The brothel has had an upgrade!

And all of a sudden… we’re no longer living next to a brothel! It really does feel like the end of an era. It has had an upgrade. No longer are there late-night Maseratis and Lamborghinis parked in the carpark. Instead, there’s a early morning stream of tour group families heading off for Beijing adventures.

It is now officially the Pacific Hotel!

(I’m sure, however, if you needed some of their previous services, they would still be available on request).

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But I still have a couple of funny photos to share from the renovations.

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From a distance, these toilet doors looked quite cool. Bond and Marilyn… good choice…

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…until you got closer and discovered that they were scary androids.

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Love seat removal blocking our street.

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Been looking for WMDs? I think I found one.

See some older photos here.

The Blue Zoo (BJ Bucket List #3)

In Beijing, we live opposite a soccer stadium. But it’s not only a soccer stadium. It’s a nightclub hotspot. It’s a popular family walking spot. It’s a place to show off your new sports car. It’s a place to watch big pop concerts. It’s a place to open an over-priced jewellery shop.

Oh, and there’s the “longest acrylic tunnel” in Asia, measuring in at  120m! Only in China would you find an giant aquarium under a soccer stadium and nowhere near the ocean.

I’m always a little apprehensive about zoos in China – they don’t have the best reputation. But aside from one section where some turtles and sharks were in a pretty small tank, it was actually pretty impressive! We also went half an hour before closing, so there was no one there! Fabulous!!

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Baby on the Great Wall (BJ Bucket List #2)

We had a great recommendation from a friend to stay at Great Wall Fresh. We were picked up by Mr. Chen’s lovely son in a very comfy car from line 13 subway and we cruised past the touristy Badaling, and soon found ourselves in a lovely Chinese village called Chenjiapu.

The accommodation was great, and all of the food was fresh from the garden, cooked by Mrs. Chen. Adella enjoyed Chinese mantou for the first time.

We unfortunately stayed on a very foggy day, but we were so glad to have clean fog rather than smog. So, it ended up being quite a mysterious hike along the wall. Because of the fog and having the little one with us, we did their “easy” hike, but it was still a solid three hours, and we kept up quite a pace! The Wall was highly variable, with weather-eroded turrets, and some pieces of complete wall, whilst other bits had completely disappeared.

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We’ve been to a number of parts of the wall in our six years (Sancha, Jiankou, Simatai, Jinshanling, Badaling{bleh}), and I would highly recommend Great Wall Fresh to anyone looking for a Chinese homestay-style Great Wall getaway. If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below.

The Beijing Tap Water Museum (BJ Bucket List #1)

There are a few things on my bucket list for Beijing. And this was the first thing we’ve knocked off the list!!

After parking the car in a ‘xiaoqu’ carpark, we followed the parking inspector’s directions to…

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The Beijing Tap Water Museum!!

After passing the ticket booth, where the guard insisted that we didn’t have to buy a ticket, we found ourselves in a big field with assorted exampled piping and old machinery. Some groundskeepers were watering the grass/weeds (perhaps to check the water quality?!?!?) and repaving the paths. We were the only guests of the field.

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Look how big the pipes are to get water to Beijing!

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No water at the tap water museum.

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Oh wait, there’s a little bit of green water.

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No pizza for you!

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Well-watered lawn. I’m thinking it would be a great place for a picnic! I wonder what the guard would do…

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Does this remind anyone else of the chamber from “Licence to Kill”?

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Weedy.

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Quite beautiful architecture

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As we rounded the corner, we realised that there was a big museum inside the red building! It was mostly full of a lot of Chinese info, but it had big empty spaces for babies to crawl/run around and some cool models of the water system. There was one other family inside… not a big tourist attraction! The second guard did make us buy a ticket though.

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The Beijing water network

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Whoops! I think someone poked the Forbidden City.

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The Beijing Tap Water Museum in 1949 (can you see the train going through the city wall?)

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The Beijing Tap Water Museum “now”. We couldn’t see the giant water tower though… that must be gone. And the model seemed quite a lot more manicured.

Beijing is so full of random adventures! You may also be interested in Fake Disneyland, Crab Island and Wonderland Abandoned Amusement Park. Onto bucket list item #2.

Abandoned Amusement Park is no longer

The abandoned Wonderland Amusement Park is no longer… demolished to add another useless shopping mall to this city. Possibly will have had a bigger tourism industry from photography than it will ever have as a mall along a freeway in outer Beijing.

Lucky we got there in time!!

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Click here to see our pictures.

And here for the news story on That’s Beijing.

Why we’re leaving China…

I’m feeling sad today. I took bubs out for a walk this morning to run some errands. And I was walking to the market, I ran into so many grandmas who wanted to say hello to bubs and exclaim over her. Then, a lovely lady started chatting to me, and we walked and talked for at least 5 minutes. No agenda – just a general chat about life. We parted ways as I headed downstairs to hunt for some buttons and she wandered off in search of cheap vegies. Why is this sad? Because a thought kept sneaking back into my mind… we shouldn’t be outside… the pollution is too high today… I should be walking faster so we’re back inside sooner.

Sad.

So yes, it’s sad. We’re sad. Super sad. It’s been a really hard decision. The hardest we’ve ever made. It’s weird. It should have been harder to leave Australia and move over here in the first place, but it’s not. It’s much harder to leave. We’ve created our adult lives here. We have a home and careers. But it’s time.

This year has been tough. We’ve put up with three months of intense pollution. Intense. We didn’t really have a break. In the past six years that we’ve lived here, winter has always been beautiful. Blue skies and winter sunshine has always dominated, despite the cold temperatures. But this year was different.

When we think back to our childhoods, we both played outside, in the backyard, on the beach and in the playground. If we stay, I fear Adella will be stuck inside an apartment too much. She loves going outside so much and I’m tired of that being dictated by the pollution report.

I also don’t feel like we’re living the same adventurous lifestyle that we were before. Yes, we have a kid now, but we no longer eat street food and we search high and low for organic, clean food. And I feel that more and more we are living a western lifestyle in China, rather than embracing the wonderful culture that surrounds us.

Speaking of surroundings, we’re going to miss our Beijing family so much. We’ve built such a wonderful, supportive community here. We’ve had some amazing adventures and we have been so lucky to have ayi for Adella’s first year, which has allowed us to go back to work knowing that she was being looked after so well.

How are we dealing with it? I’ve been busying myself with a lot of sewing, studying for the HSK and in the evenings, we’ve been working our way through 7 seasons of American Dad. Living slightly in denial…

I know that once we arrive back in Australia and are surrounded by family and friends, we will feel different. We get to enjoy the sunshine, go to the beach, eat amazing food and start a new adventure. It will be fantastic. I know that.

But today, I’m sad.20130328_075839

Because sometimes it looks like this…
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…but other times it looks like this.

(Same bridge, two different directions, obviously two different days).

My Women’s Day Gift

Last month, my school generously gave all the female teachers a gift – a photo shoot. To celebrate the empowerment of our gender, they slathered us in make-up, so we no longer looked like ourselves and then put on a mix of Chinese medieval and outrageously western costumes. Awesome.

This was an optional gift, but I couldn’t resist. I’ve always wanted to do a Chinese photo shoot. It’s one of those things that just has to be done. Today at school we were able to choose the photos that we’d like to keep… after I finally convinced the photographer that I didn’t want to spend 1900 kuai on a photo album that was full of terrible photos and chinglish, I settled on the five silliest photos as a momento.

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I just could do a serious face for this one. The hat was so bloody heavy and it was being held by bobby pins to my hair. Not pleasant. I could only giggle. 

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Oh, yes. I am beautiful. Check out my hair net thing. And the slit on my dress!!! WOWSER! So high!! 

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Why didn’t I get married in this?? Biggest dress I’ve ever worn.

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The part that took the longest about this pose was my fingers. Look at that craftsmanship. And bear in mind that the directions were in all in Chinese.

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This one is my favourite. It’s totally a wedding ring commercial. At the time, I was so scared about what they were doing to my hair. And rightly so. Terrible.