Hot touches all around

Sunday was one of the best days I had in Beijing which was a good way to spend an almost last day. It started off with being late to meet Lianfeng, his wife and his friend for lunch. We decided to go to a traditional Beijing style restaurant which was good. It was a lot of food for my just waking up belly. We had to place food on a nearby table because we ordered so much. I tried all the food Beijing is famous for while everyone else ate food that they thought was much better. It was all good though.

After the lunch we went to the Tianyi market which I wish I had know about when I moved into Beijing. It is the wholesale market where most stores buy their goods. You can buy single items but start getting pretty steep discounts as you buy more things. There is not much bargaining which is really pretty nice. It is amazing though how much the things they sell there are marked up for at other places. We walked around so I could get a good taste for what was being offered. After that I bought more presents than I have room for. Hua is coming back this weekend though and is willing to carry everything for me so I got that going for me which is nice.

After the awesome market I headed up to Hou Hai which is the lake area north of the Forbidden City. This was one of those areas that I had gone to early on in my time in Beijing. It was cool then but looked like it would be nicer as the weather improved. I had always meant to go back and did make it back for a minute with my dad but never really spent any time there. That was a mistake. If I ever go back to Beijing I would like to stay in that area. It was a lot of fun just walking around and taking everything in.

I ended up staying there for around 5 hours which is a lot of time to spend walking around but it was all worth it. I saw people with tattoos which were a rarity and they had good music stores. I was sold at that point. The rest was just icing. The stores were cool. I do not even like browsing that much but ended up going in most of the stores around there and buying a couple of small things for the house when I get back.

This reminded me one of my friends tattoos from high school. He got the Alpha and the Omega on either arm and the text "I am the begining... (Other arm) and the end". Look up the spelling of those words when you get a chance and you will experience the shock he did.

Grrr... Angry bear.

I had dinner at Nuage which was a pretty good Vietnamese place and then had a drink a la fresco (which means to the fresco or outdoors in French Italian). Overall a really pleasant way to spend my last weekend day in Beijing.

Trifecta, say it with me

Saturday continued the fun. I packed most of my shit. For the observant out there you realize that I have said I was packing for about three days at this point, well I pack slowly with lots of hearts in between putting stuff in bags. Besides I learned that I had too much stuff really and not enough room, I did not realize how much stuff I accumulated over six months until I actually tried putting it all in bags.

After lots of fun packing I went to work for a while and did some work. After this unique achievement I went with Miao, Hua, and Michael to dinner at three men from Guizhou which was a Guizhou style restaurant. Supposedly this is the third style in the trifecta of Chinese spiciness (Hunan and Sichuan being the other two). It was spicy and also very sour. It actually reminded me a lot of Khmer food.

The dinner was fun. It was good having a chance to catch up with all those guys before I took off. The restaurant was pretty fancy as well, it was near the Green T House and the Worker’s stadium for those familiar with Beijing. Again we ordered way more food than we could possibly eat. The soup alone could have fed us all and Hua said that in Guizhou the bowls are even bigger. Basically one bowl of soup feeds a family for a couple of days.

After dinner we cut through the stadium and got my last foot massage at Bodhi. We talked about cameras for a while until we were hushed by the people in the room next to us for being too loud. I will miss that place as well. It is hard to beat $15 massages like that.

Going for that wet dog look

Friday was the beginning of the “Justin’s leaving” dinners. This one was with Xu who was the person I worked the closest with in the ATC. His wife was supposed to join but had left the day before for a conference. We could have used her expertise as she is a meteorologist and it was raining and neither Xu nor I brought an umbrella to work.

We had dinner at my favorite restaurant (Boiling Fish). The manager was so excited I brought someone who spoke Chinese. She could finally get all the questions she had about me answered. So we talked with her for a while and then Xu proceeded to order everything on the menu. We had a lot of food of which we probably finished a third. I got to try some more exotic things before I left like boiled pig’s feet. They are actually much better than you would imagine giving even more credence to my anything but muscles theory.

After dinner I walked home in the pouring rain cursing my utterances of Beijing never raining. I packed some more and went to bed. Not the biggest party night but it was fun having a nice dinner with Xu.

Artsy fartsy

Thursday was slightly more interesting than Wednesday but not by much. I decided to head up to Wudaokou for a last dinner there and ate at this Japanese restaurant that was pretty good. Afterwards I went to a coffee shop I had heard about from some people at work. It was a nice place and I took lots of pictures. Mostly messing around with my camera and different ideas I had seen in other peoples photos. I am aiming for a gallery show by the end of this year, it will be called great works of art (as plagiarized by Justin).

Nothing to see here

Wednesday was a busy work day. I felt bad because I woke up to see my dad off but did not accompany him to the airport. He just got a ride with Henry the driver from the previous day. Other than that Wednesday was pretty inconsequential. I started packing and did some laundry.


Embarrassingly slow

Tuesday was another fun hooky day. I got to go to the Great Wall one last time with my dad before leaving. The driver we stumbled on was great and ended up taking both my dad and I to the airport later. He spoke good English and knew a lot of cool things about the area we drove through.

He recommended a couple of touristy stops along the way to and from the wall. The first was a place that sold a lot of cloisonné style goods. They had a little spiel where you walked around and they told you about making the goods. Then of course there was a sales room at the end. I had never realized how much work went into these pieces so that aspect of it was cool. I was also able to pick up some cool gifts for a couple of people at the store.

After that we went to the MuTianYu section of the wall. This is the same section of the wall my mom and aunt went to. I like it a lot more than BaDaLing. The wall itself is not that dramatically different but the drive up there and the surrounding area is a lot cooler. Also it is a lot less touristy. We wandered around until my chest felt like it was on fire and I was worried about a heart attack. I was getting over being sick so that must have been the cause of my unease. Surprisingly it was not as steep as BaDaLing. There were also some cool places to climb around.

After walking the wall we took the slide down. That was pretty embarrassing. As we were taking the gondola up to the wall we kept hearing one of the guys working on the slide yelling at people to slow down. As I went down he was yelling at me to speed up. There was one point where I came to a complete stop. Let me set the scene, this is a slide down a mountain. I was riding the brake pretty hard to get the sled to stop.

We had a nice meal afterwards with Henry at a Sichuan place he recommended. My dad was not a big fan as the meat had bones and the other dish we ordered was nice and spicy. It was cool talking to Henry though about his life and what he had to do work wise to make ends meet. It is amazingly hard for an average Chinese person to live well.

On the way home we stopped at a silk museum which was another small exhibition on making silk and a room to buy all sorts of silk goods. It was cool to see but it was pretty touristy. Both my dad and I ended up getting comforters but that was about it. They should be nice but we will see.

After the big trip we just went to the local hot pot place and had some good hot pot for the last time (sniff). I will miss that quite a bit. The food was good and the company better. A good way to finish a nice visit.

Race to the finish

Monday we woke up and headed out to the airport with me barely beating the over under line yet again. The Hong Kong airport was just as nice as you would expect based on the rest of the city although it was difficult to navigate. The signs did not really point you in the right direction and sometimes they just forget whole swatches of gate numbers. I was surprised at how disorganized it was.

Dragon Air was great and the food was as good as we had been told to expect. If you are flying around Asia it is worth flying this airline if you can. They are located in Hong Kong but have a pretty large number of flights through the region.

Once home we just took it easy and unpacked. After that tremendous ordeal we had worked up quite an appetite again and went to South Beauty for some nice dinner. The only problem was the night before we eaten at Hutong which was amazing. South Beauty managed to hold its own though which makes me even more impressed with it.

Louis Vitton tights?

Sunday was another fun day. We were hoping to be able to see more of Hong Kong but it rained again all day so we got to see more of the inside of buildings in Hong Kong which I guess is mostly what you see in Hong Kong anyways. This gives me reason to go back and see the peak and take the elevator or tram around the island.

I woke up early for a great massage in the spa. I have to admit though I have started to look at small older female masseuses with a measure of fear now. The amount of good pain they can inflict on my body is amazing. This one was no different; I did not fall asleep in the massage but am still feeling better now.

Afterwards I met up with my dad for breakfast after which we decided to grab the ferry from Kowloon (the crescent part of the city on the mainland) to Hong Kong Island. The ferry was a wonder of efficiency. We just missed one (they shut the gate about .5 seconds before we reached it) but the next one was there and leaving within about 6 minutes.

For some reason I seem to attract crazy people wherever I go and the ferry station was no different. This woman ran up to me with a box of custard rolls that had a phone number on it and said something to me in what I am assuming was Cantonese. I understood phone number and “tall and handsome”. I politely refused a couple of times then had to spend the next minute pretending like she was not there. My dad foolishly thought that was the end of it but I knew better. He sat down in an empty row in the ferry and she blocked us in by sitting right next to me. To her credit though she said nothing while on the ferry she just stared at me intently for a while waiting for me to make some flicker of acknowledgment. As we got off though she had to give it the old college try and waved the box in front of my face while saying something unintelligible to me.

The island itself was really interesting. We saw the maid / helper phenomenon first mentioned to me by Jason. It seems like most of the domestic help in Hong Kong is from Southeast Asia and on their days off most of these people (almost exclusively female) gather in the covered spots on the Island and picnic or just hang out and talk. It was a lot of people like 1000’s a lot. At one point I went to a public restroom and the line for the female one was around the block.

We also had lunch at another dim sum place. Apparently the place we went to was one of the last (if not the last) old school dim sum place in Hong Kong where they roll around the carts and you pick what you want of them. This was kind of surprising to me and I need to do a little more research to make sure the concierge was not blowing smoke up my arse.

Basically we just went shopping and looking at hotels. I tried on many clothes that did not fit at all the high end places you could imagine (Versace, Valentino …). Finally I found a pair of pants at Zegna yet again. Thank god for someone who makes nice clothes in a bigger size. My dad got a nice jacket at the biggest Armani I have every seen in my life. It was basically a shopping mall full of Armani’s (Sweets, flowers, house, and clothes).

One cool thing about here is that if you order clothes they bring them back to the hotel for you so you do not have to carry them around. My clothes beat us home.

Yes these are indeed Louis Vitton tights.

We headed back to the hotel for tea which was British but good. The scones were amazing. It was also just fun taking a little break during the day to hang out and do nothing (like shopping was doing something). After tea though we headed right to dinner where both my dad and I thought we were not going to eat anything. He ate a decent amount and I ate a ton. We ate a Sichuan place called Hutong which was one of the best restaurants I have been to period.

We had fish in black bean sauce and drunken and crispy pigeons. The crispy ones were better. Remembering Wil’s comment on how good pigeon ass was I ate every last bit of the pigeon that was remotely edible, including the head. This prompted much amusement among the wait staff who were probably thinking to themselves what is this crazy foreigner doing eating the decoration.



We got to see the light show again with some better pictures being taken this time before we left. Afterwards we went up to the Felix bar in the hotel to have a quiet drink but dad made the fatal mistake of talking to a guy from LA who was not quiet for the rest of the time there. Finally we shoved off and headed to bed


Are you from Holland?

Saturday was great. The first thing I want to comment on is the fact that I am loving the decrease in average height the farther south you get in China. This means I get more and more leg room in the cabs. I also am glad I took this long to visit Hong Kong. It is going to make Beijing look pretty awful in comparison and now I have an exit strategy from Beijing so it is not that bad.

We woke up Saturday and grabbed a nice breakfast in the hotel lobby. I ate using all real silver utensils. It was pretty cool. We then got our flights changed to first class out of Hong Kong instead of having to go back to Shenzhen. Even the concierge made fun of me for flying into Shenzhen. He also gave us a couple of places to go to get my camera and made us reservations at a nice Cantonese place.

We headed out and I got my camera in a huge mall that had every store I had ever heard of. The deal was better than both Beijing and the States but not by quite the margin I expected. For some reason I kept expecting it to be half the price. Most things seem to be that way. A little cheaper but not the huge discounts everyone always talks about. Although the no tax deal is pretty sweet and kind of makes up for the lack of huge discounts so what you see is what you pay.

After the camera we headed back to the hotel for some dim sum at the hotel restaurant which was amazing. While we were waiting for our table I managed to buy a shirt at Zegna which was just a couple of doors down. They have at least 13 of every boutique you could want in walking distance from wherever you are in Hong Kong. The shirt happened to be the same color as my dad's and when I wore it to lunch everyone thought we were from Holland.

Look how cute the twins look. Needless to say he quickly changed after lunch.

We also got some laundry done. They put this awesome bowtie in my ratty ass old shirt. I was amazed.

Larger than life Jackie Chan working out.

We went to the ladies market which is like the markets in Beijing but it is outside and bargaining is a real pain in the ass. To make up for that though they usually start at a much lower price. My dad got most of his presents and I picked up a Pistons jersey and shorts, got to celebrate the soon to be Eastern conference champions somehow.

Kowloon was just as neony and crowded as you would expect. One of the big differences between here and Beijing though was the pretty blatant pornography and strip clubs. Don’t get me wrong Beijing wins hand down for upfront prostitution but Hong Kong wins for blatant sexuality. As we were walking around it kind of started pouring again so we headed back to the hotel to relax (aka sleep).

We headed to dinner at Prince which was the nice Cantonese restaurant. I mostly liked it but my dad was not a big fan. They did try to rip us off (and succeeded some) because we were a little out of our element in ordering. The food was good. I have not had Cantonese much in China and it was interesting having it in Hong Kong. If I go back to Hong Kong though I will probably go to a different place. The view was spectacular though as it was on the 11th floor and looking out on the harbor.

The coolest thing was the laser light show at 8. Now I have not changed into a hippy and am not going to planetariums to watch lasers to the grateful dead. This light show involved all of the buildings in Hong Kong. The shot different kinds of lights all over the place and from many different heights. As my dad said it was if you were in a George Lucas film. I tried to take pictures but they did not turn out well.

After we finished we went back to the hotel and had a cigar in the lobby while chatting. It was a nice way to finish a fun day.

Our hotel from the outside.

The view from our room.