaju another day and got the following shot.

Sunrise at Huaju
The afternoon was a saving grace.  The following shot was taken on the rooftop of a school in Shajiang.  This view has been the subject of many prize winning shots by photographers.

The famous S-curve at Shajiang
Everyday we would start with a sunrise shoot and end with a sunset shoot.  By the sixth day, I had difficult remembering the name of the places I had been to. Fortunately, everything was captured on ‘film’ or more appropriately, in bits and bytes.

The afternoon sessions at Xiaohao East and Xiaohao West saw some very good subjects.  At Xiaohao East, I managed to capture some interesting patterns of the mudflat.  The contrast would have been better if there there had been more sunlight.  As a matter of fact, the mudflats produced a lot of interesting patterns.

Mudflat at Xiaohao East
At Xiaohao West, I got onto free rides of the staged shootings of other groups.  I told Xiao Zhang that the next time I come, I would like to have my own staged shootings so that I can get close-up shots.  But the free rides were nevertheless quite interesting subjects.

Fishermen on the mudflat at Xiaohao West
Soon came the sixth day with a morning shoot at Beiqi.  At noon, I left Xiapu on a bus to Fuzhou.  I told Xiao Zhang, I shall return. 

Morning at Beiqi
Most of the shots of the mudflats, sunrise and sunset were taken from high vantage points such as rooftop of buildings and the hillsides.

(Learning point #4 – A telephoto lens of at least 300 mm is a must.)

(Learning point #5 - Try to get a guide who is a photographer who knows what makes a good subject.  There are many guides in Xiapu who are not photographers.  Xiao Zhang's father is a well-known photographer in Xiapu.)

(Learning point #6 – Never go on a photo trip in Xiapu without a reliable local guide.  You will never be able to find and access those vantage points.)

(Learning point #7 – Last but not least, Xiapu is a great place for photographers but not much of a place for holiday makers and non-photographers.)

In August, 2014, I returned to Xiapu for another shoot.

Getting there and away:

I took a train from Hangzhou in Zhejiang to Xiapu.  The county of Xiapu in Fujian province is just next to Zhejiang.  The train journey was about 4 hours long.  I left Xiapu by taking a bus to Fuzhou.  The bus journey took about 2 hours.  I could have taken the train from Xiapu to Fuzhou but did not do so because the Fuzhou train station is quite far away from the city.  


  1. Wow! I just loved the clouds formation in photos "Sunrise at Huaju" and "Morning at Beiqi". In fact, the "Morning Mist at Yangjiaxi" is beautiful too with the reflections of the hills.

  2. Hello, Do you mind sharing the contact of Xiao Zhang? My email: suhai19@yahoo.com