Sunday, October 28, 2018
Chinese hot pot dates back over 1000 years when the Mongolians invaded. This just shows how much food transcends borders since the Chinese built a wall that can be seen from space to keep the Mongolians out, but absolutely love their hot pot. My colleagues could not stop talking about it and ate it multiple meals while I was in Beijing.
It's not hard to see why it's such a star of Chinese cuisine. I was in China in November and it was colder that usual with a strong, biting wind. After a 14 hour flight, I met my local colleague for my first taste of it. He and I had met before, but hadn't worked together extensively. The hot pot served as the perfect icebreaker (especially given the jetlag). When there was a lull in the conversation, you could focus on what was going on in the pot.
SO - what is a hot pot?
It's a simmering metal pot placed at the center of the table with raw ingredients (meat, veggies, etc) to be cooked placed around it. Part of the fun is trying to fish out the food you put in and potentially lost after it starts to boil. There are of course regional variations with what the broth is made out of and what you put into it. I tried the Beijing mutton hotpot and the Sichuan hotpot.
First experience was the mutton hot pot in a restaurant near my hotel in Wangfujing. This area has a lot of students in the area so it was a more modern vibe in the restaurant. The hot pot was a very simple metal pot with bone broth and spices such as shallots, ginger, loganberries, and dried shrimp. We asked for extra spice so they threw some peppers in there, but it didn't add too much heat. Thank god for Chinese Fire Water. ;-)
The last hotpot I had before leaving Beijing for Shanghai was the Sichuan hotpot which embraces the spicy flavors of that region. I was with my colleague and a partner from another company. I had been fortunate to visit during a time when foreign dignitaries were in Beijing which significantly reduced the traffic. This was huge. It means I finished two days of supplier visits and meetings in one day. That meant I got to visit some different areas that tourists visit and in effect, seeing some tourist sights. With this, I went to three different sections of the Great Wall of China. Recall that I said earlier in this post that it was November and colder than usual. While I loved seeing these different areas, I was frozen and wanted nothing more than to take a hot shower and go to bed.
My colleague said we were going to lunch about 2 exits in the opposite direction to go to a town that was known for their hotpot. I was irritated, but didn't say anything. We pulled up to a place that looked like a banquet hall from the 1980's with cars parked haphazardly in front of it. We went inside, the host eyed me up suspiciously but I kept my mouth shut (OK, it was frozen because I was so damn cold).
My colleagues graciously asked what I wanted and I said "hot" because my bones were frozen at this point. They were delighted! One of them was a little nervous about the spice so they decided on a split pot to have half with the Sichuan hot pot and half with something milder.
This was definitely authentic. Children (as well as adults) STARED at me as the only Westerner in the restaurant. We got to our table and it was filthy. Food from the last customers were cleared. No one seemed bothered by this. We were served new chopsticks and the hotpot was placed there with plates of thin sliced lamb bits and vegetables to cook. The interior was delightfully humid where I could warm up and shed some layers. All the windows to the outside were fogged up from the hot pots.
I wish I remembered the name of the town because it was well known for that, but not something tourists would ever find. I also wished I wrote down all the different things we put into the pots, plus the sauces etc. But these were the days before Instagram for me so the below is all I have of my hotpot culinary adventure.
Monday, October 22, 2018
The other version of planning is the FAR out planning. I found this to actually be more difficult because I get so excited about a trip and then realize that I still have to wait a really long time for it to come to fruition. Then I start to think, what if I want to change my mind? What if there is a better deal? Last year I actually had to change 2 sets of our airline tickets to not only different dates but different gateways.
Yet, future planning is unavoidable. I have to have some semblance of a plan as Mr. Thief and I do have actual jobs and can't just jet off whenever we want (though we have been accused of this frequently). It takes a lot of man hours just to figure out how much I can cram into seeing a destination in a short amount of time, how likely I will be to go back, etc. Then I have to compare the seasonality to when we can get to these places. THEN I have to figure out how to actually get there. Take the example of FIJI. Mr. Thief lets me dictate where we are going, but I badger him until he picks something or keeps saying "I don't care. I don't care. IdontcareIdontcareIdontcare..." and so on. Or Germany. He always picks Germany. Color me delighted when he sent me an email out of the blue and said "Here is a bird-watching resort in Fiji that popped up in my feed. I'd like to go here". I was incredibly happy - A week in Fiji! Great! I can so do this! And then I started to look at how to get there. There are like a bajillion islands that make up Fiji and there are basically zero ways to easily get there from the US...or I should say few ways that don't include a hundred connections, layovers or a bunch of $$$.
Which brings me full circle to my international date line comment. I am so confused about what days the flights operates and arrive to the US - I think there's one that departs Fiji on a Friday early AM and then arrives to the US on the previous Thursday night. Then, trying to move the flight a day later, there's a connection through Seattle back to Honolulu and then the US. I don't even know what day that got back because it was all "I before E except after C" and I tried to use PEMDAS that I learned in match class to puzzle it out. If my flight plans work, it is going to be super crazy, but an affordable adventure with a lot of things. More content coming soon. At the very least, some exciting trips on the horizon!
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Personally, I think there are probably a small subset of people that desperately need these animals because of some trauma, but most people are just trying to get their pet on the flight. Someone even tried to get a PEACOCK on a flight in Newark. I am an animal lover, and if the squirrel was properly contained, it's less offensive than other animals...
....Such as the small furry dog that was jammed under my seat by the woman behind me on my flight from Athens to Crete this Summer. The dog was generally fine except its owners: Wealthy grandma who kept blabbing about chartering a private jet and yachts blah blah blah AND bratty teenage granddaughter who whined the entire time and was super rude to Grandma and the flight attendants. Then SuperBrat proceeded to drag the fluffy dog out of the terminal after we landed as it peed all over the floor and didn't tell anyone. She did notice it and I went to look for someone...and then a cab driver stepped in it. Ugh.
Woman Kicked off Flight For Emotional Support Squirrel
Let Me See Your Peacock
Sunday, September 30, 2018
OK, the Thief is having serious travel envy right now as Mr. Thief travels for work to Prague. He gets to fly business class because he is a VIT (Very Important Thief). Only kidding, he just works hard and is lucky. We do tend to travel from Newark Airport on United and have visited the lounge a few times. This is the first time visiting since United redid its business class lounge in Terminal C. The prior United lounge there was comfortable, but underwhelming compared to other carriers and airports globally. Previously, the only real pros were the staff and the actual size/layout of the lounge space. The places where it really showed a lack of polish were the bathrooms and the food offerings. It's been going under a major overhaul for what I think was a year and it finally opened this June. Actually, Newark airport had undergone it's own renaissance recently and with an array of nicer restaurant options available, the United lounge was lagging behind. You can find some more of the details here.
Take a look at some of the pictures below to see the new lounge in action! The Hubs was very impressed with the new food and it definitely is an improvement to have a proper buffet now. He was also very excited that there was craft beer instead of the previous options which were limited as far as included beers. It also seems like the seating has improved from comfort, style and availability of options for solo travelers to keep to themselves. And, I am happy to see that the bathrooms no longer look like you are visiting a high school locker room. I can't wait to visit for myself though I think my next flight is on a different airline alliance. I, of course, know what my next scheduled flight is, but that doesn't mean that I won't sneak something else in before then. ;-)
Thursday, September 27, 2018
I feel my Irish heritage (many generations removed) identifies with this sort of bad behavior and I find it on the humorous rather than horrifying side of things.
Oh, and it was a RYANAIR flight from Dublin to Amsterdam What did that cost him anyway? like 20 Eur?
The name "Bahia" translates to 'Beautiful/Brilliant" which is a bit insulting to Ba Ahmed's wife when you consider this was built for his favorite mistress and concubines. I mean the wife got an expansion on her residence with him for her and the kids but she would probably like her own space too - like an ancient day She-Shed? ;-)
The same French general that discovered the Saadian tombs also made this palace his residence while he was in Marrakesh. He added fireplaces, heat and electricity. See what I meant by saying that my favorite thing about the Saadian tombs was that they were hidden away from human interference for so long?
Enjoy a few of the pictures from the palace and make sure to wear good walking shoes to explore the extensive rooms and walk over the tiled floors. It's open daily from 9AM - 5PM (17:00) and the entrance is very affordable - converts to about $1
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
The Saadian tombs are another must see when visiting Marrakesh. What I most adore about their story is that they were sealed away for 300 years.
As the name suggests, they are in fact a burial site for members of the Saadian dynasty. Headed by Sultan Ahmed el Mansour in the 1500 and 1600s, there are something like 200 members of his family group buried here. In the late 1600s, Moulay Ismail had taken over Morocco and went about erasing all the evidence of his predecessors to solidify his own power. However, he didn't destroy the tombs and respected the sanctity of the dead intact by instead sealing them off. There was one entrance still available from inside the Kasbah Mosque, but it was largely forgotten about. In 1917 a French general located the tombs and they were restored from that point. Why I like that they were sealed off from the public for that long is that there wasn't the opportunity for anything to happen to them over the years, whether it be actual vandalism or well meaning restoration gone wrong.
If you locate the Kasbah Mosque, you'll find the tombs. It's really quite peaceful and the decoration of the tombs and mausoleums is amazing. There's also some greenery with roses, citrus, palms and rosemary. If I remember correctly, there were some bats nesting in one of the corners of the walls, but that might be something that only appeals to me :-). Enjoy some of the pictures from my visit below.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
What do you think of the Cathay Pacific spelling mistake on their own plane; mistake or publicity stunt? It's possible someone was lazy, then someone else overlooked it especially considering Chinese and English share 0 letters in common. Buuuut the fact they have someone on social media draped in fairy lights in their first class it is possible they thought it was a way to generate buzz.
I really don't care, I'm still excited to fly them this year when I go to Hong Kong and Bali!
Saturday, September 15, 2018
I'll start with one of the last things I visited on this trip. It's one of my favorite sites, the Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh also known as the Yves Saint Laurent garden. It's a main place to visit but maybe not one you immediately think of for visiting in Morocco. The 'Majorelle' comes from the name of the French artist who originally created it on his property that he lived on. Yves Saint Laurent came on to the scene when he purchased it in 1980 after it had fallen into disrepair over the 30 years that Majorelle no longer owned the villa and grounds.
I love gardens, but what was really striking is the use of the bright cobalt blue paint. It's actually a patented color bleu Majorelle inspired by the tiles on Berber houses. There is a small museum of Moroccan/Berber items that were curated by Majorelle.
|Bleu Majorelle paint & Bougainvillea|
Friday, September 14, 2018
And we're done here with things to see in Egypt.
JUST KIDDING. The pyramids are great, but there are so many antiquities and other interesting things that sometimes get lost behind these giant 3D triangles. You shouldn't try to just check something off your bucket list and not see the other things Cairo has to offer.
So there's not much I'm going to say about the history because that is not what I am here for. I do recommend not to go it alone - book a tour. Yes, you can arrange things while on site to take a camel or horse between the pyramids, but honestly, the sites have gotten a little less relaxed about just strolling though. Even at the first pyramid between the last time I visited and now there was some scuffle about payment and wanting to walk through. Well, we found out because there is a shopping street between the entrance and exit. My driver and friend got into a "discussion" we'll call it when we didn't want to go up to the 1st pyramid. Plus if you are on the tour you are not waiting for the ticket in a line etc.
If you are wondering about walking between the sites, I wouldn't recommend it though I have not tried. Normally I walk any place I absolutely can. It's not that it's a particularly long distance or that the desert itself is taxing (which it was this last time in August) but there's something uncomfortable about it. The narrow road is for the tourism vehicles, the sand is not that dreamy Sahara texture you can stroll through. There's bound to be constant hawkers trotting up to you offering services. It's not a picturesque walk because you can see the Pyramids from anywhere.
Can you go in them / on them? Officially "no" on the ON them but the guards will let you climb up a little bit if that's your thing. My first trip to Egypt I pretended to do so because what was the point of climbing up a few blocks vs staying on the ground if you couldn't climb to the top?
IN them is a yes, but you'll have to pay an extra entrance and there's really not much to see. Been there twice, been in zero pyramids. But, if this is your only trip to Egypt ever and you want to say you've been in a pyramid, then do it. I didn't want to wait in line, climb into a stuffy stone structure and deal with getting money out after I had been in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings (totally worth it).
"Which Creature has one voice and yet becomes four footed and two-footed and three-footed?
In mythology, the sphinx had a head of a human, a body of a lion and sometimes wings of an eagle. If you cannot answer the riddle the sphinx places forth, you will be devoured by the sphinx.
I have no idea how you would get between the Pyramids and the Sphinx if you were not in a vehicle to be honest.
|Yes, I am five, picking Ramses nose|
Nile River Dinner Cruise