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


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