Author: marina

Summer Vacation 2020: Hello again Sanya

Summer Vacation 2020: Hello again Sanya

Like most people’s summer vacation stories this year, ours also starts with “Well, I wanted to do X, but Covid …”

In my case, I wanted to fly to Germany and spend 2 weeks visiting family and friends but Covid didn’t let me. China still has a 2 week mandatory quarantine for anyone coming back plus (until the end of the month) all visas becomes invalid when leaving China. Therefore, we had to stay put and decided to go to Sanya again. While I would have loved to go home, relaxing by the pool and beach for a week is not a bad option πŸ™‚

Dadonghai Bay

The first part of our trip was spent at Dadonghai Bay. We loved our hotel, private little patio and having happy hour and breakfast with an ocean view. The pools were amazing as well, one had sand on the bottom and there was always shade thanks to lots of palm trees. It was pure bliss.

Haitang Bay

For the second part part of our vacation, we went back to Haitang Bay. Our room had an amazing view and walking along the beach in the morning and evening was just as nice as it was in May. We also had fun playing at the arcade in our hotel. Not pictures: me losing at whack-a-mole against a maybe 5 year old adorable Chinese girl. We had a bit of rain some afternoons, but overall we still got lots of nice pool and beach time – I think I read 4 books during our trip.

A Moganshan Wedding

A Moganshan Wedding

on 8/8, a lucky date in China, our friends Kwaki and Jason got married in Moganshan. Due to the current situation, their family and friends from abroad couldn’t come to China, so they turned it into a full weekend with the Shanghai crew.

But first things first, of course before a wedding there needs to be a Bachelorette party – so that’s what we did the weekend before in Shanghai.

The Bachelorette Party

Brunch

Kwakis bachelorette Party was an all day affair. We started early with decorations because who doesn’t want a gigantic diamond helium balloon at their party? Also, a champagne brunch, matching shirts and photo props are clearly a must.

Korean Spa

Up next: relaxing and getting pretty! We headed to Koreatown to go to New Star, a Korean Spa. Sauna, soaking in different temperature pools, a scrub that took off at least 2 layers of skin, followed by face masks and chilling made for a great afternoon.

Dinner in Koreatown & Dancing

When in Koreatown, do as Koreans do – to fuel up after an exhausting afternoon of doing mostly nothing, we ate lots of Korean Food and drank soju πŸ™‚ We had a nice seafood dinner, followed by a stroll through a night market. The night ended back downtown with more drinks and dancing – a really fun day!

The Wedding

All dressed up with somewhere to go

A week later, we headed to Moganshan for the big day! The color code of the wedding was beige and sage, which meant a trip to the fabric market for Thorben and some intense taobao shopping for me. The effort was worth it I think, the group pictures turned out really cool.

The first 4 pictures are from Thorben’s camera, all other group, couple and party pictures are from the very talented https://nicolasderouge.com/.

Ceremony and Party

Our friend Ben did the ceremony (he got ordained on the bus ride over), there were some games, videos from the bride and groom’s families and of course food and dancing. Our first wedding in China was definitely one to remember.

The rest of the weekend

Having traveled all the way to Moganshan, almost everyone turned the trip into a long weekend. We stayed from Friday to Monday and had a great time. The weather was mostly very nice so we had 2 barbecues, lots of pool time, played games and I got eaten by mosquitoes – an almost perfect weekend getaway πŸ™‚

12 weeks in Suzhou

12 weeks in Suzhou

It looks like summer is officially over in Shanghai. This week, temperatures dropped below 30 degrees, even below 20 yesterday, so it’s time to catch up on all of the things that happened in summer over here. Soon, it will be Golden Week / October Holiday here so I’ll try to finish before then.

A lot of my summer was spent in Suzhou. I had a project there from late May to mid August, which meant that I was away every week Monday – Thursday. Suzhou is about 100 km west of Shanghai and easily reachable by high speed train. It is famous for its canals, watertowns, gardens and silk. People from Shanghai like to call it small given that it only has a population of 11 million πŸ˜‰

Somehow, we never managed to find a weekend to stay in Suzhou and properly visit all the tourist things. Between birthdays, cooking classes, dinners, GGI events, a bachelorette party and a wedding, Shanghai just kept us too busy and entertained all summer. That means I have yet to see the gardens and watertowns, but I at least managed some walks on the shore of Jinji lake and along some canals.

During my last week, we had a nice team building event and dinner together. This is my attempt at making a bowl – turns out, I am not very talented at pottery. Eating is still more my thing and the local Suzhou fish, noodles and other food is really tasty.

Overall, Suzhou looks like quite a nice place to live with all the comforts and services we have in Shanghai. Also, it’s cheaper and people seem much nicer. Still, my heart belongs to Shanghai and I was always excited to get on the train back home on Thursdays πŸ™‚

Now, I have started my next project, which is in Wuxi. Hopefully, I will manage to see more there in the coming 3 months.

Cooking Classes at CieCAS

Cooking Classes at CieCAS

For my birthday, Thorben got me cooking classes at CieCAS. CieCAS, or the Center of innovative and entrepreneurial Culinary Arts and Services, offers professional training courses for people working in F&B but also team building and small, private cooking classes. We did 3 evening classes and they were all super fun and tasty. Each time, it was just the 2 of us plus the awesome chefs Francois and Evo. The last one was yesterday and we just received the pictures, so here is all the yummy food we made.

Homemade Pasta and Sauces

For our first class, we made our own pasta. We made the dough by hand, put it through a pasta machine roughly 458 times and then cut half into tagliatelle and turned the other half into ravioli. It’s quite a process, but really fun and rewarding.

To go with it, we made 4 different sauces: tomato, vegan Bolognese, meat Bolognese and mushroom & cream. All of them were delicious. After 3 hours of work, we got to sit down in their dining room and got served all the food we made. Well, not really all of it. We got to take the rest home and in fact made so much that after eating pasta twice, we still have some in the freezer πŸ™‚

I have since used some of the tricks we learned to make the best tomato sauce I have ever made, so it was definitely worth it. Now all we need is a pasta machine …

Vegetarian and Vegan Superfoods

Our second night was all about meatless cooking and using some superfoods. We made a total of 4 courses: a foamed potato and leek soup, stuffed mushrooms over mini ratatouille, risotto with spirulina and berry muffins on acai sauce with ice cream.

The soup was quite heavy on the butter and cream because we put it into one of those things you use cartridges of nitrogen to foam things. My mom has one at home for making whipped cream and now I learned it can also be used on soup that has enough fat content πŸ™‚

For the mushrooms we used Z-Rou, a plant-based meat alternative. Not quite the real deal but pretty tasty. I have since seen Z-Rou on 2 restaurant menus, looks like it’s gaining popularity. The mini ratatouille worked well with it and Thorben got to show of his chopping skills, which are much better than his flipping things in the pan with his wrist skills πŸ˜‰

Our main dish, the risotto, was completely vegan, using spirulina for a seafood taste and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. I may look sceptical in the picture, but it was really tasty! Important lesson from the cooking classes so far: White wine goes inside everything! Soup, sauces, ratatouille, risotto – just add wine!

The berry muffins made with almond and coconut flour, soy milk and coconut oil with acai sauce were also vegan – but the ice cream wasn’t πŸ™‚

Another great meal plus we got leftover soup, ratatouille and muffins to take home.

Southeast Asian Food

Our last cooking class had the theme Southeast Asia. We were already greeted with a green papaya salad as a snack and a cold cut platter – not southeast Asian but still delicious. After some snacking (and wine) we got to work. First, we made a chicken marinade and peanut sauce for the starter. I love peanut sauce and I was surprised how many ingredients are inside. The result was amazing. We also got started on cooking the glutinous rice for the sticky rice with mango, my favorite Thai dessert. Next was the sauce for the Pad Thai and preparations for the fried rice. Thorben braved the wok station to fry up the rice and noodles, while I stuck to less fiery tasks like decorating plates, grilling the satay and dishing up the desserts. As always, the food was great, both last night and for lunch today πŸ™‚

It was a really fun and tasty birthday present. In fact, we enjoyed the evenings so much, we may just make it a monthly thing!

teamLab Borderless

teamLab Borderless

Thursday was Dragon Boat Festival in China, which meant a 3-day weekend (and that Sunday is a working day but I’m trying not to think about that today). We took advantage of the day off to use the tickets for teamLab Borderless I got for my birthday.

teamLab Borderless is a museum or digital art exhibition with lots of lights, projections, sounds and smells. They have it in different places and Shanghai is one of them. It was really fun exploring the different rooms and of course taking lots and lots of pictures. The first few areas we wandered through worked mostly with moving projections and had a lot of flowers and colors.

Next was a room full of blinking lights. It had long strips with LEDs hanging from the ceiling with some paths to walk through. Inside, it simulated rain storms and they lit them in lots of different colors.

To take a little break, we went to En Tea House. Your drink becomes part of the art work and has projections on it which change when you drink from your cup or move it. Technology is so cool.

The next areas we saw worked with shapes: One room had mushroom like statues on the ground and you had to walk through them. The one after that was full of glass spheres which move around on a mini roller coaster.

The last room we explored was one of my favorites. It was a full of lamps changing colors and mirrors. I may have hit my head on one of the lamps taking pictures – worth it.

It was a really cool, immersive and very pretty exhibition. An excellent birthday present and great first day of the long weekend πŸ™‚

Thirty

Thirty

So, last month I turned thirty. The big 3-0. I think I’m still not ready but I am ready to share some pictures πŸ™‚ My birthday wasn’t as I had planned, but nonetheless, it was a really good one. I’m very glad that despite this whole COVID-19 mess I could still do some fun things and celebrate with amazing people. I know many people aren’t that lucky this year.

The celebration encompassed 3 parts: A night at the W hotel, a small birthday dinner on the actual day and a big birthday party the weekend after.

A little Staycation

We came back from our week-long China trip the day before my birthday and went straight to the W. They still had the same package going on that we enjoyed in March: Happy hour, massages and breakfast, so this is where I turned 30. Our room overlooked the Bund and the Pearl tower – and that view never gets old. At midnight, we had cake and champagne with my family over WeChat video. Definitely the coolest cake I’ve had so far πŸ™‚

The next day, I got a special birthday pancake and we spent a bit of time by the pool. Pretty good start to the day, I’d say.

Birthday Dinner

In the evening, we had dinner at our place. Thorben cooked and I made appetizers and cocktails. The pineapple-tini might just be my new favorite drink! It was a really fun and yummy night with friends. And yes, one should always wear a tiara on their birthday πŸ™‚

Thankfully, I had the next day off – both to recover and to have lunch with Tim, who had archery duties the night before.

Birthday Party

The weekend after, I celebrated again with the whole gang at Tacolicious, my favorite taco place in Shanghai. Fitting to the occasion, I think we were exactly 30 people. My VIPs from Germany and Singapore were definitely missed, so I was happy to have almost all of my Shanghai VIPs there πŸ™‚ We had loads of good food and margaritas and a lot fun with a polaroid camera.

The night went on at a salsa party, another club and ended with 3 am pizza – none of it documented thankfully πŸ˜‰ I think I just might have to have another big party next year!