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.

Mekong Dreaming… finally made it to Vietnam

After years of traveling mostly in mainland China, it was about time to set off and explore the rest of Asia, especially the South East side of it. Things got started last year with a quick trip to Malaysia during which I fell in love with the island of Langkawi. This year, Vietnam was the destination of choice.

I made it there in January seeking refuge from Beijing’s cold dry winter and loved every single bit of it.

The trip took me through Saigon, Mui Ne, Dalat and the Mekong Delta, all mainstays of Vietnam’s southern area… all gorgeous. Here are some pics:

round boat in Mui Ne
Football everywhere
Mekong Dreams
Saigon's traffic was nuts
Dalat was amazing.. so picturesque
beautiful colors

The trip only lasted about 10 days but it was more than enough to plant the seeds for another visit, sooner than later. A lot of things stood out about the country:

– Coffee and Bread are essential parts of their diet: This is a huge deal after living in China for so long.
– The country is green all over… there is no lack of rain or vegetation
– It’s dirt cheap to travel and live there
– I’ve developed an addiction for Pho
– Everything was built after 1986
– They don’t seem to bear a hatred towards the west for what happened.
– Their brand of communism looked a lot healthier in its approach to business than the Chinese one.
– The tourism industry is leaps and bounds more organized than the Chinese one. everything just flows comfortably
– The buses suck… an incredible lack of fast highways makes intercity travel a pain to deal with.

more as I think about it… overall, A+ as a destination and a trip.

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

home made bagels :)

sometimes, a person just gotta try!
I mustered by best master baker interpretation and decided to try out some recipes for christmas brunch!! turned out pretty cool too! Who knew these babies were boiled before they were backed.

step 1: rolling them babies

step 2: post boiling n baking

best part? they tasted pretty darn good too 🙂 gonna try this again soon!

Season’s Greetings

I’m not sure if anyone even checks here nowdays as I have indeed neglected this little piece of the web but either ways, it’s still that time of the year and I do want to take a few minutes to extend my best wishes for the festivus!

So much time has passed, so much water under the bridge and years later, life has taken interesting twists and turns that I am mostly thankful for.
The one thing i do regret this year is that I have not been able to keep in touch with some people I really care about in all 4 corners of the world! Yes, I’ve been busy and it’s been hectic but that is not good enough in my book!

I hope that the next following weeks will be a good opportunity to catch up with all of you in Florida, Atlanta, Oregon, Casablanca, Montreal, Hong Kong, Montpellier and wherever else you are!

Love for Festivus
Badr