Visiting Gaoyou, some 750 years after Marco Polo

The road and canal from Beijing to Nanjing used to have 46 post stations, and the 14th-century Yucheng station (盂城驿) in Gaoyou (高邮) is the best preserved one. This was for passing on letters as much as for letting the riders, boatmen, and horses rest. The station with its halls gives a great look back […]

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Where to travel in Shanghai

This question pops up now and then on Reddit and Twitter, and I’ve no plans to fill this blog with travel advice — listing the top ten restaurants or hotels in Shanghai — but I did start to wonder for myself, what places I’d advise to friends coming over to Shanghai for a visit. First, […]

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Starbucksification of old streets

Häagen-Dazs on the left, Starbucks on the right. Big brands are now also coming for these old streets in tier 2 cities, such as Wuxi’s Nanchang Street (南长街), at the cost of local character and diversity. Peet’s, Manner, M Stand, Hey Tea, Dairy Queen, Manner, DJI, and even Xiaomi and DJI. A Luckin is under […]

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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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My Chinese learning journey (update March 2024)

In the summer of 2018, I moved to Shanghai and back then I only planned to stay maybe two years in China, so I didn’t consider it necessary to learn Chinese. In Shanghai, it’s OK to get by without speaking Mandarin. You either point at pictures or show the translated sentence on your phone. For […]

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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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Up the Yangtze

When flying back from the Netherlands to China, I watched ‘Up the Yangtze’ from 2007. It’s not a masterpiece but precious video material from China two decades ago. (And I’m always looking for more film material from the 90s and 00s.) The documentary follows several stories — the main focus being a poor Chinese family […]

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Along the IJssel

Cycling with my brother from our hometown to Kampen and back, along the river the IJssel — which in this season has flooded the summer dikes and is held by the winter dikes. Such a long bicycle ride with my brother is always one of my favorite things to do when back home. 46 kilometers […]

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Chinese New Year banners

I love the Chinese tradition of hanging up New Year Banners (春联). For me (and I guess for many) it’s not really about bringing fortune or warding off evil spirits. It’s more the signal of a season, to take part in something familiar that unites you with your past, as well as so many homes […]

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