A man of the people

Updated: 2013-07-01 17:51

By Han Bingbin (China Daily)

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A man of the people

Boeve's travels have taken him to both famous and off-the-beaten track destinations.

Arie Boeve's love affair with China and the Chinese began 20 years ago, but the passion persists and the love has borne fruit through his book Stories of Lao Arie. Han Bingbin reports.

One day in 1993 Arie Boeve walked out of his apartment near Beijing's Asian Games Village. Pointing at a white guy walking past him, the Dutch man uttered something that surprised even himself: "Wow, there's a foreigner," he shouted.

"I used to be the only foreigner in my neighborhood," he says.

That was 20 years ago, when Boeve paid his first visit to Beijing, a raw beauty of an Oriental capital. Back then the Third Ring Road had just been constructed. There were so few highways it took him almost a day to get to the Great Wall.

A man of the people

But he was somehow deeply attracted to the lovable qualities of the people he met and at night, when he had a barbecue by the roadside, he was greeted with warmth.

"They see you, gaze at you and say 'hello'. I always feel safe in China, in Beijing," he says. "I really started to love China. People are really nice."

Thanks to his plant trade business, he then started to travel to China three to five times a year. By the early 2000s he had "traveled so often to China and loved the country so much" that he decided to settle here. The result is that he now lives for up to 50 weeks in China, taking only a couple of weeks off to visit his family back in the Netherlands.

His business has enabled him to travel around the country and the establishment of his website Laowaichina.com. It attracts 5,000 visitors from about 70 countries every month and features meticulously chosen pictures from Boeve's collection of 100,000 pictures he took during 30 years of traveling, especially to China. For him, traveling is the best way to cultivate a respect for local people.

One of his most revealing trips, one he even now still talks about with excitement, was a boat trip on the Yangtze River from Sichuan down to Wuhan in Hubei province.

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