Archive for November, 2009

Shopping, Nails and Jiaozi

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Today Mom and I woke up around 10. We had a lazy morning of breakfast, tea and Chinese cartoons. We managed to get out of the apartment around noon. Our itinerary for today included shopping, suit shopping, shoe shopping, pedicures and eating lots of Chinese food.

We met up with Mev and Maggie at their subway station. Mom wanted to have a suit made in China. After living in Beijing for almost two years, Mev knew a good tailor to make custom suits, skirts and dresses. Did I mention Mev is almost 6 feet tall and her husband is about 6’5”? It’s impossible for them to find clothes in China, hence the tailor. Mom picked out fabric for a suit, skirt and a red holiday dress. She goes back on Tuesday for a second fitting. After some negotiations Mom agreed to pay 1200 RMB for her suit, skirt and dress. This converts to less than $200. Try getting that kind of a deal in the US.

Next we went to Lilly’s Nails for manicures, pedicures and foot massages. Since arriving in China I’ve shaved my legs once. No joke. Don’t believe me? Please see attached picture. I rolled up my jeans to soak my feet and could feel all the women in the nail salon staring at my hirsute legs. Mom said she would treat me to a leg waxing. It hurt like crazy, but was surely worth it. I can wear dresses again!

Maggie needed to finish some homework before dinner so Mom and I were on our own for shopping. The shopping center by Mev and Paul’s apartment is huge, just like most shopping centers in Beijing. After some window shopping, Mom and I found a store called Vero Moda. The shop assistants pulled dress after dress for Mom. The girls worked to find me shorts and tops. The customer service in China is extraordinary. At one point we had four or five girls in the dressing room helping us. Not only did they bring us clothes, but the zipped us up and belted us in. This is how service should be. The work ethic among the Chinese is something you don’t see in America. These girls wanted to make a sale, and sell they did. Mom bought three dresses for herself and two pair of shorts for me.

That much shopping would make any woman hungry. Lucky for us we had dinner plans with Mev, Paul and the kids. We went to a delicious Jiaozi restaurant. For the life of me I can’t remember its name. Jiaozi (dumplings) is a common dish in China. Jiaozi fillings include meat, fish, tofu or veggies. The outer wrapping is similar to a noodle. This is one recipe I must learn before moving back to the US. I just can’t eat enough.

I can’t believe Mom has been here for a week. I have so much fun with her here. It’s nice to share my adventures with someone else. We’ve got one more week together and lots more sites to see. Hope to write again soon!

♥ BB

Temple of Heaven

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Yesterday I felt under the weather so Mom and I stayed home. Initially we planned to climb the Great Wall, but I thought being out in the cold wouldn’t help me feel better. We stayed in sweats all day, ate potato soup and watched CCTV9. A day at home threw off our itinerary. All week Mom has relied on a Starbucks tourist map to see the sites in Beijing. It’s actually pretty handy and includes a subway map with famous sites near each stop. Today we caught up on sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, or as Mom keeps saying, “The Heavenly Temple.”

We took a cab to the park and paid 20 RMB for entrance tickets. Walking into the park I felt like I was at some sort of festival. People everywhere played Chinese games, others sang karaoke and lots of older people danced. I can see myself coming here often when the weather warms up. I love it.

The Temple of Heaven, built in 1420 AD during the Ming Dynasty, offered sacrifices to Heaven. The entire park area covers 2,700,000 square meters. The park layout reflects the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven is round and the earth is square. It is crazy to think something this old is only a short cab ride away from my apartment.

You can only look at temples for so long before they all start to look the same. Mom and I walked around the park a little more and purchased some souvenirs. Obviously I scored a sweet panda hat.

Next on our list of adventures was the weekend antique market. Row after row, vendors sold vases, jewelry, jade, art, clothing and pretty much anything else “antique.” Everything, real and fake, is made in China so we were skeptical to the antiquity of some items. Just like the shopping markets, at the antique market you can bargain for things. If you appear uninterested vendors drastically cut their prices. In the end, Mom purchased a few small paintings. I bought a pocket watch that I plan to convert to a necklace.

The antique market was outdoors and as the sun dropped, so did the temperature. A light breeze picked up and it felt like winter. Mom and I couldn’t look at anymore antiques. Like the temples, they eventually all start to look the same. I wanted to take Mom to a good hot pot restaurant, but I didn’t know the Chinese word for hot pot. The cabbies didn’t understand “hot pot,” so I just said take us somewhere good. That they did.

We ended up at Peking Duck House. We ordered a delicious Peking duck, sweet and sour chicken, eggs, rice and hot tea. With all our walking we worked up an appetite. Mom, a duck house newbie, freaked out to see the cooked duck head on our plate. Out of curiosity we flipped the head over. It was sliced medially (down the center) and you could see the cooked brain, eye sockets and teeth. Yuck!

We came back to my apartment tired and stuffed. Cabs, crowds, subways and locals wanting to take a picture with you is exhausting. On average, we walk anywhere from four to six hours a day. Good thing we’re getting foot massages tomorrow!

♥ BB

妈妈到北京!

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Sorry I haven’t written lately, I’ve been working lots and haven’t had time for pictures. Let me catch everyone up on my life thus far. Eat. Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. See, not much to write about. I should probably start this blog by translating my entry title, since 99.9% of my readers don’t speak Chinese. It says, “Mom arrives in Beijing!” Yep that’s right, my mom is currently in Beijing.

Sunday afternoon my mom arrived at Beijing International Airport. It was so great to see a familiar face in such an unfamiliar country. Since Mom arrived we’ve done lots of eating, shopping and sightseeing. Exactly like I planned.

So far we’ve eaten at my favorite noodle restaurant, a few back alley restaurants and cooked some American food at my place. Mom brought a whole suitcase packed with American food and candy (thank you Yada!).

I worked Monday to Wednesday, so it made sightseeing together difficult. Tuesday evening we went to the Silk Market. Mom didn’t know you can bargain for clothes. She is so indecisive when it comes to shopping, it drives me nuts. I pushed her into buying a new jacket. In the end Mom was happy with her purchase. I was happy she wasn’t trying to wear my jacket anymore.

Wednesday afternoon we noticed ten cop cars in front of my apartment building. This is unusual and scary, since you rarely see people get arrested in China. We’re still not sure what happened, but we watched five people get tossed into police vehicles. We guessed it was gambling or theft related. Some criminals had smug looks on their faces, but one 20-something-year-old was screaming like a mad woman when they hauled her off.

That night we went to Wal-Mart to stock up on food. To get the full experience we walked up and down every aisle. Well, except for the bedding aisle which we should’ve done. We forgot to buy another pillow for my bed (the entire reason we went to Wal-Mart) so my other “pillow” is sheets folded, fluffed and stuffed in a pillowcase.

Yesterday morning Mom and I woke up thankful to have each other. I had work off, so we had a lazy morning. We started off with Starbucks before catching the subway. We went to Zoom to do more shopping. Mom bought a maroon jumper, black skirt and top. She also bought me a smoking hot little black New Years dress. Meow!

We had time to kill before dinner so we stopped at Tiananmen Square. We took the typical tourist pictures. We also explored some 800 year-old alleyways. They were so rustic, it’s hard to believe people actually live there. An alley resident told us the city plans to tear down these old alleys to build high rises.

Around 5:30 we met up with some fellow Washingtonians. My Aunt Viviene’s college friend Mev, her husband Paul and their children Maggie and Charlie currently live in Beijing. Paul works as an accountant updating books for the Chinese government. They are great people and spending time with them makes me feel a little closer to home.

To celebrate Thanksgiving we went to dinner at an American restaurant. The chef is from the US and the food certainly tasted like it. We started with salads, then ate turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and veggies. We finished our meal with apple pie and ice cream. It was so great to eat American food again! Since being in China I’ve omitted milk, cheese, candy (for the most part), bread, processed meat, fast food and alcohol from my diet. This would explain my weight loss. I’ll have to control myself when I get home!

Having my mom here is great. It’s still surreal she’s in China. We both can’t believe it. I will continue to blog as we continue to sightsee. I’m so thankful she’s here. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I’m thankful for my great country. I’m thankful for friends and family. Not just today, but every day, I am thankful.

♥ BB

Hong Kong

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Yesterday I got back from Hong Kong. My visa for China expires every 60 days, so I needed to get out of the country. Apparently Hong Kong is not considered part of China, so took a mini-vacation to the tropics.

On Sunday I flew on Hainan Airlines (our advertising firm does their design work!) to Shenzhen, China. Stepping off the plane I felt like I was in Hawaii. Lush, green mountains surrounded the airport, palm trees lined the highways and the muggy, humid air was a stark contrast from Beijing’s cold, dry air. My dad’s business partner Doris met me at the airport. After a quick lunch, we boarded the bus to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is only an hour bus ride form Shenzhen. We probably spent 20 minutes going through Customs, where we were asked health related questions. With H1N1, you cannot enter or exit a country if you exhibit any signs or symptoms of the virus. Likewise, while traveling I wore a face mask to prevent getting sick. Silly but worth it. To get to Hong Kong we crossed a very new and very large bridge. On the drive we passed numerous bridges, boats and tombs. In Hong Kong they cremate the dead and leave the ashes at elaborate tombs. Before we knew it, we arrived in Hong Kong. We walked a few blocks to our hotel, checked in and took a short nap before preparing for the night.

Around 5 pm, Doris and I met another one of my dad’s business partners, Ming Lou. Ming took us to a famous seafood market. Imagine Pike Place Market, but every vendor is a live seafood shop. Ming’s friend owns one of the seafood shops, so he let us take pictures holding the food. I couldn’t believe all the variety! They had fish, lobster, crabs, clams and even live squid. I’m not sure what the heck I’m holding, but it was some big, creepy crustacean thing. Yuck! The owner took a squid out of the tank. It made a hissing sound and he quickly tossed the squid back in the water. He was just in time, because as soon as the squid hit the water it shot out black ink. We also went out onto a dock behind the seafood shop. Looking out we saw numerous houses lining the water. Ming said these are traditional Hong Kong style homes. They have tin roofs, minimal windows or doors and some don’t even have bathrooms. Occupants without indoor plumbing use a community bathroom. It’s hard to imagine, but it just shows how you can live in moderation.

After we picked out our seafood, we went to a popular seafood restaurant. I don’t know if it was the cooking, the fresh food or a combination of both, but this was by far the best seafood I’ve eaten in my entire life. We started our meal with buttery, meaty jumbo shrimp. Mmmm… Our next dish was even better. We ate fried fish cooked with soy sauce. I couldn’t get enough of it! The fish was cooked to perfection. A dish like this would cost at least $50 in the US. We also ate crab, thousand year old eggs (they’re not really that old) and a tofu, seafood soup. Yeah, it sounds gross when I explain it, but you had to be there. Hao chi (delicious)! 好吃!

We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. To give our stomachs a rest we decided to walk around the city. We went to a popular street market. They had everything from food, fortune tellers, local art, jewelry and knockoff designer goods. Next we went to a popular viewpoint that provides a great view of Victoria Harbor. To get there we had to drive through a massive tunnel. Hong Kong is made up of several small islands. The place we were going was on one of these islands. The tunnel we passed through took us right under the Pacific Ocean. What a weird feeling. The view of Victoria Harbor at night is breathtaking. We picked a great time to go. The bright city lights reflecting on the clouds made for great pictures.

On the drive to and from the viewpoint we passed massive and expensive homes. Some homes cost as much as 1 billion Hong Kong dollars! There is obviously a lot of money in Hong Kong. Just in the parking garage for the viewpoint we saw two Lamborghini’s, a Ferrari, a Bentley and two Rolls Royce! Hong Kong also has dealerships for all these cars. Ming said the price for a Lamborghini in Hong Kong is almost double the price of one in the U.S. Why? Well Hong Kong was established by the British, so in Hong Kong everyone drives on the left side of the road. This means for cars sold in Hong Kong (including luxury cars) the driver seat is on the right.

The next morning Doris and I woke up early to do some sightseeing. We went to a famous “Big Buddha” temple. On the drive to the temple we passed numerous white, sandy beaches. If I’d brought a swimsuit, I certainly would’ve preferred spending a day at the beach. However, I did not anticipate being anywhere warm, let along tropical, when I packed for China. Therefore, I left all swimsuits in the US. D’oh! Seeing the Buddha statue from afar, it looked big. Only when we were next to the statue did we realize it’s enormity. Just guessing, I would say the statue is at least 50 feet high. It’s massive! Surrounding the temple are mountains, trees and the Pacific Ocean. What a beautiful, and tranquil place for a temple. Doris and I decided to take a cable car down from the temple to see more sights. At first Doris didn’t want to take the cable car because she is afraid of heights. She thought the cable cars were open and was afraid of falling out. I explained that they are all enclosed and totally safe, so she agreed. I’m glad we took the cable car, because the view was unbelievable. Halfway through the day my D-60 battery died, so I had to rely on my Nikon CoolPix camera. Not bad, but not great. Whatever. At least I had a camera, right?

Doris and I also did a little shopping, but everything in Hong Kong is so expensive compared to Beijing. I got a few gifts for friends and family, and also a little something for myself. I got two pairs of leggings for 39 HKD each, or $5 each. Definitely worth it because I live in leggings. I also bought myself a gorgeous necklace with colored roses, chains, scissors and hearts. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s super rad. I’ve been looking for something similar for quite some time. I bought it at a little boutique that carries funky clothes and jewelry by Japanese designers. My favorite store was called BESS. It’s an American store . The owner originally designed jewelry for Ana Sui, Alexander McQueen and Dior, before expanding to create his own high-end jewelry line. Eventually he expanded to design clothes. I loved all the punk style clothes and jewelry at BESS. Unfortunately, the stuff is incredibly expensive. The necklace I liked retailed for $670 US dollars! They also had jeans for about $120, but they weren’t anything special. Ever since I found Levi’s and True Religions at a Tri-Cities consignment shop, I refuse to pay a lot of money for jeans. Did I mention I got my Levi’s and TR jeans for free? Yeah, I did. I just traded my old clothes for “new” ones. Talk about bargain shopping. What recession!?

After sightseeing and shopping all day, Doris and I caught the bus back to Hong Kong. Actually we took the subway to a bus station, then took a bus to Customs and then a cab to Shenzhen. We had one last delicious meal together in Shenzhen. For being two tiny ladies, we certainly put down the food. We devoured peanuts, seaweed, cold cucumbers, chicken, fish, soup, eggs and four bowls of rice. I guess all that traveling made us hungry! Considering how much I’ve eaten, I should be packing on the pounds. Much to my surprise, when I weighed myself at our hotel in Hong Kong I’ve lost almost 10 pounds since moving to China!! Is there a diet that involves no working out and all eating? I guess that’s what I’m on.

Well that about covers my trip to Hong Kong. Two days were certainly not enough to experience the city. I would love to go back for a week and just lay in the sun, shop at the markets and explore the historic sites.

I’m off for now. All my co-workers are chain smoking in the office and I have a massive headache. My lungs would be better off sucking on the exhaust pipe of a diesel truck. Maybe I should start wearing those silly face masks to work. Ha! Even though I miss the US I am so happy I will be staying in Asia until June. My time in China is flying by. Mom comes to visit in 11 days and I fly home for the holidays in 35 days. See everyone soon!

♥ BB

Beijing Snowstorm

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

This morning I woke up freezing. I groggily walked to the bathroom to heat up with my hairdryer. I put some water on the stove to make tea, turned on the TV and threw open the curtains. “What the- !?” Much to my surprise, I saw at least three inches of snow on the ground and more falling.

Yesterday meteorologists used cloud seeding to end drought and bring snow to China. Maybe they went a little overboard on the seeds?

I ate breakfast, drank my tea and braved the cold. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to photograph Beijing in the snow. I apparently wasn’t the only one with pictures in mind. I passed a few photographers with plastic bags over their cameras. The snow-covered art looked so different from before. Very picturesque.

I took pictures until I couldn’t feel my fingers, then headed to the office to upload them. When I left, the temperature had dropped to -2° C and strong winds picked up. Did I mention my apartment doesn’t have heat until November 15th? The temperature indoors probably dropped to 50° F!

Here’s what I slept in:
-Tights
-Columbia leggings
-Knee high socks
-Black long-sleeve shirt
-WSU sweats and sweatshirt
-RIDE snowboard jacket

I can’t even imagine what people without heat go through. I am so thankful for a roof over my head!

♥ BB