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.

Things I love about having a baby in China

I go back to work tomorrow with a feeling of dread. I mean, I’ve always had that annoyed feeling at the fact the holidays are over and that I need to be responsible and earn a living again, but this time it’s different. I’ve just spent a full month with my baby. A bit of travelling, but mostly just time in and around home. And it’s been…. divine. I feel so priviledge to have had this time. And it’s made me want to be a stay-at-home Mum, which is something that I never thought would happen. 

As a follow up to Things I love about being pregnant in China, I feel inspired to write the ‘having a baby’** list.

{**How annoying is English? ‘Having a baby’ here just doesn’t sound right, but I wanted it to line up with the title of my original piece. Owning a baby? Possessing a baby? Sheesh.}

1. Walking. I do so much more walking now. And it’s great! There are so many little details of the city that you see on foot, that whiz by when you taxi or ride.

2. Making people smile. Adella is a cheeky little baby and will smile at anything. Which also means at everyone who looks her way. She’s particularly good at this on public transportation and in supermarkets.

3. Making people run. We’ve made people run, just to come and see the “Yang Wawa” (little western doll).

4. Conversation starters. I feel like I have so many more random conversations about babies. This is so good for my language skills, which I’m really trying to improve on at the moment.

5. Random advice. Ok, so the random advice can often be annoying, but sometimes it is just hilarious. For example, “I think she’s not wearing enough”, to “I think she’s too hot”. From the same person within 10 minutes.

6. Astonishing Chinese women. Our crazy western standards when it comes to raising babies. No milk powder? No disposable nappies? Not wearing 20 layers of clothing? Their shocked faces are absolute gold.

7. Eating good food. In a country of food scandals and dodgy food processing methods, it has been nice to take the time to find out more about what Beijing has to offer in terms of organic foods. And I’m sure there are many more options out there that I’m yet to find.

8. Friendship. We have already quickly become part of a playgroup with Mums and Bubbas, all around the same age as Adella. It’s wonderful to have such a great support network.

9. Coming home after work. I love coming home to her. She’s such a joy.

10. Family time. Our weekends are so special now.

IMG_2501aHere she is playing peek-a-boo on the train.

So here’s to hoping that as I step into the classroom tomorrow, my gorgeous students will remind me why I love my job and rekindle my enthusiasm. I hope.

Walking with Spirits


(This is a very delayed post… I’ve just finished my first semester back at school since Adella was born, and it’s been a busy one. Catching up on some blogging now!)

So, I officially feel like a hippy mum. We took our 7-week-old daughter to a music festival out in the sticks.

We stayed up in Katherine visiting family for a couple of weeks, and had the Walking with Spirits festival recommended to us. We drove from Katherine to Beswick, and then took a 4WD track for about half an hour to the location of the festival. We parked the car and crossed a small creek and found ourselves on a big sandy floodplain bank along a river. The sand was soft and clean, and on the other side of the river were super tall cliff faces. The rocks were a myriad of different shades of oranges, reds and browns. Many children were splashing around in the shallows and a few people had gone for a good long swim across the waterway.

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The site is closed to the public everyday of the year, except for this festival. So, it’s pretty special to be able to access this piece of Arnhem land.Having an infant at a festival does mean for a different experience. We settled up the back so that we were far enough away from the speakers. Plus, I didn’t really want to interrupt other people’s festival experience. But, Adella was really great. She mostly slept, and when she wasn’t sleeping it was easy enough to get up and have a bouncy dance with her. The most annoying thing is the amount of stuff you need for one tiny person. I had piles of nappies, blankets (it gets really cold at night) and things like mosquito nets. Meanwhile, not really anything for me!Whilst chilling in the afternoon on the sand, I suddenly turned around to find 5 young aboriginal girls crowded around Adella’s pram. At the time, her Yeye was rocking her. The girls were so confused. They wanted to know who was Mum, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. Then, they couldn’t work out why Grandpa was trying to calm her crying. Then, they kept telling me to give her milk to stop her crying. I guess the traditional family structure in aboriginal families would be very different, and I don’t think the men have much to do with settling and quietening babies. They were fascinated!

It was such a family-friendly festival. Once the traditional dancing started, so many children and audience members joined in. The dancers moved to the music with such a strong rhythm. With their red clothing and white body paint, they were eye-catching and stark as they kicked up a flurry of sand with their feet. We heard aboriginal stories with beautiful animation to match. There were amazing fire dancers, and even some breakdancers too! The night finished with a rock group that had everyone up on their feet. The ambiance was complete with small campfires spotted through the crowd, as well as candles drifting down the river that reminded us of the spirits present on the land.

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Lights bouncing off the cliff face and candles drifting on the river.

Haw Par Villa

Ok, so we went to Singapore a few months back, but I’ve been holding onto these photos from Haw Par Villa, desperate to find some time to post them. And, I guess, maternity leave is a good time for that!

Haw Par Villa is a weird kind of park, created by the inventors of Tiger Balm. It shows scenes from Ancient Chinese legends and historical stories, as well as downright scary stuff. It’s well-worth a visit, and when we went, entry was free!

The highlight was the ‘Ten Courts of Hell’, depicting all sorts of crazy punishments for particular wrongdoings. On the day that we were there, the main demographic of visitors to the park were parents with young children, casually wandering through the courts of hell quite calmly. While grossed-out interjections popped out of my mouth, the young children didn’t seemed scared at all. Am I just sensitive? Would you take your children through here? I’ll let you decide…

I guess this should have been signs of things to come…

Conmen, robbers or inflictors of physical injury were thrown in the volcanic pit.

Prostitutes were thrown into a pool of blood and drowned.

If you escaped from prison, disrespected your elders or showed ungratefulness, your heart was cut out.

For cheating, cursing or abducting others… knife treatment!

If you misused books, possessed pornographic material, broke written rules and regulations or wasted food, you were sawn in two.

For a lack of filial obedience, causing trouble for parents of family members and cheating during exams, your intestines and organs were pulled out.

For neglecting the old and the young, you were crushed under a boulder.

I guess it might deter your kids from a life of crime, but what would they think of these:

Looking for more pics??? Check them out here at Asia Obscura!

Thunder Tea Rice

Hawker centres are such a fantastic to sample the local Singaporean delights. Before going to Singapore, I did some perusing online, and found this intriguing blog on Thunder Tea Rice. I couldn’t wait to try it – it sounded so delicious, super healthy and includes tea!! Yay!

Thunder Tea Rice involves an oversized bowl of brown rice, with all sorts of delicious ingredients: sprouts, soy beans, peanuts, green vegies and dried anchovies. Plus, a bowl of a soupy green matcha tea with basil and mint mixed in. We bought the set meal, which also includes a huge piece of tofu encrusted with a yummy topping.

The brochure tells us that the dish is advantageous for health and weight management by increasing your metabolism and detoxification, as well as treating a number of nasty diseases. I particularly like their quote: “The tedious way of preparing Thunder Tea Rice dish also contributes as a physical work out especially during the hour-long grinding to make the Thunder Tea Rice paste”. Nice.

This dish was so amazing that we’ve replicated it twice since coming back only a few weeks ago! Zac made it for our masterchef 2.0 challenge. When Zac replicated it though, we did the paste in the blender!

If you are travelling to Singapore and want to try it out, you can find it in the Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre – Stall 12. It’s easy to spot, as there’s a HUGE queue at lunchtime.

A True Getaway

Happy New Year of the Dragon! Zac and I decided to spend some of our precious holiday time together in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. As usual, we didn’t plan in too much detail, but one place we did pre-book into was Mutiara Beach Guesthouse…. and man, was it worth it!

Sitting at the ferry terminal in Singapore, I have to admit that I was a little hesitant. We were surrounded by ads for resorts, golf courses and spas – not our idea of a quiet holiday. The other tourists on the boat were decked out in their Ralph Lauren polo shirts and designer shoes. Many of them were checking in golf sticks. The TV on the boat boasted packages for  families and spa treatments. It did not look good.

However, the smooth 50-minute ferry trip was followed by a 50-minute taxi ride on Bintan Island, where we were soon out of the ‘resort zone’ and dense greenery, local houses and flashes of crystal blue water whizzed past the window.

We were greeted with smiles and a welcome coconut drink! We were shown to our ‘Pondok Pavillion’, where we would spend the next six nights. The pavillion had a double mattress, covered with a mosquito net, and a simple table of supplies. The shared bathroom was behind the building. It also had an amazing balcony, where we spent most of our days.

 

The hospitality of the guesthouse was incredible. The staff did everything they could to make our stay comfortable. They follow the ‘slow food’ movement, so everything is totally fresh, and if they don’t have it today, you don’t get it. So, no old food or microwaves. Bliss.

The highlight for me was definitely the breakfasts… an amazing combination of crepe, banana, coconut, cinnamon, sugar and lime juice, topped off with a yummy cup of tea (maybe Rooibos tea? or something similar, at least). I will definitely be adding this to the weekend breakfast menu, as a pikelet alternative!

And even though you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, there’s a massage spa built next door along the river. We had a beautiful aromatherapy massage amongst the mangroves.

 

The guesthouse also had lots of activities on offer: sports, snorkelling, hiring of bikes, motorbikes, cars, etc. My pregnant belly, however, urged me to spend my days walking along the beach, taking photographs, swimming and just absorbing the clean air and sunshine. Phew! Life’s tough!

Everyone we met (and there really weren’t many people around – see above pic!) was so welcoming and friendly. Children on the beach waved, men building boats from coconut palms grinned as we wandered past and even the local dogs came and said hi.

I would not hesitate to return when I’m next in need of total relaxation.