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!

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.

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.

 

Appreciation for the good old post system

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Last October I was send a package to my office in Chengdu from The Netherlands. The shipping fee was about 30 dollars.  The package never arrived, and information from the Dutch post company was cryptic. (contact local post branch)

Just when I considered the package lost, it successfully was returned to it’s origin address halfway around the globe. Three months after originally sending it off. Something as simple as the good old post system still seems to function very well, pretty cool!

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Attended Mirrin’s doctorate ceremony

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We visited Nijmegen, The Netherlands to attend the thesis defense and doctorate ceremony of my Sister, Mirrin. In short, she studied wound infections in an Intensive Care, find her study here. It’s a conclusion of a 10~13 year study, I needed a dictionary (long live the Kindle) to plow through the document. I am incredibly proud of her and wish her good luck with her next step!

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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