NEPAL – Never Ending Peace And Love

Mdm B (as Maja was fondly referrred to by her close friends and associates) and I made this trip to Jomsom and Marpha in Nepal only once in the mid 2,000s and it was quite magical.

In winter, many men leave the town and go to Nepal as there is no heating there so they freeze. The women stay behind. Needless to say, Mdm B was NOT impressed by these men, to say the least.

Capturing the breathtakingly beautiful scenery on this trip, was left in the capable hands of Mr Li Yu Xiang – photographer extraordinaire – and we are happy to share a selection here with you. We think these photos are quite unique, as not all the trekkers were able to trek around that area, because of the weather issue.

Jomsom , also known as Dzong-Sampa or New Fort, is a town located at an altitude of about 2700 m in Mustang DistrictNepal. It extends over both the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. Along the banks of Kali Gandaki river there are rocks holy to the Hindus. The soaring peaks of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri form a backdrop.

A trail passes through the Lower Mustang region of Nepal, ending at the village of Kagbeni, a Tibetan influenced village filled with prayer wheels, chortens and a Buddhist monastery. The trail follows the Kali Gandaki River which forms the deepest ravine in the world; on one side lies the Annapurna mountain range and on the other side is Dhaulagiri. Between the two ranges, there are views of 8 of the 20 highest mountains in the world. The Kali Gandaki is a quarter of a mile wide river bed; during the winter the river will be dry, but during the summer and monsoon it fills with rain water and melting snow. The scenery of the trail ranges from forests of bright red rhododendrons to rocky cliffs and desert. The culture along the track is a rich mixture of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhism. The trail’s highest point is Muktinath at 3800 m, a holy site of temples sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus for centuries.

Flying to Jomson

At 2,800m, Jomsom Mountain Resort (JMR) is located upstream from the world’s deepest gorge between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. With a stupendous view of Nilgiri (7,061m) from every room and the Kali Gandaki flowing past, JMR is regarded as one of the world’s most exotic resorts. It is a 20min walk from the airport.

Jomsom Resort

Jomsom Resort 2

Trekking from Jomsom to Marpha

The Jomsom Trek is essentially the final third of the Annapurna Circuit. It follows the Kali Gandaki Valley between the soaring peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri and then emerges north of the main Himalayan range, on the dry, desert-like Tibetan plateau.

Jomsom to Marpha

Marpha, also called the Apple town or the Apple Capital, is famous for its apples and Apple Brandy.

Marpha

Last but not least, we enjoyed meeting with the Nepalese people and leave you with a collection of the many Faces of Nepal.

The faces of Nepal

We miss you, Mdm B!

Helena Liu

A Precious 26-Year Friendship

I met Maja in early 1990 when I first stepped foot on Chinese soil. She was introduced to me by her good friend, Al Wymann, who happened to be my then General Manager.

We remained friends through thick and thin, and with the onset of wechat/whatsapp connectivity, we joyfully communicated on a daily basis with the greatest of enthusiasm.

Maja was one of my most loyal friends and was the unofficial president of my fan-club! In her eyes, I could do no wrong, though that did not prevent her from offering honest opinions that were delivered in her serious, no-nonsense, straight-laced manner, which I found extremely endearing and delightful.

We exchanged and taught each other expressive gems in Slovak and Malay languages which reduced us to girlie-giggles (when Dominic was not within earshot)!

How I miss our daily wechat banter….but Maja or Mdm. B as we often called her, will always remain in my heart and mind, as though she were still here today. I still ‘hear’ her voice ringing in my ear, lovingly chiding me for a variety of things.

Happily, I was inspired to create a mixed-media artwork of us in a dreamlike setting, a few years ago. As her favourite flower was the gentle lotus, I entitled it Lotus Dream.  She sent me into fits of laughter when she observed with grave seriousness, that I had given her ‘botox lips’! But Maja treasured this artistic interpretation of our friendship and that gave me immense satisfaction.

In 2013 I wrote about this piece of work in my blog…to read it, please click here.

lotus-dream-lo-res

A mixed-media artwork by Veronica Ann Lee

Mdm B, we loved you then, and we always will. In remembrance of a wonderful lady, I light a candle for her.

candle-in-glass

Veronica Ann Lee

 

 

 

 

Remembering Maja: Lotus Love

Maja adored flowers of all varieties but her favourite was always the graceful lotus.

We remember her through her love of the lotus, combined with a poem by Gong Zi Zhen, a famous official of the Qing Dynasty.

Translated simply into English, the poem meaningfully reads:
The falling petals are not lifeless.
They turn back to earth to nurture and protect the flower’s roots.
lotus-love

A poem by Gong Zi Zhen, a famous Qing Dynasty official.

Dominic

Memory Lane

albert-pikes-quote

Maria Boyd began this blog in 2014 as a platform on which to record and share her memorable experiences during her 31 years in China. It is with deepest sorrow that her first hand reflections will not be coming forth anymore, as Maria lost a long and dignified battle with illness in mid-September 2016. Mercifully, her last few days were peaceful and painless.

Although Maria is now in a better place, her friends and colleagues will continue to relive golden moments of how she played such an impressionable role in their lives. For this, we will begin a new category of posts entitled “Memory Lane” dedicated to memories of Maria.

As readers of this blog will know, she was instrumental in making the return of the Milu to China a success 31 years ago. I remain astonished at how tirelessly Maria continued to work on various Milu-related projects on top of our own business activities.

Be it the Master Plan for the Hubei Shishou National Nature Reserve or preparation for the 2015 Milu Symposium, she kept the Milu at the forefront of her life over the past three decades. The long-term success of the Milu in China vividly testifies to her determination and dedication to the reintroduction.

Maria remained in China till the end as it had become ‘her’ country and as, in many ways, she was more Chinese than many Chinese people.

The American writer Albert Pike once wrote that “what we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; but what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

In the same way, Maria will always be remembered for what she did for the Milu reintroduction and the influence she had on many of us.

It is this great legacy of hers that we continue to celebrate on this blog.

Dominic

People Fight Freeze As Temperatures Plummet In Beijing And Northern China

At dew time on Saturday morning (Jan. 23), the temperature in Beijing plummeted to -33 C while in the afternoon on the same day it reached   -28 C (including the wind-chill factor generated by a strong 30-miles west/north-west wind), the lowest in almost three decades.

As China Daily mentioned in their edition of the same day, teams of outdoor workers are braving falling temperatures, howling winds and snowstorms affecting many areas of China to keep vital services running, while being careful about the challenging conditions in which they are working.

According to a report by the National Meteorological Center, on cold and windy days when temperatures fall below -30 C, there is the risk of frostbite if people stay outdoors for more than 10 minutes. Soldiers patrolling the country’s northern border with Russia said that they never experienced such biting winds as in recent days when the temperature dropped to a record low. In Mohe, China’s northernmost city in Heilongjiang province, the cold front has lowered the temperature to -43 C, making daily patrols along part of the Heilongjiang River, which forms the border, “like walking against knives because of the howling wind”.

Some workers are braving the icy conditions to protect their livelihoods. Fishermen in Dalian, Liaoning province, have moored their vessels to prepare for expanding sea ice in coming days.

Pic1

Fishing boats are left frozen in the ice in Dalian, Liaoning province, on Thursday. Photos for China Daily by Lyu Wenzheng.

Agricultural authorities have warned farmers to add organic fertilizers to keep crops and vegetables from being damaged by frost and to reinforce plastic greenhouses. Nonetheless, farmers say heavy losses are inevitable and a farmer in central China’s Hunan province expects only ten percent of his crops to survive.

The cold front brought snowstorms across northern and southern areas on Friday, affecting 90 percent of the country, and expected to persist in eastern and central areas and affect parts of Shanghai and Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei and Hunan provinces.

Pic2

Local fishermen walk on the frozen sea in Lianyungang, East China’s Jiangsu province, Jan 19, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua].

Highways in at least 12 provinces and municipalities were closed and flights disrupted amid blizzards and gales. Many parts of China are forecast to experience their lowest temperatures in decades during the weekend.

On a lighter note, it appears that snow does not bother pandas in Hubei province as per the below shot taken in Wuhan on January 21st.

Pic3

A panda in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province, on Thursday Jan. 21 [Photo by Jin Siliu/Asianewsphoto]

 

Moon Festival

One of my most favourite festivals in China is the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is the second most important Chinese celebration of the year after the Lunar New Year (Spring Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year). It is also called Moon Festival or the Harvest Festival and falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is at its apogee and at its brightest symbolizing ‘completeness’.

Many legends are associated with this festival and the one I prefer refers to Hou Yi, God of the Sun, who was only allowed to visit his beloved wife, Lady Chang Er, on the moon, once a year. Legend says that the moon shines brightest on that day because of their love.

The Chinese word for round has a similar pronunciation to the words reunion and perfect. This festival is a day for family reunions and the traditional gifts are ‘moon cakes’, round baked cakes in the shape of the moon. The traditional filling used to be a simple egg yolk – symbolizing the moon, surrounded by white lotus paste or red bean paste, and sometimes with assorted nuts and dried fruits.

In Chinese culture, Moon Cakes symbolize a host of good things:

  • The circle (shape of the Moon Cake) is a symbol of harmony.
  • The round shape stands for family unity and symbolizes the cycle of life, connecting the past, present, and future
  • It also symbolizes long life and good health

In the 14th Century, messages were contained inside Moon Cakes for secret communication promoting a rebellion against the ruling Yuan Dynasty, which had been founded by Kublai Khan. It was eventually replaced with the Ming Dynasty and the story says that Moon Cakes were credited with the victory.

In the 1990s, I used to drive to the Tan Zhe Si Temple, outside of Beijing, to view the Moon on this spectacular evening. One time, a friend of mine from Hong Kong flew specially to Beijing on the occasion. She had heard so much from me about spending the night watching the Moon at the temple that she could not resist and eventually made the trip. The night was truly spectacular and especially when the Moon appeared between two ancient and majestic pine trees. Enjoying Moon Cakes and a bottle of wine, we surely saw Lady Chang Er on the Moon as the ancient pines were slowly moving in the gentle breeze and singing their special tune.

Nowadays, the sky is literally the limit with regards to Moon Cake fillings. People can enjoy, in addition to traditional savoury moon cakes, many sweet options such as chocolate moon cakes and ice cream moon cakes.

Traditional Beijing moon cakes

Traditional Beijing moon cakes

Also, Beijing has its own types of Moon Cakes made without egg yolk, smaller and less opulent than traditional ones. They are called Zi Lai Hong and Zi Lai Bai. The former is darker and has the distinctive taste of sesame oil and sweet osmanthus paste. The latter is filled with walnut, raisin and dry osmanthus.

Enjoy!

A Taste Of Tuscany

When I was a little girl and lived in the mountainous region of western Slovakia near a village called Dobra Voda, my mother told me about her first trip to Italy just before she graduated from college. She talked about the wonderful culture, the many palaces, museums, and art pieces, as well as the liveliness of the piazzas, the friendliness of the people and the superb countryside of the Mediterranean country

The food had also a great impact on her. I remember how vividly she described eating her first oysters in Napoli, the delightful ice creams in Rome and the many dishes she truly enjoyed all along her trip.

In 1968, I went to Italy for the first time and I fell in love with Florence and Tuscany. I first went to see the famous Ponte Vecchio with the many little shops that long ago used to be butcher shops and now are mostly souvenir shops. And then, we travelled around Florence by car stopping here and there as we wished. As far as one could see in the distance, there were hills, beautifully kept vineyards and groves of olive trees and orchards, fields of sunflowers and other flowers. My love for Italian food dates from this first trip where we stopped in many little trattoria that served beautiful pazanella (salad of bread and fresh vegetables), and delightful pasta accompanied with a glass (or two) of Chianti.

Here are a couple of recipes that I like very much:

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Chicken Breast with Oven-roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients for 4 persons:

– 4 tbsp of olive oil

– 4 chicken breasts cut into slices

– garlic (5 cloves)

– 1 cup pitted mixed green and black olives

– 8 tbsp of cut up flat leave parsley

– 4 oven-roasted tomatoes* sliced into half moon pieces

– ¾ of a cup (or more if needed) of red wine

– 1 cup of chicken bouillon

Directions

• Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

• Heat the oil in a saucepan, dredge the pieces of chicken in flour and cook on each side for 4 to 5 minutes.

• Take chicken out of the frying pan, dry them on a paper towel and place them in a baking dish.

• Mix together all remaining ingredients, place it over the chicken and pour the red wine and half of the bouillon.

• Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Take it out and turn the slices of chicken. Check if you need to add the other half of the bouillon. Put it back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Serve with rice.

Remark: This recipe works also beautifully with fillet of pork.

* Oven-roasted tomatoes:

Halve four tomatoes, put in an oven-proof dish. Mince 4 cloves of garlic on the tomatoes and sprinkle one tbsp each of thyme, oregano, rosemary and basil. Add salt and pepper. Pour ¾ cup of olive oil and let it cook slowly in the oven on 160 degrees C for 1 hour. Take it out and pour the oil over the tomatoes and put in back in the oven for another hour. DELICIOUS!

Eggplants Parmegiana

Ingredients for 4 persons:

– 3 medium size eggplants thinly sliced

– flour for dredging eggplants

– 2 cups sunflower seed or grape-seed oil for frying eggplants

– salt/pepper

– 4 cups of tomato sauce (using 8 to 12 fresh tomatoes depending on size or 2 tins of peeled tomatoes)

– 1 cup of fresh basil leaves torn to pieces or half a cup of dried basil

-100 gr. of grated parmesan and 200 gr. grated mozarella mixed together

Directions

• After washing the eggplants, slice them thinly, add salt and let it drain for 30 minutes.

• Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

• Rinse the eggplants and dry them well.

• Lightly dredge the sliced eggplants in the flour, fry in the oil for 4/5 minutes, drain on paper towels and salt them.

• Put some tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and add a layer of eggplant, then another layer of sauce, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, parmesan and mozzarella.

• Repeat the process until all eggplants are used finishing with tomato sauce basil and parmesan/mozzarella.

• Bake in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

• Serve four people generously.

Bon appetit!

The Milu: A Success Story

2015 marks the 30th Anniversary of the return of the Pere David’s Deer (Milu) to China which brought me to the Middle Kingdom in 1984. It is an occasion to celebrate one of the earliest successful conservation programs in the world that saw the Bedford Family save the Milu from extinction by collecting all remaining animals in the world (only 18 in total) in the early 20th century on their Woburn Abbey Estate in the United Kingdom.

Since their return, Milu thrive in China and, in addition to nature reserves, zoos and wildlife parks across the country, three free living populations are established in Hubei and Hunan provinces.

The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation celebrated the Milu return in Beijing during the UN Biodiversity Day on May 22nd, 2015.

 (From left to right): Mr. Song Shixiao, former Director of Milu Ecological Research Centre, Nan Haizi Milu Park; Professor Zhang Zuoshuang,Vice Board Chairman, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBC&GDF); Mr. Hu Deping, President, (CBC&GDF); Maria Boyd; Professor Hu Zhao Guang, Vice President, (CBC&GDF) and  Academician Jin Jian Ming (CBC&GDF).


(From left to right): Mr. Song Shixiao, former Director of Milu Ecological Research Centre, Nan Haizi Milu Park; Professor Zhang Zuoshuang,Vice Board Chairman, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBC&GDF); Mr. Hu Deping, President, (CBC&GDF); Maria Boyd; Professor Hu Zhao Guang, Vice President, (CBC&GDF) and
Academician Jin Jian Ming (CBC&GDF).

Later this year, in mid-November, the first ‘International Symposium on the Conservation, Protection and Management of Milu and Biodiversity in China’ will take place in Beijing.

It will be co-organized by the Beijing Milu Ecological Research Center (Milu Park at Nan Haizi) and the Woburn Abbey Deer Park. The 15th Duke of Bedford who flew to Beijing with the first batch of Milu in 1985 will come to China on this occasion and it will be a great opportunity for the original team that handled the reintroduction to share old memories and celebrate their amazing achievement.

I was recently interviewed by City Weekend, one of the leading english-language publications in Beijing, about the reintroduction and how it all happened. I wish you an enjoyable read!

CW Page 1 - Jun 2015

CW Page 2 - Jun 2015