Monday, February 23, 2009

Memories of Valentine's Day - Beijing Style

I hope you all had a romantic 'night to remember' with your loved ones, or perhaps you've forgotten about it already? Here in Beijing, this totally decadent western festival is now becoming increasingly commercialised by card manufacturers, flower sellers, restaurants and clubs. This is a sign not only of the increasing numbers of expats and affluence here, but also of the happy-go-lucky attitude of China's youth, the so-called post 80s and 90s (those born in the 1980s and the 1990s). The English language magazines such as Time Out Beijing, City Weekend and the Beijinger were full of articles, listings and ads on the meaning of love, and how to make the heart grow fonder, how to 'light up your fire' (massage), 'share the love' (dinner), hear 'sexy beats all night long' (disco), take part in a 'stylish romantics' party with the 'most performing couple' (the mind boggles) winning a free hotel night stay and/or how to dance dirty (stage show 'Dirty Dancing: One Night in Beijing').

A rather more Chinese-style Valentine described how to cope with both a wife and a mistress on the same day! For those with the opposite problem of having no-one to share Valentine's Day with, then don't worry. Dinner for Six has also reached Beijing, as well as speed dating. And there are numerous dating and social networking websites.

Beijing can impress in many ways that other cities can't, but it excels when it comes to food, not surprising since eating out is a national pastime. For example, on offer were dinner with nightime views over the Olympic sites, (drink bird's nest soup whilst overlooking the Bird Nest stadium) , or over the Imperial Palace (indulge in some forbidden fruit whilst overlooking the Forbidden City?). Other unconventional restaurants include 'Whale Inside' which serves unremarkable fusion food but is remarkable for its lack of lighting, so if you fancied fumbling or being fumbled in the dark, that was the place for you, a truly blind date. 'Chef Table' is literally a one table restaurant set up to satisfy your every whim. That's real exclusivity for you and certainly a good way to impress your Valentine. If you wanted to get your Valentine drunk, then the 10,000 bottle wine cellar at the Hilton Wangfujing would have been a good place to start.

Of course all this costs serious money, and I think the 8-course dinner in a private room of the 5-star Marriott at 9,999 RMB (around 1000 pounds or 1470 US dollars) per couple beats the lot! To put that into perspective, the average per capita disposable income in Beijing is only around 1,700 RMB/month. For those of you affected by the financial crisis, then perhaps a chocolate fondue instead would do, at a mere 138 RMB. For laid off employees and others really hard up then a Chinese meal for 2 would cost around 40 RMB at a variety of 'neighbourhood nibbles' reviewed by Time Out. And for the really mean and/or unromantic, there's always MacDonalds all-day breakfast for only 16.5 RMB, the same price as 10 years ago. Who said that inflation was a problem in China?

So much for the Western Valentine's Day - Beijing style. The real thing though as far as the Chinese are concerned is their own 'Lovers' Day' on the 7th day of the 7th (lunar) month, but that's another story you'll have to wait for. If you are coming to Beijing, and would still like to sample any or all of the above, do get in touch with ChinaMango!

For your first visit to Beijing

If you are visiting Beijing for the first time, you should go to the most famous places such as Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Beihai Park, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple, Summer Palace, Confucian Temple and Bird's Nest. The Great Wall and Ming tombs can be a one day trip, so the total would be four days in Beijing, see the major tourist attractions in Beijing with the following link:

If you want to discover the temples in Beijing I can take you to Taoist temples such as Dongyue Temple and White Cloud (Baiyun) Temple, or Buddhist temples such as Wanshou Temple and Fayuan Temple.

If you coming here during the weekend, you can to go to the most famous outdoor antique market Panjiayuan for a half day.

For nightlife, you can enjoy the Chinese Acrobatics Show, Beijing Opera and ShaoLin Kungfu Show. After the show, there are so many restaurants available, including Beijing Duck restaurants, and you can then go to various bars and nightclubs to meet local expats and Chinese people, and dance the night away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Memories of my holiday in Kenya

When I was living in London, I went to some countries like Kenya, Morocco, Cuba, Brazil etc. Kenya is the country where I saw a lot of animals in nature. We went to a beach resort near Mombassa for one week and went on safari to see the animals for one week.
During the trip, we also visited one local Masai tribe, which I haven't seen anywhere before!

Beautful beach near Mombassa

Camels for the tourists.

The lady is cooking lunch on the street in Mombassa!

Shy boy in the village. Do you know what kind of materials they use on the walls and roof of the house?

With our guide/driver during the trip!

Beautiful girl at the front door!
A traditional welcome dance for us!As one of their traditions, before a male marries he must kill one lion!

A lion close-up

A giraffe having breakfast!
An oil painting of a leopard in the hotel!

Ex-Chinese leader Mr Jiang went to the hotel on safari!
A rhinoceros!

Ten s of thousands of pink flamingos on the lake I saw a condom box in the toilet in the safari park!

On the top of the hill in Mara Masai park!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Memories of Chinese New Year in Beijing

This is my first time to write a blog. I went back to my family to celebrate the festival for the first time in many years. It was quite exciting to hear and see the build up to all the fireworks at midnight. They were banned previously and before that, they were very simple firecrackers. This time everyone was letting off boxes and boxes of fireworks everywhere. In our compound, the designated safe place was in the middle of the lake that was conveniently frozen over.

As midnight approached, there were increasing crackling sounds and smell of sulphur from fireworks which lasted for an hour before dying off a bit. They are getting so sophisticated now, you don't light up a single firework these days, you light up a big box, some the size of a beer crate, which has a whole selection 'programmed in' already, giving several minutes worth of different colours, sounds, shapes and forms one after the other. Last month we were in Bangkok, and saw fireworks displays put on by some hotels for the New Year, but they were nothing compared to the length of time, variety and huge area of sky lit up here in Beijing. Everyone tries to outshine their neighbour. The most expensive ones cost as much as the average monthly wage here, so it seems to me that the financial crisis has not hit Beijing at all. And the same fireworks fever was present in every city, town and village throughout China!

Winter in Harbin

A few years ago I have been to Harbin City in winter. Harbin is located in the north east of China. It is a good place for skiing and other winter sports, and is influenced a little by Russian culture. You can see the people swimming in the river, where the temperature is around -14C (6.4F) on average during the winter.

In the ice sculpture park

During the night