Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hong Kong in pictures

(Backdated entry)... if you can afford Hong Kong, it's definitely lives up to its reputation as the (better) New York of the East and hypermodern technological capital of the world (though Seoul and Tokyo may be in the running as well).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A discourse on Tibetan / Nepali carpets

I've been having trouble finding information on purchasing "Nepali" carpets other than a YouTube link for Carpet House in Thamel. Hopefully this post, then, comes in useful.

Brief history: The "Nepali" carpet industry started when there was a plan to provide refugees from Tibet fleeing Chinese rule with a vocation in the 1960's. The Tibetans who came brought with them the expertise of carpetmaking to the Jawalakhel Tibetan Refugee Camp, and from there carpet-making was born into an industry for Tibetans and Nepalis alike. A handmade carpet, 4 x 6 ft, can take up to 8 weeks to make. Child labor is a problem in the industry, like many in the economic south.

There are 60-, 80-, and 100-knot carpets available. The numbers refer to the knots per square inch. As I learned in Tibet, check the bottom very carefully for imprecisions in the weaving, to weed out "machine-made" carpets. This is especially tough for the 100-knot carpets. There are three places I found to buy the carpets - Thamel, Boudhanath, and around the Jawalakhel Tibetan Refugee Camp (500m from the Zoo). The actual Carpet Factory at the camp is expensive, but check the stores around there for cheaper carpets. The best prices I found were around this area, at 5300 RMB for a 4 x 6 m 60-knot (Khamsum Carpets, Jawalakhel and Boudhanath, tel: 012334984). However, you may be able to find cheaper at a supplier (12000 RMB for a 2 x 3 m was bought by my Nepali friend two years ago), but finding the supplier will be tough. Thamel stores were on average 50% more expensive, except for "sale" carpets at Thamel House. Be aware that your "Tibetan" carpet is probably made from Nepali labor, unless you're looking at a very fancy one.

Interesting note: Did you know that many "Tibetan Carpets" made in Tibet are actually from Nepal? According to the Khamsum Carpets shopowner (and he could be lying), the main three purchasers of carpets are from Tibetan businessmen within Tibet, Americans, and Koreans. He stated that although the wool is from Tibet (this could be a lie), the infastructure for washing and dying the wool is in Nepal, as well as cheap(er) labor. Wool is shipped across the border, and carpets are bought by the truck-load back. Based on the costs I saw, this makes sense:

4.5 x 6.5 (ft) 60-knot carpet bought in Lhasa, August 2007: 1250 RMB (USD $166)
4 x 6 (ft) 60-knot carpet bought in Nepal, October 2008: 5300 NPR (USD $72)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Recipe: Nepali-Indian mushroom matar

Note: the following was taken from an adaptation of Friend's Restauarant, however the portions were not measured and should be taken as approximate.

Mushrooms and peas, the classic generic South Asian vegetable dish....

1 small bag peas, ½ lb (approx), frozen or fresh
½ lb mushroom (approx), fresh 
1 onion, finely diced
½ of full head garlic, finely diced
Equivalent of garlic in fresh ginger, finely diced
½ handful of cilantro, finely diced
1 roma tomato, finely diced
2 chilies, finely diced
2 tsp ketchup (approx, can add more)


2 heaping tsp cumin powder
2 heaping tsp chili powder (eqv. to cumin)
½ tsp salt
1 heaping tsp white pepper powder
¾ in butter (or ghee)

Post-boiled peas, showing other raw ingredients

Boil the peas for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Drain.

In a stir-fry pan under medium heat with oil, stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and chilies for a minute. Then, add the onion. When the onion turns brown, add the tomato, cilantro, and 1 cup water. Then, add the spices (and butter) in the order listed. Cook for a few minutes, adding water if necessary, and add the peas. Cook three minutes, and take off flame.

In a separate deep-frying pan, fry the mushrooms for five minutes. Drain; add to the pea mixture. Put the pea mixture back on flame, adding water if it is too dry. Add the ketchup, and salt (to taste).

Adding the peas to the sauce

Completed dish

Serves 1

Recipe: Nepali-Indian Chicken Masala

Note: the following was taken from an adaptation of Friend's Restauarant, however the portions were not measured and should be taken as approximate.

I am not sure what region of Indian chicken masala originates from, but as it is a Nepali adaptation it probably doesn't affect the end dish. The masala indicates that this dish will be more spicy then the "chicken curry" equivalent (and oily too...), and this recipe can be taken as a generic Nepali masala base for other main ingredients (tofu, paneer, mixed vegetables etc...)

1 chicken breast, cut to 1in cubes
½ roma tomato, sliced
½ roma tomato, finely diced
2 onions, finely diced
cilantro, 1 handful, finely diced
¾ in butter (or ghee)
juice of ½ small fresh lime

3 tbsp curd (yoghurt may substitute)
1 tbsp chat masala (approx)*
1 tbsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
juice of ½ small fresh lime
red coloring (optional)

1 cup water
2 tbsp curry powder (approx, may be less)
2 heaping tbsp cumin powder (approx)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp MSG (optional)

Picture showing the first set of ingredients, with pre-diced tomato.

On the chicken breast, sprinkle the curd, chat masala, chili powder, and lime juice. Mix, and add salt, white pepper, and red coloring (optional). 

In a stir-fry pan with oil under medium heat, braise the chicken by leaving the pieces (not the entire marinade) on the pan until each side is golden-brown (flip). This may take up to 10 minutes. Remove from flame when finished.

While the chicken is braised, add 1 cup water, the curry powder and the cumin powder to the leftover marinade. Add more coloring (optional), and the salt and MSG (optional).

In a separate stir-fry pan under medium heat with oil, add the onion. Stir fry until brown, and then add finely diced tomato, along with butter and the leftover marinade. After a minute, add the cilantro and leftover tomato. Add the cooked chicken. Cook two minutes, adding water if necessary, and add the juice of the other lime half. Remove all of the contents of the pan but the oil; serve.

The chicken before red coloring is added

Braising the chicken

The marinade post-chicken and post-later additions, ready to be stir-fried

Post-diced tomato, pre-marinade addition

Completed dish

*According to the box (pictured above), chat masala contains white salt, black salt, dry mango, mint leaves, cumin seeds, bishop’s weed, yellow chilies, dried ginger.

Note: when stir-frying, water should be used if the mixture becomes too dry or burns; let it boil off to keep a broth consistency. The base sauce in this looks like tomato, onion, curd, and the spices, as opposed to the typical tomato and/or onion and/or garlic and/or garam-masala base, and the curd is probably the emulsifier.

Serves 1


Recipe: Nepali Chili Chicken

Note: the following was taken from an adaptation of Friend's Restauarant, however the portions were not measured and should be taken as approximate.

Chili chicken is an appetizer found in many of the Nepali restaurants. Its origin is unclear - although it apparently has Chinese roots, I could not find it in Tibet and it features more South Asian spices than East Asian spices. Adjust the spiciness to your taste!

1 roma tomato (or equivalent size), triangularly cut
1 bell pepper, triangularly cut
8 pcs cut chicken (boneless or bone-in), about 1in in size
4 chilies, cut in half
1 spring onion, sliced into 3in pieces (green parts only)
1 onion, triangularly cut
1 garlic head, minced
1 heaping tbsp hot sauce
corn starch, in water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper powder

Chicken Batter (enough for 4x recipe!):
2 cups flour
1 cup corn starch
¼ tsp MSG (optional)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper powder
½ tsp garlic paste
1 egg
red coloring (optional)
2 cups water, or enough to make smooth but firm consistency

All but the bell peppers, and actual use was half of the hot sauce pictured. Also, the batter.

Make the batter by mixing all ingredients above (the egg needs not be prepared), and make sure it is a smooth but firm consistency. Then, dip the chicken into the marinade and spread evenly (there will be ample leftover sauce). Deep fry the chicken, sauce excluded, for ten or so minutes or until cooked. Then, add the onion slices, bell pepper slices, and fry 30 more seconds. Drain and set aside.

In a stir-fry pan on medium heat, stir-fry with oil and garlic for 30 seconds; add tomato and the chilies. At this point the garlic should start to brown. Add water to keep from drying, 1 tbsp ketchup, and the hot sauce. Then, add the non-batter1/2 tsp salt, MSG (optional), and 1/2 tsp black pepper.  The mixture should look like a broth. Add in the deep fried chicken and vegetables. At this point, add water as necessary so the mixture does not get dry. Finally, emulsify the broth by adding corn starch in water. Serve with raw onions on top or lightly cooked.

Right after adding the chicken

Note: when stir-frying, water should be used if the mixture becomes too dry or burns; let it boil off to keep a broth consistency. Also, I'd imagine soy sauce or vinegar can be added to taste to make it more East Asian.

Serves 1

Completed dish


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, in pictures

Photos taken with max 3x optical zoom on a Canon SD870IS point-and-shoot, long exposure. Email for enlargements!

360 view of Annapurna Range at Annapurna Base Camp

Annapurna I (8091m), at Annapurna Base Camp

Dhaulagiri I (8167m), from Poon Hill during sunrise

Dhaulagiri Range, from Poon Hill during sunrise

Dhaulagiri Range and Annapurna Range, from trek to Poon Hill before sunrise

Macchapucchre (Fish Tail) (6993m), from Annapurna Base Camp during sunset

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Recipe: Nepali Dal Bhat

Note: the following recipe is adapted from a cooking course at Via Via Cafe, Kathmandu, based on a chef's interpretation and my loose notes. The measurements may not be fully accurate! For spices, it is best to rely on "parts" relative to each other.

Disclaimer: If there is one thing I learned in the mountains, everyone's dal bhat is different! The pickle, dal, and curries are all up for experimentation.

Dal Bhat, as served on the Annapurna Trek

Dal Bhat is the quissential Nepali dish and a staple in the rice-cultivating regions. It generally consists of dal (lentils), baht (rice), a vegetable curry / saag, and a chutney. It is eaten (traditionally) by mixing the dal with the rice to form a soupy mixture, making a ball of the mixture with your hands, and adding curry and chutney. For the trekker, a spoon is acceptable too...

Starting with the easy:

Bhat (fluffy rice)

x cups rice
2x-4x water
(x ~ 3/4 cup p.p)

Equipment: Pot, Steamer

To make fluffy (read: not sticky) rice, first wash and then boil x cups rice in water for 10-20 minutes, until a rice grain is still slightly hard when squeezed with the fingers. At this point, it is almost cooked; pour the contents of the pot into a drainer, and then steam the rice above a steamer until ready to serve.

Dal (lentils)

1.5 cups lentil (any kind) (for up to 4 people)
3-8 cups water*
1/2 - 1 head garlic, finely chopped
1 cup sliced onions, finely chopped
2 chillies (optional), whole if dried or chopped if fresh

Spices (displayed as parts, 1 heaping tsp will probably do of each):
2 parts salt
1 part tumeric
1 part cumin seed

1 part jeera, to be added to boiled dal (recommended)
ginger, to be added to boiled dal (recommended)
jimbu, to be used as a replacement to ginger (recommended)
2 tomatoes, small (for color)

*The amount of water used literally can vary magnitudes; it determines the consistancy of liquid. If using a steamer, however, I recommend using more rather than less water to avoid burning the dal...

Equipment: Pressure cooker or pot, frying pan

Wash lentils and let soak; drain. Add fresh water, the salt and tumeric and 1-2 tbsp ghee/oil (and other optional spices except cumin), and either cook under pressure cooker for 10-20 minutes or in a pot, simmered and covered, for 20-30 min until the lentils look like porridge.

In a frying pan on medium heat, fry the oil/ghee with the garlic, onion, ginger, cumin seed, chilis until golden brown. If using jimbu instead of garlic, fry until dark. Add tomato (optional) and make a gravy-like consistency. Add the pre-cooked dal, salt to taste, and cilantro, water if necessary, and boil. Alternatively, add fried mix + ingredients to pot.

Frying the dal

Vegetable Curry (tarkari)

(Any) vegetables, boiled or steamed*

2-3 onions, finely chopped
equivalent amount of garlic, finely chopped
4-5 tomatoes, small, finely chopped
chilies, chopped (to taste)

Spices (displayed as parts, 1 heaping tsp will probably do of each):
1 part garammasala
1 part cumin powder
1 part tumeric powder
1 part curry powder
1 part salt
1/2-1 part chili powder

lemon juice
coriander/cinnamon/cardamon/cloves (pinch)

*Common Nepali choices are potato (boiled), green beans, califlower, cabbage, peas, carrots, but any will do. Steaming or boiling helps to slightly pre-cook the vegetables to lessen frying time. Blanch the vegetables if boiling to ensure they are not fully cooked.

Equipment: frying pan

In a frying pan under medium heat, fry in oil/ghee the garlic, onion, ginger, and chilies until golden brown. Add the cumin, tumeric, curry, and chili powder, followed by garammasala, a cup of water, and salt. Add finely diced tomatoes and vegetables. Cook under low heat until the curry has a gravy-like consistency. Add cilantro at end, and lemon juice. Alternatively, one may try to use a blender with the tomatoes/onions/garlic/ginger/chilies to achieve the curry-like consistency before adding vegetables (though I haven't tried it myself).

Prepared raw ingredients

Curried Spinach (saag)

300g spinach leaves (adult/leafy preferred), cut to bite-size pieces
1/2-1 head garlic

Spices (displayed as parts, 1heaping tsp will probably do of each):
1 part cumin seed
1 part currry powder
1 part salt
1 part white pepper

Equipment: frying pan

In a frying pan, fry oil/ghee, garlic, cumin seed. On browning, add spinach, salt, curry powder and white pepper. Cook until spinach is tender.

Tomato Pickle (golbheda ko achar)

Note: This is copied verbatim from recipe list; I have not tried to make this. It also works as the sauce for momos. Personally, I think this recipe is overkill and a lot can probably be left out. Mint-based chutneys as an alternative, which is much easier, also work very well in dal bhat.

2 cups roasted tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
3 fresh red chilis, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp mustard oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
salt, to taste

1 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp fenugreek
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped

Blend the first set of ingredients to a smooth paste. Transfer to large bowl. Then, in a frying pan heat the mustard oil. Add fenugreek. When it turns dark, add garlic slices until they turn golden brown. Pour the garlic-oil mixture and chopped green onion mixture over the blended paste, mix, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Note: An alternate recipe suggested by a coworker is to blend boiled tomatoes, chili powder, fresh garlic and salt, and refrigerate.

Completed, based on the recipe

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Annapurna and Pokhara, Nepal, in pictures

(Backdated entry)... Pokhara is definitely a must-see site in Nepal, and is the gateway to the Annapurna Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit treks - I pursued the latter, and found it a grueling but unforgettable experience. For those interested, although we had a guide and porter, it is entirely possible to do without either as the trails are marked and decently heavily traveled.

Typical "hotel"...

...with a quite atypical view.

Traffic jam

Annapurnas from Phewa Lake, Pokhara

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kathmandu in Pictures

Jawlakhel, Patan. This is the area where I live. Although quite residential, it is home to a lot of international workers for UNICEF, UN, the Embassies, etc... In my house alone, we have an Austrian engineer, a Japanese UN Peacekeeper, two British doctors, a Norwegian students, and three Indian visitors. Accordingly, there is a great mix of food around, covering Nepali, Indian, Mexican, Indo-Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, and Italian. Reviews forthcoming...


The guesthouse


Typical traffic. Tuk Tuk/Tempo in green.


Durbar Square, Kathmandu. This square is accessible from Patan; what I did was take a microbus to Ratna Park (20 min), and then do a 15-20 minute walk through the narrow streets of Kathmandu. Getting back, one can easily go to Thamel. Thamel itself is a maze of shops and stalls; you'll need a good map to navigate it, and even then it is difficult. Thamel is also easily accessible from Ratna Park via a 10 minute walk; walk past the large pond on the right, past the large abandoned white building (very obvious) to the left, and turn left at the US embassy.


Walk towards Durbar Square


A building of the Square


Bodhnath Stupa, outer Kathmandu. We were able to get a taxi (150Rp) from Ratna Park (30min), to this center of Tibetian Buddhism. While the monastery cannot quite compare to the monasteries in Tibet, it is a hotbed of the Tibetan population and a great place to see daily Tibetan culture.


The Bodhnath Stupa... creepy eyes...


Tibetan schoolchildren and the random white guy playing soccer


Not fond of the Chinese...


Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu. Supposedly one of the most important Shiva temples, it is the center of Hinduism. The crowd here is noticeably different from the one encountered at Bodhnath, yet it is only a fifteen minute walk away through pristine farmland! (Just follow the road that is straight ahead of the Bodhnath exit). The architecture is beautiful, and the people plenty; they have a check-in for shoes for the temple, but you can only get in if you're Hindi - at least, I almost got through until the guard realized "one of these is not the same as the others." If you're of brown complexion, don't bring your yellow or pale skinned friends; my British-Indian friends were not allowed in as a result of me, so be careful! Definitely a place to visit however. Cool wild monkeys (technically macaques) also scattered around the temple grounds!


The walk to Pashupatinath


Temple entrance, Hindus only


Monkeys! She was not happy at the picture...



Friday, September 12, 2008

Load shedding, strikes, non-taxi transport, and cell phone

Quissential to Nepal, the following four terms:

1) Load shedding. Load shedding is a euphamism for scheduled power cuts. This occurs in Nepal to meet power supply and demand. During the monsoon season, the power cuts are less than during the dry season. Most of Nepal is used to this, and nice facilities will have generators which will kick in during the load shedding hours. Although there is a schedule for different sections of town - today, for example, load shedding occured during 14:00 - 18:00 - this schedule is not followed percisely. Account for your portable electronics to be fully charged, and that services which require two sections of town (eg. television, communicatons) to be down twice the load schedding schedule, on average. The current load shedding schedule, as of 9/11/2008, is 31.5 hrs/wk; however, this is subject to rapid change, as from mid-August to mid-September the schedule was set at 16 hrs/wk.

2) Strikes. Strikes in Kathmandu are frequent, and can bring the whole capital to a standstill. It is part of the Nepali political process, and probably occur for good reason. When a strike is called, notice is usually passed from public word-of-mouth. By the time one sees a strike article in the newspaper, such as the Kathmandu Post or (a good website for Nepali news!), it is probably many hours already in effect. During a strike, transportation screeches to a halt, as well as the sector in question (markets, hospitals, shops, etc...) and police are stationed to prevent massive protests. The positive side effect of this is that the air becomes wonderful to breathe! During a strike, many governments do not advise their nationals to travel outside; the Korean goverment, for example, calls its citizens to inform them to stay home. However, I found my trip outside fine; just avoid the protesters one meets, if any, and obey the strike rules.

3) Non-taxi transport. Other transport in Nepal occurs by walking, bike, motorbike, tempo, mini-bus, or bus. Tempos, mini-buses, and buses are hard to navigate without knowing Nepali, but they usually stick to the main roads (there are few in Kathmandu and Patan). One can rent a bike for use, or travel like the Nepalis do - on motorbike. However, walking will be the transport of choice for most. Get a map, as there are literally no road signs in Nepal and most roads are unmarked. With the map, one can at least match hotel and restaurant names to locations and triangulate a position. This is particularly handy in Thamel.

4) Cell phone. A rudimentary GSM cell phone network, with no EDGE/GPRS data service, exists. I am unsure about CDMA. Mobi mobile sells SIM cards for 510 Rp, incuding 490 Rp credit, through stores. One can add more credit through recharge cards. The reception in Kathmandu is excellent; however call-service is poor. I am not sure if this is due to an analog network, or VOIP. It is very cheap to call nepal, 35 Rp/ min for international, and free to recieve calls, as of September 2008.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Patan, Nepal - first impressions


Immigration in KTM is in a small building more reminiscent of a cabin in the woods than an immigration depot. It took around 45 minutes to pass the visa-on-demand. As of July 2008, prices are $25USD/15days, $40USD/30days, $100USD/90days, all mutiple entry visas, payable in USD/GBP/CAD/JPN/HKD. Money exchange at site; passport photo needed but at site; ATM outside; hounds of people past immigration. ATM rate good for NPR; using Bank of America debit, recieved ~74NPR-1USD (before $5 fee).

Landing at KTM.

First impressions:

Nepal is a fascinating landscape; reminiscent of Tibet but without the altitude sickness and the low hanging clouds. Large mountains in the background, as can be seen in the photo from my guesthouse. The air does not look polluted, but the streets are pretty bad; mostly motorbikes and car exhaust. The buildings are definitely unique, as are the unlabeled roads. The people are wonderfully nice, however! First motorbike ride today was a death-defying experience. Make sure the driver doesn't brake...

View from my guesthouse in the Kathmandu Valley.

Otherwise, internet is slow but available. Visited Patan hospital, more on that later.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bangkok en transit

Went through Bangkok as part of the stopover from Beijing. From Beijing, as of September 2008 there are three main ways to get to Kathmandu:
1) via CTU-LXA: very expensive and potential Tibet Travel Permit concern
2) via CAN: infrequent via China Southern
3) via HKG: many airlines. Royal Nepal flies this route, but you cannot book outside of Nepal... nor would you want to given their record
4) via BKK: my route, courtesy Star Alliance

Went via EgyptAir, a very nice carrier to BKK. At BKK, did a stopover at Queen's Garden Resort at River View, which is a 10min taxi drive away; BKK immigration took less than 10 minutes. Booked through Web Sawadee, which I recommend although I am uncertain about the prices. One-way transfer free, return 150 bhat. Bring USD or GBP, as exchanging RMB is horribad rates!

The view from the window. Suprisingly, the hotel is not bad.

A suprise in the morning, however - if you leave the airport, prepare to pay a 700 bhat "Airport Tax"! In hindsight, I would have probably slept in the airport - which is actually decently nice - or checked in my bags before I left / got my boarding pass, and then left the airport to avoid the tax. Otherwise, BKK is a ripoff for food (Burger King is 2-3x NYC prices), but it's a pretty airport. Free wi-fi outside the OneTeam lounge! Good to know, as this trick has worked at PEK also.

Note: Thai airlines is amazing. The ample alcohol, meal and snack, and drinks, along with the new planes and very good flight attendants made this my most pleasant flight yet! Unlike on AirTran, when a couple with a crying baby was evicted from the plane, here the situation was taken care of with a quick toy to a crying child during takeoff. US Airways, get learning!

Thais love their king!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Beijing: change, and olympic interlude

Beijing has changed an amazing amount since August 2007. The subway has expanded almost 3-fold, the airport and infastructure is brand new, the air (seems) cleaner, and the prices have gone up! It is more and more looking like a Western metropolis, and nothing like the dusty city I found myself first in nine years ago.

Beijing Metro: 

Arrived at Beijing Train Station at 5AM; the train station is still the same, the busiest part of town. The subway, however, has changed signifigantly; cards are now RF-ID, only 2RMB, and the subway lines have expanded! Be sure to keep your card, as you will need it on the way out. For Olympics I presume, each station has a bag scanner. If NYC could emulate the efficiency of Beijing's Metro. I always find it suprising when people do not run to catch the leaving train, as I am used to Boston's once-in-a-forever subway system. The crowding from before has been reduced; the trains are nicer; even the recordings from nine years back have been changed! It's a marvel to ride.

Outside of Wukesong station, the auto-rickshaws are gone; taxis will have to do. Taxis are now 10RMB flag, then 2RMB/km after initial few km. If you can catch one in the suburbs, they are 5RMB usually to a Metro stop. It's a tight squeeze for two!


The air quality is signifigantly better than even a year before, although these are my subjective observations. It is still hazy, however, but does not give instant asthma anymore. Interesting.


In case anyone is looking to tailor clothing (suit, qipao, etc...), there was an entry I found on the web for Daxin Fabrics, at Gongzhufen. Expanding on this, the place is located about a 5 minute walk down Changan Jie past Ciwei Shopping Center. You'll pass by a KFC, and eventually a Giordano/Baleno store and turn a corner to the left. You can get tailored attire here; buy the fabric, then find the tailor. It was 280RMB for a suit to be tailored, though I may have gotten ripped off. Shipping abroad to the US takes 1-2 months at ~300RMB. I suspect China is no longer good for this anymore, as things have become signifigantly more expensive.

5% of what this place has.


Golden Dragon, in the Jiangguomen area, has an amazing all-you-can-eat buffet, 189RMB, which includes food from pretty much every corner of the world. I can almost guarantee this will be the largest buffet you will ever encounter. Of particlar interest is the sashimi section. 


New airport express line leaves Dongzhimen for 25RMB, train came every 15min in the afternoon, and takes (30?) minutes to arrive, also RF-ID card (keep to exit). Terminal 3 is the international departure terminal! The terminal is stunning in its construction, although of gigantic proportions. Definitely a not-miss.

Thought: For all the advertising for the Paraolympics, not many people are watching...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Call for travelers

Places I would like to go in the near future. Friends, interested?


*Urumqi, Xinjiang
*Kashgar, Xinjiang
*Ali/Ngari prefecture, Tibet
*Zhongmu, Tibet
*Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan
*Chengdu, Sichuan
*Zhongdian, Yunnan
Possible route:

Karakoram Highway/Silk Road

*3 week trip: Beijing -> Chengdu/Zhongdian/Lanzhou -> Urumqi -> Turpan/Aletai -> Kashgar ->either Almaty (Kazakhstan) by train or Gilgit (Pakistan) by bus via Tashkurgan

This trip should work well, at least in the China region. Chengdu and Lanzhou are easily accessible, as well as Urumqi, then train to Turban/Kasghar/Kazakhstan or Aletai, which is in the north of the province and has rave reviews from the Chinese I spoke to who went. Apparently there is also a route through Inner Mongolia, but that is not traveled by anyone. Train to Kashgar information.

Another interesting route for passerby, though I will not be traveling it:
DPRK Excursion
*5 day trip: Beijing -> Dandong/Shinuiju -> Pyongyang -> Beijing

This trip can be done with surprisingly minimal effort. One would need a multi-entry Chinese visa, and arrange for a tour guide in Shinuiju to join a Chinese tour, for up to 4000 RMB. It is a purely organized tour in the DPRK.