Tag Archives: Beijing

Houhai and the Paddle Boat Traffic Jam

11 Jun

Morgan and Brett at Houhai

After what felt like the longest and coldest winter of my life, I was ecstatic when spring finally sprung.  Brett and I could not get outside fast enough to soak up some Beijing rays (I believe it is actually called smog but beggars can’t be choosers, right?) and enjoy a cold Tsingdao (local beer) at a fun rooftop bar.

Many of our local and expat friends recommended a park area in the center of the city called Houhai, and we decided to give it a go. Unfortunately for my feet, the park was a “little” larger than we anticipated.  Nevertheless, it was my first opportunity of the season to sport a new pair of platform sandals, and I didn’t want to miss it.  Truthfully, the shoes were inappropriately high for a day at the park and even though my brain knew better…fashion overruled.

Traffic Jam View from Rooftop Restaurant

My good friend, Giant Festering Blister, showed up soon after our arrival.  Thankfully, Brett was a true gentleman and flagged down a rickshaw to take us around the area. We overpaid like total newbies, but sometimes it is just not worth the time to haggle over $1USD!  The ride around the park was actually quite charming and pleasant until the traffic jam.  That’s right…a rickshaw traffic jam.  Only in China can a rickshaw traffic jam exist.  Check out the crazy cluster in this photo.

Other than crazy Chinese rickshaw drivers, the area is entirely lovely.  Numerous cafes, bars, and boutiques surround the Houhai Lake which once served as the terminus of the old Beijing canal system.  We found a quaint rooftop spot overlooking a bridge where we could watch Chinese paddle boat mania.  Seriously, paddle boat traffic jams?  I really shouldn’t be surprised – human traffic jams exist here.  I swear there is no courtesy, right of way, or any semblance of order in any form of transportation in this country.  I am making a concerted effort to find this amusing rather than frustrating, but the fact is that our driver had to tell me to calm down after I shouted at an extremely rude cabbie two days ago.  This clearly demonstrates my lack of progress in the matter. I should also take this opportunity to openly reveal that I am a horrendous driver.  There is no judgement here – only amazement.

Paddle Boat Madness!!

The truth is – Houhai is a lovely spot to spend a sunny Beijing afternoon.  We will definitely go back.  I am not sure that we will ever have the desire to partake in the paddle boat madness, but we will definitely watch from afar with cold beverages in hand.  Bravo to those forward thinkers who turned this once low-rent part of town into a buzzing hotspot.

From Beijing with Love

31 May

The shopping in Beijing is amazing and at times completely overwhelming.  And believe me – it takes a lot for a shopping excursion to overwhelm me.  In fact, if retail therapy was considered a sport… I would be an Olympic team member.  I love to haggle, and I love the thrill of a bargain.  All of that is to say that I am currently working on A Blonde Buys – a shopping guide to Beijing (and other places in Asia) to include on the blog.

In the meantime, I will include a picture of Brett’s favorite Beijing purchase to date.  It is the most perfectly inappropriate souvenir for friends back home.  Craig, this is just the look for a new dad of a sweet baby girl.

Looking for a job in marketing?

31 May

Have you recently lost your job in marketing or advertising?  If the answer to that question is yes, then you should move  to China.  They need you.  See the picture below and tell me if you agree.  It is probably the worst restaurant slogan I have ever seen in a window display!

"Probably" the Worst Restaurant Window Slogan Ever

Curb Your Kid

17 May

The sign you see to your left is placed on almost every street and street corner in NYC.  For those of you who have never owned a dog (pay attention Mr. Hutchinson) Curbing Your Dog simply means clean up your pet’s “business”.  Dog owners who do not complete this task are highly disliked by the bulk of New Yorkers.  In particular, those individuals who find “business” on the bottom of their Louboutins or Ferragamo loafers.  I can only imagine how disturbed those people might be if they realized they had stepped in human “business.”  This leads me to my entry for today.  It is small in words but big in definition of my life in China.

Last Friday, while waiting for my ride to pick me up from a little shopping excursion, I had a very bizarre encounter with a mother and child.   First, I should mention that the scene of this incident was not an isolated location.  It was a very busy street, bustling with people right next to the entrance of a massive bus station.  As I waited for the car, I sipped on a diet coke (my first of the day so I was in fake sugar heaven) when out of the corner of my eye I saw a mother rapidly stripping the pants of her 3-4 year old son allowing him to spray pee all over the sidewalk.  Naturally, I was a bit grossed out, but I tried to be sympathetic…maybe she is still struggling with the task of potty training him?…maybe he just could not hold it anymore?  But then, things got out of hand and the kid began to drop his “business” all over the place.  It was all I could do to not lose it right then and there.  Can you imagine walking up Madison Avenue to find mothers and nannies allowing their children to use the sidewalk as a toilet?  Wouldn’t this be a great story for Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers to use during their “Really?” segment on SNL’s Weekend Update.  In fact, “really?” was the only word that came to my mind after the incident.

I suppose the moral of this story is to watch where you step on the sidewalks of Beijing.  Also:  Curb Your Kid.








Monkey Says “NO” to Wasabi Peas

11 May

Our Monkey with His Snack of Choice

Almost the entire country of China shut down for 2 weeks in February to celebrate the Year of the Tiger. So with the doors of NCGA (Brett’s work) closed for business, we had no other choice than to hop a flight to Bali.  (I hope the sarcasm in that sentence is as obvious as intended.)

Before I can go into any details of the trip, I must first tell you that Brett and I are both geographically challenged when it comes to the size of Asia.  We mistakenly assumed that our flight time from Beijing would be 4-5 hours, when in reality, it was 9 hours of air time plus an overnight stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  Needless to say that when we finally arrived, we wanted nothing more than a cold beverage (avec bourbon) by the pool!

Our hotel, The Ayana Resort, is comprised of 78 freestanding, cliff-top villas.  Each villa has its own infinity edge pool overlooking the Indian Ocean.  Honestly, it is pretty ridiculous.  I should now take the time to selfishly thank all those involved in causing the  financial crisis, which allowed us to afford a vacation at this small piece of heaven on earth.  Best to look at the bright side of things, right?

Our villa was so secluded that at times we felt completely removed from all civilization.  Although I suppose the blaring Bose speakers, the Michelin Star quality room service, and the personal butler were pretty clear reminders. Sarcasm intended.   Those modern luxuries aside, the remoteness of our accommodations contributed greatly to our most favorite Balinese experience (or Balanean experience in Brett speak).

It was our very first day.  We were playing in the pool and my back was to the ocean.  With a very odd look on his face, Brett announced that a rather decent size monkey was rapidly approaching us.  As a monkey lover and one born in the year of the monkey, I was immediately filled with excitement.  Could it be?  Another monkey for my monkey pack?  (The Hangover movie reference) .  The truth is, the monkey was not trying to join my monkey pack.  In fact, he just wanted our food.  He initially went for a full bag of wasabi peas.  We assumed, after he spit them out faster than a Nolan Ryan fastball in his prime, he was not a fan.  Luckily for him (it was definitely a him) there was also a delicious bag of salt and vinegar potato chips nearby.  With a human like grip, he carried the bag to our cabana, reclined on the plush cushions, and proceeded to eat the entire bag…one chimp…I mean one chip at a time.

Visiting a Rice Paddy in Bali

While the wild monkey visit was a highlight for me, Bali had so much more to offer.  We visited amazing rice paddies, beautiful coffee plantations, and an entire wild monkey forest.

There are so many extraordinary resorts on the island of Bali; however, I strongly recommend Ayana.  The Spa on the Rocks is to die for, and the location on the island receives the most sunshine of any other spot.  Life is short.  Go to Bali.


BTW:  The monkey did visit us again.  On the 2nd visit, he realized that we did not have any accessible food. So…he peed all over Brett’s flip-flops, and left.  Good times.

Tasting Kopi Lawak Balinese Coffee

Feeding a Monkey in the Wild Monkey Forest

Commune by the Great Wall

14 Apr

Me at The Great Wall.

About 4 million people visit the Great Wall of China each year.   This breaks down to around 11,500 visitors a day (taking into consideration days closed for holidays).   Naturally, I assumed that my first experience on the wall would feel a bit like the inside of a sardine can.  It could not have been more different.

During one of my first visits to China, Brett planned a weekend getaway for us at The Commune.   This resort like community, a private collection of contemporary villas designed by 12 Asian architects, is located about an hour and a half outside of Beijing. Situated on 8 square kilometers of private land in the Shuiguan Mountains, The Commune is built around an extremely remote portion of the man-made wonder that is The Great Wall.   Its unique location allowed me the opportunity to share my first visit to the wall with only one other person…Brett.  Albeit – a very sweaty Brett.

You see…after hiking several very hilly miles to the private entrance of the wall, we realized that we had left both of our wallets in the room, and we had no way to pay the 10 RMB entry fee.    (10 RMB is the equivalent of $1.47.)    Before I could even argue with him, Brett kissed me goodbye and took off in a dead sprint back to our room to get some Chinese Yuan (also called RMB). He returned less than 30 minutes later, soaking wet, with the tickets in hand.   Based on his speedy return, I knew that he had sprinted the entire way there and back just to be sure that I had plenty of time to explore the wall in the daylight.   It was incredibly sweat…I mean sweet of him.  Misspell intended.

Me with "My Very Big Deal" at The Great Wall

Me and My "Big Deal"

For guy friends of Brett’s reading this – try to control your gag reflex by taking a closer look at his Ron Burgundy inspired t-shirt. Clearly, the best choice for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity!

Beijing Tip:  Commune at The Great Wall managed by Kempinski


The View from Our Room

A Chinese Love Song Singer and a Hooker

12 Apr

Album Cover of Tai Yuan Long, Chinese Love Song Singer

Apparently being out on the town, with your significant other on your arm, is not a deterrent for the people of Beijing.  In fact, from my experience, I am beginning to believe that their aggressive nature lures them to the challenge.  I would like to share 2 of our favorite stories that happened within 1 week of each other.

The first incident occurred on St. Patrick’s Day at our favorite Irish Pub in town, Molly Malone’s.  It was absolutely packed (mostly due to the fact that the Guinness was flowing like wine…for FREE).  Brett and I were at a table about to order some food when a friend of mine from Hong Kong walked in.  I know – small world, right?  She was with a Chinaman. He quickly approached me, and introduced himself as a Chinese love song singer.  His English was very broken so the conversation was difficult, not to mention the fact that he had absolutely no interest in including Brett in the discussion (of which I am still fuzzy on the content).  We were able to get rid of him when the food arrived.  We had a few laughs and then we didn’t really think another thing of it.  The next day I received this hilarious text  message (verbatim):

“Hi Morgan.  Did not know that I write your name to be whether correct?  I was last night acquaintance’s Chinese love song singer.  My Chinese name pronunciation is Tai Yuan Long; you may call my English name TallOne.  You are very attractive, is very sexy, I like you, feels is infatuated very much.  Hoped that we have the very good relations.  Because perhaps we are acquainted with each other, may let your Chinese be getting better.  May let my English be getting better.  Will meet next time the present to you my phonograph record.  You from USA?   I am Cancer (the crab).  What is your constellation?”

First, I would like to thank my friend in Hong Kong for giving him my number.  Secondly, I am a Virgo.

Interior of Chocolate (i.e. hookerville)

A few nights later, it was my turn to be completely ignored.  We were having after dinner drinks with some friends at a pretty seedy bar called Chocolate.  I would NOT recommend it!  It was pretty clear that the majority of the women in the place were working girls (not the Melanie Griffith type). It was obvious that Brett and I were together – holding hands, arm in arm, etc; however this visibly did not matter.  Reluctantly I excused myself to the ladies room, which by the way, was covered in college bar gunk and had your typical hole in the ground Chinese toilet.  Needless to say, it was a lovely experience.

I couldn’t have been gone more than 2 minutes.  When I returned, Brett was engaged in work talk with our 2 friends, although someone else was desperately trying to join the group.  I watched and laughed from a few feet away for about 20 seconds as Brett continued to literally shake off the aggressive and pudgy hooker.  Then – I am not sure what happened.  As best I can tell, the Morgan that I know left my body to be replaced by a territorial hippo.  (I looked it up – they are the most territorial mammals according to many sources.)  I grabbed the little Chinese girl by the hand and pulled her away exclaiming, “Bùshì nǐ de”.  (Not yours in Chinese).  Classy…right?   Morgan reentered my body.  I looked over at Brett and our friends in utter humiliation, but Brett had the proudest smile on his face.  I am positive that Tammy Wynette would have been proud as well.

Beijing Tip:

Molly Malone’s Irish Pub

No.90, Jinbao Street

Dongcheng District


Tel: (+86) 010 010-65227258

Website: http://www.mollymalonebeijing.com

Easter Sunday sans Smocked Dresses and Pink Mary Janes

7 Apr

Pink Louboutin Mary Janes...for big girls!

Celebrating Easter in Beijing was quite interesting…to say the least!  For starters, it is somewhat difficult to successfully dye brown eggs.  Although, I suppose the real starter is celebrating one of the most important Christian holidays in a primarily non-Christian country.  It must be said; however, that there are over 125 million Christians living in China.   According to www.religioustolerance.org, there are just 159 million Christians in the USA.  Obviously the percentage of Christians in the States is much higher than that of China, but isn’t it exciting to see such growth in a nation that only recently began to permit churches that are not controlled by the Chinese government!

While there were vast differences, there were also many similarities.  For example – Brett was able to find Easter Lilies for me and some stores were even selling chocolate bunnies.  Of course the biggest similarity was the message of Easter – that He is risen indeed!

In full disclosure, I should admit that there were a few things about the church service that alarmed us.  For one, the welcome intro was done via video with a Wizard of Oz like voice narrating a message that sounded more like the end of the world than the beginning of an Easter service.  I was actually able to overlook this rather quickly though as I spanned the room (huge auditorium) and saw every different ethnicity one could imagine.  It was truly moving.

So even though I didn’t see a single little girl with goldilocks blonde curls wearing a smocked dress with pink mary janes, I did get to sing my favorite hymn “Because He Lives”, and Brett and I had a lovely champagne brunch at the Ritz complete with hand painted Easter Egg centerpieces.

Happy Easter!

Beijing Tip: Beijing International Christian Fellowship church offers services in a variety of languages at multiple locations around Beijing.  Visit the website for more information: http://www.bicf.org

Please note that these are contemporary services.  I am currently researching more traditional church services, as that is really more my thing!

Sun Chips, Horseradish, and Cascade

2 Apr

I have always been told that it is the small things in life that make you the happiest.  Living in Beijing has confirmed this theory.

During my 3 trips to visit Brett in the fall, I confirmed that certain crucial items were available.  I mean…I do love this boy, but could I have moved if say…there was an absence of readily available Diet Coke?  Luckily for Brett, we will never have to know!

After a few weeks of living here permanently, I really started to notice a variety of missing or difficult to find items that I had grown accustomed to using on a weekly, if not daily basis.    Let’s see if any of you can relate to removing these items from your daily routine:

-Clorox bleach wipes (what is a girl to do?)

-Cayenne Pepper

-The big bag of Splenda used for cooking

-Black tights that fit someone weighing more than 95 pounds or 43.2 kilograms (oh yes -I am all metric now!)

-A Crock Pot

-Toothpaste that is not flavored like potpourri

-Aerosol hairspray (clearly a problem for any southern girl)

Many embarrassing tears later I did find a Crock Pot.  And, with the help of a friend, I located an amazing life saver…Jenny Lou’s International Market.  My first visit to the store was absolute bliss as the second I entered the door, I laid eyes on every flavor of Sun Chips in existence.  Granted, they are almost 7 USD a bag, but everyone deserves to splurge on her favorite chips once in a while, right?  I proceeded to the second floor  – more bliss – horseradish, liquid Cascade, and Honey Bunches of Oats.  I thought to myself; can life get any better than this?  And then it appeared…a lone can of aerosol hairspray.

2009 had many bumps in the road for me.  It was wonderful to be reminded that a simple, everyday grocery item could put such a huge smile on my face!

Beijing Tip: Jenny Lou’s has many locations around the city.  Visit the website to see all locations: www.jennyshop.com.cn

I have also recently had luck at the BHG Markets in the lower levels of Solena Mall and Sanlitun village.

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