Saturday 26 January 2013

48 hours in Beijing, Part Deux

It was in the balmy spring month of May when I had the second chance to ride shotgun with the big K. Unlike my first Beijing visit, this time it was going to be a leisurely exploration of the city. But, of course, it still involved a lot of walking. 

Monday 21 January 2013

48 hours in Beijing, China

One of the advantages of being married to an airline pilot is I get to tag along on some of the big K's layover flights. Beijing is one such flight where he gets a 48-hour layover. Shades of Anthony Bourdain's show The Layover but lucky me I get to go more than once. 

It was in early November when I first went with the big K. Our flight, a red-eye, arrived at the capital of China a little past midnight. Nothing much to do but catch up on some sleep since the next day was going to be a marathon sightseeing tour of the city. 

The next morning's weather was clear but cold, still it was the perfect day to go see one of China's greatest architectural achievements, The Great Wall. There are different sections of the wall one can visit, from the easily accessible and well-maintained thereby popular with tourists Badaling Great Wall to the unrestored and dangerous-only-for-rock-climbers Jiankou section.

The Mutianyu Great Wall.
The big K and I opted for the Mutianyu Great Wall. Just like the Badaling section Mutianyu has been restored. It is a bit farther to reach from the city so it does not get a lot of tour groups unlike Badaling. 

To get here the big K and I hired a local taxi with the help of the hotel's concierge. With a little bit of haggling we settled for RMB500 (approximately USD80) for the small expedition. The trip took a little more than hour to reach the wall. We explored the wall for about two hours while our taxi waited for us. Good deal!

We took the cable car up to the wall and the toboggan going back down. Pretty scary both ways but all worth it!
We were lucky on this visit as there were only a handful of visitors that time. We practically had the wall all to ourselves. Sweet!
It is one thing to read about it and know about it but it is entirely different to be standing on the Great Wall and imagining how it was those thousands of years ago. Hundreds of men, sometimes children too, working night and day, struggling to complete the wall that would save China from the hordes of "uncivilized barbarians". Gave me goose bumps.   

It was almost three in the afternoon when we got back to our hotel. Freshening up a bit, we were on our second wind. Taking the subway this time, the big K and I were off to Wangfujing, one of the capital's shopping areas.

Wangfujing is a pedestrianised shopping area popular with both tourists and locals. Most of the luxury branded goods have shops here.
Dinner was at the Donghuamen Night Market. The market is well-known for its out of the ordinary food offerings. I played it safe by having some of these dumplings.Though the xiaolongbao was a bit of a disappointment.
See what I mean about out of the ordinary? 
More creepy crawlies for the adventurous taste buds.
They say scorpions are natural aphrodisiacs. I say there is nothing natural about seeing these critters squirming on the stick......... 
Roasted leg of lamb, the big K's favorite. He never leaves Beijing with out getting his fix here. 

To end our very long day the big K and I were off on a short subway ride to the Olympic Park where the 2008 Olympics were held.

The Beijing National Stadium more popularly known as the Bird's Nest. Purposely built for the 2008 Olympics, this was where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. Plus of course the athletics event and football finals during the games. It is now a popular venue for international football games. In 2015 the IAAF World Championships in Athletics will be held here. 
The Beijing National Aquatics Center or the Water Cube, just across the Bird's Nest, was where the swimming competition was held.

Day 2 of our 48 hour marathon tour

Our feet still aching with all the walking we did the day before, the big K and I were off to see the Forbidden City. Located in the middle of Beijing, it was the home of the emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the last two dynasties before the creation of the Republic of China. 

The Forbidden City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 as the "Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties". 
It was called the Forbidden City because no one, from commoners to nobility, were allowed to enter the palace unless they were invited.

The place was so huge, the big K and I were not able to see even half of it! Plus of course we didn't have that much time in our hands as we had to go look for lunch (a very late one!) and head back to the hotel to prepare for our evening flight back home. 

Tiananmen Square right in front of the Forbidden City.
Our trip would not have been complete without sampling the obligatory Peking duck. 
The Peking duck came with hoisin sauce and thinly sliced cucumbers to be wrapped together in crepe-like pancakes. Yummy! We also tried the local version of the big K's favorite Chinese dish, sweet and sour pork which turned out to be very good. Oh, of course we had to have rice, yangchow fried rice. Lunch is served!

I had a wonderful, albeit very short, time seeing some of the famous attractions Beijing is known for. Places I've only read about or seen in books and on TV. I never expected the city to be so beautiful! 

As I've said earlier, lucky me because I get to see more of this beautiful city on my next trip with the big K. This time in May. Spring time!

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The Biggest Airshow on Earth: EAA Airventure Oshkosh

What is the world's busiest airport control tower come summer time? If you answered Chicago O'Hare, London Heathrow or Beijing International, guess again. The title is owned  by the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin or simply called Oshkosh.

See, it says so, right on the tower.

Monday 14 January 2013

Germany: Oberammergau Passion Play

It was way back in high school when I first heard the name Oberammergau. It was my Mom who told me the story of this little town in the southern part of Bavaria in Germany. The town is famous for its Passion Play, a depiction of Jesus Christ's trial, suffering and death. In all the Christian world the Passion Play is presented during Lent but in this small German town a major production is presented every 10 years with over 2,000 residents of the town performing in the play. 

Aside from the Passion Play (Passionsspiele), Oberammergau is also known for its painted houses or Luftlmalerei (fresco paintings) and wood carvings. 

Saturday 12 January 2013

Bang Namphueng Floating Market, Bangkok

We found the perfect place to stay. Now it's off to market! 

Getting ourselves bicycles from the hotel, we were happily pedaling our way to market. Well, almost.  

Now, I do not want to reveal my age, but suffice to say that it had been more than twenty years since I'd been on a real, live bicycle. Stationary exercise bicycles don't count. Now who said that you never forget to ride a bicycle? Apparently they didn't know what they were talking about. 

So, here you have a long-time, no-ride rider, combined with raised, narrow walkways, lizards, locals, dog droppings strategically placed in the middle of the path. You now what's going to happen next, right? Let's just say I had to quickly remember how it is to ride a bike!   
See what I mean? The pathways only had railings on one side while some didn't have any at all.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Bangkok Tree House in Bangkok, Thailand

The big K was on another company trip to Bangkok. And I, of course, was riding shotgun again. He had a few days off before his training started so we took advantage of his free time to discover more of what Bangkok had to offer. It had only been two weeks since our last visit and we were kind of templed-out. So this time we decided to visit their floating markets. But first was the question of where to stay?  

Enter the Bangkok Tree House.

The distinctive bamboo ceiling of Bangkok Tree House's reception and dining areas.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Sweet Sixteen at Antonio's, Tagaytay

The big k and I just came home from a wonderful lunch at Antonio's Restaurant in Tagaytay to celebrate our wedding anniversary. While last month's Hong Kong trip was our pre-anniversary celebration, today was the real thing. Sweet sixteen!

The last time we were at Antonio's was when they were newly opened. That was ages ago! Still, the big K and I remember the pleasurable experience we had. Good food, good service. So, we decided to go back.    
At the restaurant's foyer one is greeted by the bright red wall filled with old photographs and a Klimt-inspired painting.  

Sunday 6 January 2013

West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio

One market the big K and I enjoy going to every time we go visit my lovely sister in the north east United States is the West Side Market in Cleveland.

The West Side Market is the oldest publicly owned market in Cleveland. It started out as an open air market in the 1800s. Today, it is a big market house with over 100 vendors selling all kinds of foodstuff. 

What's great about this place is not so much the food that are sold here but the people who sell them. You have vendors who baked the breads, made the sausages or grew the fruits and vegetables themselves. You can definitely feel the pride they have in the stuff they sell.  

The main arcade of the market was recently renovated to include heating. This picture was taken from the balcony where one can have a picnic while watching the hustle and bustle below. 

Thursday 3 January 2013

Paris: Marché Richard Lenoir

One of the things the big K and I love doing every time we travel is to check out the local markets of the places we visit. We enjoy looking, more so eating our way through one. On our recent trip to Paris the big K and I went to the Marché Richard Lenoir, sometimes also referred to as the Marché Bastille since it is located right across the Place de la Bastille. 

The open street market is open every Thursdays and Sundays from 7AM until 3PM.