Friday, February 27, 2009

New Year Celebration in Beijing

After our visit to the beautiful Summer Palace, we proceeded to Joanne's showroom to meet up with her colleagues and friends. All of us then made our way to our little new year gathering, which was a sumptuous dinner at a Hainanese restaurant. It was, as usual, freezing to walk in the night.

We reached this street of brightly lit restaurants with a big arch at the entrance.

Road to dinner place

Guess what? The first shop I saw was Starbucks! Isn't it cute that Starbucks is operating in a very Chinese and traditional building? This is really east meeting west!

Starbucks in a Chinese building!

This was the restaurant we went to on that night. It was brightly lit from the outside, and had beautiful decor inside. This restaurant apparently specialized in Yunnan (云南) food.

*Update: Upon checking with Joanne, it turns out that the food we had was from Yunnan and not Hainan. Oops!

Dinner place

We started with a hot pot of Chinese tea.

Nice pot of tea

There was this plate of four seasons platter, where I only ate the Unagi! *LOL* It's definitely funny to spot unagi in a Yunnan dish.

Four seasons platter

Then there was the usual freshwater fish as with most of our meals. This one was did with sour and spicy vegetables - too spicy to be exact. Not to mention with lots of bones. I didn't quite like this dish.

Fresh water fish

Here are the other dishes that we ate that night. There were so many to eat that we had a hard time catching up with the waiters clearing up our tables! It was like every 5 minutes, someone came in with a new dish and we had to clear something from the table to make way for the new dish.



Various Yunnan dishes

Out of all the dishes, I enjoyed the roasted pork ribs the most. It's the third picture from the bottom, on the left column. It was very fragrant and crispy on the outside, but tender inside. :)

I met some of Joanne's workers/colleagues there too. Presenting to you, authentic Beijing girls! They were nothing short of friendly and warm.

The warm Beijing girls

And this is my new found friend, pretty Chao Jie. Over the last few days in Beijing, we spent a lot of time together and I indeed managed to learn up quite a lot of Mandarin from chatting with her! Even my mother was amazed that we could sustain a conversation for a few hours! And the guy next to her is her husband.

Pretty Chao Jie and husband

Look at our table! No empty space for any new dish. We were definitely feasting like there's no tomorrow. *LOL* And there was so much leftover food that night that every one of us had something to tapao back.

Group picture

After the filling dinner, we went on to the next location for our next entertainment! It was just within walking distance, across a lake.

Brightly lit discos/pubs

The club we went to was festively decorated due to the Christmas/New Year season. There was also a Chinese band performing on the stage. Obviously, I had no idea what they were singing or talking about. I was mostly spending my time playing dice with the girls at my table.

Interior of club

A group picture before we started drinking into the night! Well I had Chinese tea if you must know. :P

Joanne, mom, Chao Jie and witch

The girls again

Halfway through the night, the performers on stage got the crowd excited with games and quizzes. There was one game where the singer announced a certain phone number on stage, and the first person who sent an SMS to that number would get to win a prize! This girl from our group (so sorry, I forgot the names!) managed to get her SMS through and she was called upstage. When she was up there, the rest of her girlfriends kept screaming and asked her to sing! Apparently she was a very good singer and was not shy too! She gladly complied to their requests. Man she was good! She sang solo up there, with no lyrics and no hint of nervousness. And with such grace too! I know I wouldn't be able to even stand up there without feeling the accelerated heartbeat.


After that, we were also treated to eye candy in the form of a hot and sexy belly-dancer. She looked very young, perhaps 15 or 16 years old, but she could dance and twist really well. Needless to say, she got all eyes hooked on her during the 15 minutes of her performance, especially guys'. *LOL*

Sexy dancer

These are the guys who were with us that night. That is, before they got drunk! :)

The guys: Liew, someone, Chao Jie's hubby

By midnight, the performers on stage were singing a Hacken Lee song, perhaps the ONLY song that I was familiar with the whole night I was there. And there was the countdown and cheering and glasses clinking. Just like that, it was another year. Too bad Saucer wasn't with me. Next year, definitely! :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Summer Palace in Beijing

After the visit to the wholesale market and our lunch, we took a cab and headed to the Summer Palace or 颐和园 in Beijing. It is called Summer Palace because it served as a summer resort for Emperor Dowager Cixi years ago. And it is also by far one of the prettiest places that I have visited in Beijing. The place was practically surrounded by water because apparently 3/4 of the area was the lake. At the entrance, we were greeted with many statues of the lion and the "pei yau", which were believed to guard against malevolent spirits at the temples.

Majestic lion welcoming us

"Pei Yau" - Guardian lion

Actually I am not very sure if the picture I took here was the "pei yau", because I read that "pei yau" usually has one horn only. Care to enlighten me, anybody?

witch with Pei Yau

Oh notice the pair of boots I wore in the picture above? Nice or not? I bought them from Hong Qiao Market just the night before. It's 100% leather and very comfortable. I'm not sure how much they are sold here, but over there, I managed to haggle from the original 700RMB ro 250RMB, which is about RM125. I think that's pretty cheap considering the quality and the comfort of the boots. :)

I noticed this huge piece of rock on display, but I had no idea why it was so precious. It probably meant something back in the good old days.

Giant rock?

The surroundings in Summer Palace were really pretty. Too bad I went during winter and missed out on the glorious flower blooms. I can only imagine how pretty the whole place would be during the spring. During winter, some trees managed to survive with leaves, while some went completed bald.

Green in the midst of blue

Leave-less tree

As with many other places in Beijing, the royal buildings back in the olden days were always red in colour. The same went with Summer Palace buildings and gazebos. There's always a hint of red in all the buildings.

Red buildings in Summer Palace

witch at Summer Palace

While walking, I spotted this huge bronze and heavy-looking thing, which appeared to be a fireplace? Very grand.


The Summer Palace was extremely huge. A lot of walking was required to cover the whole area of it. Sad to say, even after walking for almost 3 hours, we only managed to visit 1/3 of the area. It's THAT huge. If it wasn't for the cold weather and the short daytime (sun sets at 5.30pm), we would probably be able to cover more. We saw a bridge all the way in front of us and proceeded to walk towards that direction with the company of bald trees on the left and the frozen lake on the right. It was just wonderful.

Long path towards the lake

Spotted this pair of photographers who were braving the cold just to take gorgeous pictures.

Photograph enthusiasts

Look at the partially frozen lake. I wouldn't want to know what's the temperature of the water inside. Brrr...

Partially frozen lake

Ice-cold lake

We were almost there at the bridge and spotted this group of boats. I believe they must be very popular during other seasons of the year, at least when the lake is not frozen.

Beautiful lake

As it was winter, no one was renting the boat. They're probably not allowed to, anyway.

Boats for rent

A beautiful bald tree

The beauty of Summer Palace just never failed to impress me. If I stay in Beijing, I would definitely choose this place to take my wedding pictures! So very romantic. :)

Gorgeous scenery

Wihout us realizing, it was almost 5pm and the sun was going to set soon. Since we were already there, we thought of waiting for the sun to set so that we could capture the shots on camera. Do you notice from the picture below that the lake was partially frozen in the middle? So you get the gas, liquid and solid form of water, all in one picture! Cool huh? :)

Sun about to set

The bridge was a popular picture place, so when there was a short moment that it was deserted, I quickly snapped this picture.


Some pictures were taken while waiting for the sun to set, a.k.a. camwhoring session. :P

witch at the bridge

with my new boots!


I love this picture below! It was taken by Liew and it captured half of me as black and the other half under light.

Ebony and ivory

There were also people skating on the frozen lake in the evening. Skating on natural ice must be fun! At least the ice will not melt and you won't get wet!

Skating on natural ice

This was the famous bridge that many photographers came for. During the sun set, the rays that came through the arches were almost like bright neon lights. Note that there are 17 arches in this bridge, giving its name the 17-arch bridge. If you count from either side of the bridge to the central arch, you will get nine arches, and nine is the supreme number for the emperor.

Bridge during sunset

Liew's DSLR was able to capture the bright lights better. Ahh, the power of nature.
Bridge taken using a different camera

Soon, the sun was beginning to set. It was the most beautiful thing to watch.



Finally, at exactly 5.30pm, the sun bade us farewell. It was certainly a very enjoyable visit, with plenty of good memories. One must not miss visiting the Summer Palace during the visit to Beijing.

Sunset in Summer Palace

It was the New Year's eve on that day, and after this visit, we were headed to a nice restaurant for a new year gathering dinner with Joanne's friends. We even went clubbing after that! Clubbing in a Chinese disco, definitely a new experience for me. :) Will write about that next!