Steve's China Blog

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.

Friday, November 04, 2011

A day at the shed

A few weekends ago my friend Sarah and I met up with a friend of hers, and we drove out of Chengdu to a place called Flower Town. We were dropped off by some flower/plant markets, and we walked a ways to a place called the Cowshed Country Club.

This wasn't some country club like near where I grew up. It is more like a little getaway place out in the country. It's a place to relax, drink tea, play mahjong, play cards, play ping pong, and/or eat BBQ. The weather was nice and warm, and when we arrived we were offered some cold noodles or tofu, along with some green tea. I had the noodles and Sarah had the tofu. There we met up with about a dozen or so of Sarah's co-workers and friends.

Some of us played a little ping pong, and Sarah barely beat me in a fun game... 22 to 20 (and I didn't lose on purpose!). After ping pong we walked around the area a little bit and then it was time for lunch. The BBQ here is what we would call kabobs in the west. We had a wide variety of good stuff... rabbit, pork, beef, chicken wing tips, spicy bread, etc... all put on sticks and grilled; along with some noodles, some assorted vegetables, some steamed bread, and some watermelon. It was a good and a lot of fun to eat!

After lunch Sarah and I found a nice little couch in a quiet spot that had a nice breeze, and we took a short nap sitting there. Then about 8 to 10 people came over and sat on the couches nearby and began to play cards. They were kind of noisy, so we decided to go walk back to the market area and see if we could find a taxi back to Chengdu.

We got lucky and found a taxi rather quickly, and went to Wanda Plaza where I bought some groceries. That evening I cooked spaghetti for Sarah. She seemed to like it very much. The whole day was very nice and I enjoyed it very much!