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Say “中秋节快乐“ to Your Chinese Friends! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to You!

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival comes on Sept. 25 this year — Aug. 15 in Chinese calendar every year.

Mid-Autumn Festival is a day for family reunion. Chinese character for “Reunion” is the same as “round”, that’s why a moon cake is round-shape.

As a native Cantonese, I grew up eating moon cakes which are sweet in taste. Not until I was 18 and went to Shanghai for college; I didn’t know there is a kind of moon cake which is salty. Can you believe a CAKE is not SWEET?

Well, people in Shanghai area have been having “pork meat stuffed with puff skin“moon cakes for centuries, which is not SWEET. They taste very good!

traditional Cantonese style mooncake with lotus bean paste and salty egg yolk

Tradictional Cantonese Style Mooncake, lotus seed paste with salty egg yolk. (One with two yolks is Dulex!)
Su style mooncake with pork meat inside Su style mooncake with pork meat inside

Su (Means Suzhou) Style Mooncake, minced pork meat inside.
Haagendazs icecream mooncake

Localized Haagendazs Icecream Mooncake.

stir fry pond/river snail

Stir fry river/pond snail. Cantonese love to have this on Mid-Autumn Festivel. A family will sit together, eating the snail while “appreciating” the perfect moon of a year.

Understand China, Chinese and Shanghai (yes, it is difficult)

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

I read a review about Taiwanese Ang Lee’s new Venice Film Festival 2007 award winning movie from one my favorite magazine on Saturday. I then followed the movie and research the story, the writer of the story, the husband of the writer, and the characters in the story/movie and reviews about the writer during the weekend. I enjoyed doing this because I really like the writer and her books. She is Eileen Chang (张爱玲). Life weekEileen spent 30 years writing this 29-page short story which happened in 70 years’ ago.

The movie is rated as NC-17 in US. Ang Lee said Don’t expect much from ‘Lust, Caution’ to USA Today. He was talking about the box office performance; I think he was also talking about culture difference. I really doubt that people with Chinese culture background can understand it as the way Chang wanted to express. Can you undertand why it is a big deal? But maybe Chang took 30 years to make it for everyone. We will see.

Anyway, I would strongly recommend people who like Shanghai or want to understand Shanghai should go for the movie. Chang keeps every details through each single Chinese word, and Ang Lee repeated every detail about Shanghai in it. [Note: the woman on the magazine cover is the main original character in Lust, Caution from 1930s’; her name is Ruping Deng.]

I always wonder what do you see when you visit “ancient city/town” in Shanghai neighborhood, like Suzhou, Zhouzhuang, or Zhujiajiao.

Zhujiajiao, China

This is the hometown to NBA hero Yao Ming.

Zhujiajiao, Shanghai, China

A boat ride will be fun.

Zhujiajiao, Shanghai, China

Windor shopping.

Hotel on The Strip, Las Vegas: Luxor Hotel and Casino

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I watched Ocean’s 13 last night on DVD, and found the hotel in the movie is very cool. But after I goolged it today, I knew it is a fake hotel, and the real hotel in this movie is actually The Bellagio. I wasn’t impressed by the interior decoration of the Bank hotel, but the whole red “DNA” shape design is fantastic, and Ocean’s 13’s villa is very stylish.

hotels_on_the_strip.JPG look for the Red building.

We’ve been to Las Vegas once and had a great time there, though I don’t recommend the hotel – Luxor Hotel & Casino we stayed. Two reasons: 1) too far away from the strip though it is on the strip; 2)we stayed at the upgraded room in the tower which is a long way to the hotel front entrance and parking lot. But the rate is good, we paid about $80 a night during Christmas after applying promotion codes which are easy to find on the Net.
Ok, photo time!

Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel in day, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel inside, Las Vegas

Luxor hotel inside, Las Vegas

Carnival of Cities: Beijing, China (travel tips from a native Chinese)

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Tian An Men Square, Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of our great motherland.” I believe this is the first knowlege of “Beijing” in many Chinese of my age. I don’t remember since when I was asked to memorize this sentence. What did that imply? I guess I had interpreted it as ”Beijng is a serious, but not a fun city”. But now, with the whole “2008, 08, 08Beijing Olympic Games being expected, it is becoming more and more exciting place.

I did some research before putting up the tips. Two surprising discoveries:

Google thinks people are looking for “Beijing travel” when people type in “beijing”: 3 out of 10 results on first page are about “travel” v.s. 1 result for “san francisco“;

– “Hong Kong” is a suggested related word for “beijing”.

beijing history

beijing facts

beijing airport

beijing pictures

beijing shopping

hong kong

map of china

forbidden city

Ok, here are my bet on top 5 tips for you (as a non-Chinese speaker) to get around the city:

Forbidden City, Beijing1. Best Travel Guide Book: DK Eyewitness Travel Shanghai & Beijing. Beijing is a big city with huge history. It is not easy to get around to see everything in a short tip. This guidebook help you to decide where you want to go by showing the vivid pictures from difficult angles. I like the walk-trip plan especially. You don’t get to know the city without walking on the lanes.

2. Best way to know Beijng: Join a tour? No, never ever if you only visit Beijing. A tour package might save you some time in planning the trip, booking hotel, but you have to pay a lot more. Price is one thing. The other thing I don’t like guided tour is that the itineraries are tend to be outdated. Well, you see the history of the city, but you will miss what’s going on the city if you rely on your tour guide. Suggestion? Find a personal travel guide. Advantages include: flexible schedule, more communication about what to see and what to eat, and more updated local news.

3. Best blog about Beijing life: Make sure you check out DanWei at least once when you plan to visit China. I guarantee you some laughter from it.

Beijing Breakfast.jpg4. Best worst Beijing food: I own the reputation of being brave enough to eat every cooked food. But, there is one kind of Beijing food I can’t take. It is a drink made from soy bean, white in color, sour taste, a tradition drink for in breakfast Beijing native. I basically run away from the restaurant after I have my first sip of the drink. If you want to test your tolerance of bad food, show these two characters to your guide: 豆汁(literary translated as ‘bean juice’).

5. Best attraction: Temple of Heaven is my favorite. Known as Tian Tan (天坛), it is one of the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. The temple is situated in a very large and pleasant park.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing