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.
We moved to Chengdu a few weeks ago. We started in a hotel but found a place to rent quicker than expected. Again I was reminded of the pragmatism of life in China. If one wouldn’t be too picky, I bet you can arrange a new place to rent within a day. That’s including finding an real estate agent and having China telecom come by to connect the internet. Talking about internet, I’m used to slow ADSL lines from China Telecom but they modernised and installed a 20mbit fiber line in our house. Turns out it comes with a sweet Netflix like interface that features most recent blockbuster movies with a program called “4K”. This legal movie watching sets me back just 100 RMB per month. We found some routine again but are mostly waiting for our stuff to arrive from The Netherlands. Our moving company says that should be within two weeks from now. Until then we practice our ‘camping life’ practices. With just a few clothes and just two towels.
On the upside; Our new place features a community pool which is nice and cooling in this hot climate. Mia loves to swim there and we all go time to time. I have to say my little to girl adapted quickly to or lives here.
Whoa… 5:30 AM already? My mind was hazy whilst Suna and I ate a quick bite before driving the 70km back from my parents to our apartment in Nieuw-Vennep. Our voices sounded hollow in the empty apartment – sold off most of it in the previous months. The moving van arrived, and work went swiftly. Had to walk down to the Albert heijn downstairs for a tray of their complementary coffee at 8 am. Thanks Albert Heijn! The crew packed the boxes, we dropped the key off and were on the move. At Schiphol we found a bus which was campaigning our new destination: Chengdu! Famous for Panda’s KLM now offers direct flights with it’s new dreamliner planes. After living in China until 2012, we kept returning (2013 and 2014) for holiday to meet up with friends. But todays trip to the P.R.C. isn’t a holiday; we moved back! Currently residing in a hotel and exploring the city tomorrow to find a place to live.
It seems to be a good tradition to visit Shanghai now and then. We met up with friends and ate the fruits and dishes that we craved. Arriving during Friday’s traffic rush, we had some trouble hailing a taxi from the metro station. A friendly passerby explained that you can bid for taxi’s with an app these days, but instead I called a friend to pick us up. On Saturday we enjoyed a south Chinese lunch (小南国), haggled for presents at pearl city, and ate a modern Shanghainese meal with friends. However good and rich the Chinese kitchen is, the next day we enjoyed Japanese foods like okonomiyaki, shabu shabu, and soba; as those are all also hard to get in my home country. Afterwards we left for a stay at the sofitel Sheshan, a bit outside the city; again amazed by the size of Shanghai, and the ghostly quiet rows of skyscrapers. Shanghai is such an energetic city and there is so much to do; we both think it was worth coming here, if even for a short time! Leaving at 5 am to the airport, the G20 was already busy with cars (day and night) and we realized the smog also continues day and night. It has been getting worse and breathing it is the price to pay to live here, I guess one can’t have it all.
On the way back to Shanghai, the new Shanghai Tower was already visible
Did Shanghai Change over the last year? – To celebrate my exact one year return to Holland I decided to go to Shanghai and see what had changed over there. Upon arrival (Again, our KLM flight didn’t dock at Pudong) I decided to take the bus to the city. A lot of people ask me if I think the city changed during the last year. I met quite a few expats that were let go over the last year or had trouble keeping their jobs. I also noticed more south Europeans trying their luck in this euphoric city. Construction is still going on, with expanding highways, railways and many new malls opening. On a side note, travelling outside the city, including Sheshan, I still noticed those huge apartment blocks are still largely vacant. The restaurant prices had risen over the year, some over 30%. Contrary of what I read online, I noticed most (rich) Chinese still carry iPhones. Xiaomi is gaining popularity. Anyway, I was here as a tourist so I wanted to share a two destinations with you:
Guyi garden 古猗园 – A Shanghai friend offered to take me to one of his favourite gardens. Together we drove to Nanxiang, just out of town. Guyi garden, over 500 years ol seemed a lot less busy and was quite big. Enjoy the serenity of the garden and have a seat. You will notice all the little details of the garden. Very neat. We left and ate some xiaolongbao just outside the garden. The garden is located in Nanxiang town, about 20km outside Shanghai. Here is a wiki page with information: Guyi garden.
Tianshan tea city entrance
Tianshan Tea city – Another great destination is the tea city at Zhongshan lu in Shanghai. While we were living in Shanghai, we got used to drinking loose leaf tea. My wife used to buy all our tea at a particular shop inside this tea city. We were almost running out. Visiting our regular shop resulted in a hour long tea sampling session.
For a bit of holiday feeling, I’ve visited the new Maya Playa water park in Sheshan town, Shanghai (上海玛雅海滩水公园). Proclaiming to have over 30 rides for visitors to enjoy. It was a lot. They feature a lazy river, steep slides and bigger slides that you take by boat. The water park is huge and there are also slides for kids. I really, really had a fun time there. There are some great slides and just looking at people picking up surfing was a lot of fun as people cheered for the ones staying on the board for over one minute. Since I was visiting in the last weekend of their summer season it was very quiet in the park. As in, one hour in I’ve met all the other visitors that day. The park is build for thousands so you can imagine, there was no line at all at any of the rides for me. Even though the park is just a few months old, it did look old. I’m not doubting the water quality but more how everything from the paint to the buildings already looks a bit worn out. It was a bit dirty. At a certain time there was an entertainment show. A few dancers on the main square dancing to some songs and a very loud announcer. Entrance was 150 RMB, 50 RMB for the locker, which includes 30 RMB deposit. Then they also charge 20 RMB for a boat. Lunch was about 30 RMB, KFC style burger with french fries. I couldn’t find any coffee or icecream sales point. How to get there: Take subway line 9 to Sheshan station (佘山站) and then I got a taxi there, on the way back I found that there seems to be a free shuttle service as well.
With new year’s eve around the corner, business is a bit slower than usual. It allowed me to reflect a bit on the past year and think about the next. Here are some of the highlights of my year categorized by spring, summer, fall and winter, I wish you a happy new year in 2013!
Spring: A lot of sports activities – In the spring we spent some time in Austria where I did an 65km speed-skate marathon. Since then, Suna gotten some real speed skates and she’s getting very serious about it. This fall and winter we still skate almost every week.I also played my first game of table tennis with my father in law. Table tennis is incredibly fun and it inspired me to buy my own table-tennis bat and play at least once a week for the remainder of the year. Over the year we made a few trips and the trip to yellow mountain (黄山) was one of my favorites. We kept costs really low by travelling hours by bus and sleeping in a tent. The mountains are beautiful and the local people are very friendly. We gotten a ticket from Marc van der Chijs and family to visit the Shanghai formula 1 training with them. Not only did we enjoy the race sounds, we also got a ride in Hamiltons private Maserati and Suna got her picture with Porche cup drivers Ho Pin Tung and Alexandre Imperatori taken. A non sports related highlight was a DJ gig at the first Dutch carnival party in Shanghai wth DJ Angrybird. I discovered that being a DJ is very cool, the experience of putting on songs received with cheer is exhilarating. To hear what I mean check this youtube video.
Summer: With unitedstyles to Silicon valley – I am thankful for the opportunities that I’ve gotten though unitedstyles. Not only was launching the site in Russian and Chinese very exciting, I learned a lot about foreign payment systems and culture. Due to the business, I got to know some prominent people in the fashion and Internet industry. I’ve received an entrepreneurial prize from my former professors at a university gathering in Amsterdam. I also visited Singapore and Silicon valley. After visiting San Francisco too briefly in another business trip in 2009, I was happy that I booked some extra time to enjoy the city a few days as well. Fall: Moving to The Netherlands – For Suna and me the year of 2012 will go into the books as the year that we moved from China to The Netherlands, which is my home country. We moved here after being more then five years abroad. Still after all these months we miss our friends, food and our neighborhood in Shanghai. However, the few months here have been very good. I started working at Sanoma media, where I’m involved in a job where I meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot from the way they deal, so I consider myself very lucky with these experiences. Suna and I live in the middle of the Netherlands and enjoy simple things like cooking and the fact that we have a garden, it’s great to meet with old friends and having family close again. Winter: Working hard and enjoying Holland
The winter isn’t over yet but we enjoyed a nice marathon in Rotterdam where Suna was interviewed by local tv. Furthermore I’m finalizing my first semester at the Korean school of Amsterdam. Besides that we celebrated the holiday season with my family. Suna and me also made a nice trip to a place called Valkenburg in the south of Holland. 2013 – new year resolutions – This last day of the year, you hear a lot about new years resolutions. I’ve been rewriting mine for the last day and realized that I’ve achieved 4 out of 5 goals of last year. I read a tip that it’s best to pick just one challenging goal and keep focussed at that, I can give a tip to write it down and stick them to your fridge. In any of your quests and goals, Although we didn’t really celebrate new years in Asia, we are celebrating with the family tonight with traditional oliebollen – I missed those the past couple of years. I’m wishing all my readers the best for 2013, not sure if you set goals but good luck with them if you do!
As I write this I’m on my way to the netherlands after a total of three years in China. We grew comfortable in Shanghai, made many friends and learned a lot about Chinese and our own culture. We are now open for a next step.
Expats have been leaving for various reasons, including food quality and the air pollution. For me, I came here straight out of university on a three year contract. The contract expired when I became cofounder of a startup but that three year deadline somehow stuck to me. I want to thank everybody who lended a helping hand and trust for us to stay here.
Before China we lived in Korea and Sweden, now we will move to a city in the center of the Netherlands.
View from 26th floor towards pudong and people square.