Happy Chinese New Year!

Today, is the beginning of the Chinese New Year, the year of the sheep. During the ten days celebration, often you will see the lion dances  perform but the dragon dance is less often  because it requires a team of … Continue reading

Having my photo taken with a Chinese Policeman

photo with the policeman

After staying two days in my noisy hotel, Michael has returned from his business trip from Saipan Island. Sunday morning, I returned from my morning walk he was standing in front of the hotel waiting for me.
His home just a short walk away but before I got a chance to unpack my bags we needed to pay a visit to the local police station.
Few tourists know about this: as a visitor not staying in a hotel, I have to report to the police and let them know where I will be staying.
On the back on the entry card to China, under important notice:
“Alien who do not lode at hotels, guesthouses or inns shall, within 24 hours (72 hours in rural areas) of entry, go through accommodation registration at local station”.
We had done this the last three times when I visit Michael so we knew what to prepare:
We brought our passports, his work permit, house lease and photocopies of our passports and my entry visa. I learn from past, police station do not equips with photocopier and often it is not easy to find a photocopy place near by so I had brought copies with me from Canada.
We also knew the police station closed during lunch time so we make sure to arrive afterward.
Luckily, there were only two people ahead of us, in on time I was registered and I can officially stay in Beijing!
As we were leaving the station, I stopped and ask Michael to take a photo of me in front of the station but before he could a uniform policeman was returning from his lunch break.
He looked at us, I explain to him we are Canadian and I just registered for my stay in Beijing. Without thinking, I asked if I could have a photo with him. A man nearby has been watching us, he good naturally push the surprised policeman next to me. We were all smiles and I had my photos with the policeman
I thanked and shake hand with him we happily went home.

Homeless at Beijing McDonald

McDondald breakfast
In recent years with Starbucks opening shops in China finding coffee in China has became lot easier. Since then, other coffee shops had follows which open everywhere. However, tea is still the preferred beverage here and coffee is more expensive here than in North America, a cup of coffee could cost $4, $5 or even more at some pricy coffee shops. (For that amount one can buys a good meal)
The China McDonald offers a lower price coffee compare to Starbucks for the one in need. The McCafé section is usually has no line up with eager staff to serve you
There are two McDonalds at the Wangfujing pedestrian mall; one is in a large shopping mall and the other one which is larger with two levels at a busy location and longer hours for business.
I went for the other one that morning. The breakfast combos are same as the ones in North American with a new twist: one can choose either Soya milk or coffee.
Even it was early in the morning but the place was busy with customers already.
After I got my meal, I went upstairs thinking it would be less crowed and allowed me the street view from above. However the intriguing view was inside and not far from where I was sitting: a number of young men were sleeping on benches; some completely lay down still wearing their shoes and some sitting up resting their heads on the table. They were cleanly dressed with new looking clothing some had a large backpack by their side.

homeless at McMonald

While eating I was also observing the other customers but no one seem to paying any attentions to them beside myself. One man, look to be in his early twenties slowly sit up from his bench, after rubbing his eyes then spit onto the floor in front of him.
A man nearby wearing government uniform didn’t pay attention to the man but keep reading from his phone. Meanwhile a group of young women had arrived and chatting with each other while putting on their makeup.
Finally, a uniform security came upstairs but instead of telling the sleeping men to leave, he merely looked around and went back downstairs without waking anyone.
Later, at other McDonald, I noticed men would also hangout there without ordering any food.

Cathedral Church in Beijing

st joseph church 1

Beijing is full of surprises: Early in the morning, I left the hotel in search for my morning coffee. No sooner after I turned the corner I was face to face to an old Catholic church! Western churches are not a common sight in China, especially not a historical one.
The St Joseph Church is commonly known as Wangfujing Church or Dongtang (the east Cathedral) is one of the four historic Catholic Churches in Beijing.
The original Church was finished in 1655 (At the time, the Jesuits were the only group of people from Europe given permission to reside in the capital city, on account of their insight into astronomy.) but was destroyed first by earthquake in 1720 then by fire about 90 years later.. The current church date back to 1904 now stands as the second oldest Cathedral church in Beijing.
The building is in the style of Romanesque revival architecture. The church was closed down during the Cultural Revolution and suffered damages until the end of the revolution in 1976.

st joseph church 2
Although it was still early in the morning when I walk by, still a few tourists were there taking photos already.
Later, I discovered during the day the church can be enter through a side door. One time, there was even a service going with a handful of followers however with my limited Mandarin I couldn’t make out the sermon.


My beautiful “Moon Cake” box

Today is the autumn moon festival which is a important festival in Chinese culture which not unlike the Thanksgiving in North America.
One of the traditions is friends and families would give gift of the moon cakes. The traditional moon cakes are made with lotus seed paste, brown sugar and with the salted duck egg yolk. When I was a kid I always look forward for this festival and the opportunity of tasting the moon cakes. Since the cakes are use as gift they usually come in fancy boxes and the more expensive one are even more impressive.
A couple years ago, I was in China just after the autumn moon festival. One morning, I discovered a very beautiful moon cake box been discarded near my friend’s apartment. The box was like nothing I ever seen; the outside was made with silk fabric with flowers and birds pattern and a gold silk cord as handle. Once untied, there are there compartment with silk linings. It came from the Shanghai Marriott hotel. I couldn’t resist picking it up and took the exquisite box back to Toronto with me.
moon cake box 1moon boxmoon cake box

moon cake boxmoon cake boxmoon cake box

Giant panda with CN Tower in Toronto

cn tower with panda

Last year a pair of Giant Panda arrived in Toronto from China with great fanfare. They were greeted by our Prime minster Harper at the airport for the photo-op. However it was merely a business deal as the Toronto Zoo has to pay China with a cool million dollar per year in order to house them. The overexcited Zoo Director also built a two millions dollar Panda Palace for them as well.. Since the Panda diet is consist of mainly bamboo, they have to fly in three times a week from the Memphis Zoo by FedEx for the duration of their stay.
All these information just keep swimming in my head and inspired me to come up with my own Panda Souvenir: ‘Giant panda with CN Tower” a watercolour with paper cut, 22”x13”

Five free things to do in Qingdao, China

There are many interesting things to do and see in Qingdao. Here is my recommendations for five free things to do while visiting Qingdao.

1)      Mayfour square

kite flying at mayfour Square

qingdao at night s

The name came from the May four resistance movement in Shandong province. This vast open square with the giant red sculpture (wind of May) it is the symbol of the modern Qingdao.  It is a place one should visit both day and at night because it offers a completely different feels. During the day, it is a great place to relax take photos, walk along the harbour, shop at the souvenirs stales among the board walk, people watching or even kite flying on the square. At night the square is lively with the sculpture lighted up. There were venders selling snacks and singers entertain you for your spare changes. One should find a seat experience all these activity and watch the spectacular backdrop of lights up buildings by the harbor.

2)      Qingdao city museum

qingdao museum

The entry is free for this wonderful museum; it offers both art and history exhibitions the first floor of the museum with two large gallery devoted to the history of Qingdao. The bilingual (Chinese/English) descriptions are very informative. The second floor galleries there are display of Chinese paintings, ceramic and craft. On the main floor also houses a compact book store and a gift shop also worth a visit.

 3) Old stone man bathing beach it is less crowded than the other one bathing beaches in Qingdao. The water is very clear and the sand is very fine.

old stone man beach

4)  Qingdao Olympic Sailing Park.

sailing at Olympic park

harbour by Olympic Park

Qingdao hosted the 2008 Olympic sailing event since then this area been turned into a public park. There are many restaurants, shops around here. On the weekend is very busy with tourists. One can take one of the tour boats to tour Qingdao harbour as well.

 5) St Michael cathedral

st michael cathedral

who is the fairest of them all

This German Cathedral is the only Catholic Cathedral in Qingdao it was built by the German in 1934. Although it is not open to the public but still it attracts a large members of tourists during the day. As for me, the real attraction was the wedding couples. During the day, teams of newlyweds would arrive with their wedding photographers and stylists. Each would dress in their wedding finest posing for the camera. Many like I would just sat on the steps opposite the Cathedral to watch.