Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Green Beijing & Old Beijing

Although we had a lot of wet weather prior, thankfully on the first day of the public holidays last Wednesday (i.e. on 22nd, the Mooncake/Lantern Festival), bright, sunny skies greeted us in the morning. Which was great, as I had planned a trip to the Beijing Botanical Gardens for us that day. Nainai’s face will break out in spots when she gets into contact with pollen, so as you can imagine, that isn’t the friendliest of place for her, so it was just Yeye and the three of us.

It wasn’t very near, and took us about 40 minutes to get there since it wasn’t a working day (thus lesser cars on the road), so I kept our girl entertained with her usual songs, fruit snack, funny faces, and getting her to practise on her bubble-blowing:
When we reached, Wayne dropped us off first to go park the car elsewhere, and I’m glad I brought a hat for Rosabelle as there were glaring rays from the sun. Entrance costs only RMB5 per person, which I find fairly reasonable, since it’s such a large garden. Whilst waiting for Wayne, we snapped some photos at the entrance where Rosabelle recognized the 脸谱 made up of different shades of leaves – nice.
After Wayne joined us, we all went in and maybe it’s the immensity of the place, but it didn’t feel as crowded as places like Chaoyang Park gets on public holidays/weekends. We found an open space to start our bubble-blowing, but as you can imagine, Rosabelle did not have much strength to blow, and could only play with those that Wayne blew out for her. However, kids being kids, she quickly became distracted by another girl holding a bubble straw (i.e. you just need to blow gently through the hole for the bubbles to appear), which was definitely easier, and thus more attractive, for her. On retrospective, I really should have gotten her an easier bubble-making/blowing device (and definitely much cheaper as well!)…
That’s her getting slightly squeamish that Wayne was aiming the bubbles at her…
After the brief bubble experience, we walked on down where we saw people posing for photos by this lake. Rosabelle wanted to imitate them and climb on down to the rocks, so I had to carry her instead.
And there she goes again… she was pretty much a good girl, walking/running around on her own instead of asking to be carried. Maybe it’s because there was an abundance of her favourite leaves and stones to pick up and inspect…
We then came to this open area where we saw a kid playing with a beach ball, so we took out our own football and got her to start kicking around. I read that kids can master an overhand throw (i.e. over their heads) at about the age of 3, so I’m glad Rosabelle is already showing signs of giving a good hurl (without the ball dropping behind her/sideways). However, there were some other kids around who obviously wanted to play with her ball – that’s when she started getting all bossy and sat on the ball to prevent others from touching it. Haiz… she then became attracted to the other girl’s beach ball, and they even exchanged balls to play for awhile, heh.
On the left is a random shot that I took with the camera facing upwards at her as she sat on the ball…
After that we heard some music coming from opposite and Rosabelle grabbed her ball to run over and stare intently…
From far, I thought they were skiers practicing their moves, but upon closer inspection, it was a bunch of trekkers doing warm-up exercises, probably to train up for their next hike. I had to physically pull Rosabelle back as she was getting too close to the instructor, who threatened to jab at her with his sticks at times since his back was facing her.
Next stop was this vast round area that reminded me of the Colosseum, haha! It looked like a nice place for a run-around, or to kick our football, but Rosabelle had other ideas – she preferred to climb up and down the steps instead, of course…
After that, the walking/climbing/kicking must have taken its toll, as our girl started getting grouchy and refused to cooperate with this mamarazzi for a shot with this nice background, so all I could get was this of her flailing her arms wildly in the air as she wanted to hit at my camera, all the time crying out ‘不要照相!', haha!
And then, when we came to this flowered archway, she was not cooperative in taking a photo, instead weirdly requesting for Yeye to carry her (he was sitting by the side smoking), so instead, I went aside by myself to pose for a photo. She saw that and came running by for me to carry her for the shot, haha – reverse psychology does work at times!
She started getting perked-up when we saw this mollusk-looking stone sculpture. I actually asked for her to sit on it for a shot, but she had a good time using the slippery surface as a mini-slope, heh!
She even pretended to sleep on it together with me…
By this time, it was already 2 pm (poor Yeye was so famished he bought and ate some instant noodles earlier), and Wayne went to fetch the car to fetch us from another entrance so that we did not have to walk all the way back. Whilst waiting, we saw a tiger exhibit (to mark the Year of the Tiger, I guess), made up entirely of plants and foliage, and it was huge. Can you spot her in the photos on the right?
Then we ventured around awhile more, as Yeye encouraged her to step onto the grass after she saw a few ladies posing on the grass for photos. Now, I don’t normally like/encourage her to step on the grass/pluck leaves as (1) I don’t like to destroy nature and (2) who knows what is lurking in/on/about the leaves/grass? However, since I saw that they don’t allow pets into the Botanical Gardens, at least I can be sure it’s free of dog poo/urine, and she seemed to have fun stomping on the grass (poor grass…).
When Wayne came, we made our way out, with me carrying Rosabelle. When I’m carrying her to a particular destination, I normally speed up, as she’s probably about 12kg now (last time we weighed her was in June), and unless we are shopping, I don’t like to dilly-dally and waste my energy in carrying the load. So I made my way quite speedily, looking on back to see if Yeye was following. He’s a big, tall man who is very healthy (plays table tennis every afternoon), so he has no problems keeping up, of course. However, when we got out and around the corner towards the car, I could not see him at all, and had to retrace my steps for the past 100m to see him following. Apparently, he got stopped by some tourist center who asked him to fill up a questionnaire for a small, complimentary amulet of sorts, which he gave to Rosabelle. So sweet of him, but at that point, I got slightly irritated that he should be trying to hurry up and follow me instead of turning away and doing his own thing then.

Anyway, we got into the car and headed for lunch at 那家盛宴 – we like the food at 那家小馆near LG Towers, and this was a sister restaurant, but a WAY more grand and expensive version. It was in a grand hall of its own a short drive from the Botanical Gardens, and there was even a parrot, a cricket in a cage, and all sorts of fishes in the big bowls. At least they kept Rosabelle occupied whilst I ordered the food from a high-tech digital menu. Yes, the menu was a small interactive touch-screen gadget hidden in a wooden-like book cover, where I could do my own ordering. It was quite tedious to go through the items like that instead of flipping the pages of a conventional menu, but as they had accompanying pictures, it was quite interesting.

By the time poor Rosabelle ate lunch, it was already 3pm as she kept saying she ‘要吃饭,玥玥饿了', heh! They served us complimentary yogurt, but I kept that for her as dessert after her kiwi. She had noodles with brinjal, and some vegetables and mushrooms from the soup we ordered. It didn’t seem enough for her and she also ate some fried rice after. The portions were all considerably small, and the bill came to RMB270 for about two adults (since Yeye did not eat much). Really pricey, and not all that superb food, but I guess the service, ambience, and nice surroundings all than made up for it!
As you can imagine, by the time we reached home and she had her nap, it was close to 5:30pm, and she slept right through till dinner time at home. Luckily I did not plan for any dinner out (even though it was Mooncake/Lantern Festival, and we did not eat any mooncakes), since the next day was Kindermusik early in the morning.

Since it was a public holiday, Wayne could drive the car and I fed our girl an egg omelet in the car as we got there with a lot of time to spare since traffic was really good that morning (it wasn’t a working day). Wayne went to get his own breakfast and shop around The Place whilst we had fun in class with hoops (pretending to wash clothes within the circle), ring bells, shake eggs, and basically jigged our hour away. At the end, when we were singing the goodbye song, Rosabelle ran away to play by the side and I encouraged her to bid her friends farewell first. She obediently went up to each and every one of the other 5 kids and waved in their faces, even grabbing and hugging one younger girl. She was rewarded with her favourite sweet breads (obviously did not want the apple that I brought for her) that was laid out as refreshments on the table, and played around the area for awhile before Wayne came to join us. We then took a short walk over to The Place, where we had lunch at Charme restaurant opposite.

I was hungry, and as all hungry women always do, ordered way too much, forgetting that the portions at this place were huge. We got a nice seat by the window, and as I was waiting for the food to arrive, Wayne brought a slightly weepy Rosabelle over – she had hit her head against some vase whilst upstairs; no biggie, but maybe she was just grouchy and said she was hungry. So she very quickly ate up the mushroom spaghetti, prawns, and vegetables concoction I’d put together from the various dishes. It was a great lunch, and she finished it off with the grapes I’d brought.

Later, to work a heavy lunch all off, we headed to The Place, where I was intent to look around to see if I could get my birthday present (nope), whilst Wayne took care of her. See cheeky her lifting up her skirt for all and sundry to peek under (I have been teaching her about her ‘nipples’ and ‘noh noh’ – our word for her privies – and tell her that apart from family members, if other people were to touch these parts, she was to say a firm ‘No! 不可以!' with a push of the hand, then run away to tell an adult).
When we got home and she had her nap, it was already close to 4pm, but she thankfully did not sleep for too long, getting up by 6:30pm for us to head out for dinner with Yeye and Nainai. I’ve been wanting to visit Qianmen for the longest time, and last year, when my family was in town in June, we actually went in the day time but my sis and I ended up accompanying our girls in the car as they slept. -_- Wayne and I had been there way back before they revamped the place, and I was looking forward to seeing the night scene.

It was a really nice walk down the street as we saw buildings of old and modern establishments/restaurants with Chinese touches (e.g. Starbucks does not have its usual signboard, but just a 星巴克咖啡 in ching-chong golden lettering against a black signboard, complete with a red ribbon in the middle – see picture in collage).
Yeye and Nainai had also been here on their last trip here together, but also in the day time. I think they also enjoyed taking in the sights.
Rosabelle was surprisingly cooperative in taking these shots that night…
As there were some interesting shops along the way, of course she also stopped to ‘window shop’…
We wanted to eat at the famous全聚德duck restaurant, and when we went in, realized that it was the fast-food version of the restaurant – the proper restaurant upstairs had stopped taking orders by 8pm (it was already slightly past 8pm by then), so we just took photos at the grand entrance leading into the restaurant, with its red ribbons and festive music.
I even grabbed some blurry self-taken shots of us, heh!
And then we parted ways with Yeye and Nainai – Yeye was too hungry to walk around and look for a proper restaurant any longer, and they spotted this Chinese snacks place that did not look like it had anything for our girl. So Wayne and I continued our journey with Rosabelle to the end of the street in search (even passed by a tram that we wanted to take after dinner, for RMB20 per adult) – we were seriously considering McDonald’s or KFC even as all other Chinese restaurants surely were not very suitable.
In the end, we ended up at the most unlikely choice – 东来顺hot pot place. We checked that they had cooked food (as we did not want steamboat) and quickly sat down to order mushrooms with vegetables, corn with mixed vegetables, and cashews with chicken. Rosabelle very quickly ate up her dinner with the accompanying rice. Luckily I brought my own plastic disposable spoon as they had no small metal spoons, only the large kinds, and soup spoons. Halfway through making her eat the prune fruit I brought (too sour, and she did not like it), she said she wanted to poop, so Wayne brought her to the toilet (a false alarm, or maybe that’s her favoured get-away excuse when she does not want to eat, heh!).

That’s her touching and saying bye-bye to the little lamb at the entrance (when I told her Wayne was eating lamb meat from the skillet, and that they killed Mary’s lamb, she opened her eyes wide and frowned, haha!).
The Chinese folks say, ‘十五的月亮十六圆', which meant that although it was the Mid-Autumn Festival the night before, the moon is roundest on the next night. That’s my round-enough face juxtaposed next to the round moon – what do you think? These just show how dirty our camera lens is - haha!
Then Rosabelle saw this signboard with some Buddha figurines, gamely posing for a photo for me. It was getting colder at night and we let her don this outer jacket which she loves these days, pulling up the hood herself and putting her hands into the pocket, walking around like a big girl, heh!
As I wanted to catch more shots of her in her deck-up, she got uncooperative and kept running away from/turning her back towards me. Whilst I snapped away, she changed directions very quickly and with her back towards me, said, ‘拍后面吧!’, even wanting to hit at me with my camera in hand. Aiyo! Maybe it’s because I used flash and it made her uncomfortable…
As we slowly walked back to re-join Yeye and Nainai, we came across the huge dolls outside the Sephora outlet, and with props in hand, she was happy to again pose for shots, heh!
Wayne does not really like Qianmen as he finds it very chaotic and with nothing much else to do, but I did like the nice walk down and taking in the Chinese sights (or maybe it is quintessentially a touristy thing?), heh!

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