Sunday, January 17, 2010

How many words IS a picture worth?

I return from the pub, with my ears rendered pink from either the cold air (snow's gone, chilling winter breeze has not) or the cheap pints of generic beer, and a hankering to write something down. Anything. Read others' blog posts. Decide all are on a superior level/on a topic I know little about. Google "blog post inspiration" (geek alert). Find THIS WEBSITE, complete with amazing ideas ("Host a Carnival") and just plain grim ones ("Write your own Epitaph"). Settle upon "put iTunes on shuffle and say what a random song reminds you of".

But that's pretty pedestrian, so as a variant, I scrolled around my iPhoto on random and decided to type what I can about the first photo I laid my cursor on with my eyes shut. This one:

Now watch me type about this photo until I run out of words. Or (more likely) before the beer high runs out and I just want to sleep/watch Peep Show until tiredness bitchslaps me onto the bed. Chances are I'll make a liar out of Fred R Barnard.

Firstly, I'm rather glad this picture came out of my oh-so-logical photo-picking process. While there are many photos of which I am more proud of, there are also a myriad more that I would probably have just ignored and not put up here. Like the picture of the pavement a mere couple of page scrolls up.
Secondly, this was taken during this leg of my Gap Year. Rubbish blog post though, it was just my lazy copy and paste from a Facebook message. Now I'll stop padding and start describing.

This is the view from a bridge overlooking the main river that runs through in Guilin, Guangxi province, south China. Though you couldn't tell from this photo, February 2008 was at the time the worst winter China had seen for some 50 years. Initially my little group of culture-shocked young'uns (so alien a situation to be in, where I was the oldest and most mature! Pity these kids people. Pity and fear for them) and I had intended to fly into Guangzhou first before making our way up the South West but changed our flights to arrive in Guilin instead. Mere days before we had been advised that the airport was crippled by snow (think England two weeks ago), that flights were sporadic and that people were sleeping in the airport trying to get transportation in or out. We learned this was the case from fellow travellers later on. So on balance I think we made the right decision!

The city of Guilin itself is very modern, to the point of feeling rather artificial. The main road through the city is highly modern, stone paved, very wide and exceedingly clean. Unlike some parts of China, people actually use the rubbish bins! One suspects cynically (and probably accurately) that all is catered specifically for a tourist crowd. Indeed the main features of Guilin are its proximity to other popular locations, its two bus/train stations and the province's airport. Yet the shops are irrefutably Chinese. The stalls selling lamps, stamps, prints and other paraphenalia are clean and look newly built, where you would expect and hope for signs of use, quaint indicators of tradition and loving patches of repair.

The photo itself is from an unfortunate section of the river from an anecdotal point of view. Further down the river are the famed 'Two Pagodas', publicised in all the travel guides and subject of many of the city's postcards. What they don't tell you is that they, like the rest of Guilin, look distinctly younger than 10 years old, either newly built or ruthlessly reconstructed. Continue along the other side of the bridge and you hit a section where the banks have small stone sculpture or elaborate murals on the walls, again very recent but very beautiful to look at, and very Chinese. Photogenic insertions for the cameras of tourists no doubt, but this only slightly detracts from their elegance.

The bright colours result from the combination of my desire to experiment with my camera's light settings (water + bright lights + little movement = pretty pictures, don't you know) and the slightly garish garden lights placed along the riverbank. Even the riverbanks have wide stone pavements, which make them ideal for strolling along but again, having sought a more 'genuine' experience, this was disappointing. In the background is a brightly lit building, I suspect from a commercial district, being as it is surrounded by other such buildings. You can see for yourself how clinically perfect the trees look, how symmetrically trimmed the shrubberies, how clean the pathways are and even the street vendor looks like his equipment was newly issued. All in all, Guilin is a beautiful place, but beautiful in the sense of a well designed new car rather than the rustic snapshot of China we had desired, though we were to be later satisfied on that later on that trip.


And there we have it folks. Again, you'll forgive the lack of editing, the waffly and cliched writing and the self-indulgence. It also appears to me that I haven't spent much time talking about the actual photo. I'm not sure this post will survive the night and suspect I'll put it out of its misery tomorrow in the cold light of day. Night night!

10 Response to How many words IS a picture worth?

17 January 2010 at 02:37

That's a very beautiful photograph...I absolutely love the colors :)

17 January 2010 at 14:22

Don't delete this post! I loved it! I love, love, love the way you write. And the picture is beautiful.

17 January 2010 at 20:47

not to make you blush again, but i really enjoyed this post. you describe what you see so matter-of-factly, yet somehow beautifully as well. keep the post up :)

18 January 2010 at 03:49

Whooooa, I love that photo.

18 January 2010 at 15:57

That is a great photo! I love the colours :)

18 January 2010 at 21:14


19 January 2010 at 20:01

GORGEOUS photo! Those colors are spectacular!

19 January 2010 at 23:34

I love how you can write on such a random topic. I wish I had the patience/inspiration to do this!

20 January 2010 at 01:13

So the general concensus is mainly that the picture rocks? I'll take whatever I can get, muhaha! Thanks everyone for your kind words (Steph, Alex and Sassy esp) and Sassy? More like patience/tipsy inclination to write SOMETHING :P

3 February 2010 at 07:44

I also spent the latter half of Avatar squirming in my seat :)