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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States

Aug 30, 2010

Suzhou part one

The Family got the opportunity to be all together in Suzhou China for a couple of weeks. Nathan has been visiting Suzhou since we lived in the States, so it was great to finally be able to see all the places I have only heard about.

A little history on the region.
Located in the Jiangsu province, Suzhou is known for its gardens and canals.
Since the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Suzhou has been an important center for China's silk industry. The city is part of the Yangtze River Delta region.
It is sometimes known as the Venice of the East or the Venice of China, as a result of the canals.

This was our visit to Panmen. One of the main attractions is the gate, it is the only well preserved water-and-land city gate in the world now. It is believed to be over 2000 years old.

One of the highlights for me was being able to climb the Pagoda. The Ruiguang Pagoda was built in 241 originally 13 storeys tall. In 1100 B.C it went into disrepair and the man who funded the reconstruction made it only seven. The kids kept wanting to go higher and higher, I started to get nervous around the 4th level. The stairs were narrow and there was only one set, so if any one was coming up or down you had to make way for them. We were surprised at the graffiti scratched on the walls. I imagine in the States a plastic barrier would be built to keep that from happening. The ledge was not that high when we walked outside, in the States artificial railing would be in place to make up for this. In China I find myself approaching ancient structures charmed by them being in their original construction but with some trepidation. I was a little disappointed and a little relieved when we discovered that at the upper levels you were not allowed to walk outside.

Queenie ( her English name) works with Nathan and was very kind and helpful to us. She accompanied us to Pan Men it was her first time there as well. She bought the kids these souvenirs.

We were given a boat ride. The man was singing as we went. Queenie said part of what he was singing was simply about rowing the boat.

Aug 9, 2010

Modern Toilet

The title might suggest a post about DIY bathrooms or a newly remodeled toilet in our flat, but it is in fact a restaurant.

Why a toilet restaurant? Wikipedia information:
Owner Wang Zi-Wei, an ex-banker, stated that his inspiration for the bathroom themed restaurant came from a Japanese robot cartoon character, Jichiwawa, who loved to "play with poop and swirl it on a stick." From this cartoon inspiration, he started a successful ice cream shop selling swirled chocolate ice cream on top of paper squat toilets. The chain of Modern Toilets started in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and now has 12 restaurants.

We are so fortunate to have one of those restaurants right here in Hong Kong (sarcasm).
The whole idea of soft ice cream resembling poo and menu items put in a ceramic squatty potty, is not my ideal dining out experience.

However Nathan and Mike were in Mong Kok one Saturday and took the opportunity to find a toilet seat and order some food.

An example of a dessert

Mike ready to dive in.

Nathan's dish was served in a tub, doesn't rate that high on the gross out factor.

The food isn't spectacular but the prices are not that outrageous either. I would believe it is understood you are coming here for the atmosphere and not a 5 star gourmet meal.
Modern Toilet is at least an impressionable first date. It could possibly the one and only date or maybe part of a funny story to tell your future kids.

Aug 1, 2010

Asia snacks and such

You can't read this blog or follow me on Facebook very long without hearing me talk about living in Asia as it relates to food. I decided to make a mini post about some fruits and snacks we get here in HK. I could probably blog several times about this subject. Maybe I will do one soon about real food for all my foodie friends.

This window display might not be very exciting to some people. If you find yourself living without familiar food items for awhile as a result of being in a foreign land you would possibly get excited at the site of a jar of peanut butter or a box of cereal. Living in Hong Kong we can find almost anything, our friends who live in more remote places across the globe do not have the option to purchase a majority of these items. I don't really feel deprived- many items that are from America we are better off without due to high sugar content. I find it interesting how much we are identified by our food taste. After being here for about 6 months I remember getting very excited when I spotted a can of Cherry Coke. Yes- you could only buy it in single cans and it cost almost $1 USD to purchase. That is more of the case here in HK -we don't have to make our own cheese, or anything like that- it all comes at a price. Finding Cereal under $4USD in a decent size box is a bargain.
My friend from the Philipines talked bout being excited to return home to eat some kind of salty fish.
We have missed Mexican food (at least cheap mexican food) most since being here.
I would be interested in any comments regarding what you look forward to eating when you go home - if you are an expat reading this.

Here are some fruits we don't necessarily see that often in the US

Durian- very popular fruit sold here in the markets. It is possibly more known for its very strong odor than its flavor. I believe it has the smell of a bitter-rotten fruit. Some people say it doesn't taste that bad, I haven't had an occasion offered to me to try it and don't have any real desire.

Lychees - were just in season around June- July. We saw the trees full of them in Lam Tsuen. They are very sweet and juicy. They have a pit, and for the small amount of fruit you get- you may find them a pain to peel and eat.

Mangosteens- these are not native to China but you can find them here. Known for their health benefits. These to me are similar to Lychees. The shell is harder but once inside the white fruit is sweet and juicy.

The 7-11 symbol a welcomed sign when you are dying of thirst in the hot summer, when the kids are crying out for a snack.
Not only on every corner but sometimes within a few of feet of a different one. They are so convenient made more convenient with the use of our Octopus card.
One of my go to snacks found at most 7-11. Yummy flavored "pretz" tomato and pizza are the best flavors in my opinion.

We had a sleepover with the girls - I had let them go to the clubhouse to get some drinks from the vending machine. After a few minutes of drinking the Sprite they complain that it taste funny. We quickly noticed it was green tea flavored. Green tea is a popular flavor here. Ice cream is one of the many food items you can get in green tea flavor.

This is a picture of the kids inside Celadon a local tea shop here in Tai Po. The couple that own it are Chinese but lived in Canada for awhile so they are easy to talk to. You can taste the teas before you buy them.

To me one of the great benefits of being here is for the tea. It is part of the culture and history not just a beverage. I have been blessed to get to try some of the best Green tea the country makes. called BiluoChun . You can start to understand why people would pay hundreds of dollars for good tea once you have had a taste of how good it could be.

We love Ramen. Elliot now eats his with bok choy in it, so thankfully we can add some nutrition for him. This ad was in one of the MTR stations dedicated to Nissin Ramen. You can buy ramen in the states, what is different here is the variety. A whole ramen aisle in the stores, not just a small shelf with a choice of two brand and beef and chicken. We are hooked on Nong shing Korean clay pot.

Pocari Sweat
a Japanese drink. With the word sweat in it you wonder why anyone would ever drink it?
Nathan likes it, this is his photo from Korea. It has been described as tasting a little like sweat. After a good workout and a lot of sweating maybe your body needs to be replenished with "its" sweat?

Another item that is popular here is aloe. Not only for your skin, but in your food. Minute Maid makes a drink with Aloe chunks in it. This green colored bottle with chunks floating around in it doesn't look good to me. The kids and Nathan say it isn't all that bad. Yogurt with aloe in it is something else on the shelves here.

The list really does go on and on but I think highlighting a few is enough information. If anyone would like to send me a case of Cherry Coke feel free to attempt to it ;-)