festival

Hello again & AC Beer Fest 2013

Long time no update!
A lack of updates, however, has not meant a lack of excitement in my life. It has just been spread out to weekend excursions and moments that, when compared to a life in a foreign country, didn’t seem as exciting or worth writing about.
Which is a bunch of bologna because if they weren’t worth it, I would have hopped on a plane back to China months ago.
So as I prepare for life’s next adventures, I’m dusting off the photo album/Flickr app on my phone and posting once again. My writing is a bit rusty–I’ve probably deleted and re-written the above words twice by the time you get to the end of this particular sentence–and I need practice. Bear with me as I find my words again.
(For examples of my Shakespearean prose, feel free to read posts under the ‘what the hell is this’ tag as crab vending machines and Chinese school lunches best spark my muse.)

Let’s get this started with a charming event I attended the first weekend this April–The Atlantic City Beer & Music Fest.

 AC Beer fest 2013 
This was the fest’s eighth year in the Atlantic City Convention Center and, as someone who has attended probably 30 conventions (most of an incredibly nerdy nature), this was so well-organized that I could have fallen down on my knees and wept salty tears into my IPA. 
Tickets are available online–I highly recommend getting them beforehand!–and you can have them emailed to you or pick them up at will-call. We arrived to the convention center maybe 20 minutes before the fest officially started and there was no line to have your ticket picked up or processed. We got our bands (DD wrist bands are available too) and tiny mugs and waited just five minutes to be let into the beer-consumption area:
AC Beer fest 2013

Once inside, you are treated to samples from 90 different breweries from PA, NJ, MD, Japan, Germany–all over the world. They even had a beer I enjoyed frequently in Thailand, so color me impressed. And I know I say ‘samples’ but $50 never bought you so much beer. Besides beer, your $50 ticket also gives you access to music on the live stage!

And barber shop quartets that sneak up on you and start singing for no reason!
AC Beer fest 2013
Free mustache rides!
AC Beer fest 2013
The silent disco!
AC Beer fest 2013
Now, you may be asking yourself, ‘What is a silent disco?’

Somewhere, someplace, someone thought to themselves–how can I make a bunch of drunk people dancing look even more ridiculous? (Why he desired this, I don’t know. I can only assume he’s related to the scientists in Switzerland who asked how they could possibly make a miniature sun on planet Earth.)

The answer to that question is to rig the DJ with a transmitter and give every dancing fool a pair of headphones that sync up to the same song. Observe:

 

 

I only wish I had captured the madness when Kung Fu Fighting played. Alas, I was too busy practicing my hadoken and crane pose.

Also mechanical bull riding and dunk tanks filled with local AC strippers!

(not pictured)
There are three different three hour sessions for the beer fest; Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening. So far survey says that Friday evening is the best as the brewers still have plenty of swag to go around (Tote bags! Glorious tote bags!) and patience to deal with your drunken antics. The Sheraton is practically connected to the convention center, but Ceasar’s palace is a short trek away. If you’d rather not sleep over in AC, there was a late Amtrak train that went from AC to Philly. And walking to the station from the convention center is ridiculously easy. Also, be sure to download the official app to keep track of what beers you’ve had for at least the first hour until the stout starts kicking in.
If you’re a beer fan, silent disco fan, or tote bag fan, give the fest a go. I will definitely be returning another year; I’ll be the first one in the Silent Disco play pen busting it out to Thriller. Come say hi.

snow and ice fest in harbin, china

The Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, China is one of the biggest winter festivals in the world and probably the most likely to make you feel like a penguin on an acid trip amid leviathan ice sculptures lit with neon.

100_0243

Zhaolin Park is in the city, towards the river and a nice place to start the festival. The ice sculptures are smaller than the ones in Ice and Snow World, but just as beautiful. And it has the added benefit of being the place where ice carvers come from all over the world to compete. A stroll through the park doesn’t take more than an hour, but can last you a while if you stop to take a picture of absolutely everything. More pictures.

100_0217

During the day it’s nice to visit St. Sofia, an old Russian Orthodox church. Harbin has a rich history of both Russian and Chinese influence, so it’s not difficult to find buildings with a Soviet or Russo decor. St. Sofia itself is now an architecture museum for the city. If you’ve seen a lot of Orthodox churches, it probably won’t be too impressive, but for someone like me who’s never seen one it was lovely. More pictures.

100_0302

If you’re on Harbin’s Central Avenue, be sure to stop at this eclectic restaurant. The menu has more pictures of the owner dressed in cowboy costumes than food selections, but it’s worth it just to feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone for forty minutes. Anthony Bourdain was there a few years ago for his TV show and can give you an idea how insane USABucks really is.

100_0230v

At the north end of Central Avenue, you can go out onto the frozen river and putz around. Or, hop in an carriage or snow buggy.

100_0277

Then to the north of the river–about a 20 minute drive outside of the city–there’s a tiger park where visitors can hop into a bus Jurassic Park style and watch dozens of tigers. There’s even an option to get raw beef, live chickens, and other tasty snacks to feed the tigers and other big cats. A lot of people get squeamish about that, but there’s something to be said about seeing the animals up close and putting you in a state of awe when you notice that just one paw is as big as your face. More pictures. For the kid that wrote down this in fifth grade;

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?

A: “A tiger.”

…this was the highlight of the trip.

100_0297

Between Zhaolin Park and the tigers is Ice and Snow World, where the HUGE ice sculptures and ice slides are. It’s nice to get there just before the sun sets so you can avoid crowds and see the sculptures in daylight and at night. Tom and Cass have more pictures of this attraction as the cold killed my camera battery pretty quickly…

ANYWAY. If you are in China during January or early February, this festival in Harbin should be at the top of your list. Two nights are needed at least to see everything I mentioned here, and three would probably be even better.