Goodbye Dr. Panda and Chengdu!

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It’s my last working day at Dr. Panda. I’m writing this now because we will go have a little party in Chengdu tonight! :)

I joined little over three years ago, and it was quite a challenging step for me, to go from ‘IT manager’ to ‘General Manager I was an experienced IT project manager, but had only a little experience managing people, let alone a whole studio. It was tough at times, it was engaging but most of all I appreciate the team. I say this not because I work(ed) here, but Dr. Panda is able to reach a consistent high quality. I found this can only be achieved with incredible standards, relentless work and a culture that allows this. I’m very happy to have worked with such great teammates.

Slowly I build up my role, and combined the role of general manager, executive producer, a manager for production & backend team and a producer of games, all at the same time. My boss, the CEO, was very patient with me and coached me. I look back on 100’s (!) of initiatives started with many completed, and am particularly proud of the transition from a traditional production company to self steering teams that we now have at the Chengdu office. The team matured, and I feel now it’s a good time to move on.

Last Friday I went to Shanghai and said goodbye to friends and colleagues at our Shanghai office.

The reason why we are leaving is family related. We have loved every day in China for 7 years total now, we got very comfortable living here. But we feel it’s time to move on, stay tuned!

Andaman Camping trip

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After last year’s camp site, we spend another weekend at Andaman (Hubaba) outdoor camping. Surprisingly, our youngest (just 2 years old) also had fun on the zipline course. Last year we setup a tent, this year we could rent already setup tents. We spend the day adventuring in the nature, and the evening we took a walk with flashlights. It was raining all night but we didn’t care, it was fun. The next morning we were awakened by birds singing, and we had another day of adventures in the park. After all the kids ziplining, I also did a zipline. I’m not a fan of these hights, but with the kids cheering for me, I couldn’t stop!

World Earth Day, Camping in Andaman

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A twenty minute drive past Dujianyan train station is Andaman park. We joined QSI school on a camping trip. Andaman is supposed to host the only organic lodges in China. Sleeping in these adult sized tree houses must be an experience is expensive. Andaman quickly seemed like a weekend park for the elite. Just recently they changed strategy, adding a couple of camping sites, and a hostel in order to receive more visitors. The park features a lot of activities in nature, mountain biking, horse riding, archery. Everything is band new, and the staff is nice and attentive, clearly they knew we were coming and wanted us to have a great time. We were received on Saturday morning by a friendly host called John. He also took us on a hike through the forest. After lunch we got to explore the rest of the park, my wife tried zip lining and we all went to a trampoline park. It’s like a heaven for kids, they are all bouncing around. Then we had a barbecue. As it was earth day, the power went off at eight pm, there was live music and a bonfire. During the party I met Dino, a Brazilian and the architect and builder of the ‘adventure park’. After setting up zip lining and rock climbing, he proceeded with a miniature version these activities but then for kids. This was the second time sleeping in a tent but last time Mia was really a baby. This time she is older, just hanging around the tent with a pocket light provided heaps of fun. Our little one slept surprisingly well in the tent. We slept later then usual and were awoken early by the birds.

We immediately tried the kids adventure park that Dino made. First Kids need to wear helmets, gear, the works. They get all dressed up and whilst tethered, walk down the track. Starting low and going up about two meters eventually. The grand finish is a zip line down. Zooom! Mia gained a lot of confidence walking that track today. Andaman was really a great family trip. Not only a first camping experience, we also experienced a lot of nature (saw frogs, gekko’s) and enjoyed clean air. For Chengdu residents I would surely recommend!

Pujiang (蒲江) flower garden and ceramic village

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In Chengdu’s hot summer days, there is nothing much to do but sit inside a building or at the pool. Since this early spring weather is still really nice, we – compared to last posts, I am traveling with the family – are in Pujiang! (蒲江县), visiting a flower garden. Coloured fields of flowers welcomed us, the little ones enjoyed running around the fields of flowers. Further into the park there was a play yard and a model village showing how people used to live in this area. There is an important ‘stone elephant temple’ currently completely being reconstructed but somehow in use at the same time. The Stone Elephant Lake, Shixiang Lake, (保利石象湖景) is a lush quiet green area, a nice change of environment from the city. We rented a boat to rest our legs, the ride offered some great sceneries and was a nice variation for all the busy walking paths in the flower garden. In hindsight, this flower park probably has had tulips earlier in season, we had high expectations, as the website showed fields of tulips. However as the flowerpark is combined with the stone elephant lake it was still definitely worth visiting for a day trip. We spent the night in a nearby hotel in Pujiang. As there was not much to do in Pujiang besides the lake and golf, we visited moon valley ‘mingyue valley’ (明月) a bit far at 30km west. We rented bikes at the information center right at to main gate and enjoyed cycling through the tea field hills, I spotted some white crane birds and many other birds. The road is one big loop around the villages, with here and there a touristic activity like ceramic workshops, museums and coffee shops.

We visited a restaurant and a stamp museum. If we would have had more time, I would have liked the kids to try the ceramic workshop. Pujian is about to have a functioning train station, I suspect this area will develop a lot. For elephant lake, Tickets were 100 RMB for both the stone elephant lake and the flower garden. Boat was 60 RMB per person. Nice for a visit but our expectations were too high. Moon valley bike renting was 10 RMB. It’s unusually quiet area. Might be nice to sleep over next time to have more time.

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.

On the roof of the world

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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.

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…

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

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 headed to Eling park 鹅岭公园 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?!

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!

Cycling in Chengdu

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With most of the entire city empty due to new years, low pollution and predictions for sunshine, I decided to take my bike and explore Chengdu a bit. I did not prepare anything but some water and a book and head off around 9am. Cycling gives you a different perspective of a city. First discovery was an old factory converted to an artsy concert hall and coffee bar. I enjoyed an cappuccino on the terrace and explored the environment a bit. Chengdu seemed like a ghost town. Barely any vehicles on the road made my trip much more relaxed. Continuing cycling eastwards, after 20km, passing the third ringroad, which involved me carrying the bike over an overpass, the suburbs finally seized and suddenly I was cycling in between the ricefields and forests. It was a lot of fun trying to get to a stretch of green with some water I located as my final destination for the day. Most road on my Google map made place for construction and thus I went’off-road’quite some times. However, it was 11:30 and I was getting hungry. I passed some shops but everything was closed. The villagers had all gathered to play mahjong. Hairdressers and phoneshops had all turned to mahjong rooms for the day. Arriving at the green patch aka ‘Shiling Forrest park’ I made a round on the cycle patch and read a bit.  It was approaching 2pm and I had enough. Instead of a restaurant I settled for a bag of potato chips and a beer. Found a chair and enjoyed sitting in the sun. Initially I planned for a 6 hour drive but it knew that wouldn’t be the case anymore. Instead I relaxed and took it easy.  After I entered the city again, I cycled straight to my favorite restaurant, noticed I cycled 67km and had a meal for two.