Saturday, August 29, 2009
Words cannot describe some of the toilets in China. They are holes in the ground. You must squat down and do your business in the hole. The area around the hole is usually filthy and there is no toilet paper.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
DOGGY GETS A LITTLE SICK IN BEIJING
Monday, August 24, 2009
WORLD'S GREATEST AND HOTTEST CRAWFISH
WORLD'S GREATEST AND HOTTEST CRAWFISH
This was one of the best and hottest meals of my life. The crawfish were filled with flavor and a very hot and addicting spice. These things made your face burn from your nose down to your chin. Even with the pain you could not stop eating them. Simply fantastic. The crawfish were served in a spicy sauce filled with garlic, ginger and peppers. To accompany the meal we had a huge order of crab and a vegetable dish with mushrooms. The veggies were fresh and also very spicy. The local tap beer here was also great and the perfect companion to the spicy crawfish. We spent several hours consuming our huge pan of crawfish. The huge order cost about US$18. This served three, but could have easily served six. We forced ourselves to eat them all because they were so good. Mad Dog went crazy eating these babies. After I threw in the towel, the Dog stepped up and downed the last fifteen crawfish solo. I cannot wait to return to this restaurant. One of the best meals ever!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
THE FORBIDDEN CITY
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
THE WATER CUBE - CHINESE HOT DOG
After being denied water, soda and a dog at the Bird's Nest, it was pure heaven to find hot dogs at the Water Cube. The Chinese way of serving is great. They spread a little ketchup and mustard on the dog and hand it to you. Everyone gets the same dog. There is no choice. This speeds up service and eliminates a condiment stand. The dog was not half bad. As we left the Water Cube a huge rain storm erupted. People were packed into the cube waiting for the rain to stop. Our guide had some umbrellas so we took a chance and ran out of the place to hail down a cab. We got soaked. There was 3 inches of rain on the ground so all of our shoes and socks got wet. We ran across the street and were lucky to grab a cab. The rain stopped shortly thereafter as we arrived at the hotel.
THE WATER CUBE - INSIDE
Once inside the Water Cube you can stroll around and sit in the seats. There is a large souvenir shop and several concession stands. Much better than the Bird's Nest that has nothing. The Water Cube is impressive even without swimmers or divers. The colors are beautiful. You can actually swim in the warm up pool that is adjacent to the main pool where Michael Phelps won his eight gold medals. They play some Olympic highlight videos on the wide screens but it would be better if they showed the actual swimming and diving events.
THE WATER CUBE
The Water Cube is an awesome structure whether you see it during the day or at night. We did both and loved it. The crowds entering the Cube during the day are huge. Ticket lines are long and hot. Once you have the ticket you can jet right in and spend as much time as you want viewing the swimming and diving pools. The Cube is located between the Bird's Nest and Olympic Stadium where the gymnastics were held.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
THE WATER CUBE AT NIGHT
The Water Cube at night is absolutely beautiful. It is a rare architectural wonder that comes to life when the sun goes down. The crowds in the square surrounding the Cube are huge. Streets are blocked off to vehicle traffic so the entire Olympic square becomes a pedestrian area. Really nice.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
THE BIRD'S NEST
INSIDE THE OLYMPIC STADIUM
THE BIRD'S NEST
The Bird's Nest is a sight to behold. It is an awesome structure. After watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics the Bird's Nest was forever forged in my mind and spirit. Being here was a true experience that I will never forget. The world fell in love with the Bird's Nest and so did I. To have the opportunity to walk into the stadium and watch a sporting event was a blessing. We were in the Bird's Nest one year to the day of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. The event was a soccer game between two legendary teams from Italy. The sights and sounds were beautiful, but the feeling was so uncomfortable. The Bird's Nest has no ventilation or airflow. It was hot and humid with no air. The seats are small and pressed together with less than 12" isles. You literally cannot walk through the isles unless everyone stands up. The place is far worse than the Swamp in Florida. It was difficult to sit down. Everyone stood up to attempt to get air and not touch the person next to them. They do not serve food at the Bird's Nest. No food, no soda and very little water. They sell a chinese version of Red Bull at a few stands. You would have to wait in line over an hour to get a bottle of the stuff or a water. There are no stands to buy souvenirs. No hot dogs, no beer, no coke, no nachos, no dim sum. NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Everyone who watched the Olympics from their home was lucky. Believe me, you would not want to be in this joint for 3-4 hours. Looks good on t.v., but in reality is a torture chamber.
THE PENINSULA HOTEL
The Peninsula Beijing is a luxury sanctuary in the heart of Beijing. This five star hotel includes their own mini-mall of luxury high end stores. The clientele is upscale Beijing locals and tourists from around the world. While the front desk and concierge are a bit too stuck up, I find this place to be comfortable and relaxing. The lobby bar has music in the late afternoon and evening and after a day or two the waitress knew me by name and drink preference. She brought me a cold towel and the Asian Wall Street Journal daily and treated me with the upmost respect. The upscale shops take up three floors and people are actually buying things. The well dressed Beijing crowd seem to love this place. We enjoyed many cocktails and some sandwiches in the lobby. The prices are a bit high. You can walk two blocks down the street to a great mall with beautiful walkways and outdoor bars. There is a Whole Foods type market where we purchased beer, wine and snacks for our rooms. You can walk to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. The hotel has a beautiful spa and large indoor pool.
SHANGHAI TO NINGBO
THE TRAIN RIDE
We traveled from Shanghai to Ningbo by train. The trip began at 5:30 a.m. which meant we had to be up and out of the hotel by 4:30 a.m. This meant basically staying up all night. The train ride took over four hours. We were tired when we arrived in Ningbo but still attended a business meeting and lunch that lasted most of the day. Ningbo is a very nice city. Only wish we could have spent more time here.
Monday, August 17, 2009
While walking around the Pudong area of Shanghai we wanted to visit the World Financial Center which is the tallest building in the City and one of the tallest in the world. The building is spectacular with a huge arch on the top. Truly a sight to behold. In the basement is a food court where we enjoyed one of our best meals in China. The Caesar Salad was the best. A build your own venture with fresh lettuce, anchovies and parmesan cheese. The dressing was light and tasty. The absolute perfect combination for a Caesar. The chicken dish we enjoyed was out of this world. One of the best chicken dishes ever. The chef would not give us the recipe. We met some highly educated liberals from California here. Even they could not spoil this great meal.
I have visited China four times now. After three days maximum, I must eat a Big Mac. The feeling of enjoying an American burger is beautiful. You have to live in the smells and tastes of Asia to know this feeling. In 10 days this trip I consumed three Big Macs. This is more than I eat in a year in Hawaii.
JIN MAO TOWER
Built in 1998 as a China/American joint venture the Jin Mao Tower is the third tallest building in China at 1379 feet. This is one of the most stunning architectural structures I have ever seen. I can look at this building for hours and not get bored. I was in Shanghai during it's construction and could not believe the beauty of the design. This building is a wonder. We ventured to the top and could not see two feet in front of us. We were literally in the clouds with absolutely zero visibility. It did not matter that we could not enjoy the view. Just being in this building was a treat. It is without question an architectural gem not to be missed.
ORIENTAL PEARL TV TOWER
Built in 1994 at a height of 1550 feet, this grey tower with pink spheres (meant to resemble pearls) is hailed as Asia's tallest TV tower and the third tallest in the world. The view from above is awesome and the restaurant serves some nice cold brews and good food. We enjoyed the views for hours. The top tower rotates so you can see all of the city, rivers and stunning architecture.
YAN'AN DONG LU TUNNEL
We stayed on the Bund in Shanghai. Directly across the Huangpu River is the Pudong area. This is a new and vibrant part of the city with some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. To get across the river we jumped in a people mover for the quick ten minute or less ride to Pundong.
We ventured into a huge mall in the Pudong (New Area) in East Shanghai. To get to Pudong, you must go over a bridge, through a tunnel or cross the Huangpu River by boat. We opted for the underwater tram and were in total awe when we emerged into one of the coolest cities on earth. Among our finds was a Hooters. We stepped in for a cold brew and some hot wings. They offer a "chinese hot" wing that is unlike anything you get in the States. The wings are served skinless or with skin on. We went skinless and ordered them up with the "chinese hot" sauce. This is a dry type rub of hot peppers that taste great. The heat was more intense than any hot wing I have ever eaten. Super hot with great flavor. Me and the Dog could not finish them off. We were burning up.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
WORLD'S BEST DUMPLINGS
SOMEWHERE IN SHANGHAI
We were given a note from the employees of a Shanghai Coffee house. The note contained the name and address of a very famous dumpling restaurant in Shanghai. We went there not knowing what to expect. Once we arrived some locals assisted us in ordering. The cost was 20 yuan for two. This equates to about $3.50. After observing our lack of knowledge, the people next to us told us to pop a hole in the dumpling and drink the juice. This was all by hand gestures because no one in the joint spoke english. We were in a totally different world and loved it. We would have stayed and ate more, but they did not serve beer. Hands down the best dumpling I have ever eaten in my life.
COPA COFFEE HOUSE
Me and Mad Dog were walking down the street near the Westin Bund Center. We saw a sign that said "bar" so we walked on over. Upon further examination of the sign it read "coffee bar". Laughing out loud we walked in and found warm beer and some good wine from Chile. The staff spoke little english. there were four male coffee tenders and a few waitresses. Me and Dog were the only customers so we enjoyed great service. We attempted to communicate but there was very little english spoken among the staff. We did get a piece of paper with the name and address of the worlds best dumplings restaurant written in chinese. We handed the note to a cab driver and ended up in dumpling heaven. We tipped the four boys heavily because they stood at attention behind the bar for over an hour. We returned the next day to have lunch and thank them for the dumpling restaurant tip. Again it was difficult to communicate but we had a great time. They make a great club sandwich here. They add an egg to the standard version.
We literally stumbled into this place and found a good cold brew that was perfect for the hot and humid Shanghai nights.
The Westin Shanghai is a great hotel located near the Bund. It is a five star property with four star service. The rooms are nice and clean. My only complaint is that the employees do not give the attention or service like the Peninsula Manila. There is a great wine tasting party on the first Tuesday of each month. For about US$15 you can drink from 6 or 7 different wine booths. The price includes heavy pupu's and a chance to meet the hotel manager, food and beverage manager, executive chef and other employees. The wine flows freely from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Me and the Dog wore aloha shirts and shorts while others were wearing suits and their Sunday best. I enjoyed our stay at the Westin and would stay here again in the future
JOHN AND YOKO
This place was actually discovered by Shirley as she was walking through the mall in Makati. She saw good looking girls in boots and mini skirts and thought it would be the perfect hang out for Mad Dog. Boy was she correct. John and Yoko serves great sushi, but it is the servers who get your attention. We dined on a variety of sushi. The best was a grilled mango wrapped with a thinly sliced and seared piece of ahi sashimi. The combination of mango and ahi was incredible. We all loved the dish. This type of hip and cool sushi restaurant would do well in Hawaii. Especially if they kept the uniforms and the gals.
I have been eating at Piadina every trip to Manila for about ten years. It is located in the Glorietta Mall across from the Peninsula Hotel. A quick walk across the street and you are in an air conditioned mall with many food choices. I choose Piadina because they make a great Pizza and serve cold beer for cheap. The pizza is around $5. The Pizza Mahgerita consists of a thin crust, tomato sauce and basil. That is it. The tables are outside on the mall which gives you a great view of the shoppers. It is a great place to people watch and spend some time in Manila. The place gets packed during lunch where the locals enjoy a chicken and pasta combo for about $3.
SONG FOR SHIRLEY
While dating Shirley I would always ask the band to play the Oceans Apart song. It really had meaning when we lived thousands of miles from each other in two different countries. We played the song at our wedding reception at the Peninsula. Here it is over ten years later and I asked the band to play our song. They did it without question and brought tears to my eyes.
THE PENINSULA HOTEL
WOW......If you are in Manila on Friday or Saturday night, you must try the Seafood Buffet at the Peninsula Hotel. Just the cold section of salads, seafood and sushi are worth the price of around US$30. There are oysters, shrimp, lobster, sushi, salads, cheeses and much more. Me and Dog loved the cheese platter. The smoked fish was also terrific. The hot line had everything from ribs, steak, fish, chicken, salmon and prime rib. There is so much to choose from plus absolutely terrific deserts. The spread is simply amazing. We stayed at the buffet for several hours and enjoyed the symphony of music and a bottle of wine. One of the greatest evenings of my life.
THE PENINSULA HOTEL
LUNCH IN THE LOBBY
The Pen serves up a large selection of lunch items. Everything from Rack of Lamb, to burgers, dogs, pasta, sandwiches, salads, steak, pizza and many Filipino favorites. Throw in a ice cold Super Dry Beer and you have the perfect lunch in a beautiful place. The live solo piano player during lunch is fantastic. Plays all the favorites and fills the lobby with happiness.
Most room packages include a free buffet breakfast for two each day during your stay. Whether you want just coffee and fruit or a full blown breakfast with made to order egg and omelet bar, the Peninsula Buffet has it all. The breakfast is very international to accommodate the many nationalities of the hotel visitors.
PENINSULA HOTEL LOBBY
The lobby of the Peninsula Manila is one of the greatest places on earth. It is truly one of my favorite spots to hang out. This is the lobby where Shirley worked when we first met over tens years ago. We held our wedding reception in the upper lobby. I can spend days in this hotel without ever leaving. It is just that good.
THE PENINSULA HOTEL
In my opinion, The Peninsula Hotel in Manila is the finest hotel in the World. It is a sanctuary of relaxation in the middle of a very large and sometimes dirty city. Located in Makati, The Peninsula is walking distance to some of the best shopping and dining spots in the city. What I like most about the Peninsula is the great service. Every employee in the hotel recognizes you and says hello or goodbye 24 hours a day. Service here is genuine and at a level not seen at any other Peninsula or five star hotel in America or Asia. I love the grand lobby with it's towering ceiling and open air feel. Most of the day and night there is live music that fills the lobby with sounds of joy. I can sit in the lobby for hours. Eating, reading, talking or just people watching. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and super ice cream creations are served in the lobby. It is the gathering place for the Manila elite and for common folks who just want to enjoy the beauty of one of the greatest hotels on earth. I love the Peninsula Manila. This is where I stayed all the years I was courting and visiting Shirley. Our wedding reception was held on the second story of the lobby. Truly magical then and now. Security is very tight in all of Manila. All vehicles are screened by security and bomb sniffing dogs prior to entering the driveway fronting the lobby. Prior to entering the hotel more bomb sniffing dogs check you and your bags. There is then a metal detector, body scan and search of hand held items. The entire process is quick and efficient. You encounter the same type of security when entering malls in Manila. Guards and metal detectors are everywhere.
THE THRILLA IN MANILA
Honolulu to Manila, Philippines via Hawaiian Airlines. This is a 10 hour direct flight that was made enjoyable by fantastic flight attendants and upgrades from years of saving up Hawaiian Airlines miles. This trip included several days at the Peninsula Hotel in Manila and a ten day visit to Shanghai, Ningbo and Beijing in China. Joining us on the trip is Gary "Mad Dog" Derks.