Endless curiosity for Asia – Cora has traveled all over the continent

Cora has been living in Chinatown The Hague since the summer of 2007. The neighborhood did look a little differently, back then. For starters: there were no red lanterns hanging about.


As we speak, she has been an independent entrepreneur in the fitness industry for over 12.5 years and works as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and small group outdoor trainer. The playground on Rabbijn Maarsenplein, in the middle of Chinatown, also serves as a training location for her personal training sessions. 2007 was also the year that Cora went on vacation to China for the first time, and soon she fell in love with Chinese culture.


Do tell, what were your first impressions of China?


“We went there in 2007, before the 2008 Olympics. We did that on purpose because we expected that after the Olympics, a lot of people would suddenly come up with the idea to go to China, and we wanted to see the country ahead of that. We did a tour of China, starting in Hong Kong. We then traveled north from there via Guangzhou, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. Shanghai has a special place in my heart; I have been to this amazing city six times now!”


Tell us more, please!


“It is such an awesome city. It changes quickly. In 2019, we went there for the last time. It’s difficult to say exactly what has changed, but every time we are there, we see new buildings. We also see new metro lines that have been added to the already extensive underground network. We love it there, especially the culture, and Buddhism appeals to me as well. Very different from here in the Netherlands.”


What is it about Buddhism, that interests you so much?


“Mostly the caring for each other, and harmoniously working together to achieve a common goal. Buddhism has a very friendly, soft character, and I like that. You care for each other but you don’t judge.”


That is indeed a beautiful attitude to life. Hey, you said, you’re a personal trainer, and you train in Chinatown?


“That’s right. Since the lock-downs of the gyms in March 2020, I have been looking for places to train outside. Even now that the gyms are open again, many of the people who train with me – including myself – still like to train outside. Early in the morning, it is still nice and quiet in the city and the playground on Rabbijn Maarsenplein is perfect for one-on-one training! By the way, the square gets quite full, with those terraces.”


Yeah, true. What do you think of that?


“The terraces, especially the one of Little V, give off an Asian atmosphere, especially with the bamboo pots that are everywhere. I just think that the connection between the Jews and Chinatown should be emphasized a bit more. The Rabbijn Maarsenplein contains all kinds of small monuments, such as a briefcase. They are now almost disappearing between all the terraces. It’s a story  to keep telling, after all.”


That’s definitely true. Chinatown used to be the Jewish quarter of The Hague. And precisely because the Jews were taken away by the Germans during the Second World War, a lot of space became available here relatively cheaply. Chinese entrepreneurs have made good use of this. That’s why Chinatown is now so diverse – it’s not just Chinese. There are entrepreneurs from all over Asia.


“Yes. The full square must not have been the designer’s intention. The connection between then and now is beautiful. The Jews and the Chinese are both entrepreneurs. They are the ones that work hard – they are there every day. You can of course see that in the rapid expansion of the terraces.”


Absolutely true. Earlier, you talked about traveling in Asia. What other Asian countries have you been to, and which ones do you still want to visit?


“We have already been to many places. To Cambodia, that might be my favorite, but also in Indonesia (on Bali and the Moluccas), Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. Well, before it got restless there, of course. I would like to see more of the interior of China, I am really curious about that. In terms of food, I really like Sichuanese cuisine, so I must go more towards the south. Furthermore, Japan and Korea are still high on my list…”


That’s true! Hopefully, we’ll be able to travel again soon – we’d love to hear your stories! Going back to Chinatown for a moment, what do you think are the most famous restaurants in the neighborhood?


“First of all, Little V. Before that, it was actually Fat Kee that was a big household name. The food there was so authentic that even the Chinese ambassador sometimes got food there to eat. Not so much, anymore. I don’t see so many Chinese people eating there anymore either. I don’t really know why that is, though. At Full Moon City, also called the escalator restaurant (because of the large escalator that brings you into the restaurant), there are often Chinese families enjoying a meal.”


Escalator restaurant, perhaps we should talk about that word more. Let’s see how many people in and around Chinatown know that word. Do you have any other recommendations?


“We also have Hot King, where you can eat spicy Sichuanese food. And don’t forget the supermarkets: Amazing Oriental and Wah Nam Hong. I’ll often go there to purchase some coconut milk, coconut water, tempeh, and pak choi, or whatever else I need. I think it’s really convenient, having supermarkets so close. There’s also the store where you can buy kitchen items, called Yong Da. You’ll see the authentic pans used in Chinese kitchens, I really enjoy strolling around the store sometimes. For indulging in sweet treats, I’ll often go to Li&U Bakery. My spouse is a big fan of sesame balls with red bean paste. For delicious ramen and/or sushi, we’ll often walk downstairs to Momiji. Finally, not Chinese, but my other favorite places are Pazze e Pizze, Istana and Haagse Tailor (my go-to address for tailoring clothes).”


You do know Chinatown like the back of your hand! Is there anything you would wish to come to Chinatown, still?


“Perhaps a coffee store? There are quite some street food shops, now more than in the past, like Asian Streetfood by Momiji. There, they also have the Chinese pancakes,(煎餅)which is great! But a real coffee place – perhaps with some Chinese features, isn’t here yet.”


Correct. Luckily The Hague is quite big, and there are quite some coffee places around. But a Chinese coffee place would be really interesting, too!


Cora, thank you so much for taking the time to tell us all these stories about Chinatown! And once travel is possible again, we’d love to listen to your stories about China again!


Cora is @cora_mol on Instagram. Follow her for fitness tips inspirational quotes!


This article is part of ‘Chinatown Chats’ – stories of people who have a connection to Chinatown The Hague. Do you have a story to share? Let us know via the contact form on our website or send us a DM on Facebook or Instagram!