Wednesday, 30 May 2007

5 Things To Do when in Beijing

1. Great Wall in Mutianyu
Visiting the Great Wall is a must and the most impressing sight in China. From Beijing downtown to Mutianyu it is about 1.5 hours to drive. It is not the closest part of the wall, but the best if you want to be away from the crowd. You can take the gondola / cable car (which Bill Clinton has taken). On top of the wall walk to the left, where you are almost for yourself.

If you walk to the right, there might be more people and it is a more steep way down. But at the end you can go on a fun sleigh ride back to the parking area. - Toilets near the parking are okay.

Remark: A great alternative to Mutianyu is the "Commune at the Great Wall" for its architectural expo of houses that are actually for rent from the Hotel. They have private access to 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. For special occasion (pack a bottle of Champagne in your backpack).

2. Forbidden City
You can spend here several days or just 1.5 hours to get an overview. Enter from the South Gate (north of Tiananmen) and walk to the North Gate. Make sure you enter at least 2 hours before they close. At the moment a major part is under renovation for the Summer Olympics in 2008. Workers and bamboo scaffold might appear in your pictures.

3. Further sightseeing can include 5 more spots:
--> Drum Tower and Houtongs around here and around Houhai Lake (Hutong tour by bike or rikshaw is a nice experience)
--> Summer Palace (partly under renovation)
--> Lama Temple (the Confucius Temple opposite is still closed for renovation)
--> Temple of Heaven with its park (across the Pearlmarket...)
and on a weekend
--> Panjiayuan Antique market (I know, this could belong to number 4 'shopping' but it is sightseeing as well!), see also my other post

4. Shopping
I love Beijing for its shopping adventures. Shopping here is just so different from the western world. Of course nowadays, new malls with international labels open up every month. But still, it can be an adventure browsing the markets. It is amazing what you get for little money. Of course the very cheap shirts, pearls, bags, watches etc. lack quality. So you have to take a very close look on what you buy. I really mean close: turn the sweater inside out and check the sewing, check for spots, holes. Try the zip twice of jackets and bags. Turn the JL Coultre watch around for surprises. - Pull it, knock it, cut or bite it (pearls) - You can find original brand stuff, but remember that it might be in the market because it is faulty. The Chinese do quality control. But the good quality is exported abroad. The bad quality is sold off in the markets in China. Or the clothes are from old collections from years ago. Or it is from over-production. And even sometimes things can be 'fallen from the truck'. Anyway, the patient hunter can find real good things. Check my shopping & bargain guide.

By now you might be hungry and we come to point 5.

5. Eating experience
As in every capital in the world, Beijing offers a wide range of international restaurants. But to impress visitors, I would take them to:
- Whampoa Club ($$$$), Nouvelle Beijing Cuisine in courtyard house, modern Chinese decor, cosy bar, private dining possible
- Green t. house ($$$), fantastic decor and creative menu
- The Courtyard ($$$$), window seats with view on the Forbidden City (no yard)
- Made in China ($$$), unique restaurant in the Hyat Hotel for Beijing Duck, book a table by the open kitchen
- Duck King ($), for Beijing Duck
- Bellagio ($), spicy Taiwanese food and great mango deserts, fast service, late dining, no reservation, a bit hectic
- Source ($$), set menu in a renovated Courtyard house, nice sitting in the yard
- Red Capital Club ($$$), renovated Courtyard house, waitresses in Mao-style uniforms
- Lan Restaurant ($$$), Philippe Starck's latest creativity outburst
- Hatsune ($$), best fusion Japanese (American Style) restaurant in town

I can recommend these as I like them myself. I will post address and telephone numbers later.

Was this post helpful? Do you want to know more about Beijing? Come visit this blog again. (updated September 2007)

Photo by musicmuse

Monday, 28 May 2007

... offline in Beijing

Yesterday, my laptop refused to restart. That was around lunch time. In the evening my husband's laptop crashed. His laptop was repaired at his office during the day, today, while mine will be 'diagnosed' tomorrow and I might have to wait a couple of days, if not longer before I get it back! That is terrible! How can I keep you all posted? I have so much to report.

At the moment I just borrowed my husband's laptop. He has a different key arrangement and all the blogger menu is in Chinese... so it slows me down...
The good thing was, that in the afternoon, I sat in the garden with pencil and paper writing two posts in an very old fashioned way. That was a nice change. One post will be about an Peking Opera star and one will be about a cashmere fashion designer based in Beijing.

The visit of the art village, today, was totally different than expected. My friends and I thought that we might 'discover' some 'starving' artist and get some nice art work for a good deal. However, the artists that were introduced to us today had already contracts with established art galleries in Dashanzi 798. No painting under 3,000 USD !!! One was for 30,000 USD, but then the artist said, oh no sorry, it is 300,000 USD. I am still not sure if he ment Yuan (RMB) or USD. But everything was priced in USD there. The more successful the painter the bigger his house and exhibition area. Nevertheless, it was interesting and I took many pictures from fresh art and young artists.
coming soon...

The Chin Family by Alessi

The 'Chin Family' belongs to Alessi's new products from the 'A di Alessi' Spring/Summer 2007 collection. Although I would not buy them, I thought they are cute. 'The Chin family' is a group of household items designed by Stefano Giovannoni with Rumiko Takeda in association with the National Palace Museum in Taiwan.

The pictures show the following products:
salt and pepper set, egg cup with salt castor and spoon and the kitchen timers.

Photo source: and Elle Decor

Friday, 25 May 2007

Shanghai Impressions

For the weekend I just post some of my favorite Shanghai photos:

Click on the mosaic to enlarge.

More Shanghai photos with description at my flickr account.

Photos copyright by -Suzie-

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Hip Hotels in China

This is the cover of the Chinese ELLE Decor magazine in May. It features an article about new Hip Hotels in China. Although I cannot read Chinese, I can look at the pictures and follow websites.

So, today, I post for you this list of newly opened Hip Hotels featured by ELLE Decor China, in case you plan to visit:

Hotel Kapok, Beijing
Newly opened stylish Boutique Hotel in the heart of Beijing with bamboo-Zen atrium. Just steps from the Forbidden City and the shopping area around Wangfujing. The calming suites have glass-walled bathrooms. Bicycles are available for rent to discover old Beijing. Website in Chinese and English. 89 rooms.
16 Donghuamen Dajie, Dongcheng, phone 6525 9988

Hotel Kapok Beijing

Lapis Casa, Shanghai
This new charming boutique hotel with 20 uniquely furnished rooms, makes a great getaway in the heart of trendy Xintiandi. If you want to replicate the look at home, the furnishing and accessories are for sale in the Lapis Casa shop.
18 rooms from 1500 - 2500 RMB.
68 Taicang Road, Shanghai, phone 5382-1600

Pier One - M Suites, Shanghai
In May 2006, Pier One, a new hospitality complex, opened its doors to the public. The stunning 1930's Art Deco Building (by architect L.E. Hudec), a former brewery, surrounded by gardens and Suzhou Creek and with its modern interior design gives customers a perfect setting for romantic dining or corporate events. Pier One is the home of four individual venues: Mimosa Supperclub, Monsoon Lounge Bar, Club Minx and since December 2006 the 'M SUITES', a 24-room boutique hotel. It has rooms overlooking the river, and a sleek, stylish design. 24 rooms, 980 - 2880 RMB.
88 Yi Chang Road, Suzhou Creek, Shanghai, China / phone (21) 5155 8318 /

House of Shambhala, Lasha, Thibet
House of Shambhala has opened in May 2006 and is located in a traditional Tibetan courtyard house, the type favored by nobility and high-ranking lamas in days gone by. Located in a quiet alley of the Barkor within the heart of old Lhasa, House of Shambhala is a realm of serenity for travelers to the “Land of Snows” on “The roof of the world”. It merges boutique hotel escape, yoga-spa center, fine dining and teahouse all linked through dedication to Tibetan ethnicity, architectural heritage preservation and culturally sustainable development. It is part of the Red Capital Group. 10 rooms from 1000 to 1320 RMB per night.

Shama Luxe at Xintiandi, Shanghai
100 design serviced apartments from 32000 RMB per month.
Block 18 Lakeville Regency, Lane 168 Shun Chang Road, Luwan District, Shanghai 200021, China, phone +86-21-6385 1818

Fortune Land International Hotel, Beijing
This Design Hotel offers 168 artistic rooms within Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD). 1088 - 2788 RMB.
38 Baiziwan Road, Beijing , 100022 China, phone +86 10 877 18866, fax +86 10 877 62556

La Faeux Casual Hotel, Shanghai
32 rooms, 258 - 1300 RMB
127 Fanyu Road, phone 5258 8585


ELLE Decoration China mentioned as well the following 'older' Hip Hotels:

88 Xintiandi, Shanghai (since 2001)
Commune by the Great Wall, Beijing (since 2002)
Fuchun Resort, Hangzhou (since 2004)
Banyantree, Lijiang (since 2005)
No. 9
Jia Shanghai
W Hotel

I would also add the Red Capital Residence and the Red Capital Ranch, both part of the Red Capital Group, Beijing.


The descriptions of the hotels I got partly from Elle Decor (I can read room numbers, and rates and opening dates) partly from the hotel's website or other websites, partly from Luxe City Guide Beijing for Hotel Kapok.

Personally, I have seen Hotel Kapok, The Emperor and The Opposite House. I like them all. They are all in great locations. The two first just next to the Forbidden City and the latter in Sanlitun.

Area codes / prefix phone numbers in China:
+ 86 for China
+ 86 - 10 for Beijing / in China: 010-
+ 86 - 21 for Shanghai / in China: 021-

Exchange rate: 100 RMB = about 10 Euro = about 12 USD

Beijing: a day unfolds

I was looking forward to today's trip to an art village. However because of the heavy rain yesterday and a wrong weather forecast for today, this trip was cancelled. So I had extra free time and started to enjoyed it on the sofa reading a book about Chinese Houses. (yeah, my life in Beijing is not too bad) I read a chapter about Beijing Courtyards ... and came across pictures of the former residence of the famous Peking Opera actor Mei Langfang. This courtyard is a museum since 1986. So, this became my next destination! With my camera and a bottle of water I went on a ride. I strolled through hutongs (small alleys) and found this beautiful courtyard house.

And more. Not too far away, I checked out the new stylish Kapok Hotel that is located between Wanfujing Shopping area and the Forbidden City. Both in about 5 minutes walking distance from the hotel. And they offer bicycle rent for 60 RMB / 24h. Great idea, as this is the right area to discover the charming part of Beijing - the way you expect Beijing to be.

And more. Walking down to the gate of the Forbidden City, I came by 'The Courtyard' restaurant. They have moved the 'Courtyard Gallery' from the basement to out of town Shunyi area. Now, you can have a very intimate dinner in the basement, still with views over the moat of the Forbidden City, and even with a bed next to the table... what kind of dinner will that be? Well, they won the 2007 Restaurant award in the category 'Best for a date'.

And then, my 'photographer eye' caught fishermen. And I observed them for a while. I tried lots of different shots and different settings with my camera. And I enjoyed this peaceful moment in Beijing. It is really picturesque in this area. This is my favorite picture of today: A fishermen fishing in the moat of the Forbidden City, the red wall on the left is part of the Forbidden City.

So that was my other day. Not bad for a short notice cancelled day. Maybe even better. I will know next Monday, as this is the day the art village trip is postponed to.

All pictures coppy right by me.

Beijing: ... more fresh art

I went to the Creation Gallery yesterday, to see the latest work from Du Jie. I really liked 'Watching the clouds' that I posted yesterday.

But then I found this other painting from Du Jie, called 'Living in the countryside', same size (68x68cm), same price (16000 RMB). I might even like it better. It was not framed yet. They hold it for me in the frame next to 'Watching the clouds' to better compare. I think, I prefer 'Living in the countryside'. I love the mix of styles. The mountain is kind of traditional Chinese ink painting while the countryside is more contemporary style. And the colours, again, are a wonderful composition.

Regarding 'Watching the clouds' from yesterday's post, I found out that the turquoise dots are not the clouds but some bushes, trees... the clouds are white ... of course!

I cannot buy everything I like, right? Mmmh, I am still thinking in Beijing ...

Photo: from Creation Gallery.
Visit the link to find the biography of Du Jie, more of his paintings and other Chinese artists.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Beijing: Fresh Art

This painting is one of the new works from Du Jie and can be seen at the Creation Art Gallery at the North East corner of Ritan park. It is called 'Watching the Clouds'. I love the colours and the perspective!

It is Wash and Ink on Rice Paper, 68x68cm, price: 16,000 RMB

The new works are on show since Monday, May 21st, and last for one week.

For further information call Lolita: +86 13691286363 from Creation Art Gallery

Charming Courtyards in Beijing

A courtyard house is the most charming way to live in Beijing. But not the most convenient one. There are only few courtyards available that have bathrooms and electricity. They are difficult to access because hutongs are long small one way alleys. And, it is a fairly new and not a very transparent market. You have to ask around. Renovated hutongs are gone fast. To find one and convince a landlord to renovate it (with your money) or to buy one is even more difficult. A courtyard purchase is several times more complex than buying a house anywhere else as you find yourself confronted with six or more owners and their support team of 20 or more extended relatives (see Tom's Hutongs for rent here). And then at the end, you never know how long your new investment is save from the Beijing's bull-dozers (see post from Daily Telegraph's China Correspondant Richard Spencer). Because Beijing's preservation plan seems not always to protect where it was supposed to.


For the moment, I suggest, the easiest was to enjoy the charming courtyards is to have dinner at one of the many restaurants located in courtyard houses.


The Source
Superbly restored old Hutong House with delicious, spicy set menu (120 or 190 RMB).
14 Banchang Alley, Kuan Jie, Dongcheng, phone 6400 3736

Red Capital Club
Red Capital Restaurant opened in 1999, followed by Mr. Brahm's boutique hotel. Both are crammed with Mao-mentos - Cultural Revolution paintings and figurines, antique phones, radios and actual chairs from Zongnanhai. The courtyard restaurant can't be missed in the alley as Mrs. Mao's car is parked outside.
66, Dongsi Jiu Tiao, Dongsi Dajie.

Mei Fu or Mei's Mansion
Peking opera master Mei Langang's favorite dishes are served in this three-level courtyard house. Dinner is an experience in this low-lit, chic and contemporary, restored 200-year-old Hutong with its fountains and pebbles and simply furnished dining salons. Set menu, around 300 RMB per person. Little English is spoken.
24 Daxianfeng Hutong, Houhai, Xicheng, phone 6612 6845

Yi He Ya Ju
Very popular, very casual restaurant with two 'beer garden' like gardens. Ideal for lunch combined with a walk in Ritan park or shopping in this area. It serves a mix of Sichuan, Shandong, Cantonese, Beijing and Shanghai cuisine.
Northeast corner of Ritan Park, Cahoyang, 8561 7643
(some expats call it the 'hole in the wall restaurant', because of its entrance)

Dali Courtyard
Hidden off an Alley. Warm and rustic, with coal furnaces, and old jazz tunes.
67 Xiaojingchang Hutong, Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng, phone 8404 1430

Huajia Yiyuan
Courtyard with painted girder and roofs. Beijing style food.
235 Dongzhimennei Dajie, phone 6405 1908

The Gourmet Room
A small courtyard with delicate cantonese food and good wine.
Mo - Thur 6 pm - 9.30 pm, Fri - Sun 11 am - 2 pm, 6 pm - 9.30 pm.
3 Qianhai Xijie, Shichahai, Xicheng District 3, phone 6613 9641

Yan Yi Shan Zhai Ge Ge Fu
Staff dressed in ancient Chinese costumes. The cuisine is the so-called 'official cuisine' and there are nutritional soups. (??)
11 am - 2 pm, 4.30 pm - 10.30 pm.
9 Daqudeng Hutong, Meishuguan Houjie, Dongcheng, phone 6407 8006

Tan Hua Xuan
Tanjia Cuisine featuring the best of all Chinese cuisines.
112 Gulou Xidajie, Xicheng, phone 6403 3171

Baijia Dazhaimen
Official cuisine served in a Qing Dynasty king's former residence.
15 Suzhou Jie, Haidan, phone 6265 4186

Family Yue's Banquet House
Nutrious soups in the backyard of a king's former residence (same king as above?...).
29 Suzhou Jie, Haidan, phone 8262 5960

Village of the beautiful stove
Local Jiangxi food prepared in porcelain pots and nutritious soups
11 Suzhou Jie, Haidan, phone 6253 8883

Gui Gong Fu's
two yards are the best part of the restaurants as the rooms are a bit dark. The courtyard is said to belong to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) empress Cixi's brother. The restaurant is famous for its dishes made of tea ingredients, as well as for Cantonese and Sichuan cuisines. 10.30 am - 2 pm, 5 pm - 10.30 pm.
11 Dafangjia Hutong, Chaoyangmennei Nanxiao Jie, Dongcheng, phone 6512 7677

Plenty of space for outdoor and indoor dining. It's a three level courtyard house adapted from a nunnery where a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) princess spent her life as a nun. Vegetarian food.
10 am - 10 pm. 200 meters north of North gate of Taoranting Park,
10-16 Heiyaochang Jie, Xuanwu District, phone 63557348

Courtyard No 28
Small restaurant with a big tree and three rooms decorated in ancient Chinese Style. Spicy Guilin and Sichuan food. 11 am - 11 pm.
1 Xilou Hutong, South of Lama Temple, Dongcheng, phone 8401 6788

Crabapple House
Inside simple and a bit dark, outside under wisteria vine two wooden benches. Menu in Chinese and quiet expensive. Maybe better for tea time in the garden.
32 Xuanwumen Xidajie, Xuanwu District, phone 8315 4678


Remark: There is this chic restaurant called The Courtyard, that is overlooking the moat and the Eastern wall of the Forbidden City. Despite its name it is not a typical courtyard house and offers elegant indoor dining. The contemporary art gallery has moved from the basement out of town to Shunyi. Instead you could dine very intimate with a cozy bed next to the table... Reservation some days in advance:
95 Donghuamen Dajie, Dongcheng, phone 6526 8883


Oh, well, I have to say, I did not know that there are sooo many courtyard restaurants. I have tried only three or four so far. And I will use this list to check them out one by one, as it is courtyard season right now!


One more thought after reading Richard Spencer's post and the comments... I have never before thought about what has happend to the former residents of a courtyard restaurant or bar. Were they forced out? Were they compensated accordingly? Not only modern developpment projects are a threat to hutong residents even restaurants and bars might be.


- China Daily's Beijing Weekend Guide (May 18-20), list of romantic courtyard restaurants,
- Luxe City Guide Beijing for the review and addresses of the Source, Mei Fu, Dali Courtyard, The Courtyard,
- That's Beijing's tbjhome (May 2007) for the courtyard renovation and purchase articles 'Hutong Heaven' and 'This Courting Life' by Tom Luckock. For further info about renting, buying and renovating courtyards contact the writer at or visit his website about his two renovated courtyard houses. One is for rent, and one is a Bed & Breakfast that will open during 2007.
- photo via Red Capital Club

My older post:Beijing Courtyard House sells for Record Price (April 2007)

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Happy in Beijing

Dear Blogger-Friends and Friends,

thank you for your supportive words. I am sitting here and smiling and won't stop blogging any soon as I might already be a bit addicted to the daily creative dose.

I thought it is a bit funny to blackmail my readers to comment on my blog. (If you do not comment, I stop posting). I had this idea when I came across a German blog ( where the blogger (Patrick) offered to comment on posts that had zero comments. You just had to let him know the link and he would go to your post write a serious comment. I saw that I am not the only one who is a lot more happy with a comment than without a comment.

So see you back soon, at my blog or your blog.

Best wishes from Beijing - have a long or short but nice weekend,


Wednesday, 16 May 2007

No Comment

Dear Reader,

thank you for stopping by. You do not really have to comment on my post if you do not like to.

But no comments at all? Mmmh... it is a little bit frustrating... just a little bit, yes, I have to admit. When I started blogging, I considered the blog as a personal playground for writing. But then I looked around and saw all these beautiful blogs and blogger-ladies and gentlemen that get tons of comments. So, I started thinking, maybe that is a sign of a good and interesting post. It is indeed. (Although there are good posts around with no comments - and I am not talking of mine now). Take for example my new blogger-friend Maryam from My Marrakesh. She is unbelievable popular, her posts read like fairytales and she gets 30 comments in average. Thirty! Great posts of her get over 60 comments.

Okay, I am not competing and I should not compare. But I learned over the last six months (that is about how long I am blogging) that comments are something nice to have! You get to know other blogs and you feel rewarded. So, slowly I could see how my writing started to try attract more readers. And as it did not, I think I have to review my intention as blogging is time and energy consuming.

Yesterday, I gave my blog URL an old friend from the States. He used to be in IT, but has retired and moved to some rural area in Northern California. I am saying this because maybe it's explaning his response (via email): Suzie, I have to admit, it is the very fist time I have ever gone to any blog, so I really do not know what to do there.

This made me think. I have lots of non-blogging visitors. And I remember that anonymous comment from the Netherlands saying: when you are not writing about personal life you should focus on one special subject.

I feel like my blog is a mess. And before closing it down I will change something. So far, I had fun writing. But maybe I post too many details. Mmmmh... Why don't you leave me some nice comments right now? Now, I could really use a comment! And this is what blogs are for: to communicate around the globe.

Thank you for leaving your thoughts!

Bye for now


PS: I will not further post until there are at least 3 comments! ;-)
PPS: Feel free to comment on older posts!

Remark: You do not have to have a blogger account to make comments. Just use your name, nickname or anonymously.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Tagged !

I always enjoy reading a blogger’s personal notes in a meme-game. It reminds me of my old school days when you had to write your favourites into colourful albums. Now, I was tagged by Ian (Ocean Front) in Newfoundland, one of my faithful returning visitors.

And here are my answers:

10 years ago I was...
…living in Germany and celebrating with my boyfriend our first anniversary in Rome (we are now in our seventh year of marriage)

1 year ago I was...
… still acclimatizing to life in Beijing and starting to learn Mandarin.

5 snacks I enjoy:
All sorts of chocolate (from Ferrero & Lindt) and marzipan and Italian ice cream (are these snacks?)

5 songs you know all the lyrics to:
* I will survive (Gloria Gaynor)
* You are too good to be true, can’t take my eyes of you,…(?)
* La vie en rose (Edith Piaff)
* Paff, the magic dragon lives by the sea … (from my son’s kindergarten)
… and many other children songs

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire:
* Invest part of the money so I can live from interests until the end of my life
* Buy a house at the beach in Thailand
* Pay school fees for children of an orphanage
* Study painting, art history and interior design
* Invite friends and family for nice holidays every year

5 bad habits:
* I am not very patient
* I am too straight forward sometimes, not very diplomatic
* I don't like to respect rules (that I consider stupid)
* I go to bed too late and love to sleep in the morning
* I am lazy and enjoy it

5 things I like doing...
... reading, writing, travelling with my husband, getting a foot massage (including a back, head & neck massage), drinking Champagne with girlfriends and red wine to a good meal (even one or two glasses too much), surfing the Internet

5 things I will never wear again...
… my beautiful wedding dress ...
… the orange helmet for skiing downhill when I was a kid…
and I still own clothes that do not fit me anymore hoping that I will loose my extra kilos one day ;-)

5 favorite toys...
* my notebook
* my new Canon EOS 400 D
* flickr (I love to see all these beautiful photos and share mine)
* interior design magazines & books
* paper and pencils (always in my purse to make notes)

Now, I guess the rule is to tag five more people. It is not easy, because most have been tagged already althoug with different questions. I hope you enjoy the game, because I will tag you ladies:

Gaile (in Candada)
Kim (in Canada)
Maureen (in Montana)
Mette (from Norway)
MidcenturyJo (in Australia)

Photo: from Alice via

PS: I am tired of blogging ... I am gone for a foot massage ;-)

Monday, 14 May 2007

Beijing: Panjiayuan Antique Market

This Must visit antique market is known under many names: weekend market, Sunday market, antique market, flea market and some call it the 'dirt market'. The Chinese name is Panjiayuan market and it is not only on Sundays, even not only on weekends and it is not dirty at all. Last Saturday morning when our son went to school, we had that desire to browse once again that huge market of thousands of treasures (on about 45 thousand sqm).
I have taken my new 'toy' and made some pictures to share:

Porcelain and Shanghai poster girl in front of an antique shop

Chairman Mao and military stuff (I hope the hand grenades are fake)

Brushes for Chinese calligraphy and painting

Chinese cyclist in traffic jam from sheet metal

Browsing is part of the fun

'The difference between crap and treasure is luck, hard work and arriving early.', says the Beijing LUXE city guide.

Find more pictures and map and an American Journalist about Beijing's Dirt (cheap) Market.

Part of the market is open every day, but the real thing happens on Saturdays and Sundays from about 7am to 5pm at the 3rd ring road East. Every taxi in town knows the market.

Ask your concierge to write the destination in Chinese language for the taxi driver. And even more important: make sure you have the address of your accommodation in Chinese language otherwise you might not find your way back.

Photo Source: all mine !

Saturday, 12 May 2007

The Beijing Peony

The pink peony is Chinese painters' favorite flower. And the pink peony is in a famous Beijing pattern. The pink peony often comes along with a blue rose and some exotic bird on red, blue and green background. Although it is a beautiful pattern, the business man and woman of the souvenir shops focus more on silk. I know only one shop selling peony pattern pillow cases (in Liangma Flower Market, stand 23, one case for 15 yuan). Some shops sell peony pattern notebooks. I personally own about a dozen pillow cases with the peony pattern and bought peony pattern fabric in blue from Miyuan Fabric Market to make a table cloth. Recently I discovered the peony pattern on a postcard (picture above).

However, Philippe Starck, him again, seems to have discovered the same interest in the peony pattern (maybe while designing the interior of Lan restaurant in Beijing). I was well amazed to see his Ghost chairs padded with 'my' Beijing peonies.

Again: China Style goes gobal...


Friday, 11 May 2007

Chinese Furniture in Modern Life

While Chinese people run to IKEA to decorate their modern homes with western style furniture, China style is popular in the West.

Furniture in Asia has Chinese roots. Thais as other Asians used to live on the floor (sleeping, eating, sitting). While in China in the 12th century the use of stools and chairs was widely spread. The Ming period (1368-1644) was considered as the golden age of Chinese furniture. Timeless simplicity and perfect proportions of Ming furniture allow these pieces to fit even today in the most modern homes around the world. Later, heavy ornate carvings were the style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Take a look into today's interior design magazines. Pictures of beautiful modern houses with blue and white ginger jars on the chimney or a horse shoe shaped Chinese chair in the hallway are never missing.

A piece of Chinese furniture can make you dream of far away countries and can be functional at the same time. Chinese altar tables serving as console tables, opium bed serving as coffee tables, wedding cabinets serving as TV storage, pharmacy cabinets serving as CD storage, wooden rice container serving as magazine stand… the list is long.

Living in Beijing and exploring Panjiayuan Antique Market, Gaobeidian Village or Chaowai Furniture Warehouse I can find lots of examples. I will keep you posted!

And if the Chinese furniture looks 'too Chinese' lacquer them in white colour!

Remark: Funny, the nicest Chinese furniture we saw was in Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong and not in Beijing.

Photos: from different magazines showing from top left clockwise: white lacquered daybed, bedroom with two wedding cabinets in pastel colour, bedroom with wedding cabinet Ming Style, bedroom with storage boxes and Chinese door serving as paravent.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Blue Sky Polluted ?

A blue sky in Beijing does not mean it is a lovely day and kids can play outside with no harm. I frequently check the air pollution index and realize it is difficult to see the pollution. When their is yellow fog outside, you know to be careful and avoid outdoor activities. But a lovely day like today (May 10) surprisingly shows me pollution level 3 (116 mg PM10 per cubic meter). Nevertheless a day below index 150 count as a 'blue sky day' by the Government - a success in environment protection. Different countries different standards.

My previous posts about air pollution in Beijing with more details:
Beijing: Air Quality Improves
New Blue Skies Target
Air Pollution Summary 2006
Air Pollution in Beijing

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

China Style

China is conquering the world with style.

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) are the two famous styles that influenced Chinese furniture, pottery and art. In the 1930ies another style developed in Shanghai, the Paris of the East. A fusion of Eastern and Western styles including both Chinese bright colours and Western Art Deco elements created the famous so called 'China Chic' or 'Shanghai Chic' style.

In the 21st century China style is hotter than ever! It was never out of demand. Today, you do not have to travel the Silk Road to get Chinese decorative items. Interior Design shops around the globe offer Chinese lamps, vases or the famous wedding cabinets. Hollywood celebrities wearing qipao, form-fitting Chinese silk dresses. Chinese modern artists are best sellers. Stylish Chinese restaurants, bars and courtyard houses are en vogue among foreigners and Chinese. A copy of the private China Club in Hong Kong has opened in Berlin in 2003.

All pictures are from the book CHINA STYLE(photos by Michael Freeman, text by Sharon Leece, printed in Singapore by PERIPLUS). The small pictures above represents 'China Modern' Style. The larger pictures above are taken at the China Club, Hong Kong decorated in 'Shanghai Chic' Style and at a private residence in Shanghai, French Concession. (I love the lemon green painted wall!)

Remark: I own this book and love to look at the pictures. After this post I think it is time to also study it as Sharon Leece has done a great work. Here an extract from her table of contents:

'China Style Goes Global, Ming and Qing Elegance Redefined, The New Mandarin Style, An Eclectic Mix, Chinoiserie Old and New, The New Orientalism, Brilliant Baroque, The New Shanghai Style, Retro Modern, Art Deco Decadence, Shanghai Chic, The New Jazz Age, China Modern, Stylish Minimalism, East West Fusion, Zen Sanctuary, Decorating China Style, Ming and Qing Furniture, China Country Style ...'

Doesn't this sound interesting? At you can search inside the bookfor more pictures!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


In Rome, just 5 minutes by motorino from the Spanish stairs, in a beautiful park of palm and lemon trees lives Mafalda Princess of Hesse with her family in a red coloured villa. The Villa Polisena was featured as ‘La Dolce Villa’ in the Architectural Digest Magazine of April 2007 (German Issue). What caught my eyes was the Chinese salon with an impressing Chinese painting style Wallpaper.

The Princess was interviewed about the story behind the house. Her grandfather Prince Philipp von Hesse came from Germany to Rome in the early 20ties to study architecture. On a party he met her grandmother, Mafalda of Savoy, the daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III. of Savoy and Queen Elena. When they got married in 1925 they were given a piece of land - the land the villa is now located. It was the former vegetable garden of the Italian Royal Family. The construction of the villa was influenced by the taste of the Nobles at that time, the style of the 18th century. This was when Chinese Salons were en vogue. ‘Such a room used to express that you were well-educated and widely travelled’, tells the Princess. The Chinoiserie-wallpaper was repaired by three generations. Some mandarins become blond nevertheless.

Chinoiserie was the style of European art in the 18th century modelled on Chinese art. Chinese products such as silk, porcelain, paintings and artifacts came to Europe via the famous Silk Road in the 17th and 18th century.

Photo: Oliver Mark, AD

Travel: Amazing Thailand

When we moved to Thailand back in 1998 the Tourism Authorities had launched the slogan 'Amazing Thailand'. It is so true. Thailand is amazing. It is now four years that we had to move on but we never stopped coming back once or twice a year. Whenever we arrive in the heat of Bangkok there is this amazing spell, 'smooth as silk', that makes us feel at ease right away.

It is the heat that makes me slow down, it is the smile in every face that makes me smile too. It is the lush green of the plants that pleases my eyes, it is the smell of frangipanis that seduces me. It is the respect paid to foreigners that makes me feel special. It is the affordable life style that makes me feel rich. It is the tropical design of fabrics and furniture that inspires me. It is the foot massages that makes me relax. It is the delicious food that makes me feel good. It is the daily sunshine that makes me happy. It is the tropical rain that I love. It is the white beaches and the warm turquoise sea that makes me dream.
- What a wonderful country! -

Above: Thai woman making the 'wai' from Marriott Hotel Phuket website
Mosaic from left: Jim Thompson Andaman Sea Fabric collection from Elle Decoration Thai Issue, Sala at the Marriott Phuket from website, Oriental Hotel Bangkok Authors Wing form website, Frangipani, Bird of Paradise, Opium daybed;


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