Sunday, April 30, 2006

british collection in a chinese museum

Robina and I visited the brand-new Capital Museum in Beijing to catch the visiting collection from British Museum.
the exhibition of "Treasures of the World's Cultures" brought together authentic treasures and replicas from Egytian, Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese civilisations.
we could appreciate the concept of "plenty of space" when we see buildings like the Capital Museum. We Singaporeans look everywhere and see wide open spaces. The museum is built around a central skylight. even the multi-media auditorium is designed like an ancient Chinese bronze urn.
The British Museum collection was small but very exciting. they brought in replicas of the famous "Sutton Hoo" helmet (above) and the Rosetta Stone. very few Chinese porcelains and other "good stuff" but the British Museum will be bringing in another visiting exhibit concentrating on Chinese artifacts (probably "liberated" during the colonial imperialist invasions during the 19th century).
apart from the temporary exhibit, we checked out the permanent exhibit on Beijing's history on level 2. there are more on level 3 to 5 but we came quite late in the afternoon and it was closing time soon.

here's the skull of Peking Man (top left corner), replica only. original specimen either looted by the Japanese during the war, depending on which conspiracy theory you subscribe to; or in some US government warehouse next to the ark of the covenant. remember the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?
although there were tons of space to display the tons of excellent artifacts, Robina and I were disappointed with the poor design of the exhibition halls. The designers appeared to cramp as many specimens into the display cases as they can. we feel that visitors would be better served by more info on the artifacts.We liked this excellent wooden model, probably hand carved, of Beijing during the Qing dynasty. It complemented the beautiful painting of Beijing street scenes behind the model.
there's probably some political message behind this commemorative art work commissioned by Qing Emperor Kang Xi to celebrate the "recovery" of Taiwan; manchu version of the "coffee table book".

the art of bug eating

or entomophagy. had lunch at a Yunnan restaurant at East 3rd Ring Rd, Yunnan Yinxiang. tried their starter dish of deep-fried insects. decided to try bee pupa and bamboo worm (actually a moth caterpillar). they also have dragon-fly nymphs and grasshoppers. there was actually nothing squeamish about eating the bee pupa (above) and bamboo worms (below) since they were crispy and tasted like french fries. dipped in a mixture of chilli and cumin power, the crispy insects were delicious!this seemed to be a common feature of Southwest Chinese (Yunnan) and Northeast Thai cuisine. both have insects in the diet.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

exotic stuff

had dinner this evening at a Guangxi restaurant. Guangxi Province is close to the Vietnam border. Their cuisine reminded me of Yunnan and Vietnamese, with some similarity to Northeast Thai food.
I was flipping thru the menu when I saw this! grilled tokay gecko with salt n pepper. it's an appetiser. tokays are a larger relative of our house gecko (chichak).
trying not to gag, I saw the soup selection: tokay gecko and black chicken soup.

NS boys who had been to training in Thailand would probably remember their encounters with tokay geckos in the bath house. the geckos were huge; larger specimens can be as long as 30cm. our "Hokkien peng" (Hokkien soldiers) were amazed that the geckos could scold four letter words. actually it was the gecko's loud calls of "ack-kuuui". it sounded very close to "f**k you!".
next I spotted this "stewed bamboo civet". the chinese name was similar to civet cats, like the ones that carried the coronavirus linked to SARS. I asked the manager about this dish. from her explanation I gather that this must be the bamboo rat, also found in Southeast Asia. The manager assured me that this was a "health food" since the bamboo rat feeds only on bamboo. errr, maybe next time. I declined politely.
the next exotic item was quite deceptive, just from looking at the picture in the menu: braised snake. ewww!
in the end, I settled for less exotic dishes like this delicious Quangxi rice noodles.

technorati tag:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

north african

went to this French North African joint, Paradiso (just off Sanlitun) for lunch. the place was cosy and decorated with posters of Tunisia. I had this lamb tajine with fresh olives which was excellent. the lamb and vegetables were stewed in an glazed earthernware dish in a mildly spicy tomato-based sauce. it was delicious! the lamb was melt in your mouth tender and without the smell you expect from mutton. washed everything down with strong middle-eastern tea with mint leaves and pine nuts. Robina and I were too full to try the desserts that the friendly boss explained to us. must save some room the next time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

when the dust settles on you

woke up this morning to discover gloomy orangy skies and everything covered by a layer of yellow dust. it was like half the Gobi desert was dumped on Beijing overnight. cars that there parked outside somehow all turned yellow. whoever wrote the "graffiti" on the car above put it very aptly: "raining sand here in Beijing!"

see imagethief's take about car ownership and sandstorms in Beijing. he's an American spin doctor who's married to a Singaporean.
now I regret not buying that kaffiyeh scarf in Jerusalem. should have come in handy this morning. actually some Beijing ladies are going around wrapping a see-thru scarf around their face. this view demonstrate how gritty Beijing looks today, even worst than the usual smog, car exhaust, smoke-stack spewing carbon kind of pollution.
back at work, the cleaners were busy vaccuuming the grounds to get rid of as much dust as possible. you can have a good idea how thick it was: the yellow layer and the dark grey grounds.
the walkway outside looked like the yellow-brick road, even though the tiles were actually grey.
close up of a smothered car parked out in the open. looks like someone had chucked a bucket of sand on the car windows. seems like the only one that were happy about this situation are car wash operators. our only hope is for strong winds to pick up tomorrow and blowing the dust away but this will only transfer the problem. the dust will reach Korea, Japan and as far south as Taipei. we are now paying for the environmental problems of desertification and over-grazing...

Friday, April 14, 2006


was at Joyce and Boon Peng's place the other evening. their female dwarf hamster had given birth to five babies. they are now almost weaned, nibbling on solid food and scampering around.
one of them appears to be an albino. not quite sure yet since i cannot spot the black stripe down its back.
Robina is very tempted to adopt a pair. If she does that, Sally would have sleepless nights, keeping watch over the noctural hamsters...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Beijing Roadshow

this was the source of a massive jam in Yayunchun in North Fourth Ring Rd, near the "Bird Nest" Olympic stadium. only one lane of a three-lane road was open, for a stretch of 3-city blocks. all the buses and car traffic had to squeeze into one lane and the bicycle lane. needless to say it was pandemonium. another typical Beijing traffic situation.
after work in the evening, at the junction near the US embassy. an example of the Beijing junction grid-lock. Everyone just close their eyes and squeeze into the centre, whether to turn left or right, or head straight. It was a mess that traps everybody. but yet, no one wants to give way which would have saved more time in the long run....
getting stuck together. time to listen to radio or read the papers...if this was Taiwan, the sausage push-cart would appear about this time...

Alvin's spiel

Powered by Blogger