Brent Crane

Brent Crane is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @bcamcrane

Posts by Brent Crane

Gorge Life

Unexpected encounters at the top of Taiwan – by Brent Crane



My bus to Taroko, a natural reserve on Taiwan’s east coast, was as slow-going as its passengers. A big tour liner, it stopped frequently and each pause brought in another sluggish senior – the island oozed with them – wearing a bucket hat with thin straps that dangled below their chins like soba noodles. They congregated in groups at the front of the bus, looking like middle school field trippers in their silly hats, chatty and spry. I sat alone in the back by a window, pleasantly anxious in my hiking shoes, spying from my seat the sceneries of Hualien, a quiet littoral town with an alpine tinge. The island was kind to a slow-going solo traveler like me, showing itself off in hidden valleys, milky coastlines and green mountains that looked like English hills.


Spring City

Lie back and think of Kunming – by Brent Crane


The same security guard sits in his office by the door to my old university dorm. “Remember me?” I ask him. He studies my face. “I studied here three years ago. American.”

His eyes light up.

“I remember! I remember! American! Three years ago!”

His name is Tang Zao’an and he has worked as a security guard at Yunnan Nationalities University in Kunming for eight years one at the front gate, three at the male dorm across the way, and four at the all girls foreign students dorm.


Stinky Tofu

That first taste you never forget – by Brent Crane


What first struck me in Hangzhou were the trees. Along South Mountain road, a trendy corridor of cafés, modern art galleries and Western eateries that runs along the eastern shoulder of the lake, there is a line of strong, tall sycamore trees. It’s rare to find an old tree in a Chinese city, where the old tends to give way to the new and young.

Hangzhou is famous in China for its sprawling tea fields and the mythical West Lake, the waters of which have enraptured poets, painters and imperial royalty for centuries. Now they attract an endless stream of camera-toting tourists, with robotic tour guides and knick-knack hawkers.


Ramadan in Kashgar

Searching for a morsel in Xinjiang – by Brent Crane


Unless you are in Kashgar during Ramadan, as a foreigner you will never go hungry in China. Eating is a national obsession, and takes on an almost sacred air. Cheap restaurants are everywhere, people are constantly talking about food, and Chinese hosts will bend over backwards to make sure you’ve eaten enough. Often I'm confronted by a fierce jabbing of chopsticks in the direction of a half-finished communal dish and the barking command “eat!”.

So I was surprised to find myself roaming the twisting streets of Kashgar’s atmospheric old town, with a rumbling stomach and diminishing chances of finding an open restaurant.


The Sage and the Sales Pitch

White-fronting in Confucius’s hometown – by Brent Crane


I have a Swiss friend who says yes to everything. When anyone asks him if he wants to do something – grab a bite to eat, go jump in a creek – he almost always agrees. “Why not?” he says.

I thought of him when I agreed to a money making opportunity recently. I was visiting Qufu, a city in Shandong province known throughout China as the birthplace of Confucius, and nothing else. It is a poor and gritty third-tier city, where air pollution has stained the sky permanently grey and residents drive shabby motorbikes and half-constructed tuk-tuks through dusty streets. Without its connection to ancient Chinese history, it would be nothing more then a grey blot among grey blots.