Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend Bliss

Bubbalicious! After 2+ years of living in Beijing, I FINALLY went to the infamous Bubbalicious brunch at the Westin Hotel in Beijing. It is 4 hours of eating scrumptious international selections and enjoying free-flowing champagne. This was the entrance to the brunch:

The dining room

Rory and I got there first and started brunch with sushi, sashimi and champagne! This of course was followed by selections of Belgian waffles, eggs benedict, Indian curries, seared Foie Gras, lamb chops, French cheeses, caviar, Chinese dumpling soup, and anything else you could possibly dream up. (Yes indeed, 1 brunch = 1 week at the gym)

The whole group:

My favorite section: desserts. Yes, that is a chocolate fountain. My personal best dessert award: hot sweet-bread pudding.

And it was family friendly! Kids were all around, entertained by clowns and a kid's section. They had an ice cream and candy bar just for them. I was amazed to see how many families managed to spend the entire 4 hours enjoying the food and drink without kids getting restless. Heck, even I was entertained!

Other memorable weekend times were crazy karaoke on Friday night...

and hanging out with some good-lookin homeboys from USC on Saturday night!

So do I really have to start classes next week? The thought of joining the real world after a weekend like this can be painful.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February and The First Snow

Snow came down for a few days in Beijing and was the first precipitation this city has seen in a long time. It was only miserable for one morning as everything was slush and mud. After it warmed up a bit, it just added a nice touch to the trees and buildings in the city. These ladies were walking like me in the first few hours, trying not to slip!

The same afternoon I went to orientation at Tsinghua University, where I will be doing the last credits of my MBA. This is one of the main buildings on campus:

Other notable events were a trip to the Olympic Water Cube to see some Chinese pop music awards:

The stage was built out over the swimming pool and commercial breaks were occupied with fountains and syncronized swimming. Impressive.

There have also been costume parties and dress-up:

Spa days for newcomers to Beijing:

And good eats as we get back into the swing of things with some amazing Beijing restaurants! Check out these delicious dumplings:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lantern Festival: Festivity and Fire

Yesterday was the Chinese Lantern Festival. It is the 15th day of the first month of Chinese traditional calender and it marks the end of New Years festivities. It is now the year of the Ox, which I am proud to say is my year. There are images of the Ox all over the city and have been fire works every day, with major displays all over the country on the first day and last day of the New Year period.

Last night being the last legal day the Chinese could set off fireworks, the dangerous displays began. As I was walking with friends to a favorite Mexican restaurant, we felt like we were in a war zone with shells flying all around us. Later that night, I heard that the new CCTV building was on fire and almost cried. Thankfully, it wasn't that building (it's brand new and an amazing feat of architecture as the two towers are leaning towards each other to meet in the middle). But it was the adjacent, also newly constructed and unopened Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Some lives were lost, many people injured, and traffic shut down for miles. It is so sad to see such a large and new building in the heart of Beijing burn down because of the idiocy of fireworks that go on during New Year. Hopefully this will introduce some new regulation and control for next year's festivities.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bangkok III: A Cultural Show

On our last night in Bangkok we went to see Siam Niramit, which is a big show and culture exhibition for tourists...a little like a mini-Disney. I enjoyed it nonetheless because it was quite elaborate and showed a lot of traditions, dances and costumes from Thailand!

I loved the intricacy of these ancient Thai-style costumes. Dressed like this they looked like the images of the gods in their temples. The dances were also very beautiful.

They had also built a traditional Thai Village to walk around before the show. They had people performing and making Thai snacks for people before we went in. This one was a coconut treat, very yummy:

Posing with one of the performers after the show:

Before I end the Bangkok blogging, I wanted to throw in a few miscellaneous pictures from events over the last couple of days. One night we met up with some old friends from China. Two Thai and one Japanese classmate that I studied with in Beijing were in Bangkok. We all got together for some Thai food and catch-up time:

We also went to the Bangkok aquarium. Here's ZhangYi checking out a Sting Ray:

This is just me trying to imitate an enormous ugly fish:

Well, that's all from Bangkok folks! I'm leaving to go back to Beijing. Time to get back to the real world. It will be much colder and a lot less beachy,...but somehow I still miss it!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bangkok II: A River Trip

One afternoon in Bangkok we did a highly recommended river trip. We rented a Thai-Style "long boat" for two of us and did a two hour trip around the large river and smaller canals. The river houses are very lively with people washing, cooking, etc. along the banks and little boats with wares and foods for sale.

We were a little surprised to see this enormous lizard along the banks near the boat. He was the size of our alligators:

This guy didn't seem to mind that tourists were passing by while he was doing his morning fishing in his underwear:

A woman selling snacks out of her boat:

Bangkok by boat is definitely a different feeling from walking along the streets. I highly recommend it for those of you that are going to visit!

On to Bangkok! The Grand Palace

After 3 more nights in the Patong area of Phuket Island, I finally left the island that was my home for 3 weeks and went with Zhang Yi to Bangkok. We'd spend 4 nights there! On the first day we went to the Grand Palace and adjoining temple:

The Grand quite Grand!

The decorations on every wall, pillar and statue were very ornate and mostly mosaic work. Sometimes images of flowers or graphics and many were images of Buddha or other gods.

Exiting the palace we met some eager and cheerful street vendors. Zhang Yi...the shopoholic that she is, always stops!

More shopping. Thailand has gems and silver galore, and at cheaper prices that China!

Later that night we wandered along KhaoSan road, where we were staying. Every square inch is full of people selling something or some street food. We stopped for fresh mango in coconut juice. Mmmmm.