Cashing in on vouchers!

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Hello everyone, on our 51st week in Beijing! Yep, this time next week we'll have been here 1 year!

The fitness campaign is going well, 2 back to back sessions of Heyrobics the last 2 Mondays which has been fun (and free, having won a years free pass!!), the founder make a guest appearance at the first one which proved very popular, it’s massive in its home country of Sweden. Been cycling quite a bit too, loving getting out & about on 2 wheels, although you can’t really get a good pace going, too many obstacles – even in the cycle lane you get cars, rickshaws, pedestrians, mopeds going in both directions, so you do need eyes in every corner of your head! Cycling down the old hutongs is amazing, seeing local life at every corner, a real glimpse of proper Beijing.

Last Tuesday the British Club were invited to the British Ambassador’s Residence for a coffee morning, the Ambassador’s wife is a member & a supporter of our club, so invites us there each year. A wonderful morning of coffee, cucumber sandwiches and scones (of course!!) and around 60 people enjoying their beautiful house and gardens, a real treat to be invited there.

On the Wednesday, we took the day off and went hiking. We’d won vouchers in a competition (again!) for 2 of us to go on a hike with the Beijing Hikers

We’d been meaning to go for a while, but hadn’t got around to it. They are a very well organised group who arrange many hikes during the week & over the weekends all year round outside of the city, they arrange the transport, water, snacks, and have 3 guides with you and go to lots of different places. Our hike was through some villages, farmland, and up some mountains – around 8kms & just over 3 hrs. They rate the hikes 1-5, 5 being the toughest, ours was a 3+ and was challenging, but just about manageable. Towards the end there were some steep climbs up to the peak (730m), and back down again which was the toughest part, finishing off at the Silver Pagodas, a set of 5 impressive 300 year old Pagodas which stand in the site of an old Temple, which was destroyed. A lovely ending to a tough hike, and then a very nice Chinese lunch at a local restaurant to finish. There was about 12 people on the hike, a mixture of people, and some nice British people who we got talking to who were on holiday here. Something we’d definitely do again & try some of their other hikes. It was nice to escape the city for the day. The weather was overcast, and rained a little towards the end, so the views weren’t as clear as they could have been from the peak, but still impressive.

Thursday evening still aching from the hike, I used up a massage voucher that I’d won in a competition (I love this!!!), turns out it was worth nearly 100, and a 2 & a half hour treatment, starting with a rose petal bath, followed with a full body scrub, then a hot stone massage – bliss!!!

Ok, so I’m going to have to call this blog 'cashing in on vouchers’ so something similar, as the next part involves another voucher – Andy & 2 others won the beer drinking competition at the Sexy Circus the week before, and got vouchers for 30 at 2 different restaurants. Friday night we went to a Mediterranean place called Ammo. A few service disasters (running out of wine, trying to upsell us to one twice as expensive, delivering dinner when we hadn’t even ordered, running out of chips, delivering us the wrong sides with our main dish, one with chips to add insult to injury blah blah blah thankfully we weren’t paying!!), but once we got the food it was actually ok. A quick escape to an American bar nearby where we got talking to a really nice British couple who live here, then headed back to the bars in town & met some friends for drinks.

Saturday morning I was up early so went for a cycle for about an hour, down the hutongs to the lakes, still really busy even at 9am, market stalls along the hutongs etc. I stopped at the lake to take a photo, and one of the security guards took a keen interest wanting my picture too, then he got a passer-by to take one of me & him, whilst he perched on the back of my bike! Still makes me laugh how the locals are sometimes fascinated by us foreigners & want photos with us!

The rest of the day was fairly chilled, Paddy’s for lunch, a bit of shopping, then met friends in town around 5pm for the rest of the evening, but were home by 10pm, unheard of for a Saturday night! Andy hadn’t slept well all week as our air con had broken in the bedroom & it’s really warm, so he was really tired (and a few beers then helped him sleep!). Temperatures are around 28-30 degrees at the mo, hotting up to 36 degrees on Tuesday, 18 at night. Thankfully our A/C is now working again.

Sunday morning Andy met up with Bruce who moved to Singapore and was here for the weekend, he was going to kindly give Andy his pushbike, as well as giving us the scooter, but when they got to his old compound it had been stolen. A common problem here, which is why I got a 2nd hand bike that blends in with the rest, anything too shiny, expensive, or new just stands out too much. We then had lunch after with Bruce, at a tiny little noodle bar that we always look across at & think ‘that looks cool, but how on earth do you get in there? 2nd floor, but not steps up to it. The answer to that was, you go around the back of the buildings, walk through a random door with a Chinese sign, walk up some stairs, turn left at the washing machine, through the kitchen, and you’re in!!! Ok, so now we know!! Fantastic lunch with freshly made noodles, yummy.  Sunday evening was spent catching up with Mum & Dad on Skype, then watching the Spanish Grand Prix in the James Joyce.

This week I’ve had the British Club committee meeting, followed by a leaving lunch for 3 of the members, sad how people move on so much. Then last night we went to a networking event at one of the 5* hotels, the China World, a joint European chamber event, but it wasn’t as good as others we’d been to, not as many people. After that we checked out a new brewery that’s opened up around the corner from us, the Great Leap Brewery – we’ve been to their tiny hutong place a few times, but now they’ve opened up a massive bar which is really nice, so a good nearby spot to hang out. And for the record in case you’re now wondering about the ‘fitness campaign going really well’ comment, I drank just water at the Brewery last night, and have cut down on what I’ve been drinking & eaten, oh apart from Birthday cake in the office this morning!!!

Bye for now, and we’ll check in with you again next week on our 1st year anniversary in Beijing!

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Sal on

Some lovely pictures Tracy, especially love the ones of you. I must say, you are looking really well, this lifestyle obviously suits you both. Less full time tourist, more part time tourist ha ha! I'm sure you both are working really hard, contrary to some comments ;-) and its just that you share the interesting outside work activities with us! All seems 'hunky dory' and I couldnt be more pleased for you both but.......can it really be a year! Wow, time whizzes when you have fun huh! Loving reading about all your expeditions and although we probably will never visit Beijing I feel like I already know it fairly well.Take care and keep blogging! xx

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