Saturday, May 31, 2008

Great Wall Ball

Belonging to the French Association, the International Newcomers’ Network and the British Club, there was one group I didn’t belong to and that was the ANZA or Australian and New Zealand Association. One of reason I wanted to get involve in this group is that each year they have a dinner/ball on the Great Wall. Tickets usually sell fast and in general they aren’t any left by the time they are available to the general public. We decided that this year was the year to have a chance of a lifetime to dress up and have champagne on the Great Wall with the group of great friends I tend to hang out a lot.

The night started at 4.45pm with a bus ride to the section of the wall called Juyong Guan (about 1 hour away from Beijing). As we were greeted by Champagne and Petits Fours, light rain started but nothing could temper our spirit and after finding some shelter from nearby trees, the tables awaited us in a wonderful setting. The dinner catered by the St Regis Hotel was excellent and we had plenty of time to dance before we had to leave, just like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight!

It turned out that another dinner was taking place on another section of the wall, organized by ASC (China’s largest importer/distributor of quality wines) and hosted by the world’s most influential wine critic Robert Parker. At 16,000 rmb (€1,600 or $0,000) per person for their dinner we were definitely not competing in the same category at all.

Photo ASC

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Building, Building and

...More Building

30% of the world cranes are apparently in China…. I wouldn’t doubt it!!!.

Cranes everywhere

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Commune...

...By The Great Wall

Last Saturday was Mother’s Day in France and the French group (Pekin Accueil) held their yearly summer party. This year we decided to try something new by including the whole family and having a brunch, but not at any ordinary place. The setting was this amazing Boutique Hotel by the Great Wall.

Set amid the peaceful and green mountains near the Shuiguan section of the Great Wall, the 8 square kilometer development is a private collection of contemporary architecture designed by 12 Asian architects. The hotel won a special prize at the 2002 “biennale di Venezia.

The first phase of the project “The Walnut Valley” includes 11 villas and was opened in October 2002. In 2006, the next phase “the Stone Valley” opened with 31 news villas and a kids’ club, The Commune of the Children

The Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski has become a showcase of contemporary Chinese and Asian architecture. It has been widely covered by both Chinese and international media as a momentous breakthrough in architectural history in China and Asia.
Furniture and other interior decoration pieces collected by Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski are from such distinguished designers as Serge Mouille, Thierry Hoppe, Von Robinson, Philippe Starck, Alex Strub, Claudio Colucci, Ross Menuez, Kaname Okajima, Jonas Damon, Karim Rashid, Matthew Hilton, Marc Newson and Michael Young.
Architects of Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski are Gary Chang (Hong Kong), Shigeru Ban (Japan), Cui Kai (China), Rocco Yim (Hong Kong), Chien Hsueh-Yi (Taiwan), Antonio Ochoa (China), Kengo Kuma (Japan), Kanika R’kul (Thailand), Kay Ngee Tan (Singapore), Nobuaki Furuya (Japan), Yung Ho Chang (China), Seung H-Sang (South Korea).

Here are some pictures but for truly amazing pictures click here

The Kids club was like a showroom from Pottery Barn, so cute!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Another Day...

...Another Festival

Today it’s the 5.25 (May 25th that is!) or in Chinese “wu er wu” (五二五) which is phonetically close to “wo ai wo” (我爱我) meaning Me/Love/Me

Apparently this was going around via SMS and since my phone isn’t compatible with Chinese characters I didn’t notice it (I get little square instead) but I wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway.

今天是"5.25""我爱我"的日子!真心提醒:累了,就好好休息; 错了,别埋怨自己; 烦了,是考验自己; 时刻牢记,"我爱我自己"!.

jinnian shi “5.25” “wo ai wo” de ri zi ! zhen xin ti xing; lei le, jiu hao hao xiu xi; cuo le, bie mai yuan zi ji ; fan le, shi kao yan zi ji ; shi ke lao ji, “wo ai wo zi ji”!.

Which basically say that today is May 25 the day of “I love myself”. If you are tired; rest, if you make mistake; don’t complain, if you have problems; it’s a test, always hold on your heart and love yourself.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's Getting Hot...

...In Here (Part II)

Love the burning thermometer
Heat + humidity + pollution = hell in Beijing!

38°C/100°F not that it is unusual for this time of the year but what took most of us by surprise is that until today the temperature were below what we had been used to for Beijing in May.
So after my previous post on “How To Know It’s Spring Time” let’s see “How To Know It’s Summer Time”:

  • Men show their mid-riff and usually half of one leg. The latest men fashion… so hot!
  • More and more people seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to walk outside in their pajamas. Taking a late afternoon (an early morning, mid morning or early afternoon for that matter) stroll in one’s pj is not really a fashion faux pas it is in fact THE thing to do here!!
  • People get their umbrellas out. It doesn’t rain a lot in Beijing (well apart from this year!) so they have to use them somehow, protection from the sun seems an excellent choice.
  • Nylon socks are out…worn with sandals otherwise it wouldn’t be fashionable!
  • Over sleeve to avoid unwanted tan lines
  • The Dark Vador look… so last this year
  • Pollution mask…365 days a year but even more necessary at this time of the year

Beijing at its best

Friday, May 23, 2008

After A Cube, Some Water (in February)

...A Nest, Some Birds (In May)

After our trip to the Water Cube at the beginning of the year for the Good Luck Beijing, we took the chance to go see up close and personal the new National Stadium (北京国家体育场 - Bei3jing1 guo2jia1 ti3yu4chang3) aka Bird’s Nest, for the latest Good Luck Beijing 2008 of the “China Athletics Open”. All together 932 athletes (154 from abroad and 799 from China) from 14 countries and regions were competing in 42 Olympic events and 4 Para Olympic events.

We were a lot more impressed by the Stadium than by the National Aquatics Center. The intriguing network of the steel supports is fascinating and the use of bright red color makes a nice impact.

The design competition held in 2002 was won by Swiss-based architects Herzog and de Meuron who collaborated with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group. The ground was broken on Christmas Eve December 2003, and construction started in March 2004.

And now a few statistics: the stadium can seat as many as 91,000 spectators during the Olympics. The capacity will then be reduced to 80,000 after the Games. The stadium is 330 meters long by 220 meters wide, and is 69.2 meters tall (258,000 square meters). It was built with 36 km of unwrapped steel, with a combined weight of 45,000 tonnes. The stadium is said to have cost 3.5 billion yuan (≈$423 million).

The stadium will host the main track and field competitions, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Photo Xinhua

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One-Child Policy Partially Relax...

...In The Aftermath of the Earthquake

In response to inquiries form grieving relatives, the Chengdu Population and Family Committee in Sichuan Province announced that parents whose only child was killed or grievously injured on the May 12 earthquake would be exempt from the country’s one-child policy. The qualified parents could apply for legal permission to have another child.

If a couple’s legally born child was killed in the earthquake, an illegal child under 18 years could be registered as a legal replacement. If the dead child was illegal, it said the family would no longer be responsible for outstanding fines, although parents would not be reimbursed for penalties already paid. The new regulation promises an annual allowance of 600 yuan (US$85) to parents over 50 years of age whose only child was killed or seriously disabled by the earthquake

The one-child policy, known in Chinese as the “birth plan”, was introduced in 1979 to control population growth. The existing rules allow for exceptions to the strict one-child rule only if the parents are from ethnic minority groups or if they are rural families where the first-born is a girl. The children of those who defy the rules are sometimes denied government benefits, including access to a free education. Since early 2000, urban couples where both husband and wife were born as single children were also allowed to apply for a permission to have a second child. In 2002 it was ruled that the policy is applied to ethic Han Chinese only.

The incentives vary by region, but often a couple with just one child will get more land, a better house, a reduction in grain taxes and a subsidy amounting to about $15 a year -equivalent to more than a month's income for many poor peasants. On the other hand, those who have children without permission must pay fines annually for 10 years, amounting each time to 5 to 10 percent of the parents' income. In urban area where celebrities and rich people often violate the family planning policy by having multiple babies. In some cases the fines have reached over $100,000, resulting in having many children as being a status symbol. Last year East china’s Zhejiang Province announces that they will expose people who violate the policy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

National Mourning

2.28pm, exactly one week after the terrible earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale that shook Sichuan province in South China, China’s State Council has mandated a three-minute silence in honor of the victims and also ordered the sounding of all horns, air raid sirens during the period.

This will mark the start of three days of mourning. All flags will be flown at half mast for the period. Government had banned all public entertainment, entertainment based websites and all television not covering the quake. Even the Torch Relay will be interrupted.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do...

...Or The Chinese take on Fakes!

When it strikes home this is not the same. While a huge amount of markets with fake luxury goods and pirated DVDs operate in plain view all around Beijing, the Chinese authority doesn’t joke around when it comes to the counterfeit of the Olympics Games Emblems.

“The protection of Olympic-related intellectual property rights (IPR) will be a key job of Beijing's law-enforcement agencies […. If any infringement of the Olympic-related IPR, especially in the patent area, happens in an enterprise, the emergency response system will be in action and our patent law-enforcement personnel will come to the scene in 24 hours to solve the problem, after receiving complaints or reports though phone calls," he said. The protection of the Olympic-related copyright is an important area of the Beijing Copyright Administration, said vice director Wang Yefei. Meanwhile the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce is taking measures to crack down on sales of counterfeit Olympic merchandise and is mobilizing the general public to take part in the Olympic-related IPR protection, said an administration official. […] On the basis of reports and tips from consumers, the industrial and commercial administration departments recently have traced and dealt with a number of cases involving counterfeit Olympic products and forged anti-fake labels attached to such products.”

Apparently the informant or “snitch” will perceive 5% of the fines paid by the offender. The highest award could reach 100,000 rmb (€9,300 or $14,500).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Elle Deco...

...Now National Geographic

While (the Chinese) Elle Deco didn’t even make it to the newsstands, the latest (English version of the) National Geographic, which is a special issue on China, is available in the English bookstores. However when you read it you’ll notice that some of the pages had been glued together; the article “Mao Now” (page 100-101) on artists using the Chairman as an objet d’art (ironic for someone who decreed “there is no such thing as art for art’s sake”) and again page 128 & 129 which are dedicated to Censorship (sic!) “Cutting off Dissent”. Two maps have also been banned: one with the geographical distribution of minority groups “Beyond Han” and another map of China, which on a first glance didn’t seem too controversial since Taiwan was marked as being part of China, but maybe the red dotted lines marking “boundary claimed by China” near the Indian’s and Bhutanese’s borders were to blame.

You have to imagine the censors gluing one by one those pages in all 100+ issues!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Have They Been Smoking?

These big mushrooms are popping up all around town. Apparently they are air vents for the underground pipe and sewer system.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers in the world, well at least in China, the USA and a few other countries because the dates to celebrate your mother (which should be everyday, by the way) can range from early February (in Greece) to late December (in Indonesia).

Technically speaking Jeffrey should call his mom on the second Sunday in May (but not only then!). I should call mine on the Last Sunday in May except if it coincides with Pentecost day, in which case Mother's Day will be shifted to the first Sunday of June (could it be more confusing, especially when you live abroad!!). If Chloe was to follow the calendar of her birthday place (Argentina) she should celebrate her mother on the third Sunday in October and Jeremy should remember to be extra nice on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday, so it can fall at the earliest on March 1st and at the latest on April 4th (could it been more complicated for the little fella?)

Sorry mom I was 2 weeks early. Hope you’ll forgive me if I forget on the 25th!!
If you ever forget to celebrate your mother on Mother’s day (or if you want to save some money on flowers, since the price seem to always sky rock around that time) you can pick another date and tell your mother that it is Mother’s Day in [insert country]…. Check out the date and countries here

It could be Chloe's room!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not All Exports...

...Are Good Export!

One example: Hooters!

Is something missing? …. I cannot pin point what

Definitively not the same.

PS: Please, don’t ask me how I end up in those places!

Friday, May 9, 2008

All The Way To The Top of Chomolungma...

...Or Qomolangma
...or Zhumulangma Feng (珠穆朗玛峰)

In case you’ve been keeping track of the Olympic torch….

“The team of Chinese mountaineers carrying the Olympic torch has reached the summit of Mt. Everest - or Qomolangma as Xinhua News Agency insists on calling it.
The 19-member final assault team was comprised of both ethnic Han Chinese and Tibetan members and also included university students. The team captain is a Tibetan, identified as Nyima Cering, while the deputy is Chinese, Luo Shen, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency said.
This was not the 'main' torch and was outside of the main torch relay (the torch is currently in Guangzhou - formerly known as Canton before heading to Shenzhen) but the flames are from the same source. The Everest flame had been carried in a special metal canister during the ascent. As the team neared the top, they used a wand to pass the flame from the canister to the torch, which had been designed to withstand the frigid, windy, oxygen-thin Himalayan air.”

Photo Xinhua

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It Should Be Time...

...To Move

Well not necessarily to another country but to a new place at least if we’d followed our track records!

After a little bit of stress a couple of weeks ago of “are we moving, are we not moving” we finally decided (and because our landlord came to his senses or should I say “caved-in” after having been harassed by our real estate agent) that we were better off staying in our current apartment than moving to another part of the city. Not that it would have been miles away but we like our neighborhood and anyway with Beijing being on the move it’s barely the same neighborhood we moved into 18 months ago. The other apartment was very nice and the building complex pleasant but it might have been too close the “The Place” and my credit card might not have liked it!! However how cool could it have been living in “Central Park” that would have been quite flashy on my business card!.

Oh well we are breaking the rule of thumb of moving every 2+ years (not moving into a different country but at least into a new home) since I haven’t lived more than 2.5 years in the same place in the last 15+ years (1 year in Denver, 1 year in Houston, 1 year in Grenoble, 2 years in Paris, 1 year in Montpellier, 2 years in Paris (different apartment), 2.5 years in Buenos Aires, 4.5 in Aberdeen (but 2.5 years in one house and 2 years in a different one), 1 year in Pau) unless the company surprise us and ask us to move at the end of the year (that would be a very bad surprise!) we are here until the summer 2009, so I can tell you all about the after-Olympics !

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

French Residence

...Yet Again

This is the 4th time I’m going to the French Residence in the last 2 months maybe I should just move there!

  • Coffee organized by Pekin Accueil on March 14th: Checked
  • Lunch with Mr Richard Yung (“Senateur”) on April 9th: Checked
  • Cocktail with Mr Christian Poncelet (“Président du Sénat”) on April 24th: Checked
  • Dinner with Mr Philippe Séguin (“Premier Président de la Cour des Comptes”) on May 6th: Checked

And I'm not even counting the cocktail reception late October for Mr Bernard Kouchner (“Ministre des Affaires étrangères et européennes”)! Since I’ve been doing, the coffees, the luncheons, the cocktails and the dinners… all is left is a sleep over!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


...Where You Least Expect It

Wonder what's wrong with this picture

This picture was extracted from the March Issue of Elle Decoration. It’s a picture of Donna Karan’s New York home. Nothing too controversial, at least for the magazine editors. The magazine was set to hit newsstands when the “censors” realize what it contained. Let’s just say that this edition of Elle Deco never reached its audience.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Boutique Living

...Shrimp Drying!

So much class in what they used to call our place "Home of Tycoons"....

Never a better day than May Holiday!