Orchid – Beijing

Expectations count for a lot. Arrived back in Beijing to typical summer weather, minus checked in bags – thanks China Air. Made our way to chosen hotel – The Orchid. Pleasant location, cute Hutong – read real slice of life. Check in person seemed unsure if we were coming or going, we were checking in. Room was a relief to get to. What is it with house keeping at hotels though? Yes, you are supposed to sweep and mop the floor. Yes, you are supposed to check the duvet is the right side up. Yes, you should have repainted the re-plastered roof in the bathroom. No, I don’t think you should have used soft wood on the shower floor so that the shower floor flexes when you’re in the shower. You should probably sand down some of the doors in this room so they are easier to close. I mean these things were all noticed in our first 30 minutes and as much as it may sound like one big negative rant, it is not. Simple observation. Never mind. Initial thoughts are very important.

We enjoyed our stay. Good location, nice breakfast, bikes for use (massive plus). Funny locals. I will finish with this. We had the cheapest room. It’s not big enough if you have baggage like we did.  Sound travels at this place, say no more.

Pulled Pork and Homemade BBQ Sauce

It’s everywhere.  From burger joints, tapas bars and high-end restaurants to my lowly Chinese kitchen.  Pulled Pork!  It is a delight to eat and certainly easy to make, utilising cheaper cuts of pork, like the shoulder.  Finding a recipe to suit your tastes, budget and skill can easily be found on the internet.  If you are anything like me, you browse a load of different recipes and then make up your own recipe, a bit of a conglomeration of all of them!  I have made it a couple of times now, and each time I change it a bit, depending on what I have on hand etc.  Soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat and tangy homemade BBQ sauce on a homemade English Muffin, what more could a girl want.  Pulled pork burgers, or tortillas, or sandwiches or whatever as long as there is pulled pork!

English Muffins

The lack of bread options in China can be frustrating.  I miss that mouth-watering, yeasty smell of hot bread straight out of the oven.  Butter slowly melting as you bite into a nice slice of fresh bread.  Yum.  So anyway, I decided that enough was enough and a couple of months ago, embarked upon my oven-less bread baking.  Thanks to google, I discovered that English Muffins are made on the stove-top, perfect for my oven-less Chinese kitchen.  I used this English Muffin recipe and went to work.  Baking heaven!  A kneading workout! They rose beautifully and after a few minutes in the frying pan were ready to taste. Splitting them burned my fingers in my rush to get them opened and buttered, but it was well worth it.

Holiday Time

So we have been on holiday now for 5 weeks, hence a lack of posts. We are back in the southern hemisphere experiencing winter, a cool break from the heat of China’s summer. So what have I been enjoying lately?
1. Sparkling waters
2. Beautiful sunsets
3. Watching winter-swimming
4. Catching up with family and friends
5. Cycling from one side of NZ to the other

Safety Not Guaranteed

So I had just had a $6 hair cut and I crossed the street.  I saw these two just hanging about.  They looked like a husband and wife team.  Perfect unison.  I can’t say I envied them.  They were only about three stories up, but that’s three more than I would care to share with anybody.  It didn’t look like the safest set up going.  It reminds me of the danger that exists in the day-to-day run of the mill stuff.   In the weekend I enjoyed sitting in the back of a friend’s car whilst they drove around town.  It seemed like there was a lot to see.  I realised that when I am out there on my bike I spend so much of my time avoiding accidents that I really don’t get to take in my surrounds.  I think the key to safer roads where I live is more adherence to the basics like keep right, don’t drive against the traffic and take the odd look before you manoeuvre that car.  Safety is not guaranteed and I can guarantee you it’s not safe.

Rubbish in any Language

Rubbish heap, rubbish mound, small pile of rubbish, seen em all.  Rubbish truck, I saw you twice this year.  Burning rubbish pile, I smell you most days.  Opportunist rubbish collector, I see you all the time.  Why then is there so much rubbish out there?  In the photo we see a rubbish collection area at the end of a street, on a bridge over a city canal.  Rubbish is deposited at any unused junction of a street, bridge, new road or communal point as decided upon as mutually acceptable.  I have seen used: unfinished roads, lay-bys, nooks, crannies, middle of roads, sides of roads and perhaps the most seen, the side street next to our school.  It was never a road ‘road’ apparently.  It’s gravel on some bitumen with small gardens on one-side and textile shops on the other.  There is the worst smelling public toilet to boot that conveniently wafts with the prevailing wind.  Rubbish levels range from piles of plastic filled bags to concrete to grass clippings and occasionally you get the big digger around to scoop it all up and it’s trucked away.  Rubbish, but why?  There is no collective recycle-reuse-reinvent mind set.  There weren’t even rubbish bins up until 18 months ago.  Hence the common use of the ‘end of the street’ for rubbish dumping.

Exit Observations

Leaving somewhere always brings a big bunch of mixed emotions to the surface.  Today I visited my friend, and on the bike ride there, decided that an entry a day, up until my exit, was in order.  Point of order number one; my man-bag.  Just recently, due to the onset of the summer heat, I have taken on the use of a man-bag.  When you are sweating from the knees and you realise you need to loosen the load-bearing weight around the sweaty crotch region, what is in your pockets goes into the man-bag.  So far I have tested two prototypes.  Prototype one and quite successful, was a toilet bag I was given.  It’s got a handle bar strap, handy for the bike, and three compartments.  It hasn’t had the obligatory lotion spill in it yet from plane decompression, so it’s in fairly good shape.  Prototype two is the wife’s Cath Kidston handbag.  It’s a bit big in reality, but that six-pack of beer tucks away nicely inside.  I must admit both make me realise I am a man carrying a man-bag, but hey, what you going to do?  Men in China man-bag it all the time.  I have to be more fashion conscious.