Mother Nature's techni-colour dream coat : Day 1

Posted by Gingerblossom at 1:00 AM

Friday, October 31, 2008

I was struck dumb by the beauty of Mother Nature in Jiuzhaigou. (This was apparently not the case for the mainland tourists who were loud enough to scare away any wildlife within a 10KM radius) . The entire valley was coated in autumn hues of red, yellow, green and even blue. It was truly breathtaking. Pictures can be viewed at:

Day 1: Arriving and visiting Huang Long Travertine Pools
Flying into Jiuzhai Huanglong airport, the first thing you'll notice are the snow capped mountains partially hidden by low clouds. Next, you'll notice how hard it is to breathe! That's because the airport is situated 3400 metres above sea level (ASL). The air is very thin and a few small skips ( I skip when happy) and I could hear the roar of my pounding heart! From the airport, we went straight to Huang Long. Our guide from Ctrip was great - very knowledgeable on local customs and gave good time estimates for the sights at Huang Long. She also warned us not to fall asleep immediately because of the high altitude. We needed time to acclimatize. On our way to Huang Long, we stopped at the highest point reachable by public roads for a quick photo. This was at a height of 4077m above sea level. Again, those 10 steps from bus to scenic spot felt like a thousand miles...

The highest of the Huang Long travertine banks are located 4066m ASL. The entrace to the park is 2000+ metres ASL. The thought of climbing was NOT appealing. Thank goodness the guide recommended we take the cable car to 3000+ metres and hike the remaining distance. The walkways were under reno but there were plankways which we followed. It was a short walk but oh so tiring. There were plenty of rest stations with oxygen tanks along the trail in case of emergencies. These banks are pretty similar to the ones found in Turkey. Only difference ( I think) is that this is NOT a hotspring. The waters are icy cold and very untouched. The Tibetan tribes that live in the area believe the place sacred and don't touch the water.

There weren't as many tourists as I expected so we could walk leisurely on the narrow paths and view the pools unhindered. Little food kiosks were found midway down so Daniel & I tried the yak meat meatballs and a red bean pastry. Both were scrumptious! Especially since we were climbing in the blistering cold on empty stomachs.

After the pools, we drove down to Songpan village for dinner. It was evident that the Sichuan earthquake hit these folks bad. 90% of the shops, eateries and hotels were closed. The region survives on tourism but the tourists weren't coming. Of course, many of them kept yaks and sheep but that's all they had. Rice, fresh vegetables & fruit were exorbitant as they were imported from Chengdu (which is about 5-6 hrs drive away) via a single road. The other roads have been closed/ collapsed since the earthquake. These are the same roads that used to deliver more 200,000 tourists into the region in the peak Autumn period. Now, a meagre 5,000 visitors have arrived. From the looks of things, It's been a hard year for the tribes in Songpan and Jiuzhaigou and it looks to be a hard winter with food being so expensive.

We arrived at the Sheraton Jiuzhaigou after a 2hr mountain drive. The hotel is conveniently located 1.5km from the entrance of Jiuzhaigou's nature reserve. Before the tourist slump this would have been a great place to stay with plenty of eateries, cafes, bars and shops located nearby in Bian Bian Street. But the Street is now a ghost town. I think we saw only 5 shops open along the 1.5km route! Nonetheless, the hotel was great. Service was impeccable.

Of Pandas and Chengdu

Posted by Gingerblossom at 10:43 AM

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just arrived back in Beijing and figured I'll share some pictures of Day 1 of our trip. You can view them at

We had a 1 day stopover in Chengdu located in the Sichuan Province. Figured since we're in Panda-land, we have to see Pandas. So off we headed to see the loveable, huggable, but still ferocious "Xiong Mao" at the Panda Research Foundation. This foundation studies anything and everything about pandas to help protect this endangered species ( there are only aout 1000 pandas left) and hopefully, boost the panda population. It's a must see destination - you'll learn more about pandas and truly appreciate conservation efforts. And, I'm quite sure you'll love the pandas.

Panda cubs in the nursery

Pandas eat about 40kg of bamboo leaves everyday. This guy's only getting started

words can't express your beauty

Posted by Gingerblossom at 2:19 AM

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nature is simply amazing! That's my foremost thought these 3 days in Jiuzhaigou. The sky, trees, water, rocks paint such a breathtaking picture. It's impossible to capture these glorious colours with the camera. Deep auburn, flaming red, lemon yellow, azure blue, turquoise and many many other colours that I can't even name blend together to form the most amazing and magical landscapes. What really took my breath away today was how the colors of autumn leaves and the blue of the sky was reflected perfectly in one of the many lakes within Jiuzhaigou. You really cannot differentiate between land and water! The whole landscape looks as if god took a paint brush and covered tree, lake, rock in the richest colours possible. ( and he had very good colour coordination)

Right now, typing on the hotel's not so great keyboard... it's difficult to capture what I've seen in words, much less show pictures of this gorgeous place. COme to think of it, words and pictures can't begin to express the magical beauty of jiuzhaigou. Best would be for you to come see yourself!

And a gloomy day passes...

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:04 AM

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This should have been written yesterday but I was too excited about the knitting. It was dark and gloomy yesterday with very low visibility and sharp bite to the air. All in all, a normal Beijing pre-rain day.

Still, I managed to brighten up the day with:
1. wool-gathering ( literally gathering wool... from the shop. haha)
2. a steaming bowl of fried pork chop served with noodles ( 35 RMB) for lunch at Din Tai Feng located on L6 of Shin Kong Mall. I ate with me, myself and the Hungry Rambler.
3. A long walk around JinSong to find the Subway station
4. Spot of window shopping at The Place ( yes.. it's called THE PLACE)
5. Sighting of a PINK Suzuki Swift. I like! Now... if only I could drive...
6. A sumptous homestyle Thai dinner with Dan & friends at Aroy-D, located within the Fu Li Cheng Estate near Shuang Jing Subway station. It's really tiny and food is something you expect to eat in a Thai household. Spending just 260 RMB ( SG$52), the five of us at dinner had:
a. Tom Yum Goong
( this was alright. I would have liked it spicier)
b. Pork Neck salad ( Super yum. Pork was succelent and tender)
c. Fried egg with bittergourd ( simple pleasure)
d. Thai Basil Chicken
( Not quite what I expected. Had plenty of other veg thrown in)
e. Prawn Cakes
( you can taste the prawn! )
f. Chicken green curry
( Would have liked the curry to be slightly thicker)
g. Kang Kong fried with prawn paste
( We forgot to tell them we wanted it spicy. It would have been tastier that way!!)
h. 3 bottles of Yanjing Beer

It was a satifying meal that didn't break the bank. We could barely finish all the food!

New pet project

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:12 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When I just arrived in Beijing, I was unemployed and bored. Hearing Daniel talk about how miserably cold he was when he arrived in Early May and how a scarf would have been helpful protection against the sandstorms, I hit on a brainwave - I shall make him a scarf!!! And I proudly declared to him that I would have one ready for him come winter. So off I went looking for the necessary tools and materials. I got the crochet needle, got the wool and finally got started. But I never ended....
2.5yrs later, that scarf never materialized and I've given up crochet because it's terribly hard! I tried knitting instead but ran out of wool after making a 20cm x 15cm square that now graces the cats' seats.

If first you don't succeed, try and try again! So that's what I've decided to do. Finally got off my ass to buy some wool today. Was a little smarter : a) Bought enough for a scarf b) Bought local wool which costs a fraction of the imported merino wool!!! Total expenditure was 32 RMB. Figured I shouldn't spend too much in case my new pet project never reaches completion ( I've had other half-done projects lying around... like that Suzy's Zoo cross stitch I started when I was 16. Fifteen years later and it's not done!!!)

I've started on a bit today and I'm really keeping my fingers crossed that it gets completed... before this winter is out. So if you see me wearing a pink and blue striped scarf this winter, congratulate me on the completion ok?

Jet setting around China

Posted by Gingerblossom at 9:16 AM

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Woohoo! Dan & I are off to Chengdu & Jiuzhaigou this weekend and upon my return, I'll be travelling with Adeline to Lijiang and Shangri-La. Can't wait!!! I've got my trusty backpack out of the cupboard. It's travelled quie a bit with me this year to Shanghai, to Japan ( twice!) and soo to these other exotic places. Thank you Amy & Chwen for getting me this bag those many many many years ago. It's still one of my most treasured items!

Itadakimasu in Beijing - Sushi Yotsuba

Posted by Gingerblossom at 7:34 AM

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I typically don't eat fish. Don't like the smell, don't like the taste, don't like the texture. Don't even like the look of fish. ( yes yes... I have lots of phobias. watever right?). An ex-colleague in Singapore once asked, "So what would happen if we take you to a fish market and slap you with a fish or two?" He was just sadistic.

My feelings for fish were challenged when we went to Tokyo earlier this year when a friend took us for sushi. It was all fish. I was real hungry. It is not nice to turn down a meal from your hosts. So I ate it...with a healthy dollop of wasabi of course. But as I chewed on toro sushi, I realised it really wasn't that nasty (except for the texture. That still freaks me out). The meal ended with me concluding Jap fish = maybe I can live with eating it.

Back in Beijing, my uncle introduced us to Sushi Yotsuba, a hole-in-the wall Japanese restaurant at 新源西里, which flies in fresh fish from Tokyo's famous Tsukiji market. So we headed there last night to sample the restaurant's delights.

There were set menus ranging from 110 - 410 RMB. The qty of food is pretty much the same across all prices - all sets come with chawanmushi ( steamed egg with a little mushroom, prawn, fish and chicken) and crab miso soup. There was a WHOLE flower crab in the soup. Soup was divine!

The main course of sushi was where the price differences lay. My 110 RMb menu came with sweet prawn, salmon, a small silice of conger eel, flying fish roe, tuna, sweet egg sushi. There were several others as well but as usual, I forget what I eat! Daniel's 210 RMB set came with 1 giant slice of conger eel, abalone, fatty tuna, tuna belly, yellowtail, sweet prawn, sweet egg, salmon, salmon roe sushi. Everything was fresh and of excellent quality! How would I know having hardly eaten any fish? For starters, no fishy smell and texture wasn't squishy. Daniel who's a great fan of fish (it seems all Teochews are) gives his thumbs up too.

Prices are not exactly steep but may be so by Beijing standards where you can get Japanese food for less. Still it was worth every penny given the quality . If nothing else, I would be back for the crab miso soup!

Sea snail, ginko nut and edamame starter is served to every guest

210 RMB set - Main course of sushi

Sushi Yotsuba
Tel: 10-6467 1837 ( reservations are a must! restaurant looks big enough for only 18 people)
Address: 新源西里中街2号楼南侧

Shanghai "Fast Food"

Posted by Gingerblossom at 6:47 AM

Had lunch a couple of days ago with Veron & her mum at the new Absolute Cafe located in B1 of Hua Mao Shopping Mall. Well, not so new. Apparently it opened its doors sometime in the 6weeks I spent back home.

Absolute Cafe serves up Shanghainese dishes such as xiaolongbao, noodles etc. Prices were reasonable. Between 3 of us, we spent less than 50 RMB each.

I enjoyed the xiaolongbao. The dumpling skin was still most ( i.e. served fresh from the steamer) and thin but thick enough to survive my chopstick manhandling and its vinegar bath. It was a little packet of meaty soupy goodness! Also good was a dish called 猫耳朵. I've forgotten the full name but it was the only dish described as "cat's ears". It was essentially deep fried dumplings stuffed with tofu and chives - a rather interesting combination of crunchy and soft. We had 2 servings of this dish!
Cat's Ears
The not soo good - the amount of oil used in the dishes. Our order of noodles tossed in onion oil and another fried noodle dish were tasty but at the same time really oily. The 三丝酥 ( a baked flaky pastry stuffed with turnip, mushroon and I think, radish) practically oozed oil. I usually eat a lot but that day, I think the amount of oil put a damper on my appetite. Still, it's worth going back for more of those Xiaolongbao and 猫耳朵!

Fried noodles and pastry

Pan fried tomatoes with Spaghetti

Posted by Gingerblossom at 11:41 PM

Friday, October 17, 2008

Daniel cooked this for our lunch today... my job was to slice and dice.
It's a simple and fairly healthy meal that we have after over-indulging in rich food.
The original recipe came from a Jamie Oliver book but we've adapted it several times to our tastes and depending on the ingredients we're able to get.

The ingredients for my fav version:

1.Fresh cherry tomatoes ( red and yellow for color!) - halved
2. Fresh Basil leaves - hand torn into pieces
3. Fresh garlic - thinly sliced
4. Fresh Chilli- diced ( add more if you like it spicy)
5. Olive oil ( we like extra virgin for the strong flavour)
6. Bacon ( adds saltiness to the dish and if you're a meat person, just add more! Remember to cut down on salt)
7. Salt & Pepper to taste
8. Barilla Spaghetti No. 5

Cooking directions ( I watched Daniel & took notes! I didn't dream this up so you don't have to worry that your dish ends up burnt as mine usually does)

1. Boil water for spaghetti. Once water boils, add salt, then add the spaghetti. Cook noodle till slightly al dente.

While spaghetti is cooking...
1. Fry bacon, remove from fire and drain oil. Set aside.
2. fry garlic in olive oil ( in seperate pan!) till lightly brown.
3. Add chilli, stir.

4. Add tomatoes and salt to taste. Fry till tomatoes are soft.
5. Add basil & cooked bacon
6. Drain cooked spaghetti and add to the frying contents.
7. Stir fry all contents.
8. Add salt to taste if required.
9. Turn off fire then add pepper and a dash of olive oil to coat the noodles
10. Serve
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

So I can't cook... but I am good with my hands!

Posted by Gingerblossom at 12:38 AM

Well, not too bad with my hands... I like making accessories, DIY home stuff...

Here's a couple of stuff I made in the 6 days I've been hiding in the house in Beijing. They are mostly for sale ( since I'm unemployed and the money would support my hobby :P)

Culinary aspirations

Posted by Gingerblossom at 7:07 AM

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In an attempt to inject some element of taitai-ness into my life, I took to the kitchen again. Culinary finesse or at least ability to instruct other people to whip up sumptuous meals for you seems to be a taitai pre-requisite. And I figured since I'm not gainfully employed now, I might as well try to overcome my culinary phobia and attempt a meal or two. Last night's success gave me the confidence to try again today.

Tonight's dinner was:
1. Stir fried pork with ginger strips
2. Bak Choy with oyster sauce and garlic
3. Leftover soup from last night

Prep started out ok where I sliced ginger, diced garlic, washed veg. Then came the part where I had to slice the pork. If you know me well or seen me at a supermarket/ BBQ, you'll know that I HATE touching uncooked meat with my bare hands. I normally hold meat ( even those cling wrapped nicely) with thumb and index finger only. It's wet, slimy, squishy...! Eeks! Ah.. so I had to slice the pork. I think "chopped" would describe it better given how thick the slices were. The pork was then marinated with Lee Kum Kee Premium Soya Sauce and corn flour.

At this point, Hallelujiah... Daniel came home so I had expert supervision.

Chef Tham told me to add pepper to the marinade. Chef Tham also directed me to fry the ginger till golden, add garlic, then add meat. When meat is cooked through ( remember, they were chunks), add 1/3 cup of water followed by a dash of oyster sauce. Simmer till sauce thickens then serve. Phew! Thank goodness for Daniel because I was really at a loss with what goes into the pan first AND I wouldn't have thought about the water and oyster sauce.... And to tell you the truth, I didn't even know if the meat was cooked.

As for the veggies, Chef Tham cooked them cos her royal kitchen idiot (me) wasn't quite sure how to. Blanche in hot water, I know. Cook with sauce, I don't.

So it appears my taitai basic kitchen training still has a looooooong way to go. Maybe I should brush up on another aspect of taitai-dom instead... like buying branded bags (not interested) , or maybe yoga (too slow) or...

Sweet Soup Success

Posted by Gingerblossom at 5:59 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm a total klutz in the kitchen. Nothing I've ever attempted to cook ever turns out well. I suspect it's got to do with the fact that I DO NOT enjoy cooking. It's more stressful than say... public speaking. I can actually feel the beginnings of a stomach cramp, cold sweat gathering on my brow, the barest whisper of panic set in... if I have to prepare a meal. It's terrible. The 4 years of secondary school where I had to take food and nutrition classes did not help. Burnt rice/meat, rock hard cookies, mushy cake, unrisen bread, soggy noodles, spoon baked in pie... every kitchen blunder imaginable would happen to me, short of singeing my eyebrows at the stove.

Soooooo.. it was with some pride that I served up drinkable soup a la Chinese style for dinner tonight, to the fussiest eater I know - Daniel. AND my soup wasn't spat out/ sent back to the kitchen/ kill anyone. Ah ha! Didn't expect that. Seems like I did learn some culinary skills from years of watching Daniel prepare our meals.

My one and only successful culinary endeavor was a Bittergourd ( Balsam Pear to some) & Pork Rib soup, sweetened with dried Chinese dates. Simple yes? Well, once upon a time I would have made even a disaster of simple soup. That's why tonight's soup success tastes all the sweeter to me!

My fat cat Pisase

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:53 AM

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pisase is a severely misunderstood cat. People don't like her much because she's such a grump, swiping anyone who crosses her path. But she's loyal, no doubt about that. She recognises the hand that feeds her ( more often than not, she also bites the hand that feeds her!) and is able to tell the good guys from the bad. Aka who feeds her and loves her vs who doesn't. That's why Pisase never fails to run up to me for a rub whenever I come home. Even after 6 weeks away, she recognised me and came running to the door for her customary rub. She's been following me around the house for the past 2 days... which is rare given how she usually avoids people, and being vocal about getting her rub down. She's MY special cat because she's only ever this sweet with me. Everyone else in her little cat mind is probably a bad person. That includes Daniel :P

Food Freight

Posted by Gingerblossom at 9:14 PM

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A friend shared with me how he brought packs of Ba Chor Mee ( minced pork noodles) back to the US. So I thought, "why not bring some back to Beijing for Daniel?".

I headed for our fav BCM store - Tai Hua Ba Chor Mee - at Crawford Street. This store used to be at Marina Square's outdoor food court... yea, the one with super duper long queues. The queues haven't gotten gotten any shorter. Everytime we're home, that's where we head for a noodle fix., sometimes waiting as long as 1hr for a $4 bowl of noodles!!!

Anyway, I savoured every bite of my noodles at the coffee shop, then doggy bagged 3 packs for Daniel.

The process of transporting noodles across the South China Sea is quite simple:
1. Purchase the noodles ( hahaha... most basic step right???)
2. let noodles cool and tranfer to a ziplock bag
3. Freeze noodles till they are rock solid
4. Transfer noodles into a cooler bag and pack into check-in luggage
5. Upon arrival at destination, check noodles back into a freezer to maintain "freshness"
6. Defrost and heat up before eating.

Daniel's tried a pack already and it wasn't too bad at all. Not as good as eating it freshly prepared but yummilicious nonetheless. Especially when there's no available supply in where we are!

Apart from BCM for human consumption, I also lugged back a 9kg pack of cat food for Ody & Pisase. 9kg!!! Because of that, I had to leave behind half my clothes and hand carry the rest. And unfortunately, I could only carry back 1 tin of milk for a friend... At the airport, my bag weighed in at a hefty 27kg. I had to remove stuff/ transfer to hand carried luggage. My parents told me to toss the BCM but there was NO WAY I was going to do that! I'll give up the clothes but not the noodles!!!

HDB upgrading is done!

Posted by Gingerblossom at 2:05 AM

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Now I have 2 nice new toilets, new windows, and new front gate!

Bedroom toilet

New 2 way tap from Sim Siang Choon. I always thot they sold eggs...

New bug-proof light. Cos there are no gaps!

new windows and gate

Comfortable in my own skin

Posted by Gingerblossom at 9:39 PM

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I tried my hand at editing HTML to change this blog skin. All the while thinking, "damn, i should have paid attention during the Pakistani lecturer's class". Back in uni we had to learn the basics of html and design a webpage for which class.. I forget. I obviously failed horribly.

Anyway, this new skin is work in progress while I try to figure out the language. The clouds pix is one my sis managed to catch from the new hilltop walk at Henderson road. Actually it's a croppped picture. The full pix is seen below . Excuse the unglam outfit. I was afterall up there to exercise!!!

More epicurean adventures in Singapore

Posted by Gingerblossom at 8:23 PM

To the folks who live in Singapore, blogging photos of the everyday dishes I've had in Singapore may seem pretty dumb . But as Maureen points out to everyone and contantly reminds me," My friend Chenyi, from China." Last night's statement was, " My friend Chenyi, from China, has not eaten Laksa." What she failed to add was, "... not eaten Laksa in 1 year". People assumed I have NEVER eaten laksa. Thank huh Maureen. That is not very possible being Singaporean.

So last night I had Laksa at Holland Village followed by drinks at... drumroll... you guessed it... Wala Wala. This was followed by supper at the corner coffee shop where I had Roti Prata. Love prata. I can eat it anytime, anywhere. In anticipation of the astounding amounts of cholestrol to be consumed last night, I went for a jog beforehand.

Here are pictures of the Singapore Hawker delights that I have indulged upon in the last couple of days since the last food post.

1. Beef rice at Pepper Lunch

2. Beehoon with string beans and fried fish fillet

3. Glorious Roti Prata

4. Ba Chor Mee at a food court

5. Katong Laksa and Otak at Holland Village

finding the right skin

Posted by Gingerblossom at 1:53 AM

Thursday, October 2, 2008

is like finding a little part of you... something that represents who you are, what you like. And is clear from this blog skin what I like!! Still trying to find one that fits me right...