Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chicken Feet and Go-karts

It's taken me a long time to post pictures because it's frankly extremely difficult to actually upload pictures onto this blog, due to the slow internet and the need for a VPN, since blogspot is blocked in China.  Anyway, I finally was able to upload a few pictures from the past month, to show what I've been up to.

These two dishes are from a delicious brunch at Salt, a restaurant in Lido Park:

Sighted in Sanlitun:

After seeing Zooey Deschanel's nails in a magazine I decided to follow her lead.  It was a bit difficult to explain what I wanted at the nail salon, but it ended up being an adventure for everyone involved.  I think the results look pretty good!

Also, I have to post this picture of my big purchase from Spin, a modern ceramics store in Lido Park.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I'm in love!

Cheesy lobster anyone?

After one year of entirely resisting the Baskin Robbins ice cream at Embassy Kabul, I finally succumbed to Coldstone Creamery in Sanlitun.  It was a long time coming and did not disappoint.  Mandy and Juli were also big fans.

A few weekends ago Travis and a few diplomats from other Embassies had the awesome idea to spend our Saturday eating dim sum and racing go-karts.  These are the amazing barbeque pork buns from Lei Garden dim sum restaurant in Guo Mao:

A glistening chicken foot with a poetic trail of sauce lies artfully on my plate. 

Getting ready to drive like Beijing cabbies from Pinghu:
Mandy and Travis pose in helmets.  Moments later they were ramming each other into pillars

Of course, drinking and driving is condoned, nay, encouraged, by the conveniently located bar in the middle of the track.  This is going to be some lucky kid's sweetest 16th ever!!

Mandy and Juli at Salt.  I tried to put this picture up at the top with the photos of the food but failed miserably.  Enjoy.

And finally, me, Mandy, and Juli at the opening of Erban, our 2nd consular section in Beijing. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back-to-back Shanghai weekends

These pictures are a conglomeration of two recent trips to Shanghai, taken just a couple weeks apart (you can never have too much Shanghai in your life!!)

I arrived in Beijing in February and took the first opportunity I could get to spend a weekend there with my really good friend Brooke, who was spending two weeks in Shanghai for work.  I flew down during the last weekend in March, and one of our first stops was Yang's Fried Dumplings on Wujiang Lu ( for some sheng jian bao, or fried soup dumplings.  I wrote about it back in 2010, when it was still a hole-in-the-wall  place, but now it's relocated down the street to a new shopping center, which also conveniently houses Carl's Jr. hamburgers and Krispy Kreme (yes, we also went to both of these).  First they stuff the dumplings with soup and pork, and then fry them in a giant wok:

The trick to making a soupy meat dumpling is to make the broth ahead of time, refrigerate it until it turns into gelatin, and then insert the gelatin and meat into the dumpling.  When you steam or fry the dumpling, the gelatin transforms back into a liquid and bursts into soupy deliciousness in your mouth!

 After lunch we took the crazy-trippy underwater tunnel to the Pudong neighborhood on the other side of the river.  Me, next to the Pearl TV tower:

We walked over to the Jin Mao tower, which is the (second?) tallest building in Shanghai and home to the Grand Hyatt hotel.  The view from the top looking inward is really scary, and the lobby at the bottom is already 50+ stories high!!

While we were walking near Yang's Fried Dumplings, we spotted a giant crowd lined up at a random office building on Nanjing Lu, so we waited until the line died down and then went to investigate.  It turns out that a shop was selling spinach dumplings that are somehow associated with Tomb Sweeping Day, which was just a few days away.  After giving it a go, we decided that they were definitely an acquired taste.

We were much more satisfied with the offerings of Boxing Cat Brewery, which was amazing - pulled pork quesadillas, beer bread, sweet potato fries, and Coke lite, of course.

Just one week later I was back in Shanghai, ready for more soup dumplings!  Mandy, Travis, and I took Thursday and Friday off work, in conjunction with Wednesday's Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, and flew to Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain (pics to follow).  After three days in Huangshan, we then flew from Huangshan on Friday night to Shanghai, where we spent another weekend doing what everyone does in Shanghai: eating and shopping.

First stop was YuYuan gardens, which is probably the most touristy spot in the city, but also has soup dumplings that you can drink with a straw!

Travis, Mandy, and Baggio, slurping up the dumplings:

Later on, we visited the home of Sun Zhongshan, which is an old lane house that's been turned into a really nice, small museum.  Just across the street we came across Boxing Cat Brewery (again) and stopped for some beers.  I totally had to surreptitiously take a quick picture of this adorable family at the coffee bean.  Too cute!!
 Later that evening, we made a last-minute decision to forego a fancy dinner and opted instead to take home fried noodles.  After a late night out, on Sunday morning we took the high-speed train back to Beijing, which was really cheap and clean, and only took five hours.

 Also, I should probably note that I had no idea that this blog post would completely revolve around all the meals I ate, but I guess that's a fairly accurate representation of visiting Shanghai!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I woke up this morning feeling terrible - stuffy nose, headache, ears throbbing, etc.  I had no idea what was wrong until I realized that I had accidentally left my window cracked open overnight, and the pollution looked like this:

I checked the Embassy's website, where we have an air quality index monitor ( and found out that the AQI listed Beijing's air quality as 298 at 6:00am today, which is "very unhealthy" and bordering on "hazardous," according to the EPA (  By comparison, only a handful of American cities had an AQI of "moderate." 

After an hour of rain, the view changed dramatically.  It's pretty scary that I COULDN'T EVEN SEE THOSE BUILDINGS through the pollution this morning. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kabul on the Move

I meant to post this much earlier, but just realized that I had left it in draft form:

Shenyang and Beidaihe

I haven't blogged in the past few months because blogspot is blocked in China, and I've been too lazy to download a new VPN, which would give me a foreign IP address and allow me to access all of the fabulous blocked sites (facebook, blogspot, etc.).  I finally got around to it this week, so I'll be slowly adding pictures that I've been taking over the past few months in Beijing and around China.  

First up: Shenyang and Beidaihe

Two weeks ago I took a weekend trip out to Shenyang to see everyone again.  On Saturday we met for hotpot dinner at Haidilao.  Barry, Liu Jing, Dong Mei, Will, Ms. Chong, Dannielle, Ji Na, and Yan Heng made it out:

Will, testing the broth in his protective sleeves and apron:

Wild salamanders!!  

Where to go on Sunday morning?  Clearly to the South Market, the most exciting place in the city:

Tempted to bust in on a game of retiree Chinese checkers, but opted for the market instead.

Delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice and vegan tofu stir-fry!

Next up: Memorial Day weekend in Beidaihe/Qinhuangdao, the beachside resort town just two hours by train from Beijing.  At the Holiday Inn, these little guys were waiting for us at the front desk.  awesome.

Matt and Juli enjoying the beach:

Some days you just have to hug a giant teddy bear and stare off into the Bohai Bay...

With Juli, and our coconuts on the beach:

Wouldn't be a Chinese beach without middle-aged women partaking in a choreographed dance routine:

Michael and Matt, preparing for the barbecue:

Too much lighter fluid!!

Lao long tou, the old dragon head, where the Great Wall meets the sea:

After climbing on the Great Wall, we walked along the beach, where we found these couples taking wedding photos:

Wedding jeggings? Weggings?

Ending the weekend with matching monkey-themed outfits: