Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fireworks have been going off all night, but they intensified half an hour ago, at midnight Saturday, or New Year's Eve according to the Lunar calendar. You could see them in three directions, from a dozen different locations just from my apartment windows. Gong Xi Fa Cai, or Chun Jie Kuai Le, everyone has been saying. The nightsky is cloudy with smoke, and I can't take any decent pictures.

Spent a long weekend in Bangkok last week with friends who crammed in everything possible in three days: pomelo salad with tamarind, shrimp cakes, sea crab with yellow curry, mango and sticky rice. In the markets, there were laquered bowls made of eggshells, turquoise rings from Afghanistan, sieves made from pierced coconut shells and amulets of all kinds to ward off bad spirits and bring job success. Above, photos of Thailand on sale on the street near the Jim Thompson House.

Vendor wrapping betel nuts, which are palm nuts from the areca tree, believed by some locals to cure headache, fever, even venereal disease. The leaves are apparently mildly intoxicating, especially with lime paste.

Mango and sticky rice: amazing. The mangoes here are unlike any I've had elsewhere. Intense flavor, ever ripe, never stringy.

Purple crabs for sale on the street - in plastic bags.

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, Bangkok's largest and oldest temple.

Resin Buddhas and resin Buddhas coated with silver, at the amulet market.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This electronics company two hours west of Shanghai recently fired 22 people who are carriers for the Hepatitis B virus (which is transmitted by blood, maternal-infant transmission or through sex rather than casual contact). The company, which employees say makes up to a million all-in-one printers for Hewlett Packard every month, says it didn't discriminate: it was just protecting the health interests of the other 6,000 employees.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's hard to get a real sense of Wanlong ski resort from these photos, but it's not bad skiing (trail map here) considering the other choices currently available in China. Colleagues, as well as the bulletin boards at that's Beijing have reported big crowds, bad lines, dangerous beginners and tiny bunny hills elsewhere. Nan Shan is said to have a good snowboard park, and a problematic lift at Shi Jing Long supposedly stranded passengers for two hours. Wanlong has a combination of natural and man-made snow, is decently groomed, operates about four lifts, six runs. Not particularly difficult, but enough skiing to make you sore. One local did crash into one of our group, sending him flying. The local kept going.

It's a 3-1/2 hour bus ride north of Beijing, in industrial Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. There are $67 suites that sleep four in a comfy hotel at the foot of the chairlifts. A day and a half lift pass is about $38 if you have your own equipment, about $64 if you need to rent: quite expensive by Chinese standards. Not only did Wanlong rent parabolic Salomon skis, but many of the Chinese customers were kitted out in the latest brand name helmets and ski gear. Customer service was better than in Beijing's five star hotels.

Nearby work has begin on another resort called Saibei Dolomiti Ski, a joint venture between the Chongli county government and a private company that seems to be comprised of Italian and German investors. It's about three or four square miles, and will be five times as a big in a few years. At the moment, one trail, a mile long, is finished, and ski fans are blogging about trying it out possibly for free, before the coming Spring Festival. You'd have to stay in Chongli county or in a farmer's home because there's no hotel yet.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Lost in Translation

This photo was taken recently by Beijing hiker Raquel Martins, near the Shunyi residential neighborhood. Beijing registered a record 22,079 new motor vehicles in the first 18 days of 2007, the New China News Agency reported last month. That's more than 1,226 new cars on the road each day. By May, there will be more than three million cars in this city of 13 million people, officials said.
Why overstuffed news bureaus in China blackmail sources, and why the tradition of hong bao (cash-filled red envelopes) is likely to continue, covered by my colleague here and here and posted on China Digital Times by Newsweek's Jonathan Ansfield here.

It's not just the practice in China, but also in Taiwan (scroll to reader comment from 11/4/06). It's not just among journalists but also local officials.