Monthly Archives: September 2016

AtW Podcast, Episode 18: Wang Ye

Picture of Dan and Wang Ye.

Me and Wang Ye, at Mandy's for lunch.

My guest today is Wang Ye. Last time he was on the podcast, he was about to begin a long journey around Asia. Now, he's back in Beijing (at least he was; he just took off for Russia), and we decided to catch up on old times.

Wang Ye and I talked about his love of Starbucks coffee and co-working spaces, as well as his latest trip. He paid his respects to the Dear Leader in North Korea, decided to leave Istanbul after a terrorist bombing and hitched a ride on an Iranian bus to the border with Georgia, among other things. What's he up to next? Listen to the podcast to find out.

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

Show Notes:

  • Kim Jong Il was born in the village of Vyatskoye, in Russia. However, according to his biography, he was born on the sacred mountain of Paektu.
  • We talked a bit about Cappadocia, in Turkey. Here are some photos of this magical place.
  • We also talked about twice-cooked pork (hui guo rou, 回锅肉) , one of Wang Ye's favorite meals. Here's a recipe.

Picture of Wang Ye.

The Muslim Quarter of Xi'An, Part II

Muslim Quarter - Picture of street.

The Muslim Quarter's lively main street.

On my first trip to Xi'An (西安), I became enthralled by the Muslim Quarter. The blaring music, blinking lights and steaming food were all intoxicating. On my second trip, there was no way I would miss it. The Muslim Quarter is one of the most stimulating environments I've ever experienced. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back, yet again. Maybe next time I'll film the action. Maybe. But for now, you'll have to settle for a few photos:

Muslim Quarter - Picture of drum tower.

The Drum Tower marks the entrance to the Muslim Quarter.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of chuar salesman.

There's a ton of street food in the Muslim Quarter. This guy is grilling Chuan (串).

Muslim Quarter - Picture of guy on phone.

Hey, sometimes a guy's gotta check his phone.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of meat cutter.

Lots of meat.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of walnuts.

The walnut man.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of candy guy.

This guy is stretching candy. It's quite a show!

Muslim Quarter - Picture of tomato lady.

Tomatoes for sale. The sign warns against touching.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of chuar guy.

A big ol' pile of meat. Notice the skinned lamb (I think) on the right.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of spices lady.

Many spices for sale.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of nut lady.

Get your nuts here!

Muslim Quarter - Picture of squid guy.

Mmm, squid.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of pomegranate juice ladies.

Pomegranates are a super food.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of dumplings.

Steaming dumplings.

Muslim Quarter - Picture of dumpling lady.

Buying a bag of dumplings.

Not enough photos for you? Here are some more photos from Xian.

Beijing Bowl 2016, Ultimate Frisbee at its Finest

Beijing Bowl -- Picture of Big Brother.

Big Brother, tournament host.

I recently had the opportunity to photograph the Beijing Bowl Ultimate Frisbee tournament. It was an exciting weekend, with many good teams vying for the coveted championship trophy.

Check out this cool highlight video by Hannah, the tournament's organizer:

For more info about Ultimate Frisbee in Beijing, you can check out

Though I haven't played Ultimate in many years, I was still happy to live my past glories by taking pictures of hucks, D's and layouts. Here are a few photos, out of over 2400 that I took at the event:

Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl Beijing Bowl
Beijing Bowl -- Picture of stage.

Check out that awesome poster, courtesy of Peter Behr.

Beijing Bowl -- Picture of LGW.

Congratulations to LGW, the 2016 Beijing Bowl champions!

Want more? Here's the complete photo set. Enjoy!

AtW Podcast, Episode 17: Jeroen and Linda

Picture of view.

This podcast was recorded from my apartment in Beijing.

For this episode, I talked with Jeroen from the Netherlands and Linda from Germany. They started hitchhiking from their home in Berlin several months ago, and plan to make a giant loop around Asia. I met them in my apartment in Beijing, when they were about halfway through their trip. Hitching has given them a unique perspective on the world, in which they place their complete trust in other people. During the show, we talked about their amazing journey, and told many stories along the way.

Please enjoy this episode and remember to subscribe on this website or using your favorite platform. I'm always looking for new guests, so if you'll be in Beijing soon and want to join the fun, drop me a line.

[Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher] []

Jeroen and Linda blog about their adventures at They love getting new visitors, so tell all your friends!

Show notes:

  • According to Wikipedia, Wang (王) is the most common Chinese surname, covering 9.9% of the population. Li (李) and Zhang (张/張) are the next most common. Eighty-five percent of Chinese people have one of the 100 most common surnames in the country.
  • Again according to Wikipedia, the Russian city of Vladivostok's name means (roughly) "the ruler of the East".
  • When we talk about gers, we are referring to Mongolian yurts. Here's an example that I found at the Genghis Khan memorial near Dongsheng, China:
    Picture of ger.

    A ger.

  • Couchsurfing is a website that connects you with locals around the world.
  • Be Welcome is an open-source competitor of Couchsurfing.

Zhouzhuang Water Town: An Accidental Visit

Zhouzhuang - Picture of traffic jam.

Oh, I hate these Zhouzhuang traffic jams.

The area around Shanghai and Suzhou, China is famous for its water towns. There are at least eight different villages within a few hours of the cities, each with its own special character. These villages are perhaps the best way to get a glimpse of the old way of life in central China.

When my mom visited me last November, we decided to go to Tongli, one of the quieter towns. There was only one problem: after riding the subway to the outskirts of Shanghai and then taking several more buses, we ended up in the wrong Tongli! This version of Tongli had some farm fields and animals, but a “Venice of the East” it was certainly not. We walked until the road ended at a river, took a ferry across, and continued walking toward Shanghai. Just when we were cursing our bad luck, a girl offered us a ride back to the subway. She wasn't sure where there was a water town called Tongli, but she did know how to get to Zhouzhuang. She dropped us off and wished us better luck.

Zhouzhuang (周庄) is meant to be the most touristy and overcrowded water town of them all. But it was too late to start over in our search for Tongli, so we decided to just go for it. As it turned out, Zhouzhuang wasn't so bad. It did have a lot of “Ye Olde” shops set up for tourism, but a few people actually lived there. Some of them didn't even try to sell us stuff. We just had to walk away from the main streets to get a more authentic experience.

Here are some of my photos from the village. It's not Venice, but at least it was easy to get to. And sometimes in China, accessibility trumps authenticity.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of doorway.

Many of the old homes are well preserved.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of doorway.

One more of the village's old doorways.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of canal.

The ivy tells you that it's at least a few years old.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of lantern.

The village is known for its lanterns.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of lantern.

Another interesting lantern.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of lanterns.

The red lanterns provide a cool contrast to the white buildings.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of boats.

Here are some of the boats you can ride around the village.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of canal.

The canal water is nice and calm.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of gondolier.

A ghostly gondolier, looking for passengers.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of boat.

A boat passes under one of many bridges in the village.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of gondolier.

A friendly gondolier.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of canal-side bar.

You can stop for a drink during your gondola trip.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of temple.

Zhouzhuang is famous for its bridges.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of ceiling.

The gazebos have decorative ceilings.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of sleeping man.

Riding a motorcycle sure is tiring.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of pagoda.

This is the biggest pagoda in town.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of temple.

Chengxu Temple (澄虚道院) is a Taoist temple built in 1086.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of incense.

Incense burns at the temple.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of bamboo.

Bamboo graffiti.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of pond and sign.

Aw man, I was totally looking forward to swimming here.

Zhouzhuang - Picture of sign.

Yes, it's China's Number One Water Town! Want proof? Just look at all of the A's!

More photos from Zhouzhuang water town

External Websites:
More info about visiting Zhouzuang
More info about all of the water towns around Shanghai

Shanghai, China's City of Infinite Shopping

Shanghai - Picture of Pudong.

Shanghai's fabulous Pudong district has only been developed for 25 years.

Shanghai, population 24 million, is the biggest city in China. By some measurements, it's the biggest city in the world. I live in Beijing, with “only” 21 million people. So it's probably not a surprise that when I research travel destinations, an even bigger city isn't very high on my list.

Nevertheless, I've visited Shanghai three times since moving to China, two years ago. The city feels really different than Beijing. Whereas Beijing is full of temples, museums and emperors' playgrounds, Shanghai is all business. The Pudong district, on the far side of the Huangpu River, is full of skyscrapers, including the Shanghai Tower, the second-tallest building in the world. The French Concession has beautiful broad avenues and boutique shops. Even in “old” places such as the Yuyuan gardens, shopping is the name of the game.

Shanghai isn't my favorite place in China, but I've managed to have fun with each visit. If you're planning a trip to China, I think it's worth checking out Shanghai, even if you're not into shopping. If nothing else, you'll be dazzled by the tall buildings, and you'll get a first-hand look at how 24 million people can call the same place home.

Shanghai - Picture of Pudong.

Katie admires the Pudong.

Shanghai - Picture of cop.

A friendly officer guards the Huangpu River.

Shanghai - Picture of friends.

Friends take a stroll on the Bund.

Shanghai - Picture of violinist.

This girl was practicing her violin skills on the Bund.

Shanghai - Picture of cleaners.

Many sanitary workers are employed to keep the Bund clean.

Shanghai - Picture of smoothies.

Delicious fruit smoothies for sale at an outdoor market.

Shanghai - Picture of lit buildings.

The Yuyuan (豫园) bazaar is a popular garden and shopping district. At night it really comes alive.

Shanghai - Picture of temple.

The buildings in Yuyuan have a traditional style, with modern lighting.

Shanghai - Picture of temple.

Another traditional building.

Shanghai - Picture of sign.

No elephants allowed.

Shanghai - Picture of cannibal bamboo.

Bamboo is everywhere in the city. Here, in a disgusting display of cannibalism, they use bamboo to hold up bamboo.

Shanghai - Picture of street.

Here's a typical old street in Shanghai.

Shanghai - Picture of temple.

At the City of God temple, they still use an abacus. It's a Taoist temple built 700 years ago during the Ming Dynasty.

Shanghai - Picture of iPhone.

Damn kids and their iPhones!

Shanghai - Picture of incense burner.

Burning incense.

Shanghai - Picture of field.

On the outskirts of the city, the buildings are encroaching on the farm fields.

Shanghai - Picture of bricks.

Soon, maybe this will be a new housing compound.

Shanghai - Picture of Katie.

Katie relaxes with a micro brew after a long day of sightseeing.

Here is my full set of photos from Shanghai.