Beijing, Saturday the 8th of February 2020
We have been given a rare treat this winter in Beijing – two consecutive days of snow have covered the city under a fluffy white blanket. In Chaoyang Park, where we usually have our picnics during summer, the lawns are hidden below more than 10cm of snow. Taking a walk in the park is a welcome relief after days of quarantined home office to prevent the corona virus from spreading. While it isn’t airborne it is still recommended to wear face masks when mingling in larger groups of people. Fortunately, the park is still fairly deserted and it wasn’t necessary to keep your face covered. The cold air felt nice and clean and gave a much needed release after days indoors.
February 5, 2019
Incredible beaches of Gili Air.
It has been already a year since we visited Gili Air and spend a few incredibly relaxed days on the island. Again and again I am shocked how time flies and truly cannot imagine that our Indonesia vacation was precisely one year ago. After spending a day in Jakarta and two days exploring Bali’s hipster area Ubud, we decided on a whim to buy boat tickets to shuttle over to the Gilis, a group of three tiny islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. As the least developed of the group Gili Air is less of a party island and more an oasis of calm, which is why we chose it above the others.
Island swing on Gili Air
On the boat we booked a few nights in the Ocean’s Five diving resort, about the only larger place to stay. We would also take a two day introductory course into scuba diving here, as their diving operation is PADI certified. Ocean’s Five is located right next to Gili Air’s only “harbor” where boats drop off and take on visitors two to three times a day. Walking along the water many beachfront bars with bean bags and lounge corners invite you in to have a cocktail or a fresh coconut.
Indonesia is famous for it’s sunrises and sunsets. We are not necessarily morning people but still prefer to rise early in order to enjoy more hours in the day. This has the added benefit that we get to experience the lonely sunrises at Gili Air and take morning swims in the shallow waters close to shore.
It’s been already a few month since we traveled to Taiwan but I still think back on this trip often. There were so many moments where we simply got lucky – like with this photo of the popular Ximen rainbow crosswalk which usually attracts way too many other tourists to get a good picture of. We accidentally walked past it on our way to another sight and found it almost deserted. The taxi that is turning right in the background parked on the crosswalk only moments before and drove off as we wanted to take a photo.
At the beginning of this week, a good friend from work asked me if I wanted to accompany her to a traditional Chinese wellness treatment. Apart from receiving three month of medicinal acupuncture a few year back when I hurt my knee during a run, I had fairly little experience when it came to alternative medicine. Since I knew I had a tough week ahead of me I agreed, and asked her where she wanted to go and what they had on offer. She took out her phone, opened an App, and showed me some of the practices the health center she had picked specialized in. Since she already had some experience with this, she suggested I try something called “scraping”. I remember her telling me about the last time she had this technique done, where the skin on her back got scraped with a sort of blunt spatula to increase blood circulation. I’m ridiculously ticklish so I knew I could not live through the experience of someone moving a pointed object up and down my back. Then I remembered that I always wanted to try acupressure, or cupping. Lucky for me, this was also offered and we even got an nice discount for booking the treatments via the App (gotta love China!). We finished work in time and took the bus to Tuanjiehu subway station, which is close to where the Wuzhisheng Foot Reflection Health Center is located. I have to admit I was a little nervous, because I didn’t do any research on how a session of cupping would go about and if it was painful to have these cups stuck to your back. I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder my fears, though, because the moment we entered the building we were greeted by an enthusiastic employee ushering us into the elevator to the fourth floor. Once there, we were quickly given a double room where we were to change into pink cotton pajamas. As is typical in China, the first thing that arrived in our room were two tall glasses of hot water. A minute later two women knocked on the door and pushed a small cart with around 40 tick-walled glass cups into the room. I went first with the cupping, since my friend had booked a combined session of scraping and cupping. We removed the pink shirts, and I lay face down onto the treatment table, placing my head onto the stretcher hole looking at the floor. When I peaked up a minute later, I saw the woman light what looked like a small honey dipper soaked in fuel. She kindly asked me to put my head back down and relax, and I really did feel a little uncomfortable then, not knowing what she was doing.
Later when I watched her apply the cups to the back of my friend I new what had happened, but I was clueless as to what was expecting me when I returned to looking at the floor. Another minute went by before I heard her clank the burning honey spoon against the inside of the glass, which she used to heat up the air inside the cup before quickly placing it on the skin of my back. I think I have to do this a few more times before I could get used to that feeling of my skin and underlying muscle get sucked into the glass by the vacuum. Repeating this technique 16 times I soon looked like a porcupine with glass cups sticking up from my back instead of spikes. I flinched a couple of time, not only because I was tickled, but also because of this completely new sensation all over my back. Surprisingly, the cups were only attached to my skin for less than five minutes. It felt longer since I concentrated on trying to relax a little to enjoy the treatment. It really wasn’t that bad, I think this is something that takes a while to getting used to, but it felt really good when the cups were removed and a deep relaxation spread through my muscles and uncramped my back. I’m sure I will do another session when I return from my summer holidays, because I think now that I know what to expect I won’t be surprised by the feeling. Although I have seen a few people with the resulting dark marks on their backs, I’m still a little astonished when my friend took a picture of my back and showed me the large round impressions on my skin. Now, five days after having done this, my skin itches a little bit and the circles begin to fade. It is somewhat difficult to find business clothes that cover the dark marks when going to work, though. Especially since it is summer and I can’t wear long sleeves. I honestly can’t say yet if I really have benefited from cupping, then again I was a bit nervous and might have missed out on some of the relaxing effects.
May Day Holidays, 28th – 30th of April, 2018
The May Day holidays were spent traveling through Yunnan province! Its a beautiful place with very friendly people, delicious food, and incredible sights to visit. Just sitting in one of the rooftop cafes and enjoying the view of the city is a great start into our travels. The weather was cooler than expected, even though we knew that we were traveling in somewhat higher altitudes than usual.
Its not only available in Yunnan, but breakfast every morning consisted of Xiaolongbao, local bread, and a bowl of Doujiang, which is a sort of Tofu drink. In the background is the oldtown of Lijiang, a UNESCO protected part of the city famous for its cobble stone streets and traditional buildings.
Streets like these are a typical sight in Lijiang, with narrow stone paths winding through rows of old traditional Chinese houses. Many of them are used as hostels now, but it is easy to imagine how people used to live here in the old days.
A well-known feature of Lijiang are the small water ways running through the whole city. In former times these were used to channel water to every part of the city, and today especially the older generation still uses it to wash vegetables.
During the day there are still a lot of quite places to enjoy the architecture and serenity of this ancient town, but come nighttime many of the shops turn into booming tourist bars with loud blaring music and bright disco lights. A lot of local tourists seem to enjoy this as well, we preferred to the quite Lijiang, though.