Sunday, October 31, 2010

10 Reasons why I love autumn....

I love autumn!!! It is, by far, my favorite season and there is something magical about this time of year when nature changes and Mother Earth, with all her creatures, are preparing for the winter slump. My fondest memories are of my mother bottling fruit, collecting acorns with my gran and drinking red wine with a friend around a cosy fireplace. But there are many other reasons like...

Spicy butternut soup and...

..apples... becoming my staple diet...

... the smell of cinnamon in the air....


...Its time to dig out those cardigans...

..and start knitting mittens.....

...Its cold enough to light the fire place....

..and drink lots and lots of  chai tea....

..or a nice glass of red wine...

.....Oh, and my favorite color grow on  trees!!!

Hope you had a lovely Halloween!!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


This time of year makes me extremely happy because it’s the perfect weather for....CARDIGANS!!!

A cardigan, as far as I am concerned, is the perfect piece of clothing! I have one in every color imaginable and nothing makes me happier than extending my already extensive collection! I LOVE cardigans and I love the fact that you can dress them up or down, wear them with skirts, dresses or trousers and that they have the ability to add some color and funk to the blandest of outfits. Isn’t it wonderful that both men, women and kids look cute in cardigans...and that you can knit them yourself (oh, how I wish I could knit!!!). But most of all, I love the fact that I can wear my favorite piece of clothing for the rest of my life and still look age appropriate.

Is there anything more adorable than a granny wearing a cardigan? I think not!

credit: images by

China Day 3: Shopping

After tea, it was time for the Chinese Silk market, and there are very few things that cheer me up like shopping. Entering this colorful piece of retail haven, it was literally minutes that I was back to my old self – well, that is not completely true - I also found a new talent: bargaining!!! Now, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet but when it comes to bargaining, I am a natural!!!! Never did I know that I possessed this talent but apparently it’s there and I’m quite sure that my love for a nice bargain is inherited from lovely granny! I quickly learned that trick to bargaining in China, is to decide what you want to pay for something and then stick to it – don’t budge!!!! Of course the salesperson will try whatever they can to up their price (which they start ridiculously high – sometimes more than 4 times its retail worth) but you must stick with your guns and not budge. Then, when they refuse your original offer, start walking away – if the price is fair, they will call you back (or more severely grab you by the arm and drag you back – very aggressive sales tactics here in China!!!!) and then try to bargain some more. This is where you take the amount of cash that you originally decided on, out of your wallet, hand it over to them and walk away with your purchase!!!!! Works every time! Not that I didn’t get screwed over a few times – my first two purchases I haggled down to half of the original price – but later I learned that I could get it even cheaper and that’s when the claws came out! The market was great though with all the fake designer ware one could dream of! Bags and shoes, lots and lots of clothes, porcelain, silk and lots of great art – there is so much to see that it completely boggles one’s brain. Fortunately for Chris, I got stuck in the menswear section first so he is, of course, the person who will benefit most from my trip to the Chinese market – but oooh, I never knew shopping for boys clothes can be so much fun! I did get myself some awesome goodies too…and my fake Chanel bag I so dreamed about. But before I knew it, our three hours was finished and it was time for a Mongolian dinner and show, followed by a great theatrical Kungfu performance……. (to be continued)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today I am thankful for....

.... a magical weekend.

Saturday was the annual fireworks festival here in Busan.
2.5 million people gathered together to watch 250 000 pretty explosives beautify the beach front to the rhythm of music.
It still blows my mind how it was possible to get these amazing fireworks explode at the exact  moment of a certain sound and keep to the beat! There must've been serious mathematical equations made (and the fact that I'm dating an engineer is becoming more and more apparent, because before this Art History major graduate wouldn't have even considered maths being involved :-)!

( I stole this photograph from my friend Jill ( who joined me for this amazing event)

China Day 3: Tea Ceremony

After a quick lunch of yet another oily Chinese “flavor”, where we were joined by the contestants’ for Miss China International (with a slightly less oily menu), we were off to a real Chinese Tea Ceremony.

Now let me first tell you about Tea Ceremonies because this is truly my favorite part of Asian culture and the one thing that I looked forward to the most in China. I’ve already attended a Korean Tea Ceremony, which was a lot of fun and very, very interesting and also bought myself a nice tea ceremony set with all the special cups, teapots and other goodies needed. So when I heard that a Chinese Tea Ceremony was on the intenary, I was super excited! Not only did it give me an opportunity to broaden my knowledge as well as collection of porcelain (to Chris’s detriment) but to also compare the difference. In Asia, tea is much more than just a beverage but a life philosophy – and learning how to do it well is a lot of fun. Just a little tit-bit of info – did you know that the proper English way of drinking tea with your pinky in the air, originated from China?

Unfortunately, this tea ceremony turned out to be the most disappointing of China’s activities. As we entered the teashop I was completely distracted by all the pretty porcelain with the result that when we got to our tea room, I got a really bad spot at the tea table which I had to share with 31 other travel mates. Sitting right at the end, I could hardly hear what the little Chinese lady, in her broken English had to say and all I could really do was to sip my tea – finger in the air of course. Luckily, another (unplanned) tea ceremony would be in my destiny, but I remembered walking out of the tea shop, very disappointed

(to be continued)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

China Day 3: The Forbidden City

After my rather amusing stalker have left, “The Jerry” led us to safety within the gates of the Forbidden City. Named so because no one was allowed to enter or leave this palace without the emperor’ permission, the Forbidden City use to be the imperial home of the Chinese emperor and his household as well as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government. Today, the Forbidden City is well over 500 years old and with its 980 buildings, 8707 rooms and 720 000 square meters, it is the largest collection of preserved wooden structures in the world. I’m just thankful that I wasn’t a cleaner in this majestic place because its really big and it took us over 3 hours just to walk from the one side to the other. But this huge imperial “city” with its red buildings and golden yellow rooftops is really interesting and gave us some great insight in ancient China. Today we are lucky to browse as we please and could even sneak a peek into the emperors bedroom, but before China became a republic no man was allowed after a certain point and the Forbidden City was strictly reserved for the emperor, his concubines and the hundreds of eunuchs that served as servants. Not that any space was wasted because some emperors had more than a thousand concubines and it was the eunuchs lovely job to carry these ladies to and fro the emperors room (which he was not allowed to share with anybody, not even the empress – partly for safety, party to avoid jealousy under the concubines)! The last emperor was thrown out of the Forbidden city after China became a republic in 1945 and after spending 20 years in jail for war crimes (he joined forces with the Japanese during WW2), he worked as a gardener in one of the University gardens. He died in 1967.
We walked and walked and "oohed" and "aahed", and had a really great time chilling under the big willow trees, feeding the koi in the ponds and listening to all the inside info that Jerry so willingly shared with us but by lunch time we were starving and I could hardly wait for the tea ceremony that awaited us next! (to be continued)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Comic character

Finally, a mobile that Chris would appreciate!
On hindsight though, I doubt very much if he'd appreciate me cutting up his comics ;-)

(credit: by bookity as seen on

Monday, October 18, 2010

China Day 3: Tiananmen Square

I woke up on day 3, completely rested and relax. It’s wonderful what a massage can do for you!!!  The down side of this though, was that both Gill and I was so relaxed that we took our sweet time getting ready, with the result that we had to rush yet another lovely breakfast. Thankfully, the restaurant had some nice big paper napkins on the tables so we grabbed some muffins and fruit and stuffed it in our bags! Geared with our comfy walking shoes – “the Jerry” warned us that there was lots of walking to be done today- we were off to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City!!!!!

Tiananmen Square leads to the entrance of The Forbidden City and is located in the center of Beijing. With its whopping size of 440 000 square meters, Tiananmen is the largest city square in the world and instantly recognizable by Mr. Mao’s friendly face smiling from the “Gate of Heavenly Peace”. Tiananmen Square also has great cultural significance, due to the fact that several important events in Chinese history happened there – the best known being the 1989 massacre, where thousands of protesters were killed after demanding political liberation, freedom of speech, political reform, less social control from the communist party and a democracy. Its unsure how many died and there is some discrepancies about what really happened that June, 4th day but its estimated that up to 3000 people – protesters and soldiers – died when military actions was taken to “clear the square”. Today it’s hard to believe that Tiananmen was witness to such a terrible bloodbath and with its hustle and bustle of people, vendors and photo crazy visitors Tiananmen is the picture perfect tourist spot. Well, so I thought until I got myself a stalker!!!! Like usual, we were harassed by several Chinese people who wanted to take a picture with us, so I just smiled and in the corner of my eye followed “the Jerry’s” yellow flag as it disappeared further and further into the crowd. One of my last fans, a gentleman in his late 20’s, was kind enough to give me and my two travel friends, a gift of used notebooks and (ironically) a little guide on “Subway safety”. I politely thanked him and then proceeded to follow Jerry’s flag but soon my one friend realized, as we entered the subway underground, that we were being followed by the same nice gentleman, now wearing a policeman hat and a microphone. I just walked a little faster and caught up with Jerry but the “micro-phoned mad(police)hatter” joined our group and in the middle of the circle took off his shirt and started unpacking his bag of discarded items (of which our gifts use to be part of). Soon the circle became larger and larger around him as other people joined to see what was going on – not that much was going on really: he was just shirtless, grinning at me where I was hiding behind Jerry, and unpacking his trash box treasures. With the microphone in hand, and now looking suspiciously a lot like a male stripper being shirtless with a police hat and all, I expected him to start dancing or singing – luckily he didn’t! Then the Chinese police came along and “cleared” him from the square! Poor guy – his 30 seconds of fame backfiring badly! (to be continued)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

China - Day two: Pearl, Hotpot, Massages and Ice Cream

From the Summer Palace we walked down to the pearl factory that sell the pretty Summer Palace lake’s pearls. We had a little demonstration on pearls and how to recognize the real from the fake (by rubbing them together – if it leaves behind a fine powder but the surface of the pearl isn’t damaged, you can be sure that it’s the real thing) and it was quite wonderful to see how an oyster with pearls in it, gets opened! Did you know that an oyster can  produce up to 25 pearls? Well, that is if you inject the oyster with 25 sand particles! Anyhow, I bought myself a lovely pearl bracelet – for just a meager R100  ($12) - and haven’t taken it off since.

Our last stop was dinner – a “Hotpot” – that is basically just a chicken broth that is individually heated by a little kerosene stove, in which you then boil thin slices of beef and veggies. Eaten with rice, a Hotpot is really yummy and rounded of by a deep-fried red bean rice cake. We dined at the prettiest of restaurants, very 1920’s and I thought a long black dress with my new pearls and 1920’s finger-waved hair, would’ve worked well!

On the way back to the hotel, “the Jerry” announced that we could, should we want to, book a massage for the evening. By now, after a long day of walking and exploring, a massage seemed like a really good idea so Gill and I immediately signed on. The massage was great and as if I wasn’t completely relaxed before, my masseuse rubbed away every last bit of tension I might have had.

One would think that after a nice long soak and massage, us girls would be tired as can be, but that was not the case – we couldn’t help but resume our giggles and after putting on our hotel slippers, we went to explore our hotel. We found a Baskin Robbins and decided to end our night with a lovely bit of cheesecake gelato, and then it was off to bed, until the phone rang again……for day three…..(to be continued)


It's important to know your ABC and it sure helps if you can do some math.....
                                                       ...... BUT......

"the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"
                                                                                               - Moulin Rouge

Saturday, October 16, 2010

China Day 2: The Summer Palace

Bruised and battered I stumbled back to the bus - relieved that I could tick "Great Wall" of my to-do list! Luckily there is nothing better  to cheer one up like a bit of jasmine tea and some shopping, so after our “local flavor” lunch of fried calamari, sweet and sour chicken, oily veggies, friend rice, beef, fried pork dumplings and spicy tomato soup, (I am now, more than ever, convinced that Asian figures have absolutely nothing to do with “healthy food” and it all just boils –or rather fry -down to genetics!!!!!) I bought myself a pretty owl paper cutting! For the next couple of days it would be Chinese art that Id splurge on!!! Wined and dined, we got back into our bus but now, nicely fed and tired after our two hour hike up Great Wall hill, we fell asleep, one by one! “The Jerry” must’ve thought us all babies but gently woke us when we got to the “Summer Palace” – my personal favorite spot in Beijing!!!

The Summer Palace is a 2.1 square km garden of which three quarters is covered by water due to the magnificent manmade lake in the center. Used by the emperor as a summer retreat, and later prison for an empress (lucky girl), this beautiful piece of heaven dates back to the Jin Dynasty. Surrounded by a path along the water’s edge, willow trees, pavilions, halls, palaces, temples, bridges and beautiful gardens, the lake is used today for the production of China’s prettiest freshwater pearls. This is completely understandable if you keep in mind how happy these oysters must be to life in such a beautiful place. The Summer Palace literally took my breath away and entering the gates is like entering another world. Its truly the stuff that fairytales are made of – dragon boats sailing on the mirror smooth lake, willow trees dancing in the wind, lotus plants swaying in the water and then, of course, the millions of lanterns, porcelain flower pots with their pretty blooms and beautiful antique oriental architecture. Without exaggerating, the Summer Palace was really one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been and the one regret I have about China, is that I didn’t have enough time to go back to it again. It was truly magical!!!! We took a stroll alongside the river, euphorically admiring the beauty, eating ice cream and “ooh and aaah’ed”. Then we got into one of the dragon boats and “oohed and aahed” some more. Before I wanted it to be so, it was time to go and I was so sad to say goodbye. Gill and I decided that the Summer Palace was the one place that we should go back to on our free day. Unfortunately things didn’t work out like that (we had some shopping, a rickshaw ride and tea ceremony to do) but I would really go back to China just for the Summer Palace. My description and photographs really don’t do justice to this heavenly garden!...(to be continued)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WOW wedding

When I get married.............


  .....I want my wedding to be just as pretty as this one!!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

China - Day 2: The Great Wall of China

At last it was time for me to plant my feet on one of the world’s wonders and once again I became one of those photo crazy tourists “clicking” away!!!

Originally build to protect the Chinese Empire against Northern intrusion, parts of the wall dates back as far as 500BC. An archaeological study recently concluded that this monstrosity, with all its branches, stretches for exactly 8851.8 km. Today it’s impossible to know how many a millions died building this wall but it’s quite spectacular, let me tell you! Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one that thought so, because the part of the wall we visited, which was a very touristy spot, was literally so crammed with people that there was a 10 minute traffic jam on the wall (I kid you not!!!!). Not that I minded though because there were so many "foreign" faces to chat too, and the little bit of rest was welcomed seeing that wall was extremely steep and the thousands of stairs were all a different size, shape and height. You really had to concentrate while climbing this miraculous wall and poor Gill got Vertigo, so I tried to hold her hand as much as I could but my legs were literally shaking when I reached the last step. The way back was even worse – really scary- and the people pushing and shoving didn’t really help either. So it really came as no surprise that I fell myself a pulp just after I reached the bottom (than goodness, rolling down the stairs could’ve cost my own and a few other lives- snowball effect would’ve been no laughing matter). My legs were literally jelly and just gave way underneath me. I fell so hard with a shoe flying and a bum in the air!!! My poor knee was bleeding, my elbow chaffed and my hip was blue for days to come!! I recovered quickly though, jumped up, dusted myself and posed for another photo. I mean, it’s not everybody that can say that they bought a piece of the great Wall with their own blood and tears!!!! If you ever stop by the Great Wall, please note that the tile, three squares away from the big monument at the entrance, belong to me!!! ;-)

Except for my great fall, the Wall was spectacular though and I was awe struck that this was all built 2500 years ago without the luxury of modern technology – AMAZING!!! (To be continued)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours.....

Im an avid believer that when you stumble upon something great, its good to share and this is why I just had to tell you about this awesome blog - - which is actually a networking site with the objective to locate other bloggers in your are. It's really easy to use and all you have to do is search for your country/state and then leave a comment stating your blog's and home town's name. This way other people from the same country/state can check out your blog and a few new followers are always appreciated, don't you agree? Jen, the amazing lady who's the genius behind this awesome blog, will create a space for your country should it not be on the (already quite complete) list. She specially created a spot for me, so if you are from South-Africa or Korea, please join me and comment so that I too, can check out your blog. Would love to get to know my neighbours :-)

China: Day 2: Jade factory

The adorable “the Jerry” gave us a wake-up call each morning but on day 2, Gill and I chose to ignore his call and snoozed for another 30 minutes until the alarm clock that Gilly packed (I told you this girl is organized), promptly announced the beginning of our “Great Wall” day! We quickly got dressed and then went down to have the famous Lido Holiday Inn breakfast, and boy, what a treat!!!! All the western breakfast foods that one could possibly want (definitely not need) and once again we felt like jumping on the tables, just like our beds the previous night, and shout “Hurray”. You see, in Korea (and probably China too) there is no distinction between breakfast/lunch/dinner - it all consists of rice, kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and vegetables. This I find really annoying because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I love going out for a nice brunch. Unfortunately, for the past 8 months a real English breakfast has been but a distant memory BUT now it all changed, and we fuelled up on yummy breakfast foods – enough to last for the day!!!! “The Jerry” had to literally come fetch us from the breakfast table, where we, like queens, leisurely sipped our breakfast coffee, so that the bus could take us to our first stop: The Jade carving factory.

In China, Jade is known as the imperial gem and dates back as far as 6000BC when it was mined for the first time. It is colorless when pure but also comes in orange, lavender and pink. It is, however, the various shades of green, in China known as Feicui, that Jade is better known for – the brighter colors being most sought after. Even today, this pretty green rock plays a significant role in Chinese culture where Jade bracelets, instead of diamond rings, are used as wedding bands. Jade, just like diamonds, can last forever and reaches a minimum hardness of 6.5 on the Moh’s Scale (Diamonds is a 10). Here I must add that some Jade also come in diamond ring prices reaching up to $3000 an ounce. Of course, way above my little budget, but I did get to try on one of these wedding bands and it was quite interesting how they determine the size: first you have to make your left hand (chosen because its closer to the heart) into a fist. Then they measure the first three knuckles on your hand (index, middle and ring finger). This measurement will be the diameter of your jade bracelet, which they will then, with a plastic packet, maneuver over your hand. In my case, because I apparently have soft hands according to Chinese standards, the sales lady actually just measured the first two knuckles (index and middle finger) and I’m not joking when I say it looked like an infant’s bracelet. At first I was not quite sure if I should try on this minute piece of jewellery, but the sales lady promised that any bracelet that got stuck could be kept, so I was game! I really didn’t have anything to loose, except for a hand should I ever want to get rid of the bracelet. (Un) fortunately the plastic bag trick really worked and I was surprises at how comfy this bracelet fit around my wrist. Definitely a trick I’ll remember!!!! We browsed around for a bit, admiring all the pretty things we couldn’t afford and then it was time to go again – next stop: The Great Wall of China!!!!! (to be continued)

Monday, October 11, 2010

China - Day one: Acrobatic show

After our lovely Peking Duck meal it was back to the bus for our last stop, the Acrobatic show. And what a show it was?! The Acrobats were wonderful and the show was filled with lots of crazy tricks - juggling knives, spinning plates, stacking chairs - and at times it was so scary, that I couldn't look! Real birds performed in the show and I open mouthy stared at the spectacular things that was happening on the stage. But by the end of the show, I was so tired and overwhelmed by all that I have seen on our first  day that I really didn’t mind going to our hotel.

Up until now it was kind of unclear where we would stay, I only knew that it was a Holiday Inn and known for their amazing banquette breakfasts. But as I opened the door to our room, a new source of energy appeared my dear friends, because we entered the nicest, biggest hotel room with a lounge area, two double beds, flat screen TV, huge mirror and make-up area, closet and the very best – a bathroom…with a bath!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Both Gill and I was so excited that we jumped on our beds, laughing and shouting and probably waking the whole hotel. A BATH!!!!!!!!! Now, if this excitement about a “mundane” thing such as a bath got you wondering about my mental condition, it might be wise to explain to you, my dearest readers, that it has been exactly 8 months since I've had the privilege and joy of a bathtub. AND there are but a few things that I love more that a nice long soak in the tub (I got this from my mother). Unfortunately bathtubs are rarity in Korea and for the past 8 months I had to make do with a detachable shower head that is quite stingy with the amount of water it allows. Having access to a bath, was an absolute unexpected bonus and also the reason that I had to make due with just another five hours sleep – well, that is if you don’t count in the hour that I slept in the bath. Warm and fresh after my lovely soak, it was but a matter of seconds before I fell asleep in my marshmallow bed. Tomorrow I would climb out one of the 7 wonders of the world, and I needed all my strength for that…… (to be continued)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

China - Day one: Peking Duck

Because we had nothing but a meager airplane lunch (we prioritized an extra 10 minutes sleep over breakfast), we were starved by now and thankfully, after all the sigh-seeing and modeling, Peking Duck was on the menu!

The world “Peking” use to be the original name of Beijing before it was changed in 1949 and because this lovely dish is the local “flavor” of BJ, it was only adequate that the duck was named after the city. Peking Duck has been prepared since the imperial era and today it is considered as one of China’s national foods. This yummy meal is prized for the thin, crispy duck skin, with authentic version of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. Ducks bred specially for this dish are slaughtered after 65 days (poor ducks) and seasoned before being roasted in an oven. The cooked meat is eaten with tortilla styled pancakes, spring onions and sweet bean sauce.

Our Peking Duck, which was served with lots of other veggies and meats  and the customary pot of jasmine tea that beautify every mealtime table, was delicious and we all gobbled our duck pancakes down with glee. But if I had to be completely honest, Peking Duck, famous as it may be, was not my favorite meal in China. (Un)fortunately, the lovely Mongolian meal we had, with its Rosemary beef and pop concert (I will tell you all about this later), earned the “Favorite Chinese Food” award…. (to be continued)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

China - Day one: The Temple of Heaven

....before we knew it, our bus came to a halt! We've reached our first destination: "The Temple of Heaven"

The Temple of Heaven, which dates back to 1406, is a Taoist building which was originally used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to pray for good harvests. In ancient China, the emperor was regarded as the “Son of Heaven”, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests. Twice a year the Emperor and all his entourage would move to the Forbidden City (which I’ll tell you about later), wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would lead to a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year. Today, the Temple of Heaven is only for sightseeing and commoners, like us tourists, are still not allowed to go inside. But judging from the outside alone, it’s quite spectacular with its royal blue and gold paint and ornate design. What makes it even more breathtaking, is that it made of wood but not a single nail was used to keep it together. UHM-MAZING!!!!!

First we took a lovely stroll through the beautiful gardens that leads to the Temple of Heaven. It was also in these gardens that we got our first taste of the aggressive sale strategy displayed by Chinese hawkers – something we would soon become accustomed too. As we entered the gates to the temple though, I couldn’t help but gasp for air. Majestic and gigantic, I couldn’t believe  how pretty this temple was and for the first few minutes I became one of those typical tourists that just took hundreds and hundreds of pictures. Soon however, I realized that the Temple of Heaven, beautiful as it may be, wasn’t the only tourist attraction!!!! Among the shimmer of this blue and gold beauty, the camera flashes was pointed in quit a different angle, away from the temple, in the direction of….. me and Gill!!!!!!. Yes, my lovelies, for the first time I got a little taste of “celebrity life” and I must admit that I was quite thankful for my sunglasses as a barrier to all the camera flashes going off around us. Gill and I just giggled nervously, but then the bravest among our fans dug up the courage and asked to be photographed with us. Soon we had a line of about 15 “fans” all awaiting their turn. What could we do? We just smiled sweetly at the camera until; at last, Gill politely excused us! We were, after all, the “tourists” and there was some sightseeing to be done!!!!!
....(to be continued)

Friday, October 8, 2010

China - Day 1: Arriving

Silly girls that we were, neither me nor Gill slept the night before our trip. Instead we pampered ourselves, decided on our outfits for the next day and then giggled till the wee hours of the morning! Understandably, when the alarm clock went off at 8pm, we were half dead. When we got into the airport limousine bus, we were half dead, when we boarded our plane we were half dead…and during the 2 hour flight to lovely China, we slept like babies. It was only when we set foot on Chinese soil that life and crazy excitement returned to us and we stared, with wide eyed awe at all the skyscrapers and unexpected, but breathtakingly beautiful, English colonial buildings. Did you know that China was an English colony? I sure didn’t but it’s pretty obvious when you look at the buildings and I felt wonderfully at home among these pretty, pretty architecture (something very lacking here in Korea) and the abundance of trees. One thing was certain; Beijing was not at all what I expected. Maybe I was just lucky, but the smoggy cloud that everybody complained about was not to be seen, in fact one of the first things I noticed about Beijing, was how extremely clean it was. It wasn’t long before I lost my heart to this charming city with its millions of bicycles, pretty buildings, big trees and oriental flavor. The Chinese people also stunned me a bit with their good English, friendly smiles and eagerness to help.

Our tour bus, which became a much loved meeting place, is vital to this story so I only feel it’s appropriate to tell you more about it. Not only was the bus the place where we got introduced to our adorable group leader, Jerry, who cutely refers to himself in the third person as “the Jerry”, but also made great friends. Me and Gill chose the backseats so that we could giggle and talk to our hearts content without disturbing “the Jerry” and equally friendly bus driver, but soon we were surrounded by 5 other girls and Charlie, who also liked to giggle and talk and would become our friends for the duration of this trip (and afterwards). It was not long before we became a tight knit group and for the next 5 days Christine (Canadian), Suzanne (South-African), Meghan (American Eskimo – I kid you not), Willemien (South-African), Jessica (American) and Charlie (American Hungarian) would become close travel partners and friends. Furthermore the bus also became our language school were “the Jerry” taught us vital Chinese such as “hello” (tru la ma), “thank you” (shee shee) and “too expensive” (tie gway la?).

So off we were on our bus, and before we knew it, we've reached our first stop: the heavenly "Temple of Heaven".....(to be continued)

Come look....

.....what arrived in the mail today!
My (first) very own Etsy print!
I heart Etsy.....
....and I really do have the best boyfriend in the whole wide world!!!

* credit: image from KeepCalm as for sale on

Thursday, October 7, 2010

China - how the story began...

I've been dreaming about China ever since I was old enough to read the little words on my grandfather’s world map so when my friend Bongi said she dreamt about pretty China too, we immediately started planning a trip. But four months before we were set to go, Bongi's mom announced that she would visit her daughter over the summer vacation and I was left with a dilemma: "will I stay or will I go?"

I preferred traveling with my awesome friend but from experience I learned that travelling by oneself, isn’t all that bad and can, in fact, be great fun - lots of flexibility and opportunity to make new friends! So I decided to go anyway! I would miss Bongi but "one is better than none", I figured.

Unfortunately I quickly learned that traveling by yourself does have some disadvantages, especially when it comes to be a "single" in terms of hotel rooms - my trip would cost me an whopping $300 extra! Out of the question I thought, that’s my spending money!!! For long I’ve dreamt of owning a (fake) Chanel bag and now it seemed that my pipe dream would stay just that! Then, out of the blue, I got an e-mail from the travel agents that said that there is another girl that will be travelling alone and wants to meet me! They included her telephone number and an “oh, she is also South-African!" and this is how Gill stumbled into my life. We organized coffee and it was a matter of seconds that both of us realized that we did not only meet a great roommate and travel partner, but also a great friend.
The best description of Gill is that she is a life-sized Barbie. Almost 6 feet tall, with blonde hair and more charisma that should be allowed, Gill steals the show – without even trying. Not only is she charming and smart but really extremely funny! So after tea, dinner and a G&T, it was a done deal; we will not only be roommates and travel partners but also friends.

Gill immediately started planning our trip and every so often I would receive little texts or e-mails about all the things we should pack. She is a compulsive planner and we made sure that we were going to be ready for the adventure that awaits us. Photo ready too!!!! So the night before we were to leave, we organized a little treatment evening – we plucked and waxed, masked and dyed – and didn’t sleep much because we chatted until dawn…. One thing was sure; China was going to be an awesome experience… (To be continued)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

China in Polaroids

Temple of Heaven

Entrance to the Forbidden City

Houhai Lake

Great Wall

Houhai Park

Tienanmen Square

Being technologically disadvantaged, it took me about 3 days to figure out how my new little camera worked. The result being very over-exposed photographs of the pretty places I've seen! But I kinda like the photos - they are all dreamy and whimsical just like China.
I finally got all my bags unpacked, pictures uploaded and with lots of oriental tales to tell, I will, for the next few days devote posts specially dedicated to charming China!

Today I am thankful for.....Bibimbab

My gosh, I haven't done a "thankful" post in such a long time!!! Not that I don't have a lot to be thankful for, in fact, "my cup runneth over" but tonight I'm especially thankful for a cooking lesson, amazing dinner and great chat with a treasured friend.

Jill, the sweet thing, invited me for my favorite Korean dish - Bibimbab - but first she showed me exactly how to make it.
Bibimbab is basically rice, Korean veggies and a fried egg. Its really yummy, easy to make and very, very healthy. Finding the ingredients anywhere else in the world might proof to be a bit tricky, but here is the recipe (just in case you live close by a Korean grocery store and feel the need for healthy comfort food):


Cooked rice
a fist full of bean sprouts
a fist full of spinach
a few slices of cucumber

fern brakes (kosari)
1 small carrot,
1 small potato cut in strips
an egg
 hot pepper paste
 sesame oil

Cut the veggies into edible pieces and sauté separately for about 30 seconds

prepare an egg with sunny side up.

Put your rice in a big bowl, and attractively display all your vegetables on top of it.

Place the sunny side egg in the center.

Serve it with sesame oil and table spoon of hot pepper paste.

Lastly, mix it up and eat

* this might sound a bit weird and may look a bit unappetising, but let me tell you, its delicious!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love letters

My "adopted" grandmother has a box of love letters, in the bottom of her closet, that her husband  wrote to her years and years ago before they got married. Just like me and Chris, they had to spend a year apart so that she could  she help her parents on the farm whilst he fought in the second world war. After the war they got married, had two daughters and lived a love-filled lifetime together. They were married for 65 years when he passed away last year. Losing him, she describes as losing a limb - he was a part of her being, always by her side and now that space is emtpy. But even after all this years, she still has every single letter, all tied together with a red ribbon and they are her most treasured possession.

A few weeks Chris and I celebrated our One Year Anniversary (whoohoo!!) and decided to follow the tradition anniversary gift "guide" which states paper as the first gift. His paper present from me was the corniest, pinkest, heart drizzled card I could find but I never told you what amazing gift Chris gave to me!!!!!

Because we have another 4 months left of being apart - me in Korea and Chris in South-Africa - my sweetest Chris gave me the best-est gift of real, handwritten love letters send via postal mail! I absolutely LOVE love letters and always secretly wished for a little pack of my own, tied with a bright red (or pink) ribbon, which Ill keep to show my grand daughters when I'm old and grey. My first love letter from Chris, arrived last week and gave me such immense joy...and of course I’ve read it close to hundred times by now! I sure am a very lucky girl and thank God for blessing me with such an amazing boyfriend!

(p.s: China posts and photo's coming soon!!!)