Friday, December 16, 2011

1st Time Skiing

Because my friend suggested to go skiing in Japan, because I accepted the suggestion, and because I happen to be in Beijing, because my friend suggested why not learn skiing in Beijing 1st! So that was why I decided to forgo a trip to a remote Great Wall of China and went ahead to a ski resort to learn skiing..

As it turned out, I chose Huai Bei International Ski Resort (怀北国际滑雪场). The ski season just started not too long ago, so some of the ski resorts were not opened yet when I was there, and only a few lanes were ready. It is man made snow at this resort, so when we went, there were machines plowing through, generating snow..

We took the local bus 936 (look out for the bus that says to 怀北国际滑雪场) from Dongzhimen Old bus station. Bus fare is RMB14 one-way. There is a direct bus that departs from Dongzhimen at 810am and returns 1630 from the ski resort but it wasn't operating when we went. Check the website for bus information 怀北国际滑雪场

The bus journey took slightly more than 2hrs. Long bus ride, on hard seat.

Right outside of the ski resort, you can see a portion of the wild Great Wall that has not been refurbished and there were people on the dilapidated Great Wall. And it seemed as though there's no ticket office. A great idea for the next trip!

There were still machines making snow for the ski lanes. We called ahead and got a promotional price for a day pass of RMB180 (original RMB360), includes ski equipment. Clothes rental was RMB30 (jacket and pants), and you can rent gloves, helmets, etc.

We hired a coach (there were plenty at the doorway). RMB200 for 2 to 1 (it's RMB150 for 1-1) and incremental per hourly (no discount for more hours).

With our gears on, we started the coaching, learning how to wear the skis, remove the skis, laws of gravity (lean forward), how to stop (A-frame). Really makes use of your thigh muscles a fair bit!

My ski gear - Goggles + Hat + Gloves from china Taobao

Not as easy as it looks, gota have a lot of control and really push hard when doing the A-frame to make sure you really stop there and then, else you'll keep sliding down gradually...
After an hour, we decided to practice on our own and went up and down the beginner's ski lane

Going up the conveyor belt

Then we decided, let's go up the ski cable and try out a steeper beginner's slope!

On the ski cable

As the day went by, it actually started to become warmer and warmer...And I was practically perspiring under the jacket and my hair was all wet from wearing the beanie (couldn't take it off as my hair was totally messed up)

The Ski cable was a fun ride up, with the view of the entire ski resort. However, I had trouble getting off the cable. Hehe, couldn't ski off the path in time quite a number of times, had to be pulled away by the staff...

This is the intermediate slope. Didnt try this time

This is the steeper beginner's slope

We spent most of the day going up the ski cable and skiing down the slope. It's actually quite fun, and not that difficult on the beginner's slope.

Did I fall? Initially during coaching a couple of times. During the steeper beginner's slope? Once only.. Initially was frightening but it was quite a bit of a rush!

Still A-frame is very tiring and hard on the knees...Need to learn a new way if I were to tackle steeper slopes!

Still wondering, how am I to survivie a 3-day ski pass in Japan?

Initial try at skiing

A longer ski without stopping..Unfortch the vid was taken at the end

Monday, December 12, 2011

Food in Beijing

So I'm not a foodie. I eat to live. And I'm very easy to feed. Except for the fact that I don't eat meat and raw things, I'm fine with just a plate of fried vegetables or tofu. No need for fancy dishes..

But of course, occassionally, I do enjoy good food. Yes, I know what is good food as opposed to utter rubbish. So when I travel for work, I try as much as possible to visit nice, recommended restaurants. Yes, dishes ordered are limited by my taste bud and food restrictions but still, some of them are good

Thanks to 大众点评, we went in search of those 很好吃,很难找(very good food, but hard to find) places.

1st stop - 大里四合院(Dali Courtyard), at No.67小经厂胡同, near鼓楼东大街. Walk into the hutong, and you'll see the red lantern on your left. That's the restaurant. It is set in a courtyard environment. On the outside, it looked deserted, but once you step in, it's crowded!!

That's the entrance. Very dark but step in and wow!

You pay nett RMB128 per pax for dinner. No menu, cos you eat whatever is being served that day by the chef! Every table gets the same kinda food, but the number of dishes depends on the number of diners.

That day, the 2 of us got 7 dishes. 2 appetisers of salad (this is really good, tangy, sweet, and crisp freshness) and dried beancurd skin salad (also very good). Stir fried mushroom (no complains here, I love mushrooms!), chicken dish (more for my colleague), deep fried prawns with curry leaves (you can eat the shell together and this is nicely done, not too oily), stir fried vegetables, and the main star the BBQ fish! With spices rubbed on it while BBQing. Hopefully they have that fish every night, if not, sorry but you'll have to go another day!

For dessert, we were each given sugared Hawthorn

Next up, WISH (梧桐). Another not too easy to find place. It is fusion restaurant with pianist and jazz singer.

Cold dish - Walnuts+apple+celery with mayo. This is refreshing quite nice but I'm not a fan of soggy walnuts.

We ordered the pumpkin soup. This is amazing! I love pumpkin and this is not too sweet, and the pumpkin was roasted to perfection1 Very soft and silky. You can easily scoop the flesh with the soup. Yummy! A meal by itself! By the time i finished this, I was full! And it was only the 2nd dish.

Wasabi prawns. Not so great. Wasabi flavour was not enough and the prawns were too small. Paradis Inn has better wasabi prawns.

Cod fish spiced with sichuan pepper. It looks harmless but once you take a bite, the spiciness hits your taste bud as an after taste! It is really good! The amount of pepper is just right and doesnt overpower the taste bud. Highly recomended.

Colleague ordered this. I'm not a dessert person, especially not tiramisu.. But she said it was not bad.

Of course, the trip is not complete without a trip to Peking Duck restaurant. It was a choice between Da Dong and QuanJuDe. We chose DaDong (大董)at东四十条.

And I thought it was a local restaurant!! It was totally revamped and looked very fusion! All dishes were artistically plated..Very modern.

Cold dish - 2 yams (purple yam + chinese yam) This is refreshing! A slight tanginess to accompany the sweetness of the yam.

I ordered cold pea soup, it was a ery small portion (in a saucer plate). But it was creamy silky and thick! Nice and refreshing. Pea flavour is prominent but not too peay (vege taste is not appealing to most people but this is ok)

Another cold dish - shredded pumpkin with wasabi! I recommend ordering this dish. Sweetness of pumpkin with the tartness of wasabi. Super combi!

And the duck! RMB198 for half portion. My colleague says it's much better than QuanJuDe, very crispy, not too overly oily or fat. You get a bowl of duck soup to go with it. Condiments are RMB8 per pax.

We then went to a Singaporean restaurant - My Humble House. Fusion food.

Cold dish of eggplant salad. Sweetness with a tinge of tart. Nice

Deep fried soft shell crab with salted egg coating. The salted egg coating is not too thick to cover the crab taste. Nice choice!

Fish 2 ways - Stir fry and braised. I prefer the stir fry. The braised was not to my taste bud.

We went in search of another courtyard restaurant and I remembered my friend's recommendation!! So we went to 花家怡园along簋街. Remember to go to the main outlet near 北新桥station. That's the only one with courtyard setting. There are 2 outlets along the street, but just go to the one nearer to the station.

We called ahead to make reservation and got ourselves a private room!!!

We ordered this fish dish and I must say this has to make it to the must order dish list! It is fish, butterflied with scales, and deep fried to perfection. Spicy black bean sauce poured over it. Crispy and spicy! Nice!

Another house specialty - braised cabbage. This is braised with vinegar. Very soft, which is good for cabbages. Notice the red tag? It tells you which chef prepared this dish!!

We ordered vegetable rolls (so-so) and claypot tofu (good but I find it a tad too glooey). To round up the meal, we had BBQ sweet potato!! I love BBQ sweet potato!! This one here was good, but not fantastic. Abit too dry (probably it's due to the type of sweet potato used. They used yellow sweet potato. Red ones are nicer), but still I miss the flavour.

Do give these restaurants a try! Will try some other new restaurants and revisit some of those above next trip!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hungry for some Vegetarian Home Made Food?

Chanced upon this website by this lady called Raven, who prepares vegetarian/vegan food. All the recipes look really good, I'm going to try them some day!! Especially the vegan chili recipe. Maybe it's time for a picnic or gathering session!! Haha

Do take a look at her website!

Monday, November 21, 2011

ChongMing Island, Shanghai

I've been to Shanghai tons of times!! But I've not really explored much of Shanghai sights (except the tourist ones like Bund, Old Town, Zhou Water Village etc).

So this time, I decided to hop over to Chong Ming Island (3rd biggest island off Shanghai) for 1 day of exploring.

Initial plan was to take the MRT to the pier and hop onto the ferry across to Chong Ming. But then I found out that journey would take over 2 hours and apparently the ferry was not really functioning frequently during this time! Read from the papers a few days after my trip that the ferry was to be revived to attract more people who are taking the tunnel across. So probably lucky I didnt choose to take the ferry!

Anyway, went over to Shanghai Tourist Bus center at Shanghai Stadium and bought my day pass to one of the attractions on Chong Ming - Dong Tan Wetland Park. You can choose from 4 different attractions on Chong Ming, and the ticket price includes entrance fee. The Dong Tan Wetland ticket costs RMB120 (include return bus and entrance fee of 70RMB). Apparently, it's cheaper on weekdays.

Timing is fixed, gather at 715am and return from there at 4pm. Normally, you can buy the ticket on the day of departure, but I went 1 day earlier to ask about the ticket and bought it 1 day ahead. If you want to secure a ticket in the event of sell out, go 1 day earlier. Else, turn up early on the actual day and buy it.

The trip took 2 hours to reach the wetland. So basically we were like the 1st bus to arrive!!! It opens at 9am anyway. It was good as nobody was there yet, good for photography!

Dong Tan Wetland Park

Map of the park. It's actually not that big! About 2hrs to cycle through

The Visitor Center.

Me and my Bicycle

You can choose to rent a bicycle or walk. I chose to bike. It's a minimum 2hr rental (RMB20 for 2hours + refundable deposit of RMB200). Subsequent hour is 10RMB. So with the not so nice to ride bicycle, I embarked on my journey through Dong Tan Wetlands. Yup, the bike is not so nice to ride on gravel and soil roads...But I managed.

The road ahead..

Stopping for Photo

An artistic pose.. Good thing nobody was around

1st of the jumping shots

Since there was not many people around...I decided 'Hey why not do jumping shotS!' So then a series of jumping shots followed::

Jump 1: Nice angle and leg extension but facial expression not so great

Jump 2: Better facial but leg extension not so great. Still overall this is the best

The lonely backpacker shot hahah..Looks so CHAM

Cycling through the bamboo forest

The story of crocodile's tears. Translation: Crocodile shed tears because its their body's way of dispelling of salt minerals from their bodies, not because they felt sad when eating animals. So that's why it's FAKE!!


I'm just crossing the road!

Do note that each attractions are quite far apart from one another, so you can't really walk from 1 place to the other. You can rent a car, or try to hail the sparse taxi available on the island or hop onto one of the private cars (not sure how much).

The return trip took about 2hours as well but could have been faster if not for the traffic. Nice island, but would have been better during Spring or Summer!

Next time - She Shan.