Archive for September, 2011

The Great Wall of China is a MUST for any Beijing visitor and today we went on a class excursion to Mutianyu. The appeal of mutianyu lies in its dramatic hilly setting and has a series of watch towers.


It is also slightly less touristy – no one sold the “I’ve climed the great wall” certificates even though I was looking for the vendors who sold those!

Great wall and one of it's watch towers

It was a steep climb up to get to the wall


One of the highlights of the great wall was the tobbogan – it costs more than the cable car but helluva lot more fun!

Tobogganing down the great wall


A short camel at the base of mutianyu! First time a hike is a must, maybe next time by camel? 😛

Rather short looking camel...

Beautiful in autumn when the leaves turn red:

Post card pic of the great wall in fall

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

Me at the Temple of Heaven

Have a good weekend peeps!

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Nan Luo Gu Xiang (南锣鼓巷) is a quaint area with little alleyways that are packed with restaurants, cafes, shops selling all sorts of snacks, handicraft and cute souvenirs. It has a chilled out atmosphere and has a good mix of locals and tourists. I will definitely return to explore the shops and sample the snacks.

Stinky taufu

Stinky taufu

We were walking along and caught a whiff of the worst drain smell, the conversation went something like this:

Me: OMG! the drain stinks (looks around for the drain)

Kat: Yeah, that’s the bad thing about Beijing. The random bad odours.

SC: No, that’s not the drain! That’s chao taufu.(Turns to me) Want to try?

Me: YESS!!!

Verdict: It STINKS!!! The first bite is quite nice because you taste the chilli sauce and fried taufu skin but once you bite into the taufu, you almost gag from the odour! Imagine eating taufu that has been soaking in a stagnant drain! Unfortunately eating other things do not mask the lingering rotting smell that is left in your mouth! At least you don’t see pieces of mould on it like mouldy cheese but just as unpleasant.

Nai lao / cheese

Red bean nai lao

Next stop was what they called yoghurt or nai lao. Calling it yoghurt (suan nai) is really misleading as it does not taste sour or anything like yoghurt. Correction: I later asked me teacher and she said this is cheese (but also really misleading because it taste nothing like cheese).

Verdict: Yummy and worth a try! Taste like a cross between steamed egg (think chawan mushi type texture but no mushroomy taste) and taufu fah (beancurd). Comes with a variety of possible flavours like red bean, coffee, etc.

Here’s a photo of the shop front if you want to look for it. Apparently there’s always a long queue.

Shop that sells the nai lao

Besides food, there are also shops that sell all sorts of stuff! From scarves that costs more than GBP 200 (Yes! GBP not RMB) to bizarre accessories like this.  It’s more popular than you would imagine. I’ve seen people in cafes with iphone cases similar to this!

iPad2 cover - Crystal encrusted mario bros

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Hot pot or huo guo as it is known in China or steam boat  as it is known in Malaysia is a method of cooking thinly sliced meats, meatballs, vegetables and noodles in herbal or chilli broth (or both) that is very popular in Beijing especially in winter. I have eaten more hot pot in the two weeks I have been in Beijing than I have in the last decade, and the variety and styles of hot pot can differ so widely here.

Haidilao Hotpot

Two types of broth – spicy and herbal. Crazy amount of chilli and oil went into the spicy one
Kung fu style La mian – all show, no skill!!
Aprons on!!

Here’s what we had Ting Ting near Soho in Beijing

Individual hotpots with a choice of ru guo cha or mushroom broth
Yummy seafood balls
The spread – beef, lamb, taufu, veges to be eaten with condiments like peanut sauce

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Sanlitun Village

On Saturday, we woke up too late to make it to the summer palace as planned so we decided to go shopping instead and headed to San Li Tun in the Chaoyang district.

It has many malls with international brands and interesting modern architecture. Foreign brands are a lot more expensive than they are in Europe or KL /Singapore so we headed over to Ya Show Market – where they sell fake bags / shoes on the LG floor, fake clothes on the 1st Floor, fake make up (MAC, Nars, OPI), electronics, suit and cheongsam tailoring, etc. I forgot to take a photo of how it looks like in Yashow but it looks a lot like the Silk Market near Yong An Li.

Silk market - near Yong An Li

Can’t say I am a big fan of bargaining or shopping in Beijing and came out empty handed from both Yashow and Silk Market. Sure, the stuff is cheap but it also looks cheap and I’m not being snobby! There was no way you could mistake it for the “real thing” because of the quality and workmanship. It looks like whoever manufactured the fakes (bags / shoes / clothes) never really saw or felt the real thing but I suppose you get what you pay for!  My friend bought a balenciaga bag for only RMB300 but the strap buckle broke within a couple of days!

My favourite purchase of the 2 weeks I have been in Beijing is from the 77th Street Mall near Xidan. I bargained this down to RMB 50 (GBP 5) from RMB 60. I am pretty pleased since  this selling for USD 15 on ebay but my italian friend said I could have got this cheaper!

My Angry Bird iPad2 sleeve

More of Sanlitun…

All sorts of shops here

Ping guo (Apple) is everywhere

Beijing is beautiful - both old and new. Haha! Maybe i love shops and civilization! 😛

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Tea obsessed nation

China is a tea obsessed nation, everything local or international comes with a tea flavour. Oreos, wrigleys chewing gum, biscuits, hair care, soap, air fresheners, all have tea flavour. Even the pillow that I bought has a special outer pocket that is sewn on one side which is filled with tea leaves!! So if i drool, I may taste tea in my sleep too!

Sign at a supermarket near uni

Yes, one should avoid “bargain” purchases in China – not only because you may have a life-threatening trampling accident but because it’s probably fake or not safe. They even sell fake eggs here!! Apparently looks like an egg, shell cracks like an egg, cooks like an egg but taste nothing like an egg.

The only english on the pack of snacks

Being illiterate in China is not easy, it makes it difficult to buy snacks and food as everything else is in Chinese but a few useless words of english. I think I have lost a couple of kg despite being extremely adventurous with my food.

Chateau Changyuafip

China has their own version of everything – even wine! There’s also chateau SunGod, Greatwall wine, etc. European wine is NOT cheap here. Champagne and some brands of wine I recognise are almost double the price in Beijing.

Toothache - fruits coated with sugar

Sugar loving nation – fruits coated in sugar, if you order yoghurt it also comes with a sachet of sugar, bottled teas are super sweet. Might be a good place to buy stock in a sugar manufacturer..

Women playing mahjong by the road side

It’s very common to see old men playing chinese chess on the roadsides and parks. They usually also attract a crowd of onlookers! Somehow this really warms the cockles of my heart to see grandpas hanging out together playing something that is so traditionally chinese. The women playing mahjong was a table setup near a street side stall. 🙂

Men playing chinese chess


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Life is no longer one big holiday, classes began on Tuesday! University in China is different from the UK, classes start at 8.00am every weekday until 12.00 noon and attendance is taken twice a day! My class is quite an interesting mix of nationalities and age groups. There are 6 italians, 3 japanese, 1 french, 2 portugese, 2 spanish, 1 swedish, 1 aussie, etc. The swedish chinese girl beside me is only 19 and the man across the room has to be at least in his mid 50s.

Good thing it takes me 5 minutes from my room to classroom 🙂

My morning walk to class

 I always wondered why people studied at Starbucks – I now have the answer, their rooms / homes are too small to have friends over and the coffee is better than what I can get on campus. Poor old me 😦

Studying at Starbucks

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This year has been a very good year. I married the love of my life, I had the most fantastic opportunity to study mandarin in Beijing and I am in the midst of pursuing my dreams! I feel like I am growing and heading to the right direction and the year ahead is just as exciting!

But the life in Beijing also means I am far from the people I love! So I was prepared to enjoy the mid autumn festival and not celebrate my birthday today. Somehow, celebrating with brand new friends just seemed like celebrating for the sake of celebrating and it wasn’t going to be the same without the people you love and love you by your side.

It started with knock on the door (despite my do not disturb sign outside) and I was pleasantly surprised to see 24 red roses and a glass vase for me!

Birthday roses

Then we went sightseeing in town – Lama Temple

Lama temple

Then on to dinner & KTV

Birthday cake with singing and dancing candle


A big thanks goes out to Sai Chow who was so nice to make me feel at home in Beijing and introducing me to his group of friends…

Dinner @ Ting Ting something

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“Eat grubs” was one of the 10 top items on my to-do list in China! So when 2 of my husbands ex-schoolmates brought me out for dinner on one of my first few nights in Beijing, I was thrilled and terrified in equal measure that they decided to bring me to a really nice modern restaurant called middle 8th restaurant that sold edible insects.

Starter: Deep fried edible insects - 2 types of larva, bees and dragon flies

When they first put down the plate, my imagination went wild. The Hakuna Matata song started playing in my head and I could imagine how the grubs looked if they were still alive and crawling. In the Lion King, Pumba famously said “SLIMY, yet satisfying”. On any other day, if I saw these fellas in the same room I would have fled like my life depended on it. I would not even touch it with the bottom of my shoe and tonight I plan to put it in my mouth!

Grubs up - here I go!

I am pleased to report that once I managed to overcome my mental hurdles, the dish was actually quite aromatic and I tried them all. The texture is crunchy and tastes something like dried shrimp but not fishy. It was dry inside and not slimy like Pumba claimed (I will try not base my facts on cartoons next time).

Larger than my fingers

Yummm!! Sai Chow having ago

Smaller grubs, fried with chilli and then dipped again in chilli powder

We didn’t just eat insects, we ate A LOT! The food was delicious, wild veg with mushrooms, fish with flowers, ribs in pandan leaves, chicken, you name it, we ate it. They claim that in China, as good hosts they have to feed guests until you can no longer eat and they were fantastic hosts! I didn’t feel the need to eat until the next evening and I’m the type who cannot skip meals and eats throughout the day. Also, they serve rice at the end of the meal rather than with dishes.

Chet eating rice

Specialty rice wine served in a bamboo pitcher - delightful!

 Next stage: Fear factor style food at WangFuJing market. I think I need more time to overcome my mental hurdles for these.

Market stalls at WangFuJing

Scorpions still wriggling

Repulsive looking things - silkworms and possibly roaches

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Navigating around Beijing without being able to speak or read much Chinese has been challenging. While I have learnt phrases like “zhe shi shen me?” and “… zai nar?” , what i hadn’t counted on was that they would reply with a string of words that were missing from my vocab so it was pointless to ask the question. Most Chinese people that I have encountered have been very polite and patient.

Beijing is an interesting city, the modern parts of it remind me of KL and other parts remind me of the “olden days” chinese dramas on TV. These are a few of my favourite alleyways (called hutong) of olden Beijing in my first few days

Solitary tree in a random quiet hutong

Shop front with rickshaw on Dazhalan Da Jie


Everything here has a chinese name, Starbucks Chinese translation is xing ba ke kafei. Only international chains like Starbucks, KFC, McDs have english menus! 😦 It’s a really learn the language or starve! Also, international students have Chinese character names too!! Italians, Mexicans and even Malay Malaysians all have Chinese character names.

Men playing Chinese Chess

Trying to covertly snap a pic of these 2 men deep in concentration playing Chinese Chess

Qian Men

Olden day looking shops

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