Thursday, February 9, 2012

Plaid, Planes, Phuket

Look at my husband.  Ain't he the cutest?

Sure, he seems unassuming in his plaid-pattern mixing (don't worry, he doesn't leave the house like this) snacking on his saltine cracker.  But little did you know that Jason takes his status as an ISFJ (Meyers-Briggs... have you taken it?  It will reveal the multitudes Whitman talked about) and uses it to great advantage.

Jason has planned a super-rad trip for the two of us from here to Malaysia, then island hopping up to Phuket (PS Potty-mouths... that's pronounced Poo-Ket.  Not... the thing you're thinking).  "Planning a trip?  Easy Peasy!" you may be thinking.  Not this trip, friends!  Oh, no!

Here is our trip in numbers, according to Jason's major J-induced planning ("J" stands for "Judging" on the Meyers-Briggs.  It doesn't mean he's a bigot, it just means he thinks there's a right way to do things, and feels comforted by planning).

1: number of nights we'll stay in each hostel en route to Phuket
3: number of ferries we'll be taking between Thai islands
4: the subway line we'll be taking to get to Beijing South train station
12: approximate check-in time at our first hostel in Kuala Lumpur (as in midnight)
24: number of pages of Jason's homemade itinerary/travel guide to Kuala Lumpur and southern Thailand
30: amount of minutes it will take to get from Beijing to Tian Jin via bullet train
1200: approximate amount of RMB saved by taking a flight from Tian Jin to Kuala Lumpur rather than flying directly from Beijing (yay, Air Asia!)

I'm so excited!  Thai iced tea!  Ocean!  Curries galore!  Ocean!  Warm weather!  Cheap coffee!  OCEAN!  Did I mention I love the ocean?

Beijing, I think we're close enough friends for me to be brutally honest with you and tell you that I will NOT miss you at all while I'm basking in the glorious sunshine and soaking up all that good Thai hospitality.  Sorry... but not really.

A flood of gorgeous, scenic photos forthcoming!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chang Ping Adventure!

Beijing is HUGE.  Just when you think that you've figured out your bearings around this city, a new suburb pops up, or you end up lost in all of Beijing's winding hutong alleys.  As of late, I haven't strayed far from my west side student-populated pocket of the city, but given all the time we have with the Chinese New Year holiday, my friend MLK and I decided to venture north into Chang Ping-- a suburb in northwest Beijing. 

The journey north begins on the special Chang Ping subway line, which conveniently connects to Beijing subway line 13.  As soon as you board the Chang Ping line, the Chang Ping theme of everything being miniature begins.  The special CP line cars are about the same size, but everything feels just slightly smaller, narrower, and just a little mini.

On our way up, it was hard to believe that we were still in Beijing.  The CP line travels through stretches of countryside and rural areas, plus a forest of construction cranes.  Looks like those vast expanses of countryside won't be around for long.

When we finally reached Chang Ping, we boarded a minibus to get into town.  The bus was tiny!  It probably seated about 15-20 people, and ambled along the eerily empty streets of Chang Ping district.

When we got into town, we'd arrived a bit earlier than our friend and Chang Ping resident, Amanda.  Fortunately for this American, our bus stopped right in front of Chang Ping's lone McDonald's, where I indulged in a quick cheeseburger snack.  MLK has a personal vendetta against McD's, so she resigned to sitting with me whilst shooting me a disapproving look.

Outside, street vendors sold snacks equally processed, though perhaps slightly less clean.

After meeting up with Amanda, we spent the evening eating tasty Chinese hot pot, chatting, eating Amanda's home baked goods, watching Nacho Libre, and marveling at our matching headwear.

The next morning, we awoke to a lovely view of the mountains surrounding Beijing that we rarely get such a clear view of because of the pollution and density of tall buildings.

After a lazy morning of chit-chatting, we headed out to an early lunch at a French restaurant around the corner from Amanda's.  Yes, you read that correctly-- a French restaurant.  Not a French-themed restaurant with Chinese food and kitschy waitresses in berets.  I mean a real, legit, true blue (or bleu) French restaurant.  The restaurant is called 6'eme (Sixth in francais) and is run by a few local Chinese former students who went to Paris and got their diplomas at Le Cordon Bleu.  They started 6'eme as a start-up restaurant to practice their skills in a low-rent area, and eventually take their restaurant model and menu into the city.  We were glad to be guinea pigs in their little experiment.

Goat cheese, apple, and honey salad with bacon.
French onion soup!  Baaaaahhhhh.... look at all that cheeeeeese!
MLK with her bacon and caramelized onion tartlette.

Amanda and Beouf Stroganoff French style

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that you're in China when you live in Beijing.  Foreign goods are readily available, English-speakers are everywhere, and especially when it becomes your home, you forget about what country you're in.  It's good to be reminded that this city alone is so much bigger than what I see day-to-day... and a relief to see that it still comes with cheese.