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  • Welcome to my Suzhou blog!

    For the next two years (starting on Feb 14, 2011) I will use this blog to chronicle our travels while on assignment in Suzhou, China. My wife and I (OK, mostly me) consider this a great opportunity to get to know one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world. We are excited about the opportunity and hope you will join us as we explore this amazing land and it's surroundings. We encourage you to add comments as you see best.
    Thanks for visiting!
    My assignment ended on March 8, 2013. If you like to follow our next adventure click HERE
    Carlos & Bethe

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Incredible India – Jaipur – The Pink City

Jaipur – The Pink City- after our long, long trek from Delhi and a good night rest we were ready to tour the Pink City, so-called because before the visit of Prince Albert of England (the consort of Queen Victoria) current city ruler Sawai Ram Singh ordered the city to be painted in pink since that color is associated with “Welcome”. We found Jaipur a really nice place and we were happy we had three days to tour around its many beautiful forts, tombs and lively markets. The city dates back to 1721 and his founder being Jai Singh.

Jai Singh was an amazing individual; born in the city of Amber (about 15 km outside of Jaipur) he was the one that moved the city center from Amber to what is now Jaipur. Jai Singh was legendary for his ability in astronomy and mathematics; while in Jaipur we visited Jantar Matar – an amazing open air astronomical observatory (one of five he built) that is simply amazing. We heard about Jaipur when we saw the movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – highly recommended and really another reason I wanted to come to India as the city looked so alive.

This post has more than the usual number of pictures mainly because I find it very difficult to narrow them down. Not every place we visited will be covered with pictures simply because there are too many. I am selecting the most amazing spots and those that will give you a feel for the city and its people (people photography being my favorite type). So take it easy-going through it and hope you enjoy them.

It is early morning and the stores are not yet open (10 AM to 8 PM), but these ladies are ready to get started with their daily purchases. Reminds me of when I was a boy in Lima, my mother would do grocery shopping just about each day. Nothing like fresh, fresh food and those days buying your groceries for the meal of that day was the best way to do it.


The Hawa Mahal – one of the most famous landmarks in Jaipur. It was built-in 1799 by the poet king Sawai Pratap Singh for the royal ladies to enjoy the procession and day-to-day activities from the cool confinement of this majestic facade. It is one of the most recognizable structures in Jaipur; it resembles the crown of Lord Krishna (Sawai Pratap Singh was a great Krishna devotee). The structure is built from red sandstone a very popular building material in the area. It has 953 niches and 152 windows.


Wondering if these are the breakfast dishes being cleaned… you must do with what you have and this people certainly adapt to their conditions. Photo taken as we drive by on our way to Amber Fort.


A panoramic view of Amber Fort. Amber city was the capital of the Kachhawaha’s for six over centuries before the birth of Jaipur. This mighty fort stands atop a range of craggy hills about 11 km from Jaipur. The original fort was built-in 1558, with additions made over the next several decades.


It is a long walk from where cars must drop passengers to the main entrance; what to do? Duh…elephants of course! Locals are doing a great job capitalizing on tourism; good to see, but hope they reinvest some into maintaining and or refurbish these wonderful sights. Here you can see the road we took with our elephant; it took about 20 minutes to get to the main gate.


Elephant #24 was ours. Good ride, swaying right to left about 3 feet was not so pleasant, but a fun ride nevertheless. I felt like a maharaja, except from when the elephant we were riding on decided to blow her trunk and spray all over our feet…biggest mucus discharge ever.


Up we go, as you can see you are pretty high when seated on an elephant. It feels much higher than what it is, I think.


As we ascended we had many angles of the Maota lakes and structures dotting the fort’s front.


As we go in this is the view from the left. A huge court-yard to welcome the king and his guests.


View of Amber city from the back of Amber fort; as mentioned before it used to be the capital of the Kachhawaha’s for over six centuries. In the  back hills you see the old city walls snaking through them still intact.


From the main court, we see the  entrance to the Ganesh Pol or the Ganesh Gate. The weather was really nice as you can see. A bit cool in the shade, but real comfortable when bathed by sun rays. Many tourists around the fort; told they get about 1.5 million visitors per year.


From the top of the previous view – you can get a feel for the size of the main courtyard.


My wife striking a pose in front of the Ganesh Pol – the main structure in the background was the maharaja’s private palace.


Beautifully detailed structure with much detail and rooms inside. It has three levels and has many beautiful frescoes with royal scenes on them.


side note… be careful how you hold your lens when you are having your picture taken.


Another angle of the palace with detail of its three levels.


One of the many courts used for public audiences.


From one of the fort’s towers looking onto the city. Again you see portions of the old gate circling the old city.


Looking at the center court with beautifully decorated gardens with symmetrical shapes looking just like designs out of a Persian carpet.


Detail from the Diwan-I-Khas or Hall of Private Audience. Before entering this building our guide told us that it had 3 million mirrors. What? no way…when we saw it we must say it is possible.


The building is filled with concave mirrors arranged in beautiful and complex shapes. If you get close enough your reflection can be seen in hundreds of them due to their concave shape.


Our guide told us that they used to place on the floor carpets that reflected from the mirrors so depending on the carpet color the room could change it overall feel. Never seen a room with so many mirrors positioned in such beautiful patterns. Must see if in Jaipur.


Restorations are ongoing on the fort. As we moved to another section we saw many ladies carrying building materials into a room being restored. This one caught my eye and lens as she was also carrying a little one on her back. There is no rest for the weary.


Another center court used for public audiences and also to cool off during hot summer days when the temperature can reach 45 degrees C (113 degrees F).


On our way back to Jaipur center we stopped to see the Jal Mahal (Water Palace). The lake covers about 300 acres and the palace was used during summer months by the royals to keep cool. Tourist/visitors are not allowed in the palace, but was told that there are plans in place to open a restaurant on the top floor. As you can see in this picture, if and when done it should be an amazing spot to have an evening meal and bask in the beauty around you.


Meet a team of Jaipuring Langur monkeys having some fun. Not sure if they are trying to steal the bike, but they did look suspicious. You see these types of monkey all around Jaipur; especially in the markets.  We were told they work in teams to distract the produce and fruit vendors as some “borrow” some edibles.


Color. color and more color wherever you look. Street clothing vendor with an array of cotton offerings.


Yes, you do see cows here and there and everywhere.  Sometimes you see a few together and sometimes only one. In this case, this heifer is getting her dinner at a pile of rubbish that unfortunately is a common sight in every place we visited on this tour. There is a campaign to educate people not to throw plastic bags into these rubbish piles because the cows eat the bags because they smell like food only to get sick and some die as a result of being unable to digest them. I can think of other ways to prevent this from happening, but to each its own.


Not sure what service the couple was offering, but it had to do with metal and heat. Just awaiting for one more customer as the day comes to a close.


…what do you think?…how does he look?… the man on the right (barber) seems to be asking. We take much from granted for sure. This is also a common sight in China.


We came by a young girl working on the side of the road, unloading items from a large sack to a smaller container. I took a picture as she was working, but then she looked at me I could not resist taking this picture as her eyes look sad, maybe hoping for a break that would take her some place else. After taking the picture she continued looking at me a bit longer with the same expression and then went back to work. I debated about posting this picture, but thought I should as it shows the contrast of a young boy that may not be yet familiar or able to reason the conditions and daily trials that awaits him against this sweet beautiful girl having a clear understanding of them. I may be wrong, but she looks sad and tired; of course only God knows what is truly going through her mind.



Taking pictures from a moving car is always challenging and I find myself missing more than what I am willing to admit. In this case, I caught this guy looking at me at the same time I was about to press the trigger. Glad I did. He followed me as we went by and then turned away and continued to talk to the guy in front of him.


My wife on the left ready to haggle for some scarfs and other Jaipurian originals.


Tight quarters and endless options as you can see.


Love the beard on this fine-looking gentleman selling lemons. It does seem like it has been a long day though.


Evening rush hour; many are taking public transportation to their homes or second jobs perhaps.


Waited for three days to get a picture such as this one. In the evening you see many ladies in traditional garb shopping in the market. As we looked for spices and a couple of trinkets saw this young lady and I waited until she turned towards me.


Tea time! it seems like anytime is tea time in India. Indians prefer milk and lots of sugar in their tea. Here we see a street vendor making a pot for some eager looking customers. No, we did not buy any here.

Next post will be the last one from our India tour. Stay tuned!

Sarah XieFebruary 26, 2013 - 11:25 AM

Like the photos

Incredible India – Delhi

India has always seemed a fascinating country to visit. I remember seeing pictures of it in National Geographic magazines when I was a boy and thought it was so mysteriously beautiful and so different from I was used to in my native country of Peru. As our China assignment comes to an end I was thrilled to be able to finally visit India. We had to jump through many hoops in order to get our India visas. It is true that each country has their own visa requirements, but we found India to be the most complicated and bureaucratic of all the countries we have applied for visas to date.

My wife was not too keen on visiting India; friends that have visited India told us some horror stories about getting sick from the food, smells, filth, etc. What did not help either were the recent rapes that made world news that specifically took part in New Delhi; our first stop of three (the others being Jaipur and Agra). I was not going to be deterred and assure my wife that we would take every precaution possible to assure our time in India would be a good experience. So let’s get this out-of-the-way right now… we did not get sick at all (only ate at hotels and one restaurant our guide said it cater exclusively to foreigners – no issues with Delhi Belly!!!).

Regarding the violence against women we heard about in the news, we saw none of that either, although many locals do stare at foreign women in a very uncomfortable manner. Imagine that a woman traveling alone in India would not be a prudent thing to do at all. However, I am sure we can make the same comments about many other countries around the world. On smells and other challenges seldom seen in more developed countries…we will cover those in many picture I will post in this in the other two posts I plan for covering our India trip.

So, buckle up and join us as we share key highlights of our India trip (took 1,170 pictures – choosing which to post was tough).

Humayun’s Tomb

China is known for its temples, but India is known for their tombs. The most beautiful architecture in India can be seen in the many beautiful tombs commissioned by sultans, kings and queens. We only spent a few hours in New Delhi since our focus was going to be in Jaipur and Agra. However, the one place we visited before starting our trip to Jaipur was Humayun’s tomb.

The ride from our hotel to this tomb complex gave us our first taste of Delhi’s traffic and view of their roads and streets. More on that below. Here we have a view from the entrance of this 30 acres site. There are some similarities to another famous Indian Tomb…can you tell which one could it be? Thinking we chose the best time of the year to visit. The weather was nice and sunny, but the temperatures were around 48F (9C). Very comfortable and a welcomed difference from summer high temperatures that often reach 104F plus (40C plus).


The architecture in this particular tomb is what is called Mughal architecture developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th century in what it is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Its main characteristics are a symmetrical and decorative style. The corner you see here is identical on the other three corners this building has. Symmetry was very important and it extended across the whole complex having as its center the tomb’s main dome.


View of the main chamber where Humayun’s cenotaph (depicts a coffin, but the body is some place else; in this case the body is buried in the basement below). This large chamber looks very plain today, but there are written records from western visitors indicating it had beautifully detailed colorful carpets and many beautiful decorations that made this a lavish area fit for a king.



The symbolically cut out mihrab (Qibla Wall) the mihrab indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and the direction where devout muslims must face when praying. (photo taken by Deepanjali – use with his permission).


Our visit coincided with that of two large local school groups. All public schools in India separate boys and girls into different schools; with some private ones allowing them to be mixed. This is a group of girls going by as we study the back of the building. A friendly bunch for sure.


As we circled the back of the structure I noticed this wonderful lady wearing a very colorful sari. Had to do my best to take her picture without her knowing. In this shot I am using a very wide lens that allowed me to point it in such a way that the lady thinks she is not included in the frame. She makes this picture stand out in my opinion.


A view from the main building’s second floor; you can see the main entrance and one section of the large garden surrounding the main building. In classic style of the time, the garden was designed in four sections and resembled designs found on Persian carpets.


Within the compound there is a small room describing the history of the tomb. One covers how this tomb was the precursor to the Taj Mahal design. As you can see in the pictures of the two you can easily see the strong similarities.


Right after leaving the Humayun’s tomb we started our trip to Jaipur. Jaipur is one of the three cities known to be in the “Indian Golden Triangle”. The Golden Triangle got its name from the shape formed in the map as you plot a trip from Delhi to Jaipur, Agra and back to Delhi. Delhi is a very crowded city with a population of about 21 million (metropolitan area). The city areas we went by showed a vibrant, but challenged city on many fronts. The roads are very poorly maintained, we saw trash piled along the route and many people sitting on the side of the roads passing time. Many seemed to live on the streets. Not sure if this is the same in all areas of Delhi, but this was certainly common along the route out of Delhi out driver took.


Jaipur is 260 km from Delhi (162 miles). In the US or other well-developed countries a trip of this length would take about 2 1/2 hours. It took us 7 hours of non-stop driving to reach Jaipur. Here you see what was the best part of the Delhi/Jaipur road.


This view is more representative of the road to Jaipur. Narrow, crowded, full of potholes, constant gridlock that took several minutes to start crawling again. Overall, our trip to Jaipur was very trying, but in view of the speed I was able to take many pictures I may not have been able to take at highway speeds.


The ever-present Tuc-Tuc. Easily the preferred method of transportation for the masses. Amazing how many you can fit in one of these small vehicles. This boy is seems to be enjoying his ride.

A familiar sight; wherever we stopped there seemed to be someone selling you something. Prices for the same looking items seemed to vary greatly. We decided to say no thanks in Hindi and ignore them if they insisted further. The approach worked most of the time.


As we went along it was not unusual to see people taking baths on the road. You would see a large concrete pool-like container rising above ground and one or more taking a bath wearing underwear. In this view you see a lady washing her hair on the side of the road – a few feet away from the road we were on. Tough condition for westerners to imagine, but as far as we could tell part of life for many in this area.


Sunny, but brisk. Good weather for a long walk seems to be the plan for these three gentlemen. Due to many stops due to traffic these three kept up with us for a few blocks.

What seemed to make our travel even more challenging was a political rally going at each small town along the way to Jaipur. The rallies took place in small improvised stages decorated with colorful garlands and huge pictures of the main political characters. This jeep was filled with ladies going to one of the rallies and we kept on overtaking each other due to stop and go traffic. They were having a lot of fun waving to my wife and I. They were very warm and looked very happy to us.


We were really surprised to see many camels in India. We saw them everywhere we went and were used primarily to tow heavy trailers, but also used to transport people. They are big dudes for sure, and make frequent large deposits along the road.

Tea time is big in India. In this view you see a roadside tea vendor busy taking care of his customers. We saw many of this roadside tea vendors and all seem to be doing a brisk business. Love the stance on the boy on the right.


The rule of thumb on how many people you can fit in a vehicle in India seems to be three times the official capacity. This was a very common sight across each area we visited.


These are local or town to town taxi like vehicles. If you can fit…anywhere…you pay and they will take you. The more the merrier really works here.


Finally, after 7 hours and 15 minutes we arrive at Jaipur. This is one of the seven gates that allow entrance to the old city built on 1727.

More on Jaipur on the next posting. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting


ccausillasFebruary 24, 2013 - 1:55 PM

Ange, glad you are following the adventure. Hope we can see Richie when he comes on the 28. Later!

Ange AdamsFebruary 20, 2013 - 10:39 AM

Awesome as always. Thanks for sharing all your pics :)

Ana María CausillasFebruary 18, 2013 - 9:18 PM

Thank you so much for sharing, as I always said made me feel that I am sitting behind you visiting everywhere you go. India is an amazing place to visit and learn in situ about it and their people.

Alma ShurtleffFebruary 17, 2013 - 9:50 PM

Thank you for the tour. All your pictures are amazing.

Fengmen Road Local Market

The options for purchasing groceries in Suzhou are many. From the expat oriented Metro, Carfour, Summit, Euromart and others to the many local options. In the local options you tend to see few if any other expats. A while back, my friend Ali introduced me to Fengmen Road local market and I found it a great place to capture locals purchasing their groceries. It does remind me of markets I frequented when I was growing up in Lima, Peru.  Must say I like it. The people are fun and very friendly even though I cannot communicate with them. Been here a few times taking pictures for a post like this one. Lets get to the pictures.

This is the entrance from Moye Road, I usually enter from the Fengmen road side but is somewhat difficult to find if you are not familiar with it.


From this entrance the market looks real nice, from the Fengmen road side the market looks completely different…say less orderly and a tad less hygienic. All the red lantern seem to be in place as China prepares for their Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) celebration.


There are many stalls where you can get FRESH chicken and ducks. Chinese eat a lot of duck which I find quite tasty; especially the way they prepare it. I am very used to this type of stalls, very similar to the ones my mother used to go to in Peru when we needed chicken.


Curious it seems. I suspect this chicken has no idea as to what awaits it.


Wonder what would go through its chicken brain if the chicken in the previous picture could see this bowl. Chicken head soup is very popular here; nothing goes to waste.


Of course, if you prefer to have your duck already made and ready to eat; they offer that option as well.


Not merchant in this market has their own stall. As with every open market we have visited, if there is a space you can sit down you can do so and claim it as your unofficial stall. Here we have this lady selling her live stock and we have some interested customer… will it be duck or chicken for dinner today…?


If you do not have your own stall, then you must go to the killing and plucking ritual in plain sight of all. Once you make your selection the merchant weighs your chicken/s and tells you how much it will be. Then the scissors you see on the lower center are used to cut the bent neck of the selected chicken/s. As the chicken flaps its wings in an effort to escape what must be a strange sensation never experienced before, after a few seconds slows down significantly. The almost dead chicken goes into a large pot of boiling water for a minute or so. Once it is taken out of the pot it is ready to have its feathers plucked (as seen here). Next, the insides are removed and the chicken is cut to order. You are done! You have a very fresh chicken. My wife says she likes to pretend chicken come in a white tray wrapped in clear cellophane — OK then…


Of course the options for meat abound. Pork, lamb, beef and others I am not sure what they are and do not venture to find out at this point. Must say that in the winter this market is a lot nicer than in hot summer days. The meat seems nicer when the temperature is low for obvious reasons.

As with markets in the US and other countries, grocery shopping tends to make you hungry. No problem, there are many vendors ready to take care of your hunger. This is just one of many offering treats; in this case the vendor is making a dumpling like morsel that looks like empanadas but the shell is made out of eggs. My wife and I have had them in a local friend home, they are quite good.


There are many Chinese Muslim in the area. They have many customs that are different and their food blends the two cultures for what we think is a great flavors. We have been to several restaurants owned by this group and one of our favorites is the round bread they have. I saw one portable stall making this bread. Here you see each step. From forming the dough, stamping decorative circles, and placing it into the oven.


The uncooked bread is placed on the very hot oven walls and it takes just a couple of minutes to cook fully – no need to turn it over. Looks just like a tandoori oven.


The finished product. As with all breads, if you can have it while still warm it is really a wonderful treat.


Beans and grains of all sorts; some I have no idea what they are. This lady was quite busy selling to the line formed in front of her stall.


This fellow was very happy to have his picture taken. He offered me a sample of his chip like product, I could not decline since he was so good to let me take his picture. It was very tasty…not potato, it had a bean flower like taste.

Another example of snack vendors. This lady had a ladle where she placed a portion of uncooked potato strings. Then she poured over them what looked like pancake mix (bottom left). Then into the hot oil they went. Nope, did not try them, but they looked good.


Idle hands are not in this lady’s mind. No customers, but she is busy removing the stems of what looks to be spinach.


This market runs along a very narrow road. It can get very crowded at times, but that does not stop many from using their e-bikes to navigate through the crowds. Do not like them as most are beeping their horns constantly and expect walking patrons to let them go…not me. In this picture, you see a drive-thru shopping experience- you just do not see in any US market I know of. Ah, convenience is king everywhere.


Tried to find out what was this guys frying, but could not. Initially it looked like pork skin, but I think a local was trying to tell me it is a flour mixture.


Hey, it is lunch time so I must have a bite…this lady seems to be telling a customer. Wondering if she is eating meat?


Most of this market runs alongside an open narrow road, but a significant portion is inside a building (it is called a “wet market”). In this section, we see fresh seafood for sale; many of it is still alive in large tanks on the floor for you to pick.


The day is almost over. This lady seems like she had it; not sure if she just did not have any customer that needed any clothing alterations, but as you can see food is not the only thing you get at this markets. Actually, you never know what you will find, and that is what makes visiting such places so much fun for me.

Hope you enjoyed this posting. We are on our way to India for the next 7 days. Hope to have many pictures and stories to share with you all.

Off to Incredible India we go!



Ana María CUsillasFebruary 6, 2013 - 3:00 PM

Really enjoyed It, like all others, make me travel with you to all this places, without moving from home.

Is that Fog?

Like any other place in the world, China has great things and some not so great things. Amongst the most troublesome of all the “not so nice things” is the incredible pollution you see most of the time. Yes, we do have some clear days in Suzhou where you can see blue skies and some white clouds; you can see across the lake in front our apartment and way beyond. Unfortunately this is not the norm. Lately, we have had a number of days where the pollution index has been really concerning.

So what is this pollution all about, what is the effect on our health and what can we do about it?

What’s in the air that pollutes it? Elements such as ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Sometimes the environment will look OK, but the pollution levels are not. You can get up to the minute updates on pollution indexes for the following countries/areas by clicking on your choice of ChinaUSEurope. In fact, most of the information shared in this post comes from the shared China and US links.

What made me write this post after being in China for 2 years? Well, I always knew that the pollution in China is real bad due to their very laxed environmental regulations and heavy reliance on coal for their massive energy needs. However, on my way to work yesterday the pollution was the worst I can remember.

DISCLAIMER – the majority of the information shown below comes from several sources; I am not an expert in pollution, just trying to provide some information and links where you can get additional information on the subject.

Yes, it looks like fog, but it is loaded with pollution. It was actually hazardous to drive due to poor visibility. Did not see the actual air quality index, but Shanghai (about 40 miles east of Suzhou) was 258 – very bad…more on the ratings later.


Regardless of pollution levels construction goes on 24/7


This is a picture from today (Saturday, Jan. 26) in the morning. Usually we can see the small pagoda on the left quite clear, not this past few days. View from our living room looking right.


View from our living room looking left. Again, the building in the background are usually visible. Today, barely.


So what was todays pollution index in Suzhou. At the time I started to write this post it was 236, just checked and it is now 258 – the table below shows details:

In this graph from the AQIC group in Beijing China. According to their measurements the air quality in Suzhou at noon on Saturday, Feb. 26 was 258. On the right you can see the rating for other Chinese cities; one as high as 331. So what do all this numbers mean?


How does the rating work?

These are the EPA definitions. As you compare them to the ones provided by the Chinese government (next picture)  you will see definition vary one the number (6 to 7) and the Chinese one (below) provide additional guidance around precautions to take for most.

Chinese Environmental Agency pollution measurements


The pollutants being tacked are:

PM2.5 – Particulate Matter < 2.5µm – very small, very dangerous and on the increase thanks to Biomass burning.

PM10 – Particulate Matter < 10µm (particles likely to be inhaled by humans). Produced by vehicle exhaust – diesels produce more. It is not good if you have asthma or breathing problems. It can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and can affect the heart and blood hence reduce your life expectancy.

SO2 – Sulphur Dioxide. Produced by burning fossil fuels (coal and oil) at power stations. Volcanos produce their fair share!! When it is mixed with rain it makes Acid rain. Yet again, it is not good for asthma sufferers or people with breathing problems. It can irritate your eyes and lungs.

NO2 – Nitrogen Dioxide. 50% caused by transport, 25% by power stations. At home – your gas stove. Not nice for those with breathing problems. It can cause wheezing, coughing, colds etc., but if you have asthma it can cause more frequent and intense asthma attacks.

CO – Carbon Monoxide. 90% caused by transport. In the home you can’t see it, you can’t smell it and it has no taste – but it can give you brain damage or even kill you. Not to be underestimated.

O3 – Low Level Ozone. Produced by sunlight acting on vehicle exhaust fumes. It can cause eye and lung irritation, lowers resistance to infection, not good if you have asthma. It can poison plants.

How does this compare to the US?

Very good at this time of the year. The only area showing some real concerning ratings is located in Utah, not sure what is driving such high rating.


Decided to look at monthly averages in Los Angeles; a city we often hear it has high pollution. As you can see it does, with the warmest days in summer being the worst, but nothing compared to China.


This chart shows some of the short/long-term effects of being exposed to high levels of air pollution such as those listed here. Especially not good for children and the elderly.


So what can we do to avoid exposure?

Seen many Chinese wearing masks, but the majority do not seem to meet the requirements listed on this picture. Have seen a few cyclists with the mask on the left and today we saw two Expats with plain masks; that was an unusual sight.

Again, I am no expert on this topic. However, it is clear that for the past 2 years my wife and I have been exposed to levels of pollution we would not have experienced if we had remained in the US. Knowing that we will return in a month for good is good news for our lungs. I am hoping that, as with smokers that stop smoking, our lungs will cleanse some and return to near what they used to be before we came to China. I must say that I have not felt any of the symptoms noted above, even though I rode my bicycle just about each day for 10 miles. However, I am sure my lungs are at least a bit more polluted that when we first arrived.

This post is not meant to scare those who read it and live in China. It is intended to share a real concern and hope that, for those living in China,  you take precautions that will minimize your exposure to these pollutants. Also hope that the new government in Beijing will step up their battle against pollution and protect their citizens a lot better than they have done so far.


ONE DAY HAS GONE BY SINCE I POSTED THE ABOVE ARTICLE. CHECKED THE AIR QUALITY AND SEE THE TABLE BELOW FOR RESULTS. AS YOU CAN SEE WITHIN 24 HOURS A SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN POLLUTANTS. Yesterday was an unhealthy 258 index; today and respectable 123…lightly polluted. Want to assure readers understand the levels do vary a great deal; sometimes within the same day.

Resources for this posting:

1) Air Now site (

2) Air Quality Now site (

3) Insidio – China Air Quality Site ( In this site you can download widgets for your PC, MAC, iPhone, Android phone etc that will allow you to track air quality in the Chinese city of your choice. Useful tool that will keep you aware so you can take adequate steps to protect you and your family.

Bruce SchleinNovember 30, 2015 - 9:45 PM

I enjoyed the China sets of images. It’s too bad about the awful smog as it makes for really mysterious pictures.

ccausillasJanuary 30, 2013 - 4:08 AM

Happy to hear this blog is helpful. Stay tuned, my wife will be posting helpful things to consider and do targeted to ex pat wives coming to Suzhou.
Best wishes

Kate MJanuary 29, 2013 - 12:09 AM

My husband and I are planning to move to Suzhou in July of this year. I can't tell you how happy I am to have found your blog! Many thanks for the insight and beautiful photos, I'll be reading voraciously over the next few days, I'm sure.

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