Sunday, May 31, 2009

Return to Blogging

This last weekend was the Dragon Boat Holiday in China with everyone having Thursday and Friday off work. We took advantage of that and dragged our guests to a corner of China that we have been wanting to see since shortly after we moved here...

Wednesday night we flew out of Xiamen for 4 days in the Yunnan Province, visiting a Stone Forest and then heading down to Hong He to view the terraced rice fields. It was a great trip into some of the less built up tourism points of China, and it surprisingly did leave us without internet access during our trip. We had our computer so our guests were forced to write blogs despite the fact that we couldn't post them, so starting tomorrow we they will talk about our trip and share the very best of the thousands of photos we snapped...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Elaine & Emily - Guest Blogging Post #2

We woke up slowly on day two… coffee, writing the blog and checking email. We headed out around 10:00am and walked through the Bashi market. It was fun watching Elaine experience the sights, smells and action for the first time. Fresh vegetables, meat ranging from any kind of poultry to sea creatures, all freshly slaughtered. We were lucky in that we missed witnessing any fresh kills. We decided to pass on breakfast after our aromatic experience.
It was a short walk to the ferry over to Gu Lang Yu. We meandered around the island, taking pictures and looking at the old foreign consulate building; beautiful as always with flowers blooming everywhere. Lunch was at a small beach resort on the water. We had grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches (really, cheese and tomato on toast) accompanied by Tsing Taos. Then it was on to the Pearl World extravaganza where you can make purchases at the very special “Tina friend” discount. Tina often says that you go broke saving money in China; we could relate to this.
After walking around some more, we caught the ferry back. It was hot and raining. We came home, refreshed, and then on to Me and You 2, an outdoor bar by the water. Tina and Mark convinced the bar owner to offer pitchers of sangria. Apparently he finally gave in about two weeks ago, lucky for us. Mark met up with us and took us to dinner at one of their favorite seafood restaurants in the Hai’ An Park.

Dinner was delicious -- we were sorry we didn’t take any pics of the food: eggplant, snails, whole fish with the head (Elaine did well!), lamb in spicy sauce with cilantro and parsley. Another relaxing day in island life.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Elaine & Emily - Guest Blogging Post #1

Hi folks! Elaine and Emily hailing here on Wichmann blog duty.

We arrived Sunday night after an exciting visit to Xiamen’s quarantine office at the airport. We had our temperature taken three times—twice on the plane, and then on the ground. We now have swine-flu-free certifications so we don’t have to undergo any further screening. It was wonderful to find Tina and Mark waiting outside. They whisked us away to the Wichmann B&B, and appropriately had wine-flu medicine ready which we happily consumed on their back deck. After one bottle of wine was turned into three, we were off to bed.

Yesterday was a tough day… We woke up at a leisurely pace, coffee in our PJs, then to breakfast at 11am. Feeling the need to remember our travel backgrounds, we did an impromptu hotel inspection at the Marco Polo – we highly recommend this hotel. We then met with Grace, Tina’s travel agent, and secured our tour itineraries for the Yunnan.

Then it was off to the material market – I giant complex with shop upon shop of fabric. Since Elaine hasn’t yet experienced the Xiamen tailor, we picked out fabric for her, and will report back on seven shirts we ordered at the tailor’s.

Since Elaine is a foot massage virgin, we headed to Xiamen Hua Yi Guan. We were setup in a room with three lounge chairs and wooden buckets of scalding tea to soak our air-travel-weary feet in. Three masseuses worked our necks, shoulders and arms as our feet steeped. We then underwent the Chinese foot massage experience which Elaine describes as “a complete and perfect mix of rapture and torture.” If there’s pain, they’ll poke it. We felt wonderful afterward and walked a half mile on our new feet back to Tina and Mark’s hood to get manicures and pedicures for $7 USD.

The jet lag was setting in a little. Nothing a bottle of wine couldn’t help! We also ate these delicious berries that Tina bought us. We’re not sure of the name, but the berries are a perfect combination of a raspberry and a cherry. Yum!

Elaine had her first dinner at a dim sum restaurant. I could tell she’d been fearing the food because I had her worried we would be eating pigeon. Much to her relief, dinner was pork and shrimp dumplings, scallion pancakes, and baoxi, which is steamed bread with pork inside -- a favorite of mine and Tina’s. After dinner, we wound up the evening with a pitcher of margaritas.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Welcoming committee

Since writing this blog, Mark and I will periodically receive requests/emails from people who have questions about our little city of Xiamen, either because they are visiting or may have the opportunity to move to China. We are like the welcoming committee of Xiamen. Mmm, maybe I should think of starting a business here.

Laura and Gene are two of our readers, who have been contacting us regarding information about Xiamen. We have been emailing back and forth for the past couple of months, with Laura asking questions about housing locations, availability of items, etc. We were more than happy to give them our two cents opinion, especially when it comes to renting an apartment, since we had so much fun when we had to go through that ordeal.

Laura and her husband were visiting Xiamen this week and we made plans to get together to part with whatever knowledge of China we could give them and hoping that they will leave excited about their new adventure.

It was interesting to hear some of the stories/experiences while they interacted with the Chinese, as Mark and I have become oblivious to some of the more bazaar mannerisms.

We had dinner at the Mao restaurant, where Mark and I both ordered the wrong chicken dish. We wanted lemon chicken and instead received a plate full of chicken cartilage. Okay, so we need work on our Chinese, but luckily our guests took it in stride. Afterwards, we went to one of favorite places, Me & You 2, where they finally (after 2 years of begging) have Sangria. Yes, I am one very happy lady.
All in all, it was a great night, and hopefully Laura and Gene left feeling comfortable and enthusiastic about moving here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Getting ready for company...

With company showing up tomorrow night there was one item that we had to take care of, getting a new toilet to replace the one that failed to survive our last guests.

So, we walked down to the small store just across the street from us and selected one of their finest models. It was an expensive 700 RMB (100 USD), but they delivered it for you. Delivery consisted of them walking outside the store and whistling down one of the guys with carts that hang out at the intersection.
He comes in, loads the toilet into his cart and off we go.
And then for an additional 50 RMB (7 USD) they send a guy over to do the installation. It took him about 40 minutes and now we are all ready to welcome our guests...

Happiness is a new toilet

Friday, May 22, 2009


It seems crazy but this will be the last of our holiday posts - after all of the fun we had with Heather and Mike's wedding we we off to spend a day in Honolulu before getting up at the ungodly hour of 04:00 so that we could catch our early morning flight back to Tokyo and then on to Shanghai.

We were up early and went to the airport the the two newlyweds where they had been mistakenly told that lines to check the rental car in could take well over an hour. When we left them they were sitting at the airport diner contemplating ordering drinks.

Once in Honolulu we go through the standard troubles, I seem to get confused in airports, and eventually get ourselves over to the taxi line. We are rewarded with my indecision in that we fall in line to get a limo to give us a ride to our hotel. Crazy luck huh?
We get in too early to check into the hotel, but according to the concierge too late to catch a shuttle over to Pearl Harbor to see the memorial. Apparently you need to get there before noon if you want to get a chance to get in... so we wandered around Waikiki instead.
Not bad at all, and we got to catch one last great Hawaiian sunset to boot.
Yep, a great trip - happiness all the way around. We had three things that we wanted to do while in Hawaii in addition to the wedding, they are as follows:

  • Charles Lindbergh's grave site in Maui
  • Eat a Pukadog
  • See the Pearl Harbor Memorial
We didn't manage a single one - I guess we will have to return someday...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Finally, our final wedding post.

Ah, our final day in Maui with Mike, Heather, and the rest of the wedding party. We awoke around 06:00 to yet another perfect day.

View of the amazing Pineapple Inn where we stayed

Mike and Heather picked us up shortly after 07:00 so that we could head down to the beach for the snorkeling cruise - yeah it was an early morning but we had behaved the night before.
We got ourselves organized and then next thing you know we're on a boat. I'm on a boat. They took us over to a half crater that has outstanding coral and fish, we spent a good hour floating around being amazed and slightly bothered that we didn't think to purchase one of those disposable underwater cameras.
After that fun they motor us over to an area that has a good population of sea turtles and back into the water we go. I think we saw about 5 turtles - absolutely amazing these things - the guide tells us that he saw 9 in the area. This apparently is an outstanding comeback after they were almost hunted to extinction. This is when we really are bothered that we don't have an underwater camera.

After our second hour in the water it's back on the boat and now they've tapped the kegs and drinks are available. Sure, it's 11:00 and we can feel the sunburn setting in - when else would a nice cold beer feel better?
Off the boat and it's time for everyone to get a short rest before we head up to an evening barbecue at Heather's sisters (cousins) house. Oh, we had a quick stop so that Heather and Mike could get a photo of the beach they were married at....
Po'Olenalena Beach - where two short days ago it was all wedding seriousness.

Most people took the few hours of time to sleep or relax by the pool, we used it to borrow Mike's car and run some errands. Before we knew it we had to head back to meet them and head up to Beth's place for more good food.
Amazing multi-colored trees at Beth's
Camera confusion
Another great night with grilled shrimps, ahi-ahi, salad, potatoes, cheese plates and overall just too much food. A perfect end to their wedding week, the next day we were off to Honolulu for a day and Heather and Mike were heading to Kauai to start their real honeymoon without all of their guests.

Overall this was beyond perfect, every day they had planned something to do and everyone was included - at times it felt more like it was our honeymoon that we were celebrating with friends instead of being there for their wedding. I don't think it could have been done any better - and the fact that they requested, and got, a full moon and perfect weather was just icing on the cake....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Continuing stories of Heather & Mike's Wedding week

Day four of their wedding week, we headed down to Lahaina to be treated to a Luau. Heather and Mike were kind enough to swing by and give us a ride early on so that we could get there and wander the small main street, some beaches, and to grab a quick lunch. Early for us was around noon seeing as we had stayed out until slightly after 04:00 the previous evening.

Beach in Lahina - Tina's photo, can you spot the topless girl?

We were moving a little slow, but around 16:00 we all started to gather at the Luau and once again enjoy the making fun of the newlyweds, dining, and having a few cocktails.
Great pork and some other local dishes and then we get to watch the entertainment. There were more coconut bra's in one place than I ever thought I would see...
I've got a lot of photos, and overall a great show, but somewhere about the 500th photo you get a little tired of snapping pictures of half nude Hawaiian dancers. Who knew?
Also some half naked men for the ladies to enjoy.

The group after the luau.

And then it was time for the trek back to Weilei and to bed. It was an early night for everyone since first thing tomorrow we needed to be up with the sun so that we could go snorkeling.
Oh, and it was a full moon on an almost cloudless night; so we stopped on the way back at a scenic overlook to take some more photos...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wedding week - The Big Day.

05.07.09 - This was the magical odd numbered day that Heather and Mike had chosen to get married, and finally after all these months of planning (or so we presume, all we did was show up and enjoy a week long holiday) finally it was happy wedding day.

We enjoyed sleeping in after the reggae boat cruise, we wandered down to their hotel around 16:00 and eventually the whole wedding party filtered in before we headed off to the beach for the ceremony.

Happiness before the wedding
The beach where the ceremony was soon to take place.
The photographer that they hired for their wedding.

Their photographer spent some time before the ceremony getting all of the party in various different poses. We also snapped a few of our own, just so that we would have something to share.
The reverend did a great job with the whole thing, and we all fully enjoyed watching Heather and Mike stumble through their happy ceremony nerves.
Once finished, the reverend drove off and we took advantage of the sunset to get some more photos before heading off to the dinner reception.
Dinner was amazing, great food, a great setting, and just a lot of fun. Somewhere in the course of the evening, Heather got a little tired of us taking as many photos are we did...