Sunday, July 30, 2006

relocation send-off

Jeremy and Valerie were relocating from Beijing to Shanghai last weekend and we descended on them for a surprise send-off amidst their packing.
the boys ended up playing shoot-em up games on Jeremy's PC with big-ass sound system.
Jeremy, Valerie, Sherry, Robina, Joyce and Jovien

Sunday, July 23, 2006

wandering in a mosque in China

quite a surreal experience to be sure! the ancient city of Xi'an (Chang'an) as the start point of the Silk Road has a large muslim community since the Tang dynasty. apart from visiting the terracotta warriors while in Xi'an, we explored the muslim quarter and its mosque.

more of other photos here.

Islamic calligraphy has been morphed with chinese brush strokes on the plaque of the main prayer hall. Inside the hall, the Koran was carved on the wooden wall panels. Over the millenia, Arab immams had preached in the mosque and left behind stone steles of their writings. the mosque were expanded over the centuries by Chinese emperors stressing on religious harmony.

entering the mosque we were greeted by one of the uncle caretakers. when told that we are from Singapore, he started talking to us in pidgin Malay. I countered with my own half-past six Malay as well. He had received many Muslim tour groups from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It was again quite surreal, speaking Malay inside an eighth century AD mosque in the historical heart of China.
the whole area reminded me of the muslim Arab quarter in Jerusalem, with many tiny stalls selling tourist trinklets. but the character of the place came of the living streets that cater to the local muslims as well as Chinese and foreign tourists. it was very interesting to see muslim women walking around in tudong (head scarf) and the men in white caps. don't really feel like China at all, until you walk two streets away.
our driver brought us to this halal restaurant to try soup-filled dumplings. they were delicious and bursting with flavourful broth!
Out on main street, there was a bazaar selling dried fruits and nuts, like dates, walnuts and even dried kiwi fruit!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

hairdo & pubbing

last Friday, Robina and her frens went pubbing since they figured that their hair were nicely done up after their visit to the hair salon. They went to Angel, one happening joint in Beijing night life (suaku old me also neber been b4). They had dinner at Bellagio, a popular Taiwanese restaurant, right next to the happening disco pub. Robina, Joyce, Sherry and Valerie (and Malcolm, the rose amongst the thorns!)
her Korean hairstylist piled up Robina's hair for a messy look.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

road sightings

spotted on Beijing's road. a guy riding on an electric bicycle with his legs crossed. very ya-ya! hope he does not crash and burn! but he was quite stable and serene. I was too stunned to snap a pic. anyway, he was zipping away too fast...

Monday, July 10, 2006

horses and grassland

Robina and I joined a CCC tour to Inner Mongolia last weekend. We visited the No Ri Bu herdsman family near, Xilinhot. On the Xilingol grassland, we had a taste of nomadic mongolian life that is centred around their livestock, horses, the grassland and their culture. We stayed in a yurt overnight. I found it quite comfortable and the yurt even managed to keep out the heavy rain that night. the ladies found it slightly inconvenient since there was no proper toilets, only a latrine.
we walked all over the grassland and did a lot of horse riding. Robina and I were aching all over even after returning to Beijing. the programme was free and easy, we did not have to rush anywhere. the mongolian herdsman were very hardworking and cheerful. as gawking tourists, we must be getting in their way and scattering all their sheep and cows (bloody nuisance!).
the wide expanse of the grassland was a refreshing change from the congested Beijing. I saw plenty of birds like kestrels, sky larks, plovers and harriers. our Austrian friend spotted a fox during his morning walk. there were plenty of insects esp dung beetles since there cow, sheep and horse dung everywhere. Inside the yurt, if u lift the wall hangings u can see hordes of dung beetle trying to crawl inside. the ang mohs were quite perturbed by the insects. We discovered that there was even a stowaway dung beetle in our bag when we returned to Beijing.

in the evening, we had a camp fire and the extended herdsmen family took turns to sing, dance and play the horse-head fiddle for us. they are a shy people and seemed slightly embarrassed by our incessant questions. but they were very hepful towards Robina and helped her to choose a very obedient horse. our guide told us that the herdsmen would become more relaxed after they drink or if they were with friends and family.

we witness the mongolian style of slaughtering a sheep. unlike the muslim method of slitting the animal's throat. at first I thot the mongolian method appeared inhumane but it was surprisingly efficient when I saw the uncle did it. the sheep was dead in seconds after its heart and vena cava was crushed. there was no blood splattering and every part of the sheep was utilised.

photos are posted here!

RTU from Mongolia

just reached home from mongolia (inner not outer). after one night of no showers and using the latrine (we actually prefer a clump of bushes in the grassland), a hot shower and flush toilet seemed like an luxury.

Robina enjoyed the riding a lot especially after the herdsmen gave her a really responsive horse. she rounded off two days of riding with an assisted gallop. my horse was raring to go so that I had to fight him all the way, reining back. my left arm was trembling when I got off the horse.

the weather was wonky on the first evening pn the grassland with gusty winds and slight drizzles. it rained heavily at night, but we were sound asleep in the yurt.

we wandered around gawking at the horses, cows, sheep and dogs like a bunch of city slickers that we are. I observed a herdsmen uncle slaughter a sheep, together with a bunch of Danes in our group. mongolian-style butchering was quite different from muslim way of slitting the animal's throat (more graphic pics later).

Robina helped the mongolian lady shear and "plucked" a sheep. she also held a baby billy goat (cute little bugger!). we befriended the local dogs, a bunch of push overs that we bought over with food offerings.

Friday, July 07, 2006

mongolia beckons

heading to Inner Mongolia in a few hours, after 2 yrs in China!

hope to see wide vistas, clear blue sky and green grassland steppes. will be staying in herdsman yurts. so no showers and proper toilets. hey, as NS boys know the whole grassland is yr toilet!

looking forward to milk tea, mare's milk liquor and roast mutton etc

Alvin's spiel

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