Claire in China, Photography, travel

Monkey Mountain – Walking in Lianyungang, China

Hey everyone!

I’ve been slacking and I apologise.

I finally got WiFi at home yesterday which means I can actually use the internet again. It’s been almost impossible to get online outside of Starbucks, and trying to blog has been a nightmare. I promise I’ll do my best to update regularly again, and I still have a Shanghai post to do ASAP.

So! Today, my friend Dean and I went on his bike to a mountain called HuaGuoShan (花果山) which doesn’t translate to monkey mountain, but that’s it’s English name, apparently.

It was warm by 8:30am and as we drove through this deserted city, looking around at empty buildings and flat land, we kinda knew it was going to be a good day!

The drive was less than 20 minutes and our first view was a small pagoda in the middle of a lake, then suddenly we realised we’d arrived at the base of the mountain.

You could feed Koi Carp with a baby bottle, buy toy monkeys and strange rainbow hats! The ticket cost ¥100 (£10) for Dean, but free for me because I have a ‘tourist card’ #winning

And we saw little goats too!

We couldn’t take the bike through so we started walking, both claiming how unfit we were and that we’d never make it too far. Oh boy did we prove ourselves wrong!

First stop ✋🏻 we had to take photos, of course

We decided to take the 349 steps up, because why take a bus when you’ve only just arrived – right? They nearly killed us! Or so we thought.

We came across mini pagodas, look out towers, blossom everywhere! And, wait, even. more. stairs.

The views were unbelievably beautiful and we knew the more we walked, the more amazing it would be. We met people along the way who wanted take selfies with us, with their kids, they were videoing us or chatting. It was lovely! One old guy was RUNNING up these stairs, encouraging others to ‘keep going’ and he was telling us how we had to go to this temple because it had thousands of years of history, so we joined him. And found monkeyyyyyys!!!

Dean was desperate to find the waterfall, so we kept on walking to reach it, stopping only very briefly to catch our breaths. Everything we passed was fantastic and so interesting! The waterfall was a welcoming sight though as we could walk (err, run!) under it and cool off

(And then go through this awesome underground tunnel – very dark, full of water and Dean nearly knocked himself out because the walls were so low!)

More monkeys, pagodas, caves and an insane view followed as we tried to make our way down the mountain! We met these adorable children and their parents who wanted to take photos with us! And we met them a further 3 times after that. They kept calling us ‘a yi’ and ‘shushu’ which mean auntie and uncle, usually just a form or respect for any man or woman older than you. It was so sweet. I just wanted to hug them all.

You’d think coming down the mountain was easy right? Hell no. We were both struggling with bad knees, leg cramps… we were like a super old, injured pair! It must’ve been quite funny to watch. But, we made it! It was 30°C and pretty clear skies, not much pollution over the mountain which made it even hotter. For some reason Dean wore jeans, I was smart and wore running gear!

Once we hit the bottom of the mountain we slowly wandered back to the bike, and decided we both deserved food and beer – at my favourite Taiwanese restaurant.


We drove back through the empty city and on the way saw an awesome fountain!! So of course we had to pull over and we discovered a beautiful, enormous local park!

Although we could barely stand up, pulling up outside the restaurant felt like arriving at the gates of heaven! (Okay, slightly dramatic but I really thought I was going to pass out!) food, beer and coffee went down extremely well and after 5 hours of walking, we absolutely deserved it.

I’m obviously now waiting for my six pack to suddenly appear, and have been extremely healthy all day. I can only hope I do the same tomorrow but I almost know that I won’t.

Apologies again for not updating sooner, I hope you at least enjoy this post!

Lots of love xo

Photography, travel

Holiday resumed. Tuesday in Taipei City.

Last night was one of the most solid sleeps I’ve had in 13 days since arriving in Taipei. Five and a half hours of solid, peaceful sleep. Only to be jolted awake with stabbing pains in my stomach, but hey ho! This is the life of (suspected) endo! Anyway, this is not about my pains and what-nots today. This is a positive, happy, vibe-y post about how much I love my life at the moment. Read along!

Stunning morning in TianMu

How should you spend a day in Taipei? Well, I started my day by talking to my favourite person, just as he was going to bed on the other side of the world, and headed off to uni with my sister as she returned her graduation gown and hat – exciting times ahead for the newly graduated! 

Moving out day at NTNU – great memories of my student days!
Beautiful art on the walls outside NTNU

We wanted to grab smoothies from a place called Vegg Out, on ShiDa road, but when we arrived it was completely packed and the queue was to the door. 

Instead, I took my sister to Ooh Cha Cha, one of the coolest cafes I’ve ever been to, and totally vegan! Located on NanChang Road, just a few minutes walk from Guting MRT station, this small cafe serves plant-based meals from Chickpea Smash on Sourdough, to a range of burgers to salad and hummus bowls. They are absolutely delicious and go perfectly with any of the yummy smoothies they make too, my favourite being the Acai Twist! 

Falafel burger, hummus beet bowl and orange juice

From here my sister and I walked around the corner to catch the 278 bus towards the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, in XinYi district (only a 20 minute walk to Taipei 101), and on our way there we stopped at ICE MONSTER for mini ice lollies that cost us NT$30 each. 

Mango and strawberry lollies

They were actually pretty cute and in 36°C and 87% humidity, we needed that cool-down to keep us going! We also had a quick pit-stop at the Hello Kitty shop where we snacked on typical Taiwanese pineapple cakes, and mini waffles!

Hello Kitty, we love you!

The park has some beautiful, quaint little cafes and temple-style shelters scattered around, vending machines and rubbish bins, making it a lovely place to visit as it’s peaceful and extremely clean. 

The Eslite building is fantastic and absolutely not to be missed. With four floors of souvenirs, handmade gifts, stationery, teas, candles, clothing and so much more! You must spend some time here. One of my favourite discoveries of my holiday was made here today. 

A pop-up shop of Cafe Solé serving pour over coffee from Taiwan’s A Li mountain (阿里山) – for NT$130 not only did I receive nearly two cups of coffee, but I watched this amazing barista grind the beans and filter the coffee in front of me, letting me smell the coffee throughout the stages. For a coffee obsessor like me, it was wonderful! And delicious coffee as well. 

After an hour or so of wandering through the individual stalls, we began walking to Taipei 101, stopping st various points along the way to take silly photos, or in most cases, stop at the dreaded traffic lights! 

Meimei 妹妹
Jiejie 姐姐

We ended up at Street Churros, which considering how many issues I have with my stomach, I definitely should not have eaten, they were absolutely amazing! Hot churros with dark chocolate dipping sauce… is there anything better?! 

Followed by a little wander through ATT4Fun mall and looked at all the clothes, trying them on, then putting them back as we certainly couldn’t afford them. 

As my feet blistered and head throbbed from lack of water today, we made our way home on the MRT. (Taking a few photo booth snapshots before we left) 

Oh my god. That cold shower was the best welcome home after being on my feet for 9 hours, and I spent the evening eating rice cakes and watching Shanghai Noon with my little sister. 

Feeling very grateful for having such a wonderful, positive day.

Taipei, I love you.

Photography, travel

Taipei’s diamond in the sky.

Since the evening that I arrived in Taipei, four days ago, the 101 has been completed engulfed in clouds and rain, making it invisible from a distance. 

As the clouds finally began to break this morning, and I found myself walking alongside the beautiful Da’An park I suddenly saw, from a great distance, and down the middle of the dual carriageway, the 101 in between a collection of buildings.

There she was. Clear as day, staring at me down the middle of the roads. And what a wonderful feeling that was too, to see one of the most outstanding buildings in the world right in front of me.


My life in photographs


If there’s one thing that truly makes me happy is a perfect picture. Maybe not perfect in terms of light or surrounding, but when you look at it and think, that sums up how I felt at that moment.

Instant photos are my favourites because even if you’re posing for them, it’s like capturing a moment forever, in print. However, it’s a magical feeling when you take tens or even hundreds of pictures of the same scene, item or person and you finally find that one amazing photo.