Wednesday, September 24, 2008 ;
9:30 AM
Kids art in school

Went to school one day and saw their art pieces on the notice board. Of course, I have to take a pic.

The one in the top row, middle one is ds2's. These are all from his class of 3yr olds.

Below shows ds1's Pacific Giant Octopus (as labelled). It's the red paint on yellow piece of paper.

Sweets from Turkey

H's hubby went on a business trip to Turkey and Italy. He came back with this for us. Yummy. I love it. So does ds1. ds2 and Dh do not appreciate it. haha.

Weekend trip to Beijing (5-7 Sep)

Last minute decision. Asked Dh what he would like to do for his birthday, and he said go away from this place. Where can we go that's nearby and where he would enjoy it?

He decided, Beijing.

So we went off to try the high speed bullet train for the 1st time.

This is the Tianjin Rail Station. Dh and ds2 in foreground.
This is the CRH bullet train. Spanking new. Opened in time for the Olympics. We like the train stations at both TJ and Beijing. Very spacious, clean. The toilets in the stations and on the train are very clean too, which is a pleasant surprise to me. It is very unlike all the other toilets in the city. Dh said that's cos it is just 2 months old. He said, if they don't maintain it, it's going down the same path as all the other facilities in town.

The journey was very enjoyable. Just 30min travelling time. Normal bus journey takes abut 3hrs, car trip abt 2-2.5hrs. There was an LED display showing the train speed and the highest speed maintained was 333km/h. It's supposed to be able to go up to 350km/h.

Very smooth and enjoyable trip. We bought 2nd class cabin tickets, each adult 58 yuan (or S$11.50), kids ride free if they don't occupy a seat. Very affordable, and seats were comfortable, just like a coach's one.

Pic below is of the Beijing South Train Station. Once we got off, there were so many people, forming a huge crowd, but it was orderly, everyone moved properly and we came out easily. The taxi queue was a long snaking queue but moved so quickly because there were officials directing cabs and people, and cabs kept coming continuously.

This was one of our best experiences wrt to services, cleanliness and travelling ease since we arrived here.

Our hotel was in the Wangfujing area (王府井)where the prime shopping area and tourist attractions are. Tiananmen Square, and so on, were within walking distance from our hotel. Prices were reasonable, but not very cheap, since the Paralympics was still going on then. Below is a pic of a beautiful hotel near ours. It looks very European in the day and so prettily lighted up at night.

We checked in at about 7pm then headed out at once for dinner. We wanted to eat some nice Chinese food near the hotel and saw Lei Garden. It's been a long long time since we last ate at Lei Garden.

Indeed, the food was very good. We had sea salt chicken (I'm translating the names myself, so it might not sound that appetizing but it was really delicious), and some other dishes. Yummy.

Then we went to Starbucks to have a choc frapp with lotsa whipped cream, and bought a tea-flavored mooncake there. The kids loved it so much.

Next morning, we set off just to walk around the area. We just wanted to walk around the shopping district and food streets. No sightseeing for us this time. We just wanted some family time, for Dh to relax and for us to visit the church that meets in Beijing on Sunday.

So no Tiananmen Square, no Forbidden City, no Imperial Palace or the famous parks and so on.

Teapot suspended in mid-air (illusion) with water flowing out of spout. Caught hold of kids' attention for quite sometime, and we kept asking them why the teapot can "float" in the air. haha.
We strolled around Wangfujing area and Food Street.

Lots of stalls selling food. This pic below shows one of many stalls selling deep fried scorpions, cicadas, and all kinds of creepy-crawlies and insects you'd never think of eating. We tried some fried grub in Thailand long ago, but those were small. Some of these were very big, it just looked so scary to me.

But naturally, kids love such gross things, and they were so fascinated. Dh ordered some scorpions, because all 3 of them wanted to try. I was not that interested, but I wouldn't stop them from satisfying their curiosity.

This below shows the deep fried sticks of various stages in the cicada life cycle.

Dh ordering and pointing to the stick of scorpions he wanted.

They roast it there and then for you. Dh seen tucking into it.

Then ds1's turn. Yummy.
Then ds2's turn. Notice the stick was cleared already, he had only the last one to himself.
Was that really so yummy, I asked them. Apparently yes~!

Everywhere in Beijing, and Tianjin, there are lots of murals, signs, billboards on the Olympics. Here is a floral arrangement at WangFuJing.

We strolled through a whole plaza dedicated to selling toys, and then stores and stores selling Li Ning athletic apparel and Olympic paraphernalia.
There were so many tourists and big crowds everywhere.

I bought a polo tee from one of the ubiquitous Li Ning stores. Really, they are present along the same street, within 50m of each other. Why? I don't know!

I already marvel at Jurong Point having so many food courts and eateries. Every level seems to have at least 5 on average. But at least they sell different kinds of food. Here? The stores sell the same things, but there are so many of them. MacDonalds too.

With stiff competition, hopefully it means prices are knocked lower. We bought a ball for the kids, at 10yuan (S$2). It was a steal, cos earlier at the Toys Plaza, they were asking if they could buy this and that, and we rejected just about everything.

But when we were walking along this flea market, we saw this multi-coloured ball that can expand and open, then close up as well. It provided for many different types of play, so we got it. And it did occupy both of them for a long time after that, which allowed Dh and me to take in the sights in peace.

After walking for more than half a day, ds2 was going to take a nap, so we walked to the Oriental Plaza's reception. Since in Singapore, there would be free stroller rentals, I figured this large mall would have them too. True enough, I was able to happily walk away with a brand-new stroller. However, since they don't keep ICs like in Singapore, they required a 500yuan deposit.

Fortunately I had enough cash on hand. Normally I don't carry so much around.

And the stroller was large enough for both!
So they are happy, and we are happy.
Otherwise, if we made them walk just half an hour more, they'd be draggin their feet and ds2 would be dozing off already.

When ds2 took his nap, we could continue browsing all the shops. We even pushed the stroller out onto the streets and wandered around before finally returning the stroller at night. They have no time limit. Very good.

Something we noticed was that many restaurants and souvenir shops will have their staff dress up in either period costumes or some character costume to attract shoppers or kids. Below are some dressed in full gear. A lot of tourists like to take pics with them.

We ate a lot that day. We had 5 meals, including 2 tea breaks, in WangFuJing, so we kind of tried a lot of the eateries around there. At night, for dinner, we let Dh pick a restaurant he liked and he got to order all the dishes. Because it's his birthday!

Below shows them greedily shoving tons of food into their mouths. Can't remember everything we ordered, but we had plenty of variety and yet the total cost was pretty cheap, I remember. And this was not a roadside stall, it was a Hong Kong style restaurant in Oriental Plaza Mall.

We bought some cakes as dessert and went back to the hotel after that. We used the cake slice as a birthday cake and sang 3 birthday songs for Dh. Everyone was in a great mood, so the kids and us just went crazy and messed up the whole room by jumping, running, having pillow fights and roughhousing in general.

I think the bedding was dusty, cos we were sneezing after that, and I had to place everything in order again before we all turned in for the night.

We checked out of our hotel, and cabbed over to another hotel where the church service will be.
We kind of doubled the church attendance with our presence, cos there were only 3 other people there when we arrived, and there were 4 of us.

Worship went smoothly and it was great to get to know these people. Instantly, we became close friends and we had lunch together. Dh wanted to eat Peking Duck so they recommended a restaurant to us. It was near one of the brethren's apartment, so we even adjourned to his house after lunch for an extended chat.

Below shows the huge fish Dh ordered.
Everything was again super delicios. There was kangkong, french beans, small sweet dessert dumplings with chesnut, and Peking duck. Some other dishes that I forgot already.

There were 7 of us eating, plus one local CHinese guy who helps Kenneth get around, because he is not that mobile and needs a walking stick.

So that makes 8 of us. This meal was on Dh, and it was way cheaper than the Ah Yat Abalone dinner he treated his business partners to, in Tianjin. Yet there was so much more food, and the food was so much more yummier.

Everyone was very very contented and happy indeed.
There were tons of containers to "dabao" (takeaway/ to-go) even, and Kenneth took them all. He also has an ayi to feed.

That's the preacher and his wife standing. From left, the Chinese helper, Kenneth, and us. Both Kenneth and the preacher David are Americans. They're here cos they married Chinese wives. :-)

We then walked to Kenneth's house. He has a 2 year old son. This is his 2nd marriage because his first wife had passed away a long time ago. Hence, in his house, he has so many toys. Although the toys are all meant for toddlers, both the kids enjoyed themselves so much, playing with them. Kenneth's wife is on a business trip overseas and so the ayi is a live-in one, who takes care of his son full time.
Dh chatting with Kenneth. His house is very big and beautiful, typical of American homes.
From the fireplace to the chandeliers, we could tell at once that it has the American style. I have not seen fireplaces in local Chinese homes yet! :-)

And of course, everything is so much bigger, the way Americans like it. Huge dining table, large couch... He's already retired, used to be a Math lecturer in college in Texas. Now Beijing is his home.

We took a cab from his place after that, to the Beijing South train station and caught our train back to Tianjin.

Short but fun trip.

There will be more to come, I am sure.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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