Mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Day Festival

Chinese Mooncake I have to confess, I’m a big fan of mooncakes! For those of you who don’t know what’s a mooncake – Mooncake (濿饼; pinyin: yuè bĭng) is a traditional Chinese pastry eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival and it comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes and fillings. It’s nothing like the traditional pastry we are used to, although you will not notice the difference by just looking at it you’ll feel how heavy it is when you take it in your hand. Under the thin pastry crust is a dense and usually sweet filling (the common filling is lotus seed paste) and eating just one of these mooncakes is typically enough for an average person, but you can force some more if consuming them with tea. Oh, and don’t be surprised to find a salty egg yolk inside the cake! It is meant to symbolize the full moon, although I’m not sure why does it have to be salty? Well, if you live in China for some time and you get used to things like pineapple toppings for every type of pizza and sweet and sour sauces, then a salty egg yolk inside a sweet cake should be completely normal.

Mooncakes are probably the main thing during the Mid-Autumn day festival (中秿篿), or at least it is so in my understanding. The Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar (which is mid or late September), and this year it falls on this Sunday, September 14th.

Read moreMooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Day Festival

Meet the Beijing Olympic Mascots – FuWa’s

Fuwas - Olympic Mascots on the track of the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium It’s for the first time when instead of the usual one character for the Olympic mascot we’ve got a bunch of them. It seems that the Chinese want to impress with everything at these Olympic Games and they designed 5 cute characters to represent the 2008 Olympics. The designer of the 2008 Olympic mascots is a famous Chinese artist – Han Meilin who done a great job, but was really unsatisfied by the control from the authorities and their requests of how the mascots should look and what should represent, he even had two heart attacks while designing them. Recently Han Meilin offered an interview, you can check this article on WSJ about what he had to say and other facts about Fuwa’s. Basically Fuwa’s (福娃), literally mean “good luck dolls” and were sometimes referred to as friendlies. Actually they thought of calling them friendlies first, but then it was decided it can be easily misinterpreted.

Girl inside the Olympic mascot
I’ve seen the fuwa’s so many times already, in print, souvenirs, on TV, art-crafts – you name it. But I start liking them when I saw the mascots at the National Olympic Stadium, live sort of speaking.

Read moreMeet the Beijing Olympic Mascots – FuWa’s

Plan and seats of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing

I wrote a review about the Olympic Stadium in Beijing some time ago and noticed that people also find this article when looking for the Beijing Olympic Stadium plan or trying to get a look at the Olympic Stadium seats. Since there’s no actual plan of the stadium presented in my previous review and there were just pictures of the VIP seats I decided to write another article and show you what you’re looking for.

Seats at the National Olympic Stadium in Beijing
These are the seats from Herzog & de Meuron’s iconic creation in Beijing, red and white colored with respectively white and red big numbers written in the upper right corner of every seat. There are significantly more red chairs on the first level and the white seats appear to be placed aleatory. There are more white seats on the second floor, but still red is the dominant color. And the third level is composed of mostly white chairs already. The seats are very comfortable made of some kind of plastic polymer and every seats has a hole underneath, I’ll let you imagine yourself what is it for!

1st floor of the National Olympic Stadium in Beijing
The Olympic Stadium has three levels or floors as you probably noticed with the biggest one being first two and the third being a smaller addition. There are 12 public entrances to the stadium each marked with a letter (from A to M). The stadium has large public spaces inside and it is very easy to get anywhere you want. There are also aisles numbers assigned for each entrance letter, from 101 to 156 on first floor and 201 to 256 respectively. The seat numbers are easy to spot and another thing that I liked is that when getting to your aisle you will not have to wonder which side to take as both sides will be your aisle, but divided into two by seat numbers (e.g.: till 10 and after 10). No need to worry if you get lost, there are volunteer assistants willing to help at every aisle, so just ask.

Read morePlan and seats of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing

National Grand Theater of China, Beijing

Beijing Opera House National Grand Theater of China which is sometimes referred to as Beijing Opera House, but is nicknamed “The Egg” is actually officially called – National Centre for Performing Arts (国家大剧院). It is one of the new landmarks of the city which is located in the very heart of it, right next to Great Hall of the People in Tian An Men Square. What makes it apart is the unusual architecture that looks like an egg. The building is surrounded by an artificial lake and when looking at it and it’s reflection it forms the shape of an egg. It is especially beautiful in the evening when it’s titanium and glass dome is sparkling lights.

National Grand Theater of China, 2005
First time I saw this ellipsoidal construction being built in the heart of Beijing, I assumed they are building a sports arena, a stadium of some kind.

Read moreNational Grand Theater of China, Beijing

My neighborhood getting ready for the Olympics!

One World - One DreamBeijing is getting ready for the 2008 Olympics and the atmosphere of the Olympic Games approaching is everywhere. Even in my quiet neighborhood now you can see the red banners welcoming the games. It is quite funny actually, because they also translated the banners into English in an attempt to share the moment with laowai‘s also, but as usual it sounds Chinglish.

I’ve made a few pictures of the banners from my neighborhood in

Read moreMy neighborhood getting ready for the Olympics!

The new Wanshang Hotel in Beijing

Everyone who’s been in Beijing with the Carnival remembers the “Wanshang Garden Hotel” we stayed in 2004 and 2005. I was just happened to pass by around Babaoshan area in Beijing and that is the hotel I discovered.
Mercure Wanshang Hotel, Beijing

It is no longer the Wanshang we used to know and it is even called differently now – Mercure Wanshang Hotel. It is not open yet, but it is ready to receive the guests. It will be the official hosting hotel for the cyclists during the Olympics if I’m not mistaking. They have changed the look of the hotel completely and even added a new wing to the west side, but there’s still something there that keeps remembering of us:
Wanshang Garden Hotel - World Carnival Bicycle Parking

Yes! After 3 years it’s still there! They completely changed the hotel, but the parking sign it’s still there. I looked through my extensive photographs archive and I found pictures of the hotel from last summer when it was still under construction and some pictures from 2005. Below you can see how the hotel looked over the years:
Wanshang Garden Hotel during the years

Beijing National Olympic Stadium (Bird’s Nest) Review

Me and Bird??s Nest - night view Almost 2 weeks ago I had a chance to visit the newly built pride and beauty of the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics – Beijing National Stadium (??京?家???), also known as “Bird’s Nest” (鳥巢) during the hosting of “Good Luck Beijing 2008 SOHU.COM China Athletics Open”. It was a kind of audition before the Olympic Games and I would allow myself to make a short unprofessional review or better just call it impressions I got.

The stadium looks amazing from both inside and outside and it is definitely one of the most spectacular architectural constructions I ever seen. It has become already an iconic image for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and souvenirs representing the stadium are already sold out in the streets. Surely the architects Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog have done a great job when designing this beauty that does look like a bird’s nest actually. And I’m glad that Chinese officials have chosen this plan among other projects presented, although there was one plan (B12) with a unique suspending retractable roof which was worth a second thought. The stadium was open in March 2008, but some final constructions and surrounding area preparations are still being done. You’ll notice in the pictures below the elevator steps of the new Olympic subway line with the “Bird’s Nest” in the background, some workers completing final touches, one of the bronze sculptures displayed at the Olympic Green and improvised hand-written directions sign directing visitors to Beijing National Stadium.

Subway line exit and Bird Workers at the Beijing National Stadium Sculptures at the Olympic Green ??Bird

Interesting facts: The stadium construction costs rises to 4 billion RMB which is around 500 million USD and the stadium was built mostly on money which came from donations. The ground was broken on Christmas Eve in December 2003 and it took 4 years to complete the project. It was built with 36 km of unwrapped steel, with a combined weight of 45,000 tonnes. 10 workers had died during the stadium’s construction.

Inside the ??Bird
The arena looks awesome from the inside and it is here where you can actually feel the grandeur of this superb construction. It is just huge and despite the fact that is can host 91.000 people it doesn’t feel crowded. The halls inside are large and there are enough entrances/exits to avoid overcrowding, also they opted for more smaller access gates to the seats rather then bigger ones. Overall I got a positive impression, but there are still some things that need to be done, like hiding these awful metallic bars with cable ties and electric/sound cables on the edge of second floor tribune (see the pictures below) or seriously review the menu for the snacks booths inside the stadium (you can also view the menu in the picture below). The only appealing thing for westerners from this menu was “hot-dogs” (which by the way are nothing like the hot-dogs you know), but it was missing from all the booths I asked while there, never minding the unclear price. Prices were actually unexpectedly low, which is a great thing, hope it stays the same during the Olympics (although I doubt that). They were also selling cold beer in cans on the stadium from “Yanjing” (the best Chinese beer if you ask me) for just 5 RMB and drinking tap water is available from many places (see the picture below). The VIP seats located in between second and third floor tribunes are wrapped in soft fabrics and they are still putting it in on all the seats (picture below).

Bird??s Nest Bird??s Nest National Stadium Snacks and drinks at the Beijing National Stadium VIP seats at Beijing National Stadium

Volunteer staffThe staff working on the stadium, mostly volunteers I suppose, are all young and eager to help you and speak a good English, well organized as well. The girl in the picture here is standing in the lane between the raws and will direct and assist the visitors, also monitoring the things that happened around.

The atmosphere on the stadium was great and the Chinese public presented there during “Good Luck Beijing 2008 China Athletics Open” was very welcoming and excited about the event. All the Chinese people I think are very glad about them being the hosts of such an event and want to show the best they have.

5000m Men??s Final

For more quality and high-resolution pictures of the Beijing National Stadium during day and night, from inside and outside please visit my Beijing Olympics related photographs presented on Alamy. They are licensed for Editorial use only but you can also enjoy viewing them as well.

UPDATE: Since many of you were looking for the stadium plan I also wrote another article on Olympic Stadium seats and plan.

Spring in Beijing

For other a month now, even more actually, since the end of the Chinese New Year I’ve been wasting my time in Beijing. Yeah, back in China!

This post is not about me and what I am doing here, but about the spring time. After the month of March with weather changing from warm to cold and vice versa, we finally get the true spring time. Oh, by the way, a friend of mine from Japan told me, they call this type of weather ????温 -??san kan shi on, literally meaning “three cold four warm” and referring to three cold days followed by four warm and so on.

Spring in Beijing

Beijing is actually looking very nice during spring with all the trees in blossom and if you get lucky to see a cloudless day – even better! If you have time I would strongly advise you to forget about everything and head to the nearest park. There’s one thing I really like in Beijing and this is parks – clean and amazingly well arranged. Feng-shui masters must have worked well before designing all these parks, I mean, when entering one of these hundred years old parks you feel GOOD! And I’ve been to one yesterday myself, the Ritan park, they say it’s one of the oldest in Beijing – had a great time!

Enjoy your spring – wherever you are in the Northern Hemisphere!

You Know You’ve Lived in China Too Long When…

I found a group on facebook recently with this topic and it is so funny! Well it probably would be funny for the ones who lived in China. I’ve selected just a few very best ones in my opinion here:

5. You smoke in crowded elevators.
6. All white people look the same to you.
8. You find state-employed retail staff helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.
9. You no longer need tissues to blow your nose.
12. You think that the heavy air actually contains valuable nutrients that you need to stay healthy.
15. It??s OK to throw rubbish, including old fridges, from your 18th-floor window.
16. You believe that pressing the lift button 63 times will make it move faster.
17. You aren??t aware that one is supposed to pay for software.

Read moreYou Know You’ve Lived in China Too Long When…