About Nathan James Thomas

Fresh out of high school , Nathan James Thomas hopped a flight to Australia and spent three months riding the Greyhound buses across the remote centre and forgotten corners of the vast continent. Ever since then he's been hooked on the long journey, the strange town, the new city and the unfathomable characters that have kept him traveling ever since. Originally from New Zealand, Nathan spent 2015 in Poland and is now based in Shanghai.

Author Archive | Nathan James Thomas

From Sichuan to Cairo – Interview With Peter Hessler

Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Peter Hessler. As a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of three acclaimed books on China, Hessler’s writing offers fascinating and deeply felt insights into the changing landscapes, cultures and characters he has encountered in his travels.  After teaching in […]

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Chaos and Quiet in Suzhou

  Boats lazily cruise up and down the canal which runs beside Suzhou’s famous Shan Tang street. White, low roofed houses line the banks, and orange lanterns hang suspended above the still water. The tranquility is in perfect contrast to the roaring carnage of the street itself. Like an ocean storm, it sweeps you up, […]

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Notes on a French City

In 1849, the French government decided it would rather like a slice of Shanghai to call its own. This was standard practice for European governments in China at the time, so the local authorities were not surprised. China complied, and so the French Concession came to be. Scarcely 100 years later, France itself was at […]

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A Shanghai Character

    His Dad had spent over 20 years in prison, escaping four times only to be caught and locked up again each time. The final time he was arrested was after he’d crossed the border from Inner Mongolia into Mongolia proper. In jail he was beaten badly, and his wounds had him sent to hospital. […]

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An Ordinary Day in Shanghai

China is a country where nothing is mundane. Weirdness always waits around the corner, ready to pounce. Crossing a bridge, a man might wave at you, “friend, friend!” If you’re foolish (as I often am) you stop briefly and make eye contact. “iPhone!” the man shouts. He is taller than most Chinese, with dark skin and strange hair. […]

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Among Soldiers

I sat at a table surrounded by former Israeli soldiers. A women, short with dark hair, sat holding her small child. She had been in the intelligence corps, riding helicopters over Gaza. Opposite me was a dark faced man with silver hair who spoke English with a strong accent. He had been in the first war […]

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Under Keleti Station

We went there the day after the buses. Most people had already left. Carried over the border into Austria. Germany was waiting, arms open. We came with good intentions but few ideas. When our friends first went to Keleti with food they were mobbed. Children snatched the bags out of their hands. 3000 people had lain on the […]

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Top 10 Travel Songs for Hopeless Wanderers

  Here are my top 10 travel songs for hopeless wanderers – serious travel songs best enjoyed in the company of a stiff drink or on a train late at night (or, ideally, both). The choices are pretty personal so definitely not a great fit for everyone, but if you’ve got a bit of the […]

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Rhythms of the Road

They’re building a shopping mall next door. Sounds of drilling rip open the suburban evening. The sun is setting out the window to my left. It’s so strange to be still. It took me seven days to get from Istanbul to Poznan. No flights. One overnight bus, three sleeper trains and a delirious 3 hour […]

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Lost in the Light of Dawn

We crossed into Bulgaria shortly after midnight. Aside from an elderly Chinese couple I was the only tourist onboard. The other passengers blended in with the fabric of the bus. A women in a black leather jacket, ragged face, dark makeup. Old men in blazers with white hair. A young man, short hair, pudgy face, who coughed […]

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