Steve's China Blog

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Still in Chengdu

I haven't posted much about my life in Chengdu in quite awhile. There was a possibility that I was going to join a project in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and if that had happened it would have been the end of my China blog. That didn't happen though, so I am still in Chengdu. Let's see... Besides work, what has happened since March...

In early April Sarah and I went to Phuket in Thailand for a few days. It was Sarah's first time outside of China, and we both had a wonderful time. Here are some pictures...

Nice place to unwind

I wish that was me

Beautiful sunset at Kata Beach

Mmmm.... dessert

Sarah gets a golf lesson

At the end of April, and first few days of May, Sarah and I went to visit her hometown of Yibin which is not far from Chengdu. We spent our time snacking, visiting her brother and his family, and visiting the old town part of Yibin with her two nieces.

Frog hotpot

Time for some mahjong

One of the many many snack places in Yibin

Many noodles to choose from

Area in old town Yibin

Stinky ingredients for the local liquor

Sign in front of the old Liu house

In June Sarah and I traveled to a town outside of Chengdu called Pingle. It is sort of like an ancient town tourist attraction. The day we arrived we wandered about the town seeing the sights, snacking, and visiting shops and small cafe.

One of the streets in Pingle

Lots of bean products

Small bridge in Pingle

Sarah taking a break on one bridge

That evening we left there and went to the place we would be staying that night. There was a large communal area around the dining area, and they had setup a big cookout for us of lamb, rabbit, chicken, and duck. There was also some dancing and kareoke. It seemed like summer camp for adults.

Preparing dinner

Sarah helping with the BBQ

The next morning we had breakfast and then wandered up a road which led up the small mountain there. There was a stream full of ducks, lots of farmland, and lots of tea houses. It was a very enjoyable walk.

Some jungle along a stream

Could be on a postcard.

Enjoying the flowers

Power nap at the tea house

Drying rice on the road

This is starting to seem like the Sarah and Steve's China Blog. Anyways, back in May we started looking for a new apartment that was closer to our offices, and moved into a new place at the end of June. It's not as new as I had hoped to find, but the community is nice and our new landlady agreed to put in an oven in the kitchen!

I haven't used the oven too much yet. It's been so long since I've had an oven that I had to think of what I could cook in it. So far I've made meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and fudge brownies. Next up... oatmeal cookies and pecan pie! Yum!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Concept car in Chengdu

Too funny!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chengdu - Megacity

Here is an interesting story about megacities (cities with a population of over 10 million people), and they talk a lot about Chengdu...

How the rise of the megacity is changing the way we live


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring is coming

The weather in Chengdu is starting to warm up some now. It's nice to get outside some. The last few months seemed to be nothing but working, eating, and sleeping most of the time.

The eating has been ok. I have been trying a lot of different types of noodles lately. There's dan dan mian (spicy noodles with peanut sauce), zha jiang mian (fried sauce noodles), gou hun mian (spicy noodles with fibrous shredded pork), ran mian (burning noodles), kou mo miranda (mushroom noodles), sheng jiao niu rou mian (raw pepper beef noodle), etc... It's been wonderful eating all these different noodles, and now I want to learn how to cook them.

Sarah and I have been playing some Diablo II when we have had time. I have not played it in years, but it's been fun and Sarah is really enjoying it. They are going to be coming out with Diablo III on May 15, and we may try that too. Now that the weather is getting nice though we might not have as much time to sit inside and play computer games... although, that's never stopped me before!

This last weekend was Saint Patrick's Day weekend. We went to the Lazy Pug on Friday night and had the lamb stew and the fish and chips. They were both really good. On Saturday night we went to the Shamrock Pub and had the Guinness beef pie and the corned beef and cabbage. Those were both really good too! Luckily we got there early and got a table. Later in the evening the place was packed. I had never seen so many people at the Shamrock before.

We got our tickets, and Sarah got her visa, for a short trip to Thailand for a few days at the beginning of April. we're really looking forward to going. More on that later.

Let's see... what else is going on? Oh, my friend Phyllis got married! They did the paperwork, but not sure when they will have the ceremony. Her husband is from Singapore and they will be living here in Chengdu. Congrats, you two!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A few years and many years ago

I moved to China seven years ago today. It has been quite an adventure!

I know I have not written much to my blog lately, but there's not a lot that seems new lately. We had Chinese New Year, and I stayed in Chengdu. I've been spending a lot of time getting use to my new work schedule, and spend a lot of my weekends indoors since it is still cold here.

The other day I found this article with a lot of good pictures of Chengdu and surrounding Sichuan Province that were taken back in 1909...

Chengdu and Sichuan history in photos Part 1: Sichuan 1909

I don't really recognize any of the places in any of the pictures, except one (the 9th picture down) which is a picture along the river near the giant Buddha near Leshan that I visited with my brother in June of 2010.

Some things are no longer here in Chengdu; such as the wall around the city, the Manchu area, and the Christian mission.

The most intriguing picture is the one of what looks like some Chinese playing baseball.

I'm looking forward to part 2.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Last week of 2011

On Christmas Eve Sarah and I went to the Lazy Pug for dinner. The menu was similar to their Thanksgiving menu except that the dessert was apple caramel cheesecake instead of the pumpkin cheesecake. It was very delicious. On Christmas day we went to the Kempinski Hotel for their Christmas brunch buffet. It was really good too, and we both ate a lot. I do not think we had dinner that evening, since we were both so full.

Sarah and I after Christmas Eve dinner at the Lazy Pug.

We had been planning to go to Sapporo Japan for the holidays to visit my friend Reese, who is there on assignment for a few months, but Sarah didn't apply for her visa in time so we couldn't go, so we decided to go spend a few days skiing at XiLing Snow Mountain nearby Chengdu instead.

We left for XiLing Mountain on the Tuesday after Christmas. There are two buses that go from Chengdu to the mountain each day, but when we got to the bus station they were both sold out, so we caught the next bus to Dayi. When we arrived in Dayi we had lunch, and then found three other people to share a ride up to the mountain. It was slow going from Dayi since they were still repairing a lot of the road that had been damaged by landslides. I'm not sure if these were from landslides resulting from the earthquake three years ago, or not.

Blocked traffic due to road repair on the way to Xiling Mountain.

We arrived at the mountain in the late afternoon, and took a cable car up to the top of the mountain.

Entrance to cable cars up the mountain.

It was very foggy up on the mountain, but we were really excited to see the snow!

Sarah in the snow.

We stayed at a new hotel there called the Scandina Resort Hotel, which was suppose to be like a Scandinavian style of resort. When we booked the room we wanted a room with heated floors, but the room we got did not have this. After a few hours of complaining we were moved to a very nice room with heated floors. It was cold up on the mountain, so it was worth the time complaining.

Some icy steps leading up to some villas.

Our (final) villa.

On Wednesday we went over to the ski resort area. They had a bunch of things to see and do; such as snowmobiling, dog sleds, etc...

Sarah with a snow making machine.

Nice puppy!

On the (not so) Great Wall.

We came there to go skiing, so we got our lift tickets, ski's, boots, etc... and went out to the slopes. There were a few hundred skier's about, and almost all of them were beginners. We went over to the beginner area, and I taught Sarah some basics of skiing. She and I went a little way up the slope and came down a few times so she could get use to being on the ski's. Like all beginners she got good at falling down a lot, but unlike most she got very good at getting right back up!

Many beginners braving the bunny slope.

At the top of one of the beginner slopes.

Smoke break.

At some point I wanted to go down a tougher slope, but found out that there were half-a-dozen or so of ruling elites visiting the mountain, and only they could use the chair lift up to the big slope. I would have to wait until later in the afternoon before they opened the lift to us mere peasants.

One of the steeper slopes.

Sarah (middle) coming down the bunny slope.

After about 6 hours of skiing we started to feel tired, and decided to call it a day. Sarah was a bit bruised, but we both had a great time. We were looking forward to going to a nearby hotel for BBQ, but when we got there we found out that we had to signup earlier for the BBQ. There were not many places to eat up on the mountain, so we decided to order some Sichuan food for dinner instead. One of the dishes we ordered was a dish of chicken, peppers, and onions. We figured that the chicken used for this dish was the weakest chicken in China since it had bones, skin, and hardly any meat on it.

On Thursday we decided to go down the mountain early and get our bus tickets before they sold out. It had been very foggy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the sun came out on Thursday. It was a nice trip down on the cable car.

A view back up the mountain.

A view down the mountain.

In the cable car.

One of the nice views of the mountains.

When we arrived at the spot where we would catch the bus we were told that we didn't buy tickets back, but it was first come - first served, so we decided to hang around at the bottom of the mountain and catch the next bus back. We had some time to do a little browsing of the local vendors and Sarah ate some snacks.

Some vendor shops near the base of the mountain.

Sarah having a tofu snack.

The bus ride back was much faster than the trip to the mountain, and we had time to stop for an early dinner. Chengdu seemed warm after being up on the snowy mountain the last few days. By the next day though we could feel the chilly damp weather of Chengdu in winter.

On Friday evening I joined Sarah, Kitty, and Jackie for a hotpot dinner. Jackie had moved back to Chengdu the day before, after several years of living in Beijing. We thought she would enjoy some real hotpot! It was a really good dinner, and I tried not to eat too much (I did though).

Kitty and Jackie enjoying some hotpot.

After dinner Sarah and I walked over to the Shamrock Pub, chatted with our friends Claire and Dave, and had a few glasses of wine. We ended up talking about really good and bad movies, TV shows, books, etc... I didn't really want to stay so long, but it was very late when I got home. Surprisingly I felt ok the next day, which was good since it was New Year's Eve.

On the evening of New Year's Eve I went to the Lazy Pug with my friends Sarah, Kitty, Jackie and Johnson. The New Year's Eve party there was pretty laid back. The theme of the party was Tacky 80's Music Dance Party. It was a lot of fun! We ate a lot of different appetizers and chit-chatted all night. After midnight a lot of the people there danced, including Kitty and Jackie.We didn't stay too long after that though.

Sarah, Kitty, Jackie, and Johnson at the Lazy Pug.

Sarah enjoying a lychee martini.

Some others ringing in the new year at the Lazy Pug.

Dancing in the new year.

Welcome to 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving and a beach trip

My initial plan for Thanksgiving this year was to take the Friday after Thanksgiving off and eat turkey at different places all weekend, but plans change. At first it looked like I would have to work all evening on Thanksgiving, but I got lucky and the meeting I was to attend that evening got rescheduled to an earlier time, so I had a chance to go have a turkey dinner somewhere.

My friend Sarah and I went to the Lazy Pug restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, and it was really really good. We had roast turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, bacon and bourbon stuffing, gravy, green beans, a glass of wine, and some pumpkin cheesecake. The turkey and stuffing with gravy was wonderful. The cheesecake was phenomenal. The only thing missing was the cranberries, but after a glass or two of excellent California Merlot it did not really matter much. It was the first time that Sarah had eaten turkey, and she really liked it.

On Saturday we went to Peter's Tex-Mex Grill for lunch, and they still had some turkey left so we had turkey there too. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, cranberries, gravy, some mulled apple cider, and pumpkin pie. Not as good as the meal at the Lazy Pug, but it was still wonderful.

After lunch Sarah and I headed to the airport and caught a flight to Sanya, which is on Hainan Island in southern China. We arrived in the early evening and got a taxi to the Mandarin Oriental resort. The food on the flight wasn't worth eating, so after we checked in we wandered about the resort checking out all the restaurants there.

They had a buffet restaurant, a seafood restaurant, a noodle restaurant, and a Cantonese restaurant. Most had stopped serving dinner already, so we went to the Sunset Bar and had some snacks. Mini crab cake sandwiches, baked oysters, an assortment of nuts, and some strawberries with cream melted on top. They had some Russian beer on the drinks menu I wanted to try, but they were out of it that evening.

The room we had at the resort was really nice. A beach pavilion room with our very own little plunge pool out back that was only a few steps from the beach.

The view out the back patio of our room.

Our own little relaxing area outside.

Our own little plunge pool.

On Saturday morning we went to the buffet restaurant for the breakfast buffet. It was a really nice mix of Chinese and western breakfast items, and we ate so much that we didn't need any lunch that day. My ribs feel sore just thinking about all the different food we ate that morning. I'm not even going to try to list it all here. Hehe!

Sarah enjoying some carrot juice during breakfast.

Part of the breakfast buffet.

After breakfast we wandered around the resort to see what we had missed in the darkness of the previous night's wandering. The grounds were really nice with all kinds of tropical plants and flowers, statues, three different swimming pools, as well as the beach. There were also a lot of colorful butterflies all over the place. It was really charming.

A monk meditating on the beach.

One of the pools at the resort.

A pretty little statue outside of some of the rooms.

Some lovely landscaping.

One of the many little archways decorating the grounds.

Statue behind the archway.

Some tiny flowers.

After wandering around the resort we decided to go visit the adult-only swimming pool. There were not many people there, and no one was in the water. Sarah did not know how to swim, and wanted to learn in a place without a lot of people watching. I taught her some basics about swimming, and even though she needed to practice her kicks and strokes some more, she did really well and could swim all the way across the pool after a short while.

The adult pool.

Sarah takes a swim.

After swimming we sat in the sun for awhile enjoying the warmth. I was kind of worried about sunburn, but got a little color only. Sarah got to try her first Pina Colada, which she enjoyed.

A yummy Pina Coloda on a warm sunny day.

For dinner that evening we went to the Casa Mia Italian restaurant in downtown Sanya. We had read reviews about it online which said it was very good. They had a lot of good looking items on the menu, and it took awhile to decide what we wanted. They had like three pages of different pizzas! Sarah settled on the lasagna and I chose the spicy seafood fettuccine, as well as a shrimp cocktail as an appetizer.

The shrimp cocktail was about 8 little shrimp served with thousand island dressing, instead of cocktail sauce. I guess it is hard to find horseradish sauce in southern China. The pasta I had was tiny shrimp, tiny clams, and calamari mixed with spinach fettuccine in a spicy garlic/butter sauce. It was very tasty but I was surprised that all the seafood was so small, especially for a restaurant on a tropical island. Sarah's lasagna was really excellent (Almost as good as mom's). It was the first time Sarah had eaten lasagna and she really like that too.

On Sunday morning we went for a walk along the beach and collected seashells. As you might have guessed, this was Sarah's first time to go to a beach. A weekend of many firsts for her.

A view of the beach.

A path leading down along the beach.

After walking along the beach, and packing our things, we checked out of the resort and got a taxi downtown to have lunch at an American restaurant called the Dolphin Sports Bar. We had read about this place online and wanted to try it. Sarah had the chicken Caesar wrap, and I had a cheeseburger with chili on it.

After lunch we wandered around downtown and looked around at some of the shops there. It seems a lot of Russian tourists come to Sanya, and a lot of the stores and shops had Russian names, and/or signs in Russian.

We wandered around and around, and eventually came back to the Dolphin Sports Bar. We still had a few hours until we needed to go to the airport, so we hung out at there for awhile drinking a few beers, snacking on shrimp quesadillas, and watching people go by. At one point we chatted with a German guy who had stopped by for an afternoon beer. He lived in Sanya in the winter time and in Germany during the summer. Sounds nice.

The flight back to Chengdu was kind of uneventful, expect for all the children. I am not sure why, but there were lots and lots of little children on the flight. They appeared to be between the ages of 3 and 5, and of course they were noisy as they could be. One of the stewards on the flight gave one little boy a small smack upside the head since he was jumping up and down on his seat and yelling. Sarah and I made faces at some of the noisy ones, which confused them and quieted the little brats down for a little bit.

Our flight was late (as usual), and we arrived back in chilly damp Chengdu at around 9:00pm. We were both hungry for some Sichuan food, so we ended up going to a little maocai place near my apartment and had some meat and vegetables on sticks that are cooked in a big pot of boiling spicy oil, and we also had a small bowl of pig brains cooked in hot chili peppers. Mmmm... zombie food.