Monday, May 31, 2010

Chengdu Panda Reserve

There are so few pandas in the world and China prides itself on not only having the largest number of pandas, but also they research the creatures, feed and aid in their re-creation.

The largest Panda reserve is located in Chengdu.  Visiting the pandas was one place I definitely wanted to go while there and although I was disillusioned that it wasn't the type of park I thought it would be (where Panda's room free) it still was a very green and spacious place where we were able to see the famously apathetic creatures in action. 

I was amused when after we viewed literature/movies on pandas and saw real live ones (the girl in me thinks they are just SO cute and cuddly) my father told me he thought pandas were dumb animals and because of their mating habits they themselves were creating their own extinction. I became defensive, but after reviewing the facts I had to agree. They are finicky lovers, not maternal (they tend to kill their babies) and have dental for meat, yet only eat bamboo.  I still love them all the same!

Just a thought.

Five star Shangri la de da.

Hong Kong is great. Though I am not sure if I liked it because of the people I met, the layout/feel of the city which is an amazing twist of hills and skyscrapers, very metropolitan (see the view from our room above) or it was the hotel my father booked. HK hotel rooms are meant to be small, very very small, so because of this and because my father wanted to give me a Birthday treat for my 30th even though it was six months ago, he booked us into a five star hotel, rated #4 on tripadvisor. My father is not a rich man, but he loves to splurge and splurge we did. He decided (as I cringed, uncomfortable with spending money) that we would enjoy breakfast, happy hour on the 54th floor and a room upgrade upon check in. We stayed four nights and it was probably the best hotel experience I've ever had. Special treats included, free wifi, flowers in our room (that was my father's doing though), the most amazing jasmine tea, water and a magazine brought to you immediately when poolside, employees chiming in 'hello Miss Brett', bookmarks left in my book, an automated curtain opening to the city in the morning, ipod consuls, unlimited champagne and a sweet view of all of Hong Kong. The Shangri La also has the largest mural in China, rainfall showers, BBC in the loo-great to listen to when getting ready, and doormen who always check the cab when we got to the hotel lest we drop or leave some item in the backseat. The only shortfall of our stay was that it was hard to go out and explore the city when all I wanted to do was relax by the pool and enjoy all of the treats of the hotel. I think if we wouldn't have had such a nice hotel or I stayed in an accommodation I am accustomed to I would have been out exploring constantly. Regardless, it was such a special treat and if one can afford five star in Hong Kong, stay here!

My father during cocktail hour, enjoying the cityscape, veuve clicquot, and a serious chat.

Breakfast view.

A special birthday treat left by housekeeping.

Jasmine tea (so great I didn't want the champagne) and flowers upon arrival.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How do you say yum in mandarin?

My father has mastered Chinese, well I take that back, he knows food words in Chinese. I am sure it has something to do with the fact that he enjoys good food, especially Sichuanese food. When I was waiting in line for my visa a Chinese woman asked where I was going. When I told her Chengdu, she asked, 'so you like spicy food then'. Known for it's spicy food and hot pot (a spicy/oily pot in a carved out table where one puts all sorts of raw foods ranging from duck, lotus, tofu and mushrooms and then once cooked you dip it in oily garlic) Sichuan is a good place for my father to be gastronomically speaking. I tried to be adventurous, but out of politeness I was forced to eat something like a foot (see photo second from bottom) crunchy and slimy. After eating said foot, my new 'try' was strictly vegetarian.  They had many different types of mushrooms which I really enjoyed. The black pot to the right in the first photo had amazing mushrooms in a sweet smokey sauce. 

My father had other people order for us.  Chinese people never want you to go hungry, always try and show face by treating you to many dishes, so they over order, leaving you stuffed!

In Hong Kong we ate a lot of dim sum which is one of my favorite types of food. There was such a drastic change from this to the food of Chengdu, though I was familiar with the dim sum variety. When we ate dim sum it was a slow process, an experience and there were numerous fish dishes fresh from the sea. 

I think chopsticks might contribute to a thinner Chinese population. I realized I eat slower with them and all of that oil sort of drips off the food when picked up with a chopstick. All we ate with marveled at my ease with chopsticks. I felt proud....and full.

PS On a fruit platter they always have tomatoes and people eat them with their watermelon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A trip to the Middle Kingdom

It's been awhile. I know I haven't posted anything recently, but I blame it on China's government and their censorship laws that won't let me surf the net, and won't let me blog or check FB. Regardless, I really try to leave the technological baggage at the door when traveling.

My trip was amazing, I am glad I decided to go. I am not sure if it was the fact that my dad was SO generous and covered me for most everything on the trip displaying true Chinese hospitality, or that I met a lot, and I mean a lot, of locals and people from around the world. Maybe it could have been the fact we stayed in a five star hotel in Hong Kong, or our trip to Mount Emei where up the mountain it was so dark and wet, but when it came time to see the Buddha the clouds parted and the statue glistened. It could have been the food, I gained some serious weight in only two weeks, or that my 14 hour flight was a breeze, or maybe it was the pandas, almost extinct we saw the normally sleepy/lazy creatures during their active play time.

The true test for me during this trip was surviving two full weeks with my father (sorry dad). I think we have a fairly great relationship via email or across oceans, but when living together we haven't always seen eye to eye. When I stopped whining, kept my mouth quiet and my father mellowed out a bit, I actually had a great time. And one of the best things about the trip is I realized why he was there and that he's made a life for himself and it is a life that is so very rich.  I could definitely do China again and I have the visa for another year so maybe I will.  More posts with photos to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shadow love.

This past week has been crazy! Great, intense, a bit disappointing, fast, and tiresome. I bought my ticket, but cancelled my plans for London (I know I shall go back soon).
For some reason on the eve of a memorial service I will attend and before I take off for China, I've been thinking about shadows (or trying to stay in the shadows). Shadows are at the same time mysterious and also seek revelations or uncover secrets. There is a feeling that one gets in the dark light of something, nostalgia for the past, but also there is a flutter of future. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My friend Amelia.

This is my friend Amelia. She just turned four. I had the pleasure of hanging out with her and her brother James the last few days. We did so much together and had a lot of fun.

Amelia showed me where she goes to school, she danced ballet......

gave me a flower on her way to soccer.......

and we had a nice lunch with her swimming friends.

Our conversations went something like this, Amelia: 'Sarah, are you a fan of mushrooms? Are you a fan of tomatoes? How about broccoli? Are you a fan of broccoli?' me: 'I wouldn't say I was a fan of broccoli. I like it, I will eat it, but I wouldn't call myself a fan. I am definitely a fan of mushrooms'. Then, Amelia: 'This isn't kids music'  me: 'No it's not, but it is still good music, it's classical'. Amelia: 'But I want kid's music. Change it Sarah'. And my favorite is when I would open the door of the car or wake her from sleep, and she would say in a tiny sweet little girl voice my name, like I was magic, a long lost friend, or a great surprise.

Feelin' the Fillmore.

Last Thursday I spent a sunny afternoon (after a long wait at the Chinese Embassy) on Fillmore St in San Francisco. I think it has to be one of my favorite streets in all the city. Less pretentious than others, but with a nice mix of high end stores like Ralph Lauren, Betsy Johnson and Marc Jacobs, and it has my favorite design and coffee shops like Zinc Details, Coffee Bean and Bittersweet.  They also have Crossroads Trading Co where I always manage to pick up a purse or top for under 20 dollars. I stopped in, as I always do when I am on the street, to Papersource for gifts and stationary (see photo below). And of course there is always great sushi, pastry shops, and Harry's Bar and the Fillmore if you want to have a cocktail or see a gig.

 Sweet illustrations at Zinc. I love all of their home products and they stock Marimekko.

I love what Marc Jacobs is doing with colors. I found a spring jacket I wish to own!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Celie!

My grandmother Celie was born 88 years ago.

We had a little lunch and cake for her with her friends in their retirement home.

She is still so smiley and fashionable at 88.

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