Into the Heart of Beer Country: Qingdao, China

On April 30th, Angela and I made a pilgrimage with our good friends Andrea, John, Catherine, Ross and Juliet, into the heart of Chinese beer country. We traveled to Qingdao, which is the home to the Tsingtao Brewery, which to be honest was the main reason for us visiting. We had a three day weekend, and so decided to make a quick trip out of it. We arrived to a slightly rainy and cold Qingdao, and transported directly to our beautiful little hostel called the Wheat Hostel and got checked in. After we moved into our new accommodations, we decided that we should find a local Tsingtao before turning in. We had heard rumors that they served beer in plastic bags in Qingdao, and were hopeful to score one. Upon turning the corner outside of our hostel, we were greeted by a nice Chinese man who immediately asked us if we wanted some. Perfect!

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We soon found out that it seemed to be customary in Qingdao to try and pour beer with as much head as possible. However, the beer was delicious even still! We turned in soon after the above photo was captured.

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Xi’an, China: The Terra Cotta Army

Angela and I decided that for our Spring break, we should see some of China. We have seen embarrassingly little of the country that we are currently residents of, so we settled on a trip to the ancient capital city of Xi’an. I had a gig with my jazz band on Friday night, so we stayed up until around 1:00 AM the night before our 7:50 AM flight. It was a little bit of a bummer, but we made it to Xi’an, and to our very accommodating hostel called the Han Tang House. We had arranged a driver to pick us up from the hostel, but they never showed up. We managed to communicate with a cab driver and found our way. Once we arrived to our hostel, we took a nap! The room was pretty basic, but the bed was very comfortable.

After our nap, Angela and I headed to the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an. There is a large Muslim population, and a large area with many shops and food stalls, along with the Great Mosque of Xi’an.

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The Return to Paradise: Cebu, Philippines

 Angela and I have been reflecting on the fact that we are awfully spoiled. We were given a week of vacation in celebration of the Chinese New Year. We are in the year of the sheep. A group of 11 teachers and friends from my school, including myself and Angela, decided to take a trip together. We had done a similar trip last year in the Philippines, and had a wonderful time. Angela, being the booking whiz that she is, booked us at a beautiful place called The Granada Beach House, which I could not recommend highly enough.

We left our place of work at 3:30PM sharp, and traveled to the Pudong International Airport with our good UK friend, Jules. Our flight was delayed several hours immediately after we had made it through security. We were supposed to fly to Hong Kong, then to Manila, and then catch a flight to Cebu island. Due to the delay, we missed our flight out of Hong Kong and had to rebook for 7:50AM the next morning. We also knew that this would cause us to miss our flight to Cebu, so we had to totally rebook a different ticket. Angela and I decided that we have had such incredible luck so far in our many travels that we were due for some nonsense. Our track record is still pretty good. We spent a cold and delirious night on the floor of the Hong Kong airport while we waited for our 7:50 AM flight. Manila has a strange airport, with different terminals spread many miles apart from one another, so we were a little concerned about making our new flight, but it turned out we arrived and departed from the same terminal in Manila. That part was a breeze, and we arrived to our gate with time to spare to purchase some necessities not readily available in China, such as A&W root beer and Combos.

We arrived in Cebu City around 5:00PM, and met our friend Brian who had arrived just shortly before us. The four of us had booked a van to shuttle us to The Granada Beach House. The traffic was bad, so it took about four hours to reach the house. We arrived around 9:00PM, exhausted from our trip. It was hard to see much of the place in the night time, and we were ready for bed anyway. The friendly and very helpful owners Jacques and Keira greeted us upon arrival and fed us dinner. We passed out soon after.

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December 2014: The Motorcycle Adventures from Nha Trang to Hoi An.

After spending almost a week in Mui Ne, Angela and I headed to Nha Trang, Vietnam. We decided to take the bus, which had options of leaving at 1:30 PM or 1:30 AM. Angela wanted to take the AM bus, but I talked her out of it as that sounded like something that would make me grumpy.

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The bus had reclined seats in a little pod, so you had to kind of lay in them. I think it was supposed to be more comfortable, like a sleeper train. The pods were a little small, so I could not imagine sleeping a long time in them. That said, the 5 hour bus ride was pretty comfortable, and very cheap. I’d definitely do it again. Once we arrived in Nha Trang, our motorcycle guide, Mr. Nam, met us at the bus station. Mr. Nam owns the company called VietnamRider, which is a cut above all of the other Easy Rider tours available. We needed to send a suitcase that wouldn’t fit on the motorcycle ahead of us to Hoi An, so Mr. Nam agreed to meet us at the bus station to help us do this. We had not repacked yet, so we had to do this on the street right after we arrived in Nha Trang. It resulted in a few unnecessary items, and a few missing items, like sufficient underwear! After we sent our suitcase away, Mr. Nam took us across the street for some cheap and delicious Vietnamese food. We talked about the trip, and he showed us our route.

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December 2014: Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne

Angela and I spent one week in Hanoi, Vietnam last February and loved it. As we were deciding where to explore during our Christmas holiday, Vietnam came up during each discussion. We finally decided that since we had seen some of the north, this time we would travel from the south to the north. We booked our tickets to Ho Chi Minh city and arrived on December 20th. Angela, being a booking whiz, had arranged for a car to pick us up from the airport and drop us at our accommodations called Long Hostel. Long Hostel was affordable and extremely helpful. The one thing that really stood out to me was how many bananas they give to you – for free! When we arrived, we had bananas. Every morning when we ate breakfast – we got a banana. When we were sitting in the common area waiting to book tours – we feasted like royalty on bananas.

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(And tea)

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Christmas in Mui Ne

After a fun night in Saigon, we headed to Mui Ne with our friends John and Catherine (aka the GKs)We had arranged a car through our resort to take us on the 4hr trip! The price wasn’t bad since we split it 2 ways but if you are looking for a cheap option, the bus is always better!

For the 1st three nights we decided to stay at a fancy resort! The resort was on the edge of town and far from the main strip. It did have a nice pool and beach front. However the drinks were overpriced and service medium. I guess we can’t handle fancy things! On Wednesday, we rented a scooter and explored the area! We stopped for coffee and later met up with the GKs for lunch. Since it was Christmas Eve, we planned to have dinner together at our resort later that night. After lunch we rent to the Forester Spa for massages. This place is great! It’s right on the beach and you can hear the waves as you get a massage. Jason and I both got relaxation massages. This was Jason’s first full body massage…lets just say he didn’t like it! After the massages I was feeling good so we decided to meet the GKs for drinks at Pogo. Pogo was also right on the beach and had big beds to lounge in by the water. We had some drinks and watched the sunset before headed to our place for Xmas eve dinner.

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Vietnam Day 1

We arrive to Ho Chi Min City after a full day of traveling! We knew what to do as far as visas, so we were able to cut off some time in the visa line! We arranged for our hostel to pick us up since it was only $15! Once we checked in we set out to find some food! We are staying in district 1 known as the ‘backpacker’ area! We roamed around until stopping at a random restaurant. Jason’s yellow curry was delicious! After dinner, we were pretty tired so decided to head back to the hostel. Today we spent the whole day exploring they city using the Lonely Planet walking tour! We started at the Ben Thanh Market. This market was huge with typical SE Asian goods: t-shirts, watches, designer bags, etc. I was looking for sunglasses and had no problem finding some! After roaming around we continued the tour. We stopped for lunch at a small French cafe! We had pâté and ratatouille! It was barely noon and I was feeling tired and the heat was getting to me! We continued on to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Then We decided to detour and head to the War Remnants Museum. When we arrived it was closed for lunch, but were able to pass the time by having a few beers at the cafe across the road. The museum is sobering to say the least. After the museum we walked to the Sheraton hotel for roof top drinks. Since you’re paying for the view the drinks were pricey and not worth it. By this time it was almost 5 and we had been walking all day. Both of us were tired! We headed back to sleep he hostel to call it a day! Tomorrow we will be taking by a day trip to the Mekong Delta.

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Concerts and Christmastime

Christmastime is in full swing in Shanghai. One of the many great things about living in a city with such a diverse expatriate population is the Christmas market scene. I have never been to an authentic Christmas market, but I am guessing that Shanghai does a pretty bang-up job. As Angela mentioned in a previous post, we had purchased our first adult Christmas tree a few weeks ago, and desperately needed some decorations for it. We decided to explore a few of the local German and French Christmas markets in Shanghai. The best one we went to with a good group of friends, right down the street from our house. There are all kinds of Christmasy things to buy, and lots of mulled wine to drink (my favorite part). We had a great time, and picked up some nice hand painted ornaments for our little tree. On the way home from one of these markets, Angela and I also completed a major Shanghai goal: we got a golden taxi. I don’t know the story with the golden taxis, so I won’t pretend to make up any explanations, but what I do know is that Shanghai has made a limited number of British looking golden taxis under the name of the ‘London Taxi Company’. There are probably thousands of these taxis in the city, but we have only seen about eight, so I am imagining that there are only 100 in the entire city, and that merely spotting one is a miracle. Well, we did even better. We rode in one! On the way home from a little Christmas shopping, we spotted one sitting a few blocks away. Letting several perfectly good cabs drive by, we sprinted to this one and got it. Here is a shot of Angela emerging from the glorious golden taxi as proof.

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Thanksgiving year 2

I can’t believe that tomorrow is the 1st day of December!  Holy cow, this year has gone fast!   Thanksgiving in Shanghai is always a fun time.  There is never a shortage of things to do.   This year we had 3, yes 3, Thanksgivings to attend!    Thanksgiving 1, was actually on Thursday,  at a restaurant called Captain Rooster.  Boramy, Austin (friend from UNI) and the GKs all joined for an all you can eat and drink extravaganza.  We love Captain Rooster, because they have amazing fried chicken and mac&cheese!  There turkey wasn’t bad either!   The place is pretty small and it was very busy.  Since it was still in the 60s we opted to sit outside!  However, by sitting outside, we got a little shorted on all the food!   They menu included: Turkey, green bean casserole, turkey pot pie, sweet potato casserole, mashed potato, stuffing mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and egg nog.  It was a lot of food and all tasted great!

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Cooking in Shanghai

Cooking in Shanghai can be difficult.  You are surrounded by restaurants, dinner dates, and then there is Sherpas, the website the delivers food right to you door!  But why is cooking in Shanghai difficult?  I mean even the groceries get delivered to your door.

The past few weeks I was selected to participate in a trial group for the app Sidechef.   Sidechef is a step by step cooking app with loads of recipes and drinks.  The app is great and easy to use, even my boyfriend was able to create some salmon burgers with it!  I loved the app because it got me out of my cooking rut and gave me new recipes to pick from!  So what did I make?  I started with yellow curry!  First of all, why have I never made curry before?  This curry was so easy to make and tasted amazing!   I used a pre-made curry paste to save on time and ingredients, the rest was chop and simmer!  The big mistake I made was using purple potatoes!  Note:  Purple and Yellow do not mix well together, add shrimp and you get all kinds of strange colors!  Thankfully it tasted good!  I then tried and failed to make a “healthy” broccoli salad.   I finely chopped broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.  Added mushrooms and almonds.   My mistake was not measuring or following directions on the dressing.  I added the juice of 1 lemon, random assortments of spices (mostly garlic pepper) And then thought it would be a good idea to add greek yogurt!

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