A glimpse of yunnan

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We visited Yunnan, the mountainous province in far south-west of China, between Sichuan, Tibet and Burma. We enjoyed the Tibetan towns but kept hiking to a minimum with our toddlers.

Travel; We made one mistake though, we flew from Chengdu to Deqen (shangri-la airport) and after a few days took the bus downhill to Lijiang and again a bus back up the mountain to Deqen on the way out. That last bus-ride was unnecessary, a next time I would fly to Lijiang, acclimate to the elevation and then drive to Deqen and fly back to Chengdu from there. It’s also more impressive to drive up the mountain range instead of going down. We overlooked as we didn’t expect Lijiang to have it’s own airport. However, Shangrila airport is interesting as it does not have any taxiways requiring planes landing there to turn 180° and backtaxi over the lane to the terminal building.

Deqen; high and rural. Out of the plane, we took a taxi to Deqen, a nearby town in the Tibetan mountain range. Its a valley surrounded by green mountain tops. It felt a bit like time stood still here. Besides that, the sun sends this really bright-white light, making all colors vibrant (those Tibetan flags really stand out). You can see farmers work the land and cows, digs and horses roam free. There are no fences. The weather in September was mild, clouds, rain and sunshine rapidly exchanged. (Rainbows!) No wonder they nicknamed this place Shangri-la. Its a large but not overly touristic town with at it’s heart a touristic ‘old town’.

At 3300m deqen is certainly not the most elevated settlement in the world but I definitely felt light headed the first day -after walking up a few stairs you feel a bit light headed so I decided to take it easy and just have a coffee in the old town. I met friendly locals and travelers from all corners of China. The Deqen temple offers a nice view over the town. Its prime dish is yak based. Yak hotpot, yak yoghurt, yak fried rice.

We also visited the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery which is home for 700 Tibetan monks. Walking the hundreds of steps up you smell the incense. The monastery is positioned on a hill surrounded by mountains The main Hall features a high ceiling, We were allowed to attend a praying ceremony with about a hundred monks. With the hypnotizing deep throat singing, and rhythmic drums with a deep resonating horn blowing it was quite a spectacle. The monks were friendly but preferred not to be photographed – must get old fast with all the tourists visiting.
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As a day-trip we visited the Balagazong mountain range. We took a tourbus down and again 40 min up. The view on top, standing at a Tibetan temple is magnificent. Looking down you see the birds below you fly around, afterwards we walked upstream the river. We were just wondering how they build the km’s long bridge next to the steep rock.

Lijiang; After Shangri La we drove to Lijiang, at 2300m. We explored the old town which is huge, but way more commercial then Shangri La. It must have been a nice place few decades ago but now it’s mostly shops and clubs. It was a very nice place to be though! Our hotel was in an area full of traditional Chinese architecture (they rebuilt the city after earthquake but you can spot some traditional buildings) with coffee shops inside. We spend the first day at the dragon lake and walked down into the old down center. We took a cab to the lake and We took a stroller for the baby but it was unusable on the rocky tiles, so I carried them around. When the sun sets, the town becomes beautifully alighted with red lanterns. We had a guided walk by one of the local Naxi people.

We rode eight km bike ride to Baisha Village 白沙 over a four lane car road so is was slightly disturbing but the the tranquil town was worth it. We visited the palace which featured the ancient scrolls and even older case paintings from the paleo times, roots of the original Naxi writing.

After the palace we walked around town. It was sunny and grannies were selling fruits and joking with us. At one point we passed and met Dr. Ho’s in his clinic, a 96 year old, who has a mysterious herb tea would cure many ailments and he shared stories and happiness with us. We then had a meal at ‘baisha times’ restaurant in the town which had the best yak-butter tea I ever tasted.

imageWe then cycled back – on a quiet road! to Lijiang and in the evenings we enjoyed the many street food and hotpot places.

I’m writing this on the way back home. We really enjoyed Yunnan and would like to come back some time. Perhaps visit Kunming and Dali. But I also wouldn’t mind to go to the same places. China is a diverse and large country, would love to see more of the other provinces too.

More than just a bicycle

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Got my two year old a bicycle with training wheels. It’s a great investment so far. She talks about it every time and every day after work, we both take our bike’s out of our hallway and cycle around the compound.
It’s more than only simple paddling, this bike is a vehicle (pardon the pun) to so much more with a toddler:
  1. Basic directions (left/right/straight/stop etc)
  2. Spatial awareness
  3. Weather and day/night awareness
  4. Interaction with the neighbors
  5. Basic badassery -> Every time she gets stuck I resist my urge to help, I just give examples and make sure to give a high five once she overcomes the problem.

Cashless economy

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I find myself leaving my wallet at home more often. From principle point of view I’m against a cashless economy but convenience of paying and getting paid with smart phone is winning. I use it for:

  1. Charge phone credit
  2. Cinema tickets and the sorts
  3. Ordering food in
  4. Plane tickets
  5. At restaurants
  6. Supermarket
  7. Uber like taxi (don’t even have to take phone out) 
  8. Etc

Just a tap and a QR to pay appears. So convenient. There are three players: tencent (wechat), alibaba (alipay) and apple. I use alipay. My wallet stays safely at home.


On the roof of the world

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Well… close to…

I visited Hailuoguo glacier park today, about 600km southwest of Chengdu and got an astounding view of mountains up to 7500m. The largest was Gonga mountain (贡嘎山).

As a Dutchman (we have one ‘hill’ at 300m) I might be easily impressed but it was truly epic.

Alhough most recommended to go to the hotspring, really enjoyed the views so I spent up the mountain from morning until the maximum time for descending. The pictures tell it all, the mountain wasn’t easily photographed, size and clouds and all…

Slept in the small town of Luding, where life is simple and slow.

Slept in the small town of Luding, where life is simple and slow.

The glacier 'tongue' with 'middle mountain' behind it. Gonga moutain is on the right, behind the clouds. (click for large)

The glacier ‘tongue’ with ‘middle mountain’ behind it. Gonga moutain is on the right, behind the clouds. (click for large) For someone living in Chengdu, it was nice to see far for a change. This was so far that it was confusing. “Hey look at those moving.. oh those dots are humans!”

The ascent to the glacier (click for large)

The ascent to the glacier (click for large)

Took the cablecart up (hiking path was closed) and visited the climbers memorial museum (of 22 that reached summit, 16 died on way down) and the temples.

Took the cablecart up (hiking path was closed) and visited the climbers memorial museum (of 22 that reached summit, 16 died on way down) and the temples.

"Red stone beach"

“Red stone beach”

Some brought oxygen up.

Some brought oxygen up.

I was so happy! Maybe it was the lack of oxygen...

I was so happy! Maybe it was the lack of oxygen…

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Tibetan writing, I think. Looks very deep.

Tibetan writing, I think. Looks very deep.

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Day trip to Chongqing

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With the family out of town I decided to take a city trip. Woke up at 5:50am Saturday to take the first bullet train to Chongqing, arriving in Chongqing before 10am.

I took a taxi straight to the three gorges museum.  Across the People’s Square is Three Gorges Museum, well worth a visit for its exhibits on the Ba culture and the area of the three gorges downriver from Chongqing. Also noteworthy are a series of exhibits on life in Chongqing during the Qing dynasty, the early republic, and the Word War II era. free.  

Then I went to Eling park 鹅岭公园

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Quite foggy day (aqi of 70 – so mostly fog)

The park is right in the middle of Chongqing and features a tower which offers a brilliant 360° around the city. I just hang a around there to get a feeling for the city. I remembered that there is a famous metro station based inside a residential complex (李子坝). It’s quite funny, and a station with quite the view over Chongqing and the Yangtze.

I navigated to a high ranked hotpot place to try the local dish. Couldn’t find the place. I ended up walking 20 minutes looking for a hotpot place in Chongqing. Yes, the city is full of them but i managed to take all the roads without any.

Didn’t stay long but overall a city in a mountainous area with lots of lush green zones, spicy food and a cool monorail system, what’s nicer than that?!

Retro futurism: Taejeon ’93 expo 

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Not sure if you have visited Daejeon, South Korea before, but when you come from the highway you are welcomed by a huge expo park before entering the city. After driving by for almost a decade, we made a stop, I never had a look up close. My in-laws were surprised that we could have a look of the remainders up close.

The ’93 Expo (Deajeon was still called Taejeon) -대전 엑스포 was perhaps one of the last exhibitions of wonder. What I mean by that is based on our visit to the 2010 Shanghai expo which was cool, but did not showcase anything new besides architecture. At the time we concluded that the internet ruined expo’s forever.

That’s why I like the photo’s above. Most photos above are from the internet or taken at the museum. Still today in Daejeon you can see how important the expo was for the city considering it’s location and to many business or complexes still referring the 25 years ago event.

The Expo was about showcasing technology from the ‘future’ like maglev trains, robots and 4d cinema’s. (Little about phones tv considering Korea becoming a powerhouse in both) – It was a time everything seemed possible because of the unlimited possibilities of technology. I like that retro-futurism of those days. Today, realism sent in and the park is slowly replaced with new apartments, the park is probably gone soon. If you happen to get out there, the attached museum for Expo’s is certainly worth while as well.

Talking about showcasing novel technology, here was a showcase from around the world’s expo’s. How about a vacuum machine from 1915, a wooden cloth hanger (’33), or a plastic toothbrush? (’33) Surprising how seemingly mundane objects to us now where objects of wonder one day. Needles to say us ’90s kids had fun.

A visit to Emei mountain

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Beautiful day at mt. Emei (峨眉山) together with colleges Kai and Mark. We took the 7:20 bus from Xiannanmen bus terminal in central Chengdu. Which took about 2,5hr to arrive at the mountain side. We ate an early dumpling lunch and headed to the mountain.

First we visited the Qingyin Pavilion (清音阁), which means “Pavilion of Pure Sound,” built in 877.

We kept going up and walked the steps to Wannian Temple (万年寺) The Wannian Temple is one of main eight temples at Emei Mountain. Sitting 1020 meters above sea-level, with a Buddha statue over 1000 years old.

We then had to turn back in order to get back home but there are many other sights at this mountain to enjoy.

In the bus back my chair was behind an eight year old kid, tedious at first , turned out he wanted to practice English and had fun talking away, learned some Chinese from him as well.

All and all a great trip!

Weekend in Korea

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Just a nice weekend in korea. We visited the local pool and visited the science museum which featured a beautiful children park where our daughter changed her first car wheel! The science park featured a number of nice ways to combine learning (space, engineering, the body) and play, or daughter (and us) loved it!

Weekend in Korea

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Just a nice weekend in korea. We visited the local pool and visited the science museum which featured a beautiful children park where our daughter changed her first car wheel! The science park featured a number of nice ways to combine learning (space, engineering, the body) and play, or daughter (and us) loved it!