The trials & tribulations of having a live-in chef (or living & feasting in our cottage in Seremban, and now Beijing)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

2012 - A quickie from Beijing

Ooo I've been baddd ! I haven't written anything since December last year. And now it's 2012 and February is almost over. I think I had better write something. Else Big Chef will think that all I do is eat and sleep all day. Which is true. I do eat and sleep a lot here. Blame it on winter ! It is such an effort to get dressed to go out. This is really my first winter ever. I've been to Europe in winter for holidays but it is just not the same. Here in Beijing I put on about 5 layers of clothing before leaving the apartment. Also gloves, a knitted hat, a woolly scarf and fluffy ear-muffs.

This is me as my incarnation of a fluffy insect.

Sometimes I'm really tempted to buy a fluffy animal hat like the man below. He's wearing a dragon hat. I want a panda hat !

Big Chef likes to make me walk and walk during his days off. We have explored a couple of parks, the Olympic stadium, lots of little back alleys etc. Sometimes we walk for 4 hours non-stop and my toes are freezing and feel like they are going to drop off. Still the weather is cold and crisp and the sky is a gorgeous blue so it's not too bad.

The lakes and rivers are frozen over and lots of Beijingers go out skating and sledding. It is incredibly funny the equipment that they use. Looks rather homemade but fun.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Shanghai Sojourn

Big Chef and I went to Shanghai last weekend for 5 days. We took the bullet train, only 5 hours travelling at a speed of over 300 km/hr, and pretty comfortable with clean toilets. Tickets were around RM250 a person economy class. Next time we will take business class so that we don't have to sit with the hoi-polloi ! LOL ! There was a big group of Chinese tourists, some of whom decided to play cards. And the train has these amazing seats that you can rotate round, so that 6 people can sit facing one another. Very useful for families and groups of friends, but not very peaceful for other travellers. The shouts and shrieks from the excitable group prevented me from having a nap. It was quite amusing actually, I rather like observing Chinese behaviour. I'm beginning to believe that the Chinese are the most talkative people in the world !

Shanghai has wonderful architecture. Old European buildings on the Bund, fantastic glassed skyscrapers on the other side of the Bund. Just incredible. We went up to the Observatory over 400 metres high and saw the enormous sprawl of Shanghai. That's when you start to realise that there's over 20 million people living here. I had the urge to use the washroom facilities, and while I was sitting in the end cubicle of the washroom, one side of which was made of glass, I had this long peaceful uninterrupted moment while I observed the vista spread below me and contemplated the incredible engineering and plumbing feats that must be involved 430 metres above sea level. Yup, just incredible. 

From the Observatory.

The incredible Apple store.

In the lift going up the Observatory.

There is a vibrancy, a liveliness in Shanghai that Beijing is lacking. You feel that Shanghai moves faster, is more cosmopolitan, Beijing is more staid.

Inside the charming Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

The shopping street - Nanjing Road East.

A saxophonist at Nanjing Road East.

Dancing to the music.

One of the highlights of our sojourn in Shanghai was staying at a villa which we found through airbnb ( - see Quiet villa in downtown Shanghai). Our hosts Milan and Sherrill made us wonderfully welcome and their villa in a peaceful gated community was a respite from our daily explorations. Interesting conversations with our hosts and a delicious home cooked meal in a warm comfortable home with a cuddly cat (Scottish fold just like the Japanese internet sensation Maru the Cat from Youtube) just made our trip !

So many things to see and experience in Shanghai but we didn't have enough time. Shanghai - we will be back !

Friday, 2 December 2011

Beijing - our first snow

We woke up this morning and it was snowing in Beijing ! Our first snow as Beijing residents. White rooftops. White powder on bamboo leaves and tree trunks. It was wonderful.  I went straight into my favourite coffee shop to have a cappuccino and a slice of chocolate cake.

Tonight there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the hotel where Big Chef works. It's a ritual here at hotels in Beijing. People are invited to come for mulled wine, eggnog, Christmas cookies, listen to a choir and to a couple of speeches and watch the lights on the Christmas tree come on. A Chinese Santa Claus visits as well. Everyone loves Santa. They all want to have their photos taken with him. I did too ! Big Chef made me !

Luckily Christmas here in Beijing is a lot more uncommercialised than in Malaysia. Quiet and dignified. Rather pleasant really.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Getting artsy in Beijing

Finally, we feel like we are settling down properly  in Beijing and I feel relaxed enough to continue with the blog. It's been a hectic 4 months which we have enjoyed but somehow it didn't feel quite real. Well, now it's time to really get to know Beijing !

Last weekend was good, nice clear sunny weather with temperatures of -1 to 7 degrees outside and Big Chef cooked a tasty turkey breast filled with foie gras and pancetta rolled on the outside. So good. And even nicer the next day, cold with a simple salad.

We aren't great art connoisseurs or art sophisticates but we had a great time last weekend at the 798 Art District. 798 is an art community housed in a decommissioned military factory district. It's a big place where you can spend the whole day, and then come back another day to see all the things you missed out previously. The old buildings have been restored and turned into cavernous art galleries, trendy retro shops, cafes, avant garde art spaces, with lots of fun art installations and derelict old buildings which catch your eye.

The huge paper chandelier at Topshop.

Leaves on the ground and beautiful treebark.

A kind soul looks after these cats.

It's a beautiful place. We'll be back.