Friday, 15 December 2006

Alarming Statistics in Beijing

Today's Alarming Statistic published by That's Beijing:
588 lifts in Beijing were labelled safety risks during a recent city-wide inspection of lifts.

Last week's Alarming Statistic:
263,000 video cameras are monitoring your activities in Beijing (in government departments and public areas, including universities, shopping malls, hotels and residential communities).

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Air Pollution in Beijing

The yesterday's air pollution level 5 or 500 microgram of particulate matter (PM10) per cubic meter was not an all time high. Level 5 was reached for the 7th time this year. Thereof 3 times at least 500 mgr/m3. They stop counting above 500. You can check the history of Beijing's air by entering Beijing and 2006-01-01 to 2006-12-13 at this link: Air Quality Daily Report for 84 Major Cities In China

The Insider’s guide to Beijing once published a statement of a doctor from the Beijing United Family Hospital saying that you should avoid going outside when 150 mgr/m3 are reached.
Others see it even more critical. E.g., the Australian Department of Environment and the German Ministry of Environment aim for a daily maximum concentration of 50 micrograms of PM10 per cubic metre. In Germany every city is allowed to exceed this goal only 35 days per year while in Australia apparently only five days. So in Beijing do not only look at the terrible ‘500’-days but count all the days in 2006 when the ‘50’-goal was exceeded: Year to date, there were 322 polluted days in Beijing vs. only 25 ‘healthy’ days. :-(
See also Every breath you take in Beijing by DANWEI.

Visiting Beijing's 'TCM Guru'

I went to see my Chinese Doctor again. I never know in advance which therapy he has for me in mind on that day. Acupuncture, heat therapy, cupping or acupressure massage? It turned out I will have it all.

First acupuncture. I hate needles. I used to almost faint whenever a nurse gave me an injection. Although, acupuncture does not really hurt it is not comfortable for all body areas. That visit, I got two needles in my face, ouch!  Near my nose below the eye - after telling him that my sinus is blocked often.

Then the friendly assistant put warm pillows on my belly where the doctor had put other needles and covered me with thick blankets. Candles, joss sticks and soft Chinese music provided a relaxing atmosphere. After some minutes, the assistant started to give me a very gentle neck massage. In my first session the doctor found that especially the right site of my neck is very stiff which blocks the sympathetic nervous system that leads to my lack of energy. During the treatment I always try to listen to my body and feel the connections between the different areas. Funnily the neck massage caused a warm feeling around the acupuncture needles in my belly. And the warm pillows seemed to burn me,  although with the time the heat should diminish.

After the massage he took out the needles and I had to turn around. I hoped for another massage on my back but gave up when I heard the lighting of a flame. Cupping was on the menu. Today, the cupping did not make me feel like my skin is burning, like it did the first time. Strangely it was a cool feeling. In my opinion cupping must have been a torture tool until they found out that it makes the victim feel better afterwards. It apparently takes out the toxic of the body. And when the spots are dark purple, not only at the border but the whole circle, then it was really time for you to see the TCM doctor. The next session of cupping will show a better result, reddish border only.

40 minutes later my session was over and I got a little bag with herbal medicine from the doctor's wife. Again brown pills for warming up my belly, to swallow with warm water twice a day. There is no doctor's invoice or certificate. I payed cash into a vase on the floor in the living room: 100 RMB for the treatment, and another 100 RMB for any herbal medicine.

Is this TCM treatment cheap? My doctor says, he appreciates that we are willing to pay him 100 RMB out of our own pocket. When we go to western hospitals in Beijing we get charged 90 USD for one consultation only. But this is covered by our insurances and we do not pay anything out of our own pocket. That is why the Chinese medicine students that want to make money follow western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine is dying.

But again, is he really cheap? His 100 RMB per session is about double the price that other Chinese doctors charge. But he is the one who speaks English. Therefor his medical practice is attracting more foreign patients, less locals.

He is smart, he is friendly, and he has a good team. Above all, he is dedicated to his work. He is very popular with expats. Lots of people I know go to see him. Almost every expat has heard of him. He seems to be the ‘TCM Guru’ in town.

Who is he? - Dr. Paul (Jiriu) Lan's background is Osteology, Orthopaedics and Traumatology. He has worked as a resident physician at the Beijing College of Acupuncture for five years and at the Wang Jing Hospital in Beijing from 1997 to 2001. Since 2001 he is a teacher and attending physician at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Since 1998, he is a guest lecturer at the Bio Medica School in Switzerland. In 2003, he has developed his own method, the Yi Fang TCM System, which has refined and integrated various useful theories and techniques on medicine both of the East and the West. The focus of this method is on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases.

Sometimes, he is also teaching expat groups the basics of the logic of Chinese Medicine in his living room. I had the chance to take part in these lessons. A second course was on "Tai Ji": the relationship between Yi Jing, TCM and Qi Gong - and Tai Ji practice, the way to use mind, heart and body.

I would say his "followers" are about 90% foreigners. And out of them about 70% are female. The average age of the female patient is around 40 years. I think this is when you get aware of the limits of your body and need to get some issues solved that western doctors cannot solve that easy because of unclear symptoms. - So far my personal analysis.

And the result after four TCM sessions? - Do I feel better? - Yes, I do feel lighter, taller, more relaxed, more energetic. The result is better than after any traditional reflexology massage that just feels good but does not really do much to the body. So I decided to continue with my ‘TCM Guru’ after the holidays.

TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine
100 Rmb = 10 Euro = 12 USD (about)


Update 2013:
After those two needles, six years ago, I never ever had a blocked sinus again!


Sunday, 10 December 2006

Chinese Medicine against cold and flu

Best thing to prevent a cold or flu is to wrap up warm. Yes, I would have thought so. My Chinese Doctors recommends wearing long underwear. Keeping lower body and feet warm, he says, is more important than keeping the head warm.

But when it’s too late… what else?

  • Drink a cup of hot Coca Cola boiled with ginger
  • Cook pears with rock sugar and drink the juice (for coughing)
  • Qio Li Gao herbal syrup (to mix with warm water for keeping lungs ‘moisturized’)
  • Nin Jiom Pei Pa Kao coughing syrup (for all ages when dry cough – my favourite - also available in Thailand! - taste great - also as candy)
  • or Chuan Bej Pi Ba Lu coughing syrup
  • Liu Shen Wan (black pills for infected throat, voice box or loss of voice)
  • Wang Shi Bao Chi Wan (herb for common flu, for children)

My private old "European" recipe from my Dad, also works well:
Squeeze a lemon, add boiled water (1 cup), and honey or rock sugar.

Stay healthy through the winter months!!

Friday, 8 December 2006

No Shitting in the Toilet

Public toilets should be avoided in China as long as you can!

Better hold it until you find a five star hotel or restaurant with clean western style restrooms.

However, going to a public toilet could be an adventure you can talk or even write (!) about.

Recently, I had to use a public toilet in Liulichang, a nice pedestrian lane in Beijing downtown. I thought in the morning hours, I might find it ‘ma ma hu hu’, so so, and not too disgusting. Wrong! Hold your breath!

I went inside. Of course there were no doors in front of the ‘peepee boxes’. The first two boxes were occupied… in the third one, watch out, shit was lying BESIDE the hole. Beside the hole! Who the h#ll is shitting beside the hole?!

I have never before heard about the ‘no shitting in the toilet’* rule.

I stepped back, and walked further. In the next box a woman had exposed her used sanitary napkin... Aahhhh! Horrible! I walked back and forward again, confused, and at the end, wow, surprise, I saw that little western style toilet with a wooden seat. I guess, this is for the older woman that cannot squat. I was breathing through my mouth. The smell was intense. And I was done faster than ever.

Rushing out, thinking I made it, I got the next shock. No sinks anywhere to wash your hands! I stood already in the street and looked at all these Chinese walking by. I had this terrible feeling that they all did not wash their hands... So, this was Beijing downtown. A nicely renovated pedestrian zone.

Another day, another terrible toilet was near the Great Wall. There they did not even have separated boxes. Just a long dump you have to squat over and try to do your business. I did not dare as I was afraid to faint and fall into the dump...

But there is good news. In preparation for the Olympic Games 2008 everything seems to improve - including public toilets.

Recently, I came across a public toilet at a temple far away from the city. First, I thought this will be just another terrible experience. But no! Surprise, this toilet was 'four star rated' by the Beijing Tourism Administration! I was very impressed indeed! There were doors in front of the cabins! There were several western style toilet seats. It was a real water-closet, you could flush! There was a sink to wash your hands. And there was a hairdryer (just in case you needed to wash your hair in the toilet(sink)?)... My friend told me that major tourist attractions have star rated toilets nowadays.

So don’t worry. If you are thirsty, drink, you don't need to hold it, toilets improve.

Check out more about toilets at The Beijing Guide

* ) After discussing my toilet experience with other Beijingers I learnt that there is a toilet regulation for public toilets that have no water flush. No shitting into the toilet avoids congestion. There seems to be professional shit collectors that come by with their cart and take away the shit.

Big photo by Sander&Jessica

Update March 2013:
Recently, a friend sent me an article in a German newspaper, saying that there are new regulations for public toilets. First, they should not be too smelly (what ever that means) and second, the amount of flies should be limited (no April fool's joke). It was not stated who would be in charge to monitor the flies to ensure a public toilet meets the target.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Beijing Restaurant: LAN

Zhang Lan, chairwoman of the South Beauty chain of restaurants, has recently opened her 21st restaurant. These upscale Chinese restaurants serve Sichuan favourites in stylish environment. But LAN's interior is different from all others.

LAN is an incredible restaurant-bar-nightclub wonderland. It is huge in all dimensions:

- 6,000 sqm space
- Capacity of up to 1,000 diners at one time
- Several millions of dollars costs
- Designed by world-famous designer Philippe Starck.

Where other designers think about trend, Philippe Starck says, he thinks about ‘vision, love, surrealism, poetry, surprise’. Not to compare with Starck’s famous Felix bar in Hong Kong’s Peninsula Hotel, Starck’s LAN is a high stylised mish mash of chaise longues, rhino heads, ornate mirrors, leather seats, chandeliers of plastic junk, classical paintings suspended, face down, from the ceiling. The private rooms in style of Mongolian tents and the ‘powder rooms’ are a must see.

LAN, Starck’s first project on the Mainland, definitely adds a new spirit to Beijing.

And soon to New Year too! Site renovation for a new restaurant in New York City's Times Square begins later this year. The $3 million to $4 million Philippe Starck-designed New York locale is to include a Chinese modern art gallery.

By 2008 Zhang Lan wants 100 restaurants, at least half of them overseas. Other spots should include Japan, France, Italy and India.

LAN's price category: $$$

4/F Twintowers B-12
Chaoyang District - Beijing
Tel : (+86 10) 5109 6012/6013

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

10 Things to Do in December in Beijing

What do expatriates do in Beijing in December?

There are lots of fun things to do before the holidays:

1) Buying gifts for family, friends and neighbours back home in one of the many markets
2) Visiting one of the Christmas charity bazaars in the Embassies and drink hot herbal red wine
3) School Christmas events and Kindergarten Winter parties with Santa Claus for photo shoots
4) Company Christmas dinners in huge Chinese restaurants
5) Christmas luncheons form different ladies’ organisations
6) Buying more Xmas decoration for your home at the flower markets
7) Ice skating on frozen lakes in the city parks - on chairs or even bikes
8) Skiing on artificial snow on the slopes outside Beijing
9) Visiting Harbin-like ice sculptures just outside Beijing
10) Ordering a goose back home via (very clever!)

Most of the expats in Beijing fly to their home countries during the holidays. Winter is cold and very dry in Beijing (so dry that your nose might bleed). Most visitors do prefer visiting Beijing in spring or autumn. So if you want to see your family and friends, you might plan to go home. And those who don't, but don't want to stay, hop on a plane to Sanya island or even further South, to one of the sandy beaches of Thailand. Bangkok is just a five hours flight from Beijing. You need to book your flight well in advance.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Good afternoon Beijing!

Here I am with my Beijing Notebook!

This is my first blog, but not my first website. I am so exited beeing creative again. I am going to write about everything that catches my interest in Beijing. About Chinese Culture (TCM, Feng Shui, ink wash painting etc.), some shopping (how and where to get the best deals), new and old restaurants, sight seeing, bicycling, learning Mandarin and much more.

It will be fun for me and hopefully for you too.


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