Flowers on the trees

At first, I thought they were flowers on the trees, but it’s loquat fruit (枇杷), wrapped with tiny bags to protect against birds and insects. You see these trees like this all over Xiangshan County. In Suzhou, people use huge nets for the loquat trees.

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Next to the highway

Shepan (蛇蟠乡) is so small that even though it’s next to a highway, its exit is named after the service station — not the town itself. There are some boats, plenty of fantastic seafood restaurants, and a muddy shore full of tiny crabs, razor shells, and mudfish. I somehow love this place.

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Quarries in the mountain

Wushan Grottoes (伍山石窟) on the border of Ninghai (宁海), a recommendation from Ash. It feels like I’m walking in some kind of MacOS wallpaper. Some of these quarries were dug over a millennium ago, and people worked here to mine stone slaps even some 70 years ago. It’s crazy the work that has gone into […]

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On the edge of Zhejiang

We’ve been to Zhejiang so many times, but always inland. So whatever Zhejiang means in my head — mountains, tunnels, water reservoirs and more — it feels similar here but different. We’re in Xiangshan (象山县), a peninsula east of the province, bordering the East China Sea. As soon as we cross the bridge onto the […]

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To walk is to learn

Bugs fly around my head and in front of my phone, disrupting its auto-focus function. To get a sharp picture, I need to wave my hand to chase them away, then quickly take a shot before they return. With Harry den Hartog, I’m walking the Pingwang Line (平王线), a 45-minute drive out of Shaoxing. It’s a […]

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Coins on the roof and a hole in my jacket

Are you allowed to have fun in temples? Nanchan temple (南禅寺) in Wuxi today. People are trying to throw coins into the incense burner, or onto the top or second roof. If your coin lands on the roof, there’s a good chance it’ll come sliding down, taking more coins with it, so if you start […]

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Alone in the mountains with my mind

Five years ago I was also in Wuxi (无锡), on the same peninsula that sits in between two north bays of Taihu Lake (太湖). But five years ago, I just went here because I looked at Google Maps, saw a green patch and figured there’d be some nature. I couldn’t speak or read Chinese, didn’t […]

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Is China scary? A look at mundane life

When I was back in the Netherlands last month, one thing I often heard was that people see China as a scary country. And I don’t want this to be some justification for all of China’s flaws — nor whether you should agree with it. If you’re a journalist, China can be scary — but […]

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How to survive in a Chinese company

I’ve now been working in Shanghai for over 5 years, and 14 months in a Chinese company using Mandarin as the main working language. So here I list the lessons I took from the past year — many things I should have done better, or things I’ve seen happen in other companies through stories from […]

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Searching for a wall

We walked the entire circumference of the old city wall (South-, West-, North- and East Gate Road), but found not a single brick or remnant — except for names and roads that still follow its former shape: a square around the city of Chengqiao Town (城桥镇). Actually, Chengqiao is still often called South Gate (南门) […]

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