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.

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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A garden full of Dutch flowers in Pengzhou

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The Dutch business support office invited me to the opening of the’Dutch flower garden’ in Pengzhou, just north of chengdu. Since I had nothing better to do during Chinese new years, most people go to family, it seemed a nicely timed activity.

“Penhzhou is famous for pollution”, a college said the day before I left. Turns out there is a huge petrochemical factory just one hour drive out of chengdu. But the garden was a two hour drive, and in a rural area so I want too worried about the air. 

Upon arrival, we checked in at a ‘spa resort’ which was paid with compliments of the Pengzhou government, and went straight to a (fish hotpot) dinner prepared for us. We also made dumplings. The were some government representatives from China and Florists and gardeners from Holland. I sat down with the ‘dutch table’s with florists, gardeners and a flower bulb distributor. A company from Rotterdam had been the first to start distributing the Dutch grown tulip bulbs since 2006, right now the are about 20 to 30 gardens in China fully equipped with Dutch flowers. The Dutch flower industry exports 5 billion euro’s, this garden with 1.8 million flowers for 5 cents a piece represents just a percentage of that. Then the gardener’s from Holland design the garden which is made with the local team. Florists help with the decoration. The evening was ended with fireworks around 8pm, and after that we watched more fireworks from the outdoor spa. (Special to sit in a spa with 5 other Dutch people on New year’s evening, was cool to see fireworks all around us)
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The next day marked the big event. There were so many people, mostly locals who came out this new year’s day to see the opening ceremony. Since I did not attribute a thing to the park, I felt strange to take the’VIP’ seat in front of the stage, together with the group from the night before. After some shows, there was an opening ceremony and speeches from the main people involved in the project. We then got the tour of the park, including an already lush greenhouse, but I decided to break away from the group and explore the park for myself. It is a huge park, which is amazing because it only took two months to build! I’m definitively visiting the park again in spring once the flowers are out!

The largest Buddha in the world

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buddhaWe visited the giant Buddha in Leshan, just a two hour busride away from the Xinnanmen busterminal in Chengdu.

The giant Buddha is the largest stone Buddha in the world. Construction started 1300 years ago, in an attempt to calm the junction of two rivers at which the Buddha is positioned.

Most tourists decide to ascent the stairs but we took the boat and enjoyed the view for a bit.

 

Company outing with Dr. Panda at BaiHuaTan

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The Dr. Panda team keeps growing so it was time to do some activities together. Last Saturday we gathered at the Baihuatan park.

We started with a nice barbecue. It was a ‘xiaokao’ barbeque where you could get all the food you wanted from a nearby freezer, and could prepare it yourself. We ate way more then we planned to but it was fun. Once established, the team could pick what they wanted to do themselves.

Some went cycling, others turned to the Mahjong tables, to laser-gaming. I started with cycling but the busy roads felt dangerous. (some cycled for the first time) so we turned inwards at an unintended horsetrail. It was fun getting offroad and exploring the neighborhood. After which we had some beers in the sun whilst playing a game. After an hour or so, we went for lasergaming.

After a packed afternoon, we still had one more activity and that was an amazing buffet at the Sofitel. I liked the grill but some just jumped when the saw the deserts. A great day!

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Moving to Chengdu completed

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movingWhen we moved to Chengdu during the early summer on this year, we carried only the most critical with us and shipped the rest of our belongings with a moving company. However our stuff took way longer then expected to arrive at our house in China.

Originally, I estimated that the shipment would take at most 50 days but it turned out to be exactly 125 days to arrive. Unpacking the stuff yesterday felt almost like we send ourselves a time capsule, interestingly I forgot about a lot of our possessions over time.

So what went wrong? Basically the paperwork were not in order and the Shanghai agent messed up on a few parts. To be clear, our moving company ‘Passies’ orchestrated things to their best intent and I don’t think they are to blame at all. They picked up the shipment and packed it in a wooden crate as promised. Shipment to Shanghai went smoothly, then we experienced a problem. My China residence permit was one day short to fall in the category to be allowed to import household goods. Yes, my residence permit was only 364 days long and I needed one which is 365 days! One day short triggered a lot of paperwork and visits to customs service. During the time the appointed agent BridgeRelo was very unclear about the steps ahead and frankly giving any information proactively to us, this was very frustrating.

We started getting worried that our goods would be stranded in the Shanghai harbor forever. News came out that there are hundreds of containers from expats were stranded as the law was just changed recently.

In terms of the paperwork for the import; Once the legal hoops were jumped and things were arranged, things should have been in control again but the appointed Shanghai agent BridgeRelo arranged a very unprofessional courier service. Not only were they not able to give any ETA, they also supposedly experienced car trouble in Anhui province (?), leading to us waiting for days to hear anything. But finally I got the call yesterday that they were almost there, and we received the goods.

So now we finally feel at home in Chengdu, with all our fall/winter clothes and my bike etc. Someone told me, in China things sometimes look bleak but with patience and diligence problems are always solved in the end. We are very happily unpacking at the moment, it’s time for a celebration!

Hunting for bugs at Dr. Panda

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How do you launch an iOS game with connfidence? When we approached the end of this #drpanda production, which was built with diligent coding and even more diligent professional testers, we threw a ‘bughunting’ party and the whole company + spouces joined in playing the game all evening long in trade of delicous pizza. The QA team set it up and kept great score of the valid and not so valid bugs. They even gave a price to the person who found the most bugs, which were surprisingly little. The winner found three bugs in the game after playing for a very long time. The next day we solved all of them already and have improved further. Generally, a ‘bughunt’ is a nice and fun way to involve and prepare to get ready!

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Exploring Chengdu

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nationaldaysChina celebrates it’s national days with a week vacation so we decided to use days exploring Chengdu. So far we have visited the ‘bamboo park’ (wangjianglou park) where we ate a spicy lunch next to the water side. The next day we visited the Chengdu temple of marquis which features a touristic but nice street full of night snacks. We then went to people’s park, dubbed the noisiest park in the world.

The heat of the summer kept us indoors, but we finally started exploring our new city.

 

Didi Dache

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China is ahead in the whole mobile payment and app sphere. I couldn’t stay behind so decided to install Alipay on my phone, I entered a world of convenience. One of the apps that a lot of people use is Didi Dache, the Uber of China.

I’m haven’t been a big fan of the Uber concept, but I wanted to try mobile payments. Whilst preparing to go to the airport and having some spare time, I thought I would give it a try. I entered the airports adres, hit a few buttons and before I knew it there was a driver waiting for us downstairs. I had to hurry down! If I knew it was that easy, I would have started trying the app after I went outside. I obviously didn’t know how the concept worked, as I was surprised when the driver picked up a second guest. Well, carpool for the win! The drive was about 50% cheaper to a normal taxi and it felt adventurous and new to talk to some strangers on a long drive like this.

The taxi driver – sporting a shirt with “bentley” written all over it – mentioned that he also drives supercars time to time. Apperantly, one can take a lift in the exclusive sportcars that drive around here. We arrived and the driver said goodbye and drove off, I only had to confirm the trip and the payment on my phone with a few taps. That was almost too easy.

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Mia finally saw some real panda’s!

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Sit down at a random corner in Chengdu (city of the panda) and you’ll probably spot a (non real) panda within 5 minutes. Inflatable panda’s, trucks with panda’s on them, statue of panda’s,  Dr. Panda and souvenirs.

It was getting awkward that still after a few months, we didn’t see any real pandas! A dear colleague couldn’t bare it anymore and offered to take us along to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base. So on the early Saturday morning we drove off to the north east of the city to the panda base.

Upon gazing the animal, my 1.5 yr old daughter simply froze with her mouth open. It was a wonderful expression. Now… you have to imagine what this ment for my daughter as she loves Panda’s. Being surrounded by that many panda’s left and right, just made her repeat the same word over and over! I stopped counting at the 50th “PANDA!” – I estimate she said that word at least 200 times. At the end of the day when we where home and all was done, she dozed off quickly. I bet she dreamed of panda’s.

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