Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vegan Travel In China: Shanghai (Part 1-the sights)

I know, have been willfully remiss in updating my blog...China was such a big trip with so many pictures to edit (took about 3000 pics) that to even start blogging about it was a daunting task. Just going to dive right in where I tried starting weeks ago:  

So got back from China two weeks ago (um more like 6 weeks now), let me just state that the jetlag was seriously potent coming back, mine lasted about a full week. Pretty insane.

Let's begin at the beginning with this caveat: I am of Chinese descent but this is my first time in China (many many years ago, I was in Hong Kong before the handover to China, so that doesn't really count!). This was also my sister, SKO's first trip to China as well. And the occasion for said trip? Grandma is 77 & her dream has been to visit Mt Huang Shan, the famed mountains known for gorgeous peaks in mists & sea of clouds which have inspired many Chinese watercolors & poems.

The trip began well, I had accumulated enough miles to fly all of us in business class which I kept as a surprise until we got to airport check-in. I knew I was saving all those miles for a reason...14hrs is a long direct flight...started at Continental's President's Club to wait for our flight, Grandma was thrilled & had to call my uncle to tell him about flying business class. It was her first time! She's super cute.
Continental definitely rocked the vegan menu- there were so many snacks & meals, it was kind of crazy. There was also a fab dessert cart that unfortunately wasn't vegan, which poor SKO would have appreciated had she not downed her champagne way too quickly for an early morning empty stomach. She was quite ill thru most of the food service. My yummy foods ranged from veggie burger, delicious salads & Indian entrees- breakfast was dal & savory donuts...yum. Yep, that was definitely a painless 14hrs...

We flew into Shanghai. I thought a cosmopolitan city would be a good way to ease into China. I found the cutest hotel online- a renovated schoolhouse in the Luwan District, part of the old French Concession which was the area designated for the French. The area has many old mansions & tree-lined streets. Apparently a trendy area, with little boutiques & cafes...

Seems great so far, but I was pretty jetlagged (read exhausted) and was definitely not prepared for the sheer number of people, no sense of personal space/jostling/pushing & hygiene issues, mind you, I am a born & bred new yorker...I was overly tired & could not deal with seeing people blow their noses right into the street- this one woman actually did that & flicked the remaining mucus off her finger. Yep, I was horrified & still would be even if I wasn't a bit of a germ freak. Anyway, my sister & I definitely experienced some serious cultureshock (think squatter toilets, no hand soap & carry your own tissue pack because there is no toilet paper even in the fanciest malls), especially since we are part Chinese, I speak Cantonese, but not Mandarin which is what you need if you want to travel stress-free in China or join a tour...Thought I had enough Mandarin to get around & there would be English spoken at least at the hotel...nope.

I am a bit of a control-freak, it's what I do for a living when producing shoots. I normally handle everything on a trip but found that I had to rely on Grandma to translate for the most part. This made things more difficult & frustrating, especially since Grandma's used to just going along with me when we travel. Won't bore you with the interpersonal dynamics, but I know that I definitely would have had a better time if I spoke Mandarin. And any country that I have traveled to, I had some knowledge of the language, enough to get around & understand them. With Mandarin, I could certainly ask directions, but to understand was a whole other thing. And in case you were wondering, that cute hotel, The New Westlake Hotel that I booked, they were helpful, but mostly in Mandarin...

Enough wordiness & whining, here's a tiny sampling of Shanghai's scenery-
Along the newly restored, expanded waterfront along The Bund with the river on one side: 
and beautiful,various architectural styles on the other from Baroque to Art Deco where Western banks & consulates were housed, now homes to financial institutions & hotels: 
  We did an evening boat tour of Shanghai:
  Some interesting Communist propaganda- not sure what it's for, army recruitment?
And those much famed Chinese bicycles (you know all those pics of people on bikes- yep, that was still the image up til several yrs ago), though as with fast-moving progress & wealth, there were many more cars than bikes- these were the most bikes that I saw in any city that we visited:
Apparently in Shanghai, people still hang their laundry out, wonder if people ever get their clothes stolen? Probably not because one would probably be promptly executed if caught.
This is the bazaar next to the Yu Gardens- big tourist attraction, lots of food & over-priced souvenir shopping, but yes, I did hit the Starbucks for soy lattes (yes, sometimes there is soymilk, but only offered hot & sweet as a drink, not as a dairy alternative in coffee)- many many times in China.
The Yu Gardens were quite beautiful & actually serene (most people skipped it because of the entrance fee), but most interesting to me- the detail of figures along the rooftops, so cool...

And even cooler dragons running the length of the walls...

And small details everywhere for anyone looking- see happy faces:

I leave this post on a peaceful reflection of my China trip, definitely an interesting learning experience, next up my favorite: temples & food in Shanghai (which will NOT take another month for me to post, promise).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prepping For China

It's been a crazy few weeks- trying to wrap up my taxes & planning a very last minute trip to quick trip to China! Will be traveling with my grandmother & SKO on Wednesday...we will be arriving in Shanghai, then off to the famed Huangshan Mountains, quick stop in Hangzhou and then to Beijing...Booboo is trying to grasp all that we have to cover in a short period of 11days.
Why the big rush? Well a combination of SKO's timed Easter break, traveling on mileage & grandma's sense of urgency to get to these steep mountains while she's still able to tackle the steps. This will be mine & SKO's first official trip to China! Technically, I was in Hong Kong many moons ago but before China took it back.
Way overdue for some new trainers & what better reason to get new kicks than a big trip that will require good walking shoes: enter the super cute Stella McCartney/Adidas Galbinata purchased through Zappos which is always painless & so quick.
In the mad rush of getting my taxes done via learning Quick Books in a matter of days & prepping for the trip, I have been a bit stressed. There were several things really made the ride easier:
NYC newest vegan sandwich shop: Terri
in Chelsea. Super cute & super yummy & vegan- what's not to love? Had the most delicious chickpea "tuna" melt, the bread was perfectly toasted & the Daiya perfectly cheesy, not the best pic but it's sooooo good, trust me.
So good that I had to have more chickpea melts at home via Happy Herbivore- so quick & easy to make, can't believe I've never tried before because tuna salad sandwiches were my favorite in my pre-vegan days.
Other good things from Happy Herbivore- mac & cheeze that I added sauteed mushrooms, broccoli & onions, oh and let's not forget the peas & cilantro- so perfect.
And let's not forget the gift which is One Lucky Duck's decadent raw mallomar, this is the most ethereal raw treat that you will ever eat and so good for you- hard to believe but true!
There were also roses which looked like peonies from our local florist in LIC, which were gorgeous but didn't fully open as they should have...
Well, now must run & prep on trip stuff like food supplies for China like Larabars & Primal Strips- though hoping not to have to rely on that too much since there are definitely a good number of vegan restaurants (especially near the temples!) that I'm psyched to check out in China. What I'm not looking forward to are the tons of Chinese vegetarian dishes in omni places flavored with a tiny bit of meat and ruining what would have been a perfectly vegan dish....nonetheless, despite my numerous travel issues: slight flying anxieties & anxiety about seeing starving strays- am looking forward to the trip.
Since Booboo opened the post, it's only fair that Thelonious bids you "Zai Jian" until I get back in April!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Juice Fast & The Week In Raw

Is old news still good news? Well, by "good" I actually mean "interesting" and the answer is a resounding yes, since I never got to share my juice fast/raw journey from way back in January! Let me preface by saying that the end of the year was a bit tumultuous and I was seriously feeling exhausted, mentally & physically. What's a. weary, sluggish vegan girl to do?
Oh, maybe a juice fast? That was how I went vegan four years ago- did three days of juicing, ah, but remember  how sluggish & weary I am and so not in the mood to go buy organic veggies & prep & make juice...but how about one that's prepped for you already? Um, yes please!
Enter Organic Avenue, offering different levels of cleansing & delivery/pickup in NYC & pickup only in LIC, I decided to go L.O.V.E. Deep on the first Monday of the year. I love L.O.V.E Deep, well not the first day of course because that was my cranky weaning off food day, but by late afternoon Tuesday, I was feeling pretty good. Three of the six juices change daily which definitely made it more enjoyable not to be drinking the same juices for the whole week. Morning shot was always chlorophyll, which was gagworthy at the beginning but by my last day, I actually missed it because of how good it made me feel instead of coffee.

You also get a daily email with instructions & the juice menu & all the good stuff that it does for your body. And there's also a little pep talk/quote that was neat!
By day three, my body was definitely feeling better & filled with all kinds of good nutrients. The cleanse through Organic Avenue was not inexpensive, however, considering how much organic juice you get (6 16oz bottles & a shot), it really is a good deal. It's an investment in your health and boy, did I reap the benefits: clear skin, great energy & bye-bye 10lbs- hurray!

Am definitely planning on L.O.V.E. Deep again soon!
I broke my fast on the sixth day with homemade cashew milk & fruit. Had planned on going raw after the fast for a few days, loved it so much that I went for five days raw. And with all the amazing raw places in NYC, I definitely could have gone raw for longer but as I had mentioned there was tumult at home, so didn't want to create more tension with a new way of eating (which some of you may or may not relate to if you are vegan with an omni partner who considers the sharing of food an integral part of the relationship...)

Anyway, so many yummy raw places in the city- I stopped at Bonobo's many times for their nut pate sushi rolls and their coconut chai which is so delicious that it must be illegal, it is so creamy & flavorful- it's unreal how good it is.
Got to also check out Rockin Raw in Williamsburg with my bestest buddy,JK. Rockin Raw is a Peruvian-Creole raw restaurant. Yep, that's right Peruvian + Creole which equals pure yumminess! We started with "Crab Cakes", cornbread & the Jicama a la Huancaina. Huancaina is spicy cheese-like sauce from special yellow peppers. Um, let's just say that JK & I would have definitely duke'd it out over who gets to lick the plate were it not for people sitting near us. That stuff is sooooooooo good.

The thing with raw food is that you get full pretty damn quickly, so when my Rockin Raw Burger Platter arrived, I was completely stuffed, only able to try some of the N'Awlins Rings- yeah, those would be sickest (meaning best of course) onion rings ever. JK had the Raw Boy Sandwich which turned out good, but was still our least favorite of the evening. As full as we were, we still had to make room for dessert. We had the Blueberry Cake which honestly did not look so interesting but turned out to be so deliciously blueberry-y good. Can't wait to head back for a visit soon.
There were also quite a few visits to Quintessence one of the first raw restaurants in the city back in the day. My favorite things: Ginger Latte- warmed cashew milk & ginger, so comforting & a taco! Loved it so much that I took my grandmother over for a raw brunch, it was a day of firsts for her. First time in her forty years living in NYC being on Avenue A & her first raw meal, she loved it. So much so that she declared that she couldn't eat like this every day but she would definitely want to have a meal like this more often. Grandma & I have a raw food date soon!
I heart raw food & the way it makes me feel. Am going to try to incorporate more raw meals into my diet, if I weren't so damn lazy about the prep involved. Luckily, there's always Pure Food & Wine Takeaway!  So, I mentioned there was a bit of tumult in my life at the end of the year- well all of it had to do with this little creature below, but that will have to be for another post because it's way too long of a story to begin now...

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Return To Blogland

So it's been forever since I last blogged- I have had a severe case of procrastination obviously lingering for several months. I swear, it was so bad, I was overcome with chills and broke out into a cold sweat whenever I thought about how far behind I was with my blogging.There were so many times that I had meant to blog again & an actual time in December where I did a draft about my dear friend, Urban Vegan and our yummy lunch at Hangawi and also about the lovely Farm Sanctuary Celebration for the Turkeys at Tavern On The Green...ah, yes those drafts never saw the cold light of day.

So with the new year (albeit a month & a half in) and technically a new year for the lunar calendar, I start anew & begin afresh with renewed vows to be a better blogger. Let's begin with something that I will definitely covet in the new year: Olsen Haus' Muse 2 heels available this fall. Not only is it super hot, but comfortable because of the platform and so cool because it's made of recycled television screens & tires. A heel that's super hot & cool to boot? Brilliant!
I got a peek firsthand because Elizabeth, vegan genius designer extraordinaire of Olsen Haus and I both attended an intimate loft party downtown for Farm Sanctuary. She literally took this shoe off for me to try on & shoot some iphone pics.
The loft party for Farm Sanctuary was to raise funds to help pass legislation A08163 in NYS, known as Nikki's Law (in honor of Nikki who was rescued from a gestation crate and now lives happily up at Farm Sanctuary). This bill would ban gestation crates for breeding pigs, veal crates for calves & battery cages for egg-laying hens- great ready Albany for Humane Lobby Day on March 24th!

It was a great little party and particularly cool was to hobnob with Gene Bauer, Farm Sanctuary founder and let him know exactly how thankful I am that he created such a wonderful organization! Since I have no good pics from the loft party, I am going to include a way old pic from Farm Sanctuary's Celebration for the Turkeys Event at now-closed-NY institution, Tavern On The Green. And yes, the desserts were not to be believed- my bestest buddy, JK & I, despite our best intentions, we were not able to sample everything because we were pretty full from the meal (caveat lector: JK hates this pic because she was very tired & puffy, but oh so graciously allowed me to use it since it's the only pic of us from that event- now that's a good buddy!):
 And also a few weekends ago, JK & I attended a vegan sample sale. Way back in my pre-vegan twenties, I was a damn faithful sample sale attendee: Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, you name it- I was there. Well since going vegan, none of these sample sale hold much interest for me because most of these designers are not cruelty-free. So imagine my surprise when through the Girlie Girl Army newsletter, I heard about a vegan sample sale! I was so there and making my fair contribution to support all: 
Leanne from Vaute Couture was super sweet & her coats were super cute- so I just had to grab me two of them- the El & the Pea Coat (which I wear religiously).
While getting my paws on some Olsen Haus boots & high heeled oxfords, I met their uber-cool creator, Elizabeth, who despite feeling a bit run down, charitably posed for a pic together. And hanging at the FS loft party the very next evening, I sensed a kindred spirit, so definitely looking forward to our next get together. And looking forward to the next vegan sample sale, thanks to lovely Gina, designer of Cri De Coeur who masterminded the event!

On the home front, our apartment is finally coming together after a year (learning to compromise takes forever-sigh!), Fcat made these wonderful bookshelves & designed the desk that you see below along with a corner of the lacquered media cabinet. I sense a full apartment tour at some point...
Also with the new year, I am going to try Twitter- I am such a social networking newbie, I sense that I will definitely need some help with this...

In the spirit of abundance for Chinese New Year, wishing you all- homes & hearts bursting with vegan goodness & compassion for all.

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