Capoeira and Lifestyle….

Wow, feels like the blog is a ghost town since I started running Beijing Daze and The Noodle Diaries… truth be said, Facebook actually is the main culprit as most people that used to read things on here now keep up with my adventures over on Facebook. Still, every so often, I do get the urge to write and it’s not necessarily related to music or Chinese food or even Beijing in any way, shape or form.. I guess I just have a lot to blabber about.

Granted, this is not much blabber.. it’s a lifestyle issue!
I’ve become really addicted to Capoeira and obsessed with health to some extent ( not to the extent of quitting cigarettes though).

So, I started Capoeira about 2 years ago now, on and off depending on injuries and other distractions… still, what started as a new mean of exercise to stay in shape and keep the diabetes demons away is slowly turning into one hell of an important part of my life: I love the dancing and martial arts aspect but what I love even more is the spirit behind Capoeira: that sense of community i was actually missing when I played football with my teams between ’06 and ’09.

This past weekend, my relationship with Capoeira took yet another turn after our group organized and hosted a fantastic set of workshops with world renowned Ido Portal… This guy was an amazing Capoeirista in his own right until he threw it all out the window and started again from scratch learning about the basics of the body.

I was kinda of afraid that his workshop would be a bit too intense for me but i left it craving more and wanting more…. the guy can teach and has charisma! If u get a chance to attend any of his workshops, do go for it.

Missed the Kitchen

I’ve missed cooking… sure, Beijing has a wealth of restaurants doing all kinds of interesting stuff but when it really comes down to it, it’s nice to be at home, spend some time in the kitchen and then sit down to enjoy the fruit of one’s labour.

As things slowed down in Beijing during these holidays, I find myself increasingly attracted to my knives, pots, spices and various herbs, fusing them together and delighting in the resulting tastes and flavors.

So far this week, pasta has yet to make an appearance on my plates. Tagines were the de-rigueur dish on Sunday when a friend came over for dinner: Lemon Chicken tagine, apple/carrot/raisins salad as well as a simple-but-oh-so-good dish of garlic & olive oil mushrooms all complemented by a fantastic 2004 La Bete Pinot from Oregon. Lish is managing to get me over my pinot bias with every single bottle she’s had me taste so far.

I’m gonna have to find a way to keep this up a minimum of twice a week.

State of the Mind

Hiya, it’s 2011 in case you haven’t noticed so belated happy new year!!!

Gosh, it feels like such a long time since we spoke I’m not sure where to start with updates/news/etc…. I guess I’ll have to take it one item at a time.

2010 is over and we’re already a few days deep in 2011. I am excited about this year just about as much as I am scared of it and that for a number of reason: 2010 was good! An absolute blast of a year where a lot of things finally seemed to go right after a few year of instability, doubt, personal issues and whatever else you can think off.

On the professional side of things, I’ve officially been working for the same company for over 4 years if we don’t count the 2 months when i quit back in 2008. I’ve managed to achieve the wonderfully pretentious title of “Director of Information Technology” which sounds really nice and pretentious on a business card but in reality is a just a decent little ploy for a promotion without a real raise. Still, it’s been a good ride and I have enjoyed the challenges of dealing with a department split over 3 continents. I used to say “we were the smallest multinational company in the world” considering we had offices in Cape Town, Amsterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong amongst others at various points. It made for some lovely travel opportunities as well! Unfortunately, part of my duties was to save the company some money and consolidate operations in Beijing. I regret to say i really succeeded and while the general Manager might be a happy camper, I’ve lost all of those wonderful travel opportunities.
The commitment to the company unfortunately meant that for the first time since maybe 2001, I focused on only one business. 7thGalaxy was relegated to after-thought status, sinocamps was shut down and all my consulting gigs dropped. It almost felt like a vacation and allowed me enough time for the pursuit of an old flame: music

If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you’re undoubtedly aware of beijingdaze, my alter ego if you will. It has become a passion and a fascination of mine to go around Beijing and suck the marrow out of its bones, enjoying every single thing it has to offer, mostly in music and Chinese restaurant. In the span of one and a half years, I’ve turned my little blog into The Reference as far as Beijing’s underground rock scene goes… and let me tell ya folks, it’s a fascinating one! I’m no Lester Bangs, but i have not felt this alive in a long time, going into the deepest underbelly of the best and seeing the scene grow before me. If you’re curious about music or Beijing in general, give it a read, you’ll be surprised at what you might find out.
This scene is incredibly open and non pretentious with most musicians hanging out like your average joe blow, sipping a beer and eating kebabs.

2010 was also the year I finally broke out of my China Blues and started exploring other Asian countries finally.. and no, Hong Kong and Macao do not count as other Asian countries. I had the opportunity to head over to lovely Malaysia back in March for a quick 5 days and fell in love with that place! I can’t wait to go back and see it again! The food was amazing, the beaches of a lovely island called Langkawi stole my heart and the melting pot that Malaysian society is fascinated me.

I was also lucky enough to head over to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup where I got to watch a few games live in the stadium.. for a football freak like me, that was a dream come true. 2 of the better games i was lucky enough to see in a stadium were Germany-Ghana and Spain-Portugal…. am I a lucky man? yes, you better believe it.

I also had the opportunity to head back to that is now one of my favorite regions of the world: Xinjiang Province. We went there with some of my bestest friends in september for a cruelly brief 4 days but I’m so enamored with that region that I’ll take a day trip if I can get it. Xinjiang is in central Asia, the western most province in China and home to tons of minorities: Kazhaks, Uighurs, Tadjiks, Russians, Mongols etc… it’s been at the crossroads of trade and civilization for soo freaking long that it’s magical. you can be on a bus roaming the highway by the desert and see ghosts of camel caravans crossing over the Taklamakan desert into the Karakul pass carrying spices into Europe.

What now in 2011? I honestly don’t know! Beijing is home at this point in time and that is the only certainty. The longer I stay here and get involved, the harder it gets to even think about leaving. Don’t get me wrong, I still long for challenges, adventure and checking out new places. I still firmly believe that when i turn 35, I WILL retire to Australia and open my Pizzeria by the beach.. but that’s still a few years away! For now, I’m mostly aiming to keep the ship steady in 2011, try to save up a bit and maybe explore some new business opportunities. oh, yeah, I also shaved my head in a desperate bid to come to terms with my resceding hair line… I’ll let you know how that goes some other time 🙂

I’m not really big on New Year resolutions but if I had one, it would be mostly to try and keep up with my friends that I have somewhat ignored while being too immersed in this life. We all have families, jobs, and what not but that’s not an excuse to not say HI every so often. I hope this summary email, as general as it might be, is a first step. It’s already been great that I managed to meet up with friends i had not seen for almost 10 years both in Beijing and Cape Town.

I miss a lot of people in Tallahassee, Crestview, New Orleans, Jackson, Paris, Casablanca, Portland, Rio, Bergen, Shanghai, Montpellier…..the list is long!

Hope to see you soon.

Love, Hugs, Kisses

winter ramblings

Gee.. where did 2010 go? I feel like it was just yesterday when the first snowfall of the year caught us unaware on halloween night 2009 and here we are again looking at halloween 2010 less than 10 days away. I’m not really sure why but this one has gone through really really fast.

It’s about 5:25 pm and the sky is pretty dark from pollution, cold, haze and daze which is just depressing to some extent. It’s hard to find the motivation to come out of it and get anything done or go anywhere today but alas, duty calls!!! there are dinners to attend, concerts to enjoy, KTV to be sung etc…

I swear, if i could manage my professional life the way i handle my social calendar, Larry Ellison would have nothing on me.

Talking about professional stuff… it’s always kinda fun and games… I’m trying to find more time to dedicate to the bastard child of the cerbex family: Request Rooms! (
It’s a funny beast this one: We’re trying to take a good 5 years of B2B group travel experience and leverage it for the benefit of the average consumer. We’re trying to make it easier for groups ( families, businesses etc…) to book rooms across europe, especially when they’re doing multiple cities.
In theory, this is quite cool but it’s proving harder than expected… Too many errors, business mistakes and what not have kinda screwed us over on this new baby but there is a bit of renewed hope. here’s trying for it!

did I mention it was gonna be a long winter?

electric Beijing or how i joined the e-bike revolution with a Yamaha Metis Max

I posted last week over at about the complexities and steps required to procure a driver’s license and motorcycle license plate in Beijing which can be quite a process if you wanna do it all legally… which i did! After a few weeks of trying really hard to procure myself a gas-powered two-wheeler, I finally gave up and went the “greener” route with an e-bike.

The idea has been floating around my brain for almost a year, after reading Kaiser Kuo’s musings about owning an e-bike and how it had put [him] back in touch with Beijing .

I liked the idea of the e-bike for many reasons: ecologically friendly, low maintenance, practical, no legal hassles and generally easy to own. My biggest problem though was the range: Most e-bikes on the market right now have a 30 to 50km range on a good day unless one invests in a lithium ion battery that might cost twice the price of the bike and won’t necessarily work out for the best.

My adventures and roamings through town can be lengthy on any particular evening taking me from the East side of town to the CBD then over to Gulou with a pit stop in Sanlitun, a trip to 2 Kolegas and finally back to the East side of town. This type of Journey adds up to about 60km and I needed a bike that could last the distance.

beautiful on the outside, scary on the inside

My first choice was a Big Turtle King or Da Gui Wang (大龟王). I like the way they look and they’re popular enough that it would be easy to get them serviced anywhere in town. The standard battery comes with realistic range of 30 to 40 Km when travelling at 35 k/h, much less if going faster. Don’t believe any shop keeper that says otherwise. Better batteries are available at a premium with the Lithium Ion option running at 4000RMB for the battery alone but it will last for 80 to 100km depending on the speed you’re driving.

I figured I’ll get one with the base battery and then upgrade as needed after I was convinced it worked. However, a trip to the bike shop changed my mind rather quickly: The big turtle kings are nothing but the shell of the gas powered version that someone took the engine out off and hacked up with an electric motor. They’re literally using fuse switches like the ones outside my door and there are naked cables running under the hood. There was no way this thing is gonna withstand one of Beijing’s famous downpours without electrocuting me… yeah, everyone is riding them but that don’t mean I will.
There is an export model making the rounds around Beijing that should be cleaner/neater but it’s not readily available and will run you 5000RMB minimim with the shitty battery.

Next up were the brand names: Cityfy is had a good reputaion but didn’t make any model i cared for. Yamaha, on the other hand, had just come out with the Metis Max which was a substantial upgrade to the regular Metis series they had been building for years now.

I had seen this model online and it was rated with an autonomy of 80km on one charge. I was lucky enough to be at the shop when someone that owned one came around and i was able to ask them a few questions about it. In a nutshell, of all the options available, it seemed like the one most likely to fit my needs and i got it. Total cost 4000 RMB including registration which was the taobao price.

The bike, or scooter I should say, is quite comfortable and has no problem handling 2 passengers! There are two power settings on it: Low and High. Using the low setting allows you to go at speeds of 25km/h to 30km/h and travel for at least 60 to 70km when riding alone.. about 60 if you have a passenger.
The high power setting brings in quite a bit of zip to the experience and lets you go between 35 to 40 km/h for a distance of up to 40km… this is all on the stock battery!

I’m also a lot more comfortable riding something that I can assumed has seen a semblant of quality control so that the lights and other components won’t fail without a warning! I could have paid a lot less but I’m a firm believer in the “You get what you pay for” motto.. this thing is gonna last me.

I’ve been using this baby for exactly a week and I can’t believe the difference it’s made in my life already: I can go anywhere i want anytime I want without dealing with taxis, crowd on a subway or any of the mafan that has plagued my life over the past few years. I’m also slowly venturing into side roads and back alleys seeing a whole new side to Beijing i never new existed.

now, unto the negatives:

– The battery on this thing is a freaking monster: it weighs in at 29kg… yeah, that’s twenty nine kilograms!
– There is no odometer telling you how much you’ve travelled. you have to rely on the battery gauge and learn to estimate your own distance. I used google maps to figure out how much i travelled on average and keep a cheat sheet as a reference.
– It is no speed demon
– As a brandname, it’s not so easy to mod the bike. local no-names can have tons of addons but the Yamaha might not handle them.
– that’s it

I decided to keep track of distances travelled per day and taxi costs I would normally pay to travel said distance in an excel spreadsheet just for the heck of it and so far, I’ve logged the required amount km I would do on a normal week in taxis! And guess what: in one week, I’ve saved 10% of the bike’s value in Taxi fare! yes, I had no idea I was spending in excess of 400 RMB/week in cabs!
At this rate, I would recoup the whole cost in about 10 weeks. That is not to mention the fact that I am no longer drinking out as much as i used to. 1 alcoholic beverage is all I’m allowing myself at the moment.

Do I have any buyer’s remorse? Nope! I can’t believe it took me this long to take the jump! The battery weight is definitely a pain in the ass and a bit of a concern. So far, I’ve taken it in 3 times and I’m getting used to it but I’d much rather have a 10kg battery. I still look at the Big Turtle Kings with envy sometimes but that more because i like the way they look. If someone were to clean them up and do a neat install, I’d consider switching and getting the extra speed but for now, I think I got the best bike for my needs.

My next mission is to convince bar/restaurant owners to set up charging stations much like they have free wi-fi available. Keep a charger or two handy for those customers that might require a little top-up. It costs less than 1 RMB to recharge the whole battery for 10 hours so think about the extra added value of keeping a customer on a seat drinking/eating while their bike charges. You’d make up that insvestment in a heart beat.

The Silver Daze

I’m also fixing to Join Kaiser in his quest to get a gang together with the sole purpose to keep bike lanes car-free…. I’ll go one step further and say i want them to be pedestrian free as well!!! Those bastards have sent me into fits of road rage cursing at their selfish ways over the past few days… who’s with us?