January 31, 2010
Last night, Michelle, our good friend Stacy, and I went to Apothecary, a hot new-ish bar in Beijing. It's in Nali Patio (next to Mosto) in the expat-friendly Sanlitun area.
The place has a clean feel with good service and nice jazz and standards filling the air. The drinks are definitely the highlight, with a strong emphasis on classic drinks made well. The menu is a delight, with nice explanations of the drinks. I had a great Manhattan, a stellar Old Fashioned (with Old Overholt -- kind of a nice twist) over one of the now-ubiquitous hand-shaved round ice balls, and an equally great something else or another (now lost to the drink haze). The ladies' drinks were equally well made and perfect.
The food was a bit mixed. Stacy and I shared a really delicious pork pate po boy (Michelle doesn't like pate) -- it was well-balanced with just enough pickled veggies to add a little bite to the pate. The beef sliders were probably the best burgers we've had in Beijing so far; we ordered a second plate of these -- great beef on sweet potato buns. Again, nicely balanced with a perfect proportion of meat and bun with just enough pickley stuff to kick it up a bit. Unfortunately, the gumbo and red beans and rice were terrible; they were bland, blended smooth like baby food, and served as almost a veneer or topping on too much rice. I'm biased towards Michelle's stellar Southern cooking, no doubt, but this was not good.
Fortunately, the drinks more than made up for the spotty food. We'll definitely go back for drinks and snacks.
3/F, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Beilu, Sanlitun
(Note: they open at 7pm. We thought they opened at 6:00 and wound up milling around for a while.)
January 30, 2010
I may need to start writing letters again just to send stuff with the upcoming Calvin & Hobbes stamps on them. Awesome.
For more on this and the other comic book stamps coming, check out the article from Comics Alliance.
I'm a big fan of the Bird's Nest Stadium (even though they're not quite sure what to do with it now.) I think it's a lovely piece of architecture, especially from inside the shell. Here are a few shots I took earlier.
Last year, I wrote about the icy fun Beijingers enjoy on the frozen lakes here. This year, we decided to try it out ourselves. We had a rare combination of a warm (for a Beijing winter anyway) sunny day with clear skies (read: little pollution) -- perfect for day of riding ice chairs at Houhai (a lake near the Forbidden City). It's a picturesque area surrounded by old Chinese buildings including the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower (see in the pix below.)
Our driver gave us a great tip -- avoid the first two skating areas (first one is too small/crowded, the second is primarily for ice skaters) -- so we headed straight for the third and last skating area. We bought three tickets for 10RMB (about USD$1.50) to get on the ice and another 40RMB for unlimited use of two ice chairs (plus a deposit of 80RMB each to make sure we returned the chairs.)
As you can see from the photos below, the chairs are pretty rudimentary -- just a welded steel frame with two seats covered with a little scrap of carpet.
After you pick out your chair, you choose the poles you'll use to propel yourself on the ice. These are literally just screwdrivers welded to sharpened steel shafts. It's something of a miracle that none of us came back with new holes in our body.
As it turns out, you can really get going on the ice on one of these chairs. Obviously, this is super fun. Our driver explained that they all used to do this because they didn't have money to buy skates before.
Andrew (12) quickly figured out how to do spins on his chair and started doing 720s. Invariably, Michael (9) decided that ramming Andrew was more fun.
There was really quite a scene on the ice. There were vendors right out on ice selling drinks, cotton candy, kebabs (chua'r), and such plus midway-style games even including the electronic free throw basketball games.
Trains of ice chair riders were pretty popular. Somehow, it seemed pretty nuts to have so many with sharp sticks in such close proximity.
There were other ways of getting around on the ice. Ice bikes were a popular rental. These looked pretty fun and got moving pretty fast too, although sometimes the wheel would just spin.
There was also a guy with a sleigh pulled by some animal (alpaca?). I didn't see anyone riding the sleigh.
You could even rent an electric powered cart. These were clearly repurposed bumper cars. I only saw fat, smug boys riding these.
I have to say, it was a very enjoyable afternoon. There were families, couples, old folks, young folks, and piles of friends all having a great time. People were all smiling, pretty polite (even apologizing if they crashed into you), and clearly having fun. Even the vendors were nice (the cotton candy guy even offered me a cigarette). This was pretty different from our usual experience in Beijing and was evidence that at it's best, Beijing is an awesome place. We'll undoubtedly go back to Houhai for more ice play again.
January 23, 2010
I saw this sign at the entrance of a neighborhood near our place in Beijing. Not sure what they're banning. Car bombs? Burning cars? Couples arguing in the car? Whatever it is, I don't want it in my neighborhood either. Seems like an important sign...
January 15, 2010
Here are a few shots from my office window in Beijing of yesterday's eclipse. I've never seen an eclipse like this before. Amazing.
At first, I thought it was a Chinese Death Star coming to blow Google China off the map, but it was just an eclipse.