February 21, 2009


As always, more here!

February 19, 2009

Beijing: Day 3

It turns out that I'm a bad shopper. On my last night here I'm trying to find some cute souvenirs for some friends. I usually find my buys by accident and I don't care much for the tourist shops and markets. This time I've had to resort to those anyway, but I'm not succeeding at all. Everything's so ugly and kitschy. Yuck.

February 18, 2009

Beijing: Day 2

Today was strange - the day started out as planned but slowly all afternoon and evening plans got re-scheduled. So I took the afternoon off after lunch. Well-deserved, I thought.

One of the areas in the city which has been increasingly popular and been covered in the Western media is District 798. A part of the city with loads of galleries, showing mostly contemporary Chinese art. Some are professional, international galleries. Others are tiny and underground. I'd just read an article on how the economic downturn is also hitting this part of Beijing - no one is spending money on paintings anymore. I was curious to see for myself.

The afternoon turned out to be really good. Wandering through this huge district, peeking through open doors of rundown warehouses to find huge spaces with paintings, photography, sculptures, video installations and so on. An afternoon of interesting art (including a great exhibition by Belgian Hans Op De Beeck) without having to enter a colossal museum. I finished the afternoon with a 'Dancing Latte' and New Orleans Cheesecake in a funky little bookshop before heading back into the mayhem of Chaoyang.

February 17, 2009

Beijing: Day 1

After six days of continuous company, entertainment and a planned schedule I am now in Beijing and actually by myself this evening. Which means: wandering through Beijing streets in increasingly heavy snow in search of food.

This trip has, so far, been good but strangely I still don't feel as if I've really been in China. And I'm starting to like that feeling less and less.

Some of it has to do with the fact that I've been here before. So I already have an image of this country which it is supposed to match. But that time I was with a backpack, a phrasebook and just me. The Beijing that I'm staying in now is not the same Beijing as 2,5 years ago. It might have changed a lot, but so far I can't really tell as I'm actually staying in a part of town that I never really made it to last time with nothing but tall hotels and embassies.

It also has to do with the very different type of trip this is compared to my previous work trip. The week in Malaysia last year was all about Malaysia. Five days of talking with Malaysians from Malaysian organisations about Malaysia. This time, I'm talking to a lot of Dutch people inside Chinese buildings about how we do our work. .....
Work-wise it's still very useful but well, very different.

But I also seem to be different myself this time around. I'm not nearly as 'adventurous' (for lack of a better word) as I normally would be. After five days of just following Chinese speakers and not having to think about what to do, where to go and how to communicate - I find myself hesitant to finally have to start doing that tonight. Getting out of my hotel room, to walk around an unknown city, to find an unknown restaurant, to try to order unknown food. It all feels like a LOT of effort, instead of being excited about a 'new' city. Instead of taking public transport, I'm in taxis anytime I can and am becoming very lazy.

So I'm starting to understand why people stay in their hotels when on business trips instead of going out discovering new places.

Nevertheless, I still hope I will have some time on Thursday to do a bit of sightseeing and shopping. To find out if the city really has changed since summer 2006.

February 16, 2009

Harbin -> Dalian

* Unit 731 - Harbin hosts one of the most gruesome remains of Japanese aggression during 1932-1945. At least 3000 people, maybe more, died in experiments that were performed on them to study the effects of biological war germs. They had stuff injected in to them and they'd be watched to see what happened. Then they'd be cut open. And anything in between. The Japanese destroyed it at the end of the war, and denied it for a long time. This morning we visited the small museum that remembers this laboratory. Pretty creepy.

* Dalian - we arrived here early evening with a busy schedule ahead. Within minutes of being driven downtown, the city (with only 3 million people) already felt much more comfortable, modern, relaxed and fun than Harbin. Maybe it was the cold in Harbin, but although I didn't spend much time walking around it felt very 'heavy' and grey with huge communist buildings. Not very appealing, it seemed. Dalian, on the other hand, seems extremely livable. Which was confirmed by dinner at a nice Japanese restaurant with sake and Kirin beer. Bliss.

* More bliss: ending the day with a 45-minute foot massage. It must have looked funny though: four foreigners, spread out on beds, with Chinese guys working away on their feet.

February 14, 2009


We spent the last night in Harbin in a local nightclub. Or rather, a wannabe-nightclub. From the surface it seemed normal: pletny of dressed-up people, fancy interior, expensive drinks and very loud dance music. Except, there was no dancefloor, big bowls of fresh fruit and popcorn were on the tables and - most importantly - there was no space to dance. So strange. Especially because it wasn't actually possible to talk to each other at all and all the people there looked very bored.

In other news:
* skiing in China is the same as everywhere (the same chairlifts, the same pathetic attempts to get down a mountain by me) - except for a very different (and pretty lousy) lunch.
* contrasts are everywhere.

[I've since had explained that the lack of a dance floor has purely commercial reasons: the argument is that when people dance they don't buy enough drinks so the club won't be able to make enough money. To fix that, every space is filled up with standing tables that you pay a fee for to be able to use, and instead of chatting and talking you play games with the dice or look around. No interaction is possible though with any of the other people. Quite weird, but after asking around this seems to be the standard club formula in China.]

February 12, 2009

Harbin: day 1,5

I'm at the end of my first proper day on my work trip - but it feels strange. I miss the amazement, fascination and adventure of when I was first in China 2,5 years ago. Not that it's become bland - I just don't feel 'in' China - being in a fancy hotel all day and night.

The first time I properly felt in this country was when going to the toilet in tonight's restaurant...

February 10, 2009


[I guess I really only write things when I'm travelling - I just opened this notebook to see the last entry of New York in September. Hmm.]

I'm on my way to Bijing, 20 minutes away from landen, for a week of work and China. And while staring out at the desolate mountains below, I can only wonder why this isn't a real trip - instead of a suitcase with business clothing I should have a backpack and my hiking boots. Despite my luxurious seating arrangements currently, my appearance right now is actually more of the latter: jeans and a funky new fleece. For a trip of in total 16 hours I think I'd rather be comfortable.


I'm also excited about the destinations of this trip. Although there won't be much time for sightseeing, I hope to still catch glimpses of those areas. Apart from Beijing the other two cities are very new to me. Harbin boasts the annual Ice Festival and the best skiing in China. Both are on the social agenda of the meeting I'm attending. And I just found out that Harbin is the city where the Japanese established Unit 731, a laboratory used during the Second World War. I'll definitely have to make time to fit this in the schedule.

My second destination, Dalian, is called the Hong Kong of the Northeast (according to the LP at least). I'm starting to regret nog having more time but maybe it's also better in summer with beaches and plenty of areas to stroll around.


Did I already say I'm excited?

February 08, 2009


Wow, it's been ages since I've posted anything substantial here! So, a quick rundown of the past few weeks:

> I quit the 365-project. Too much hassle of always having to think 'I need to take a picture!' while I wanted to just enjoy whatever it was that I was doing at that time without taking pictures.

> Work is really busy, but really good as well. It almost feels as if I'm (almost) playing with The Important People. Very fun.

> Two more sleeps and I'm on my way to China! Harbin, Dalian, Beijing. Very hectic and full work schedule but I'm so so excited.

> Am back to (internet) dating - why do I always get the weird guys? Gah.

> Every January's highlight: the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. Saw some very weird (Lazarus 1-2-0; A Climate for a Crime) things, some interesting things (Jerichow; Er Dong) and some really good things (12 Lotus - fantastic!; Left Handed).

> Am househunting! Very scary. Eek.

> Am also finding new friends. Very fun :-D

Will be posting some travel stories hopefully in two weeks' time. Will definitely be posting travel pictures in two weeks' time. Stay tuned.