Monday, 17 December 2007

Going home for Christmas....

I am going home for Christmas - back to Stuttgart Germany with Lufthansa via Munich... which is in Bavaria like 'New Swanstein' (Schloss Neu Schwanstein) here shown in winter wonderland by the German Embassy in Beijing. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Beijing: Mysterious Wrapping

Can you guess what's behind the wrapping?

And now? What's your guess?

The solution of the enigma:

Oh Tannenbaum !!

Chinese love trees. They built houses and walls around trees instead of chopping them. And now, in winter, they give them a winter coat to protect them from the cold winds that come down from Mongolia... Actually, the winds can be very cold, ice cold and sharp like knifes.

I can't remember that I have seen tree wrapping in the last two winters. New is also wrapping robes around stems:

But I saw bush wrappings and hedge wrappings like this before:

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Beijing Bicycles - part III

A lot of bicycles are so old and shabby that you must stare at them. Not even a scrap dealer in the West would have such unique antique bikes. They are gems. They still run. Amazing.


Happy Birthday Beijing Notebook. Today is my blog's first anniversary. One year blogging, 110 posts.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Beijing Bicycles - part II

In Beijing, all bicycles are grey, or black or rusty brown.
Some are painted - I guess, to be easier found on the bike parking.
Lock your bike or take with you the seat to avoid loosing it.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Beijing: where is the air quality report?

I often check the air quality report. It is a kind of game for me.
Can I guess the today's level? Was it level 2 or worse?
It is difficult to tell. The sky might be perfectly blue, the sun shines and you do not think bad, but then you check the air quality report and you are surprised that it was an unhealthy day.

I appreciated the openness of the government to publish these data. However since some days... "Sorry, no record". (normally you should get the data with that link)

So why that? Is the air that bad?
Why am I assuming the worst? Because we experienced before: bad air quality on certain days result in no data. I wrote a blog post about that here after the car reduction test in August.

Let's have a cup of tea and wait. It does not look that bad these days.

Beijing: Picture of the Week

Courtyard house (siheyuan) with persimmon tree seen from top of the Drum Tower.

You may have noticed that I have taken the little "picture of the week" section from the top of the blogroll. The picture was just too small to be appreciated. My favorite pictures that I take while strolling through Beijing will be posted now regularly and in regular size.

Beijing: Vogue & Elle

I bought two magazines yesterday.
Vogue and Elle Decoration - the Chinese editions.
Guess how much I spent?
20 Yuan (kwai) each.
This is 1.83 Euro or 2.70 USD or 1.31 GBP each (today's exchange rate).
In China, the glossy magazines do not make a lot of money.
I guess, they just need to be in the market - or test the market.
And once readers' salaries are increasing they will slowly increase the prices as well. But so far, they need to be competitive.
While Elle Decoration has been launched in China in July 2004, Vogue just entered the market in September 2005.

I buy these magazines sometimes. I enjoy them. I look at the pictures. Foreign names are printed in roman letters. Adresses in Chinese are useful for the driver.

Oh, and the cover of the Elle Decoration answers a question you might have had:
Do Chinese celebrate Christmas?
Yes ... at least Christmas deco is everywhere: in restaurants, hotel lobbies, bars, shops, offices and on the streets. And while shopping for Christmas gifts they listen to Christmas songs (Ikea plays Christmas songs since the beginning of November) etc...

Vogue China
Currency Converter via

Thursday, 29 November 2007

China Blog List

Beijing Notebook is finally included in the China Blog List.
What took them so long?

The China Blog List is a collection of links to English language weblogs focusing on China. It provides a "convenient access to firsthand accounts and independent views of China".
Browse here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

tbjhome features my favorite Design Blogs

This is the cover of the tbjhome December 2007 issue.
It features my article about my favorite design blogs.

I am a writer!

At least once in a while, when I am blogging or when I am writing for a magazine like tbjhome (now: urbane). It is a free monthly English lifestyle and interior design magazine that is distributed together with That's Beijing (now: The Beijinger), the essential monthly guide for life in Beijing. It was fun working with the editor Jie Yang and with the bloggers Danielle de Lange, Grace Bonney and Jennifer Dwyer (see links below). Thanks for the cooperation. I loved to work from home, anytime, best time for me is nighttime.

These are the content pages with a short bio of the contributors (me included) and the the article - click on pics to enlarge:

I came up with the idea to introduce some creative design blogs to the readers of the magazine instead of design books. They liked the idea, and gave me even two pages. However the editor said they only want design blogs that have their own domain name because blogspot is blocked in China (censorship).
So I choose from my favorites:
the style files by Danielle de Lange, The Netherlands
design*sponge by Grace Bonney, New York U.S.
The Peak of Chic by Jennifer Dwyer, Atlanta U.S.

At the end the editor decided to at least mention three more of my favorite design blogs that are on blogspot (if anybody in China faces access difficulties, go via!):
Absolutely Beautiful Things by Anna Spiro, Brisbane Australia
Decor8 by Holly Becker, Boston U.S.
Designers' Block by Di Overton
National Park Northumberland U.K.

As thinking green is important for our environment, I was looking for a green blog and found inhabitat. This blog, founded by Jill Fehrenbacher, New York is entirely devoted to green design.

Two more inspiring blogs were suggested by the editor:
Core77 - the industrial design supersite
NOTCOT - a visual filtration of ideas + aesthetics + amusement

If you do not live in Beijing or just can't get a hard copy of the latest issue of tbjhome, browse here.

Get inspired!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Blogspot blocked in China

It is more than a week that all in a sudden I had no more access to my blog.

I know, blogspot has been blocked and unblocked and blocked again in China for a while. However I have managed to have access to blogspot here in Beijing from the moment I started my blog in December 2006. Back then, I did not even know it was blocked in China. Friends in Shanghai had no access and told me. So I wondered whether I am just lucky in Beijing or whether I have access via a proxy server. Until last week when I met the "Great Firewall of China" (GFC) that had swallowed my innocent blogs.

However there is this website that helps readers to go around the GFC that apparently exists not only in China but also in India, Pakistan and Iran. It is here at where you type in the requested blog and it re-appears! Another more sophisticated IT support can be found at the lost laowai who posted a "quick fix" to use with Firefox.

At the moment I am using the first method ( to read blogs on blogspot. However to write my blog I just need to go to and access from there. Luckily Blogger is not blocked - (I just found out. The last three lines are an update).

It feels good to be back...


Surf around the Firewall with! With this help, I can finally read the China Digital Times (see blogroll).

If you want to start a blog and want people in China be able to read your blog then avoid the big free blog hosts (blogspot ect.) Better to get your own domain name.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Beijing and Time for Tea

It is getting cooler in Beijing. Snow is expected over night. Winter time is tea time.
Not only.
I found this interesting article below in China Daily that I want to share. It is about picking the right tea:

* * * * * * * * * * * *

*Different teas in different seasons

As the Chinese saying goes, "Green tea is for summer, black tea is for winter and oolong tea works all year around", people choose different teas for the various seasons.

Spring is the season for flower teas, which can lift the spirit from drowsiness. Winter is a season for black tea whose hot nature helps protect the body against winter chills.

Summer is a season for green tea. The cooling nature of this tea can counter summer heat, boost the heart and eliminate toxins. For those who prefer icy cold drinks and those who have a weak stomach, oolong tea is recommended over green tea. Barley tea is also a nice choice in summer as it can eliminate pigment residues on the skin.

Autumn is a dry season so it's good to pick qingcha tea, which is between black and green tea. Qingcha tea includes oolong and Tieguanyin, which can boost the secretion of saliva, improve the lungs and moisturize the skin.

*Different teas at different times of the day

In the morning Green tea: Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, green tea can eliminate free radicals in the body and secrete anti-pressure hormones.

In the afternoon Chrysanthemum tea: It enhances the function of the liver and relieves the eyes. When combined with medlar or honey, chrysanthemum tea helps counter depression and anxiety.

In the evening Medlar tea: It's rich in Beta-Carotene, vitamin B1, vitamin C, calcium and iron, as well as enhances the liver and kidney functions.

When working overtime Cassia seed tea: It’s good for the brain, liver, tendons and bones, as well as eyes. And if you suffer from constipation, have of a cup cassia seed tea after dinner. It's guaranteed to be effective.

After a big meal Pu'er tea: Most teas boost the metabolism of fat, and Pu'er it is the leader in this area. There are some beneficial elements in the tea to help burn the fat reserves in the stomach.

*Different teas for different people

Office workers: Chrysanthemum tea and green tea
Sport lovers: Oolong tea and black tea
Those averse to sports: Green tea and flower teas
Those exposed to heavy air pollution: Green tea
Smokers and drinkers: Green tea
Meat lovers: Oolong tea
Those suffering constipation: Honey tea
Those wanting to lose fat: Oolong tea, Pu'er tea and green tea
Those with a weak spleen and stomach: Oolong tea and flower teas
Those hoping for longevity: Oolong tea and black tea
Source: China Daily
photo 1) gayane teapot by kenzo, 2) via China Daily

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Beijing Bicycles - part I

Beijing Bicycles have a basket, a bell, one-speed and no light.
Some don't have a bell.

In Beijing, all bicycles are grey, or black or rusty brown. Some are painted to be easier found in the bike parking area.

I love to ride my bicycle through Beijing. It has a basket, a bell, one-speed and no light. It is a grey 'Giant', a deluxe bike (around 600 yuan, less than 60 Euro). When I am riding around and make a stop here and there, I am always happy to find it still locked at the same place - like a horse waiting outside the saloon.
The frame is a little too narrow for me and makes me sit straight - like on a horse.

When it has not enough air, I stop at the bicycle repair shop down the street. My ayi pays 1 mao per wheel. I pay 1 yuan for two wheels. So I get overcharged (five times) but I don't mind.

I like to ride my bike and discover the streets from a different angle (than from the backseat of a black limousine). I feel more connected to the city and the people. I feel independent (from any driver) and free.

I doubt that there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing. Sometimes, when I want to have a bicycle in the foreground of a picture, I have to wait a while until one passes.

Btw, there is a movie called Beijing Bicycle. The film revolves around a young man from the countryside who came to Beijing to seek work. He finds a job with a courier company, which assigns him a brand-new bicycle. After it is stolen and he gets fired, this stubborn boy goes on a search for his missing bicycle.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Beijing: Dashanzi 798 Art District

On a sunny Sunday afternoon we like to go for a walk at Dashanzi Art District. Kids can run around and adults get something to see. 798 Art Zone or Dashanzi Art District is in the North East of Beijing. It used to be a military factory 50 years ago. The destruction is on hold regarding the Art District's role as tourist attraction during the Olympics next year.

The area is often called the 798 Art District or Factory 798 although technically, Factory 798 is only one of several structures within a complex formerly known as Joint Factory 718. Read more and more...

Some impressions from Dashanzi 798 this year:

Sunday, 4 November 2007

On the 798, Beijing

I was so exited that The Sartorialist has been on the streets in Beijing. But I did not see enough Beijing street pictures on his blog. So I decided, to help out a bit .... copying is not a bad thing in China ....

I like my boots (Prada), I like the scarf I share with my husband (Walendy), I like my purple bag and my new hat (both from Jiayi market). The coat is from the "leather lady", the lining is silk with Chinese pattern from Muxiyuan market). Not too bad for someone who is not into fashion.

I was in Dashanzi today and was surprised how many interesting outfits were on the street. I guess, the Sartorialist has some more pictures for us soon. Or maybe we have to wait until the next Vogue China issue.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Beijing de Luxe: Cool Visits, Sees & Tastes

Visiting Beijing? Looking for something special, something 'de luxe'? Check my special list compiled for the relaxed visitor:

3 Beijing VISITS for body and soul:

Working and sightseeing in Beijing can be exhausting. One of the best pit-stops to pamper yourself is this little massage hideaway in tropical style. You can choose from a simple 80 min. foot massage to body treatments and facials in private rooms. Sheela’s Nails next to the reception is highly recommended for efficient manicure and pedicure. Although white is beautiful in Asia, a tanning studio is in the same building upstairs.
17 Gongti Bei Lu
Chaoyang District, Beijing
11:00am – 00:30am
Massage booking: 6417 9595 or
Booking manicure & pedicure: 6416 0786
11:00am –1:00pm

Commune by the Great Wall
If you need more than a pit-stop and maybe even want to leave the city behind you, than the Commune by the Great wall with the Anantara Spa is your weekend hideaway. Commune by the Great Wall is a collection of contemporary architecture designed by 12 Asian architects. It was exhibited and awarded at the 2002 Biennale in Venice. You can spend the night in one of the 11 villas (up to 24,883 RMB) or in a standard room (special rates start at 988 RMB). During the day you may discover modern architecture, climb the Great Wall and select from various massage therapies and exotic body treatments. Kids are perfectly occupied at the well equipped kids club.
Commune by the Great Wall (managed by Kempinski)
Shuiguan Mountains
Booking and enquiries: 8118 1888, Anantara Spa ext. 5100

C. de France
This fresh aesthetic looking Hair & Beauty Salon has just opened in tiny Nali Mall. The owner Catherine Colin, ex-hairstylist from Eric Paris, is well appreciated by the expat community. Get a free manicure during your hair cut or highlights. Looking pretty drop into award winning restaurant Alameda for lunch (Lunch Rapido 60 RMB), but make sure you’ve booked a table ahead.
Nali Mall, Sanlitun North Bar Street
C. de France: 6417 3029 or
Alameda: 6417 8084

3 Beijing SEES:

The Great Wall
Have private access to the Great Wall at "Commune by the Great Wall". Follow a hidden path through a forest up hill and enjoy about 1 km of not restored wall. Ask at the reception for directions.

Mei Lanfang’s former Residence
Visiting the famous Beijing Opera star’s former residence is an all in one experience: discover the beauty of a courtyard house (siheyuan), see a collection of traditional Chinese paintings and calligraphy, learn about Beijing Opera and stroll the neighbouring hutong alleys to explore local life in old Beijing.
9 Huguosi Lu,
Xicheng District
6618 0351
Tue-Sun, April-November 9am-4pm, 10 RMB entrance fee

Royal Canal Boat Tour to the Summer Palace
Cruise the imperial canal in a traditional canopy boat underneath old stone bridges and along green shores. First stop at the Purple Bamboo Garden to stroll in the park to meet local amateurs of the community singing. Second stop mid-route, to walk along hidden paths to explore one neglected Indian style stone pagoda temple and a delicate Longevity Temple that served as a rest place for emperors.
To book via Chinese Culture Club, RMB 200 (

2 Beijing TASTES:

Made in China
You cannot leave Beijing without having tried a Beijing Duck. The trendiest way to enjoy the Beijing Duck is at this unique restaurant. Book a table by the open kitchen. Have a drink after dinner at the elegant Redmoon bar just opposite the entrance.
1/F Grand Hyatt Hotel
1 Dongchang’ An Jie
Dongcheng District, Beijing
85181234 ext. 3608
Lunch 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Dinner 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Redmoon Bar 5:00pm to 1 am (Sun-Thu), to 2 am (Fri, Sat)

Whampoa Club Beijing
Exported from Shanghai to Beijing, located in one of the last courtyard houses in the Financial District, this new highlight of Beijing’s club scene features a restaurant, a bar, a private dining room and a courtyard for al fresco dining. The internationally acclaimed chef Jereme Leung serves inspiring New Beijing Cuisine in a modern Chinese setting.
23 A Jinrong Dajie (Financial Street)
Xi Cheng District, Beijing, China
8808 8828
11:30am to 10:00pm

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Sartorialist in Beijing

The Sartorialist was in Beijing and this is the street picture he posted today on his blog.

Scott Schuman, the writer behind The Sartorialist, spent 15 years in sales and marketing dealing with department and specialty stores all around the world before he started his blog in September 2005. He always "felt that there was a disconnect between what I was selling in the showroom and what I was seeing real people (really cool people) wearing in real life". He combined his passion for fashion and photography and shares his photos of cool people in the streets of New York, Milan and Paris on his blog. His Sartorialist blog is so popular that he gets over 23.000 page hits daily. And his latest news are that he is going to do a page every month in Vogue China starting January or February.

His trip to China was sponsored by Lane Crawford (store opening). Last week he was in Beijing. I am looking forward to more of his pictures from the streets of Beijing.

Here she is again, bigger than above - in typical 'Beijing Onion style'. This photo was taken by The Sartorialist last week at Dashanzi Art District (original 798 Factory) in Beijing.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Adventures at the Green T. House

We wanted to spend a nice, elegant and inspiring evening at the Green T. House, downtown Beijing. We wanted to show our visiting foreign friends what kind of cool dining experience Beijing has to offer.

It was last Saturday evening and I booked for four people at the white table as I do not like the canteen style narrow seating at the long table in the middle. The white tables in the back were empty, except for the four of us and some others that left shortly after our arrival at 8pm. While wondering about the many available seats at an "in place" on a Saturday night we ordered our favorites. We started to eat and enjoyed the atmosphere when all in a sudden a very loud music came out of the speakers. So loud we could not understand each other. A noise that almost hurt your ears - and there she came (or he) the Beijing Opera performer. I wondered what has happened to the Green T. House that they offer that kind of touristic entertainment program. If I want to see Beijing Opera I go to a Beijing Opera performance. And if I go to a restaurant I expect to eat.

But that is not the whole story. To crown our lovely day we ordered two Brownies for desert that are served in a spectacular setting with smoky dried ice. Unfortunately the Brownies were just liquid dough. When complaining we were treated like everywhere else in China - just poor. We were explained that this is the Green T. House signature dish. We said, we used to come before and we are used to have it in a more baked way... the answer was: Really? - and nothing happened. After a while I said that we would like to talk to the manager who was friendly and offered us new brownies or maybe another desert. This was fair, we thought, and we ordered the Green T. ice cream and Bitter Lemon Pudding as we had lost confidence in the brownies. The extremely overpriced ice cream, four tiny scoops of different taste for 168 kuai (!) was tasty, but not enough for the money.

However the highlight of the evening was the burning and later exploding Bitter Lemon Pudding. It was burning and burning and the decorative chocolate sheet was melting and melting. The staff only took care of it, when a piece of cooking chocolate - BAM ! - exploded and flew over the table and hit my friend just over the eye. They came with a napkin filled with ice cubes to cool his burned skin.
And all what we got was a "sorry".
Do you think, the desert was canceled from the invoice? No.
We were too tired to argue.
We just won't come back.

Alternative cool dining in Beijing :

Lan Club
Address: 4/F LG Twin Towers, 12B Jianguomen Waidajie
Phone: 5109- 6012 /13
Open daily 11-3 am (since October 2006)

Whampoa Club
Address: Jia 23 Financial Street
Phone: 8808-8828
Open daily (since August 2007)

Friday, 12 October 2007

Commune of the Children

For the Golden Week we went outside Beijing, not far, only 1 hour North East on Badaling Highway and took exit 16 to the Commune at the Great Wall, a kind of architecture exhibition resort managed by Kempinski.

We had a great time. It was the picture perfect setting with blue autumn skies and views of the Great Wall of China.

And then, there was this amazing kids' club: 'Commune of the Children'. Just opposite the club house conveniently located this white two storey house is entirely designed for tots (2y.) to teens (12y.). When we first entered to have a look, we were welcomed by an English speaking Chinese lady which had time to show us around. I was so overwhelmed by that lovely little kids' paradise with so many beautiful details, I wanted to be a kid spending the day painting on the floor, baking cookies, making moon cakes, planting herbs, scoring goals outdoors, disguising in fancy costumes or having a tea from a tiny wooden tea pot. The furniture and facilities are designed according to kids’s heights and the interior deco is bright and colorful. I could not help and took lots of photos. Here is my selection:

Painting on the floor in the Art Center
Cooking Class for little bakers

25 steps to the second floor with more fun areas...
Tea or Coffee ?

At the end of the day there was a fashion show of cultural custumes. --> Parents and kids very happy!

The was also an entire room just for book lovers having lots of English and Chinese children books on display.

The kids' club opens daily from 9am to 5pm.
Through out the week different activities are scheduled form 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.
The kids' club is open on national holidays.
Half day is 150 RMB per kid, or 290 RMB for the full day.
No reservation is required.

You can have either lunch together with your kid on the terrace of the clubhouse or have the kids' lunch menu (around 60 RMB) delivered to the kids club.

Birthday parties can be booked - and a fancy lunch for the parents...

Commune at the Great Wall together with Commune of the Children is an absolutely cool place to visit. You escape Beijing's air pollution and can enjoy nature, art and outdoor activities including hiking the Commune's private part of the Great Wall, that is only accessible for hotel guests and visitors.

For more pictures feel free to visit my Commune flickr set.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Invited by the Empress of China

Recently, on a beautiful early September morning, I payed a visit to Beijing's Summer Palace (yiheyuan).

I had received an invitation to an audience with the Empress Dowager Cixi.

I was in company of three other elegant ladies from various embassies in Peking.

At the Summer Palace, we were accompanied by an eunuch guard and greeted by two young Princesses.

"None of us had ever been present at an audience. We all had heard much of the Empress Dowager Cixi, and above all things else we were anxious to see her whom they called the "The Dragon Lady."

"As we looked at the Empress Dowager seated upon her throne (...) awed by her majestic bearing and surroundings, we involuntarily gave the three courtesies required from those entering the imperial presence. We could not but feel that this stately woman who sat upon the throne was every inch an empress. In her hands rested the weal or woe of one-third of the human race. Her brilliant black eyes seemed to read our thoughts. Indeed she prides herself upon the fact that at a glance she can read the character of every one that appears before her."

Do you follow me?

The above real story took place in summer 1903.

In reality, my invitation to the Summer Palace was not by the Empress herself but by CCTV, the biggest Chinese television company. After they had made a documentary about the Forbidden City, they now are working on a documentary about the Summer Palace. Four foreign actresses were wanted for the scene in 1903, when Empress Cixi met ladies from foreign embassies for an audience in her Summer Palace. This took place after the boxer rebellion in Beijing against foreigners and foreign-influences.

My western colleagues, an American, a Spanish and a Russian lady, and I enjoyed our new job a lot. Although we had to start early in the morning around 3am and 5am respectively for make-up and hair. The dressing was done later on the scene - with tourists taking pictures of us.

The End...

Our last picture shows us, the foreign diplomatic ladies, together with Empress Cixi and handsome director Wang Wei Da in front of the last setting, the Hall of Longevity at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

The documentary will be on air on Channel CCTV 1 next year, in February or March, reaching out to 1,300,000,000 Chinese and some foreigners.

The Summer Palace was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1998.

more links:
Court Life in China by Isaac Taylor Headland (source of the quotation)
About Cixi or TzuhSi
About Boxer Rebellion
About Summer Palace

more pictures:
View my flickr Set

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

My Chinese Ink-Wash Painting (II)

This is the October Golden Week. The Middle Kingdom is on holiday. And I am just posting another Chinese ink-wash painting. I think, again the original is from famous Qi BaiShi.


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