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Beijing Layover becomes an adventure - Forbidden City | Pic: R. Ocampo

Beijing Layover, How to Spend 24 Hours

Turn a Layover in Beijing Into an Adventure

I spent several days in Kuala Lumpur recently on business. Since I no longer live in New York City or Los Angeles, flight options are not easy to come by. My flight from Ft. Myers, Fla. to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia took me through a few stops:

  • Ft. Myers to New York JFK
  • JFK to Beijing
  • Beijing to Kuala Lumpur

With limited options, I chose a flight that required an overnight layover in Beijing. The layover was just under 24 hours, so I decided to go that route to stop by and visit China for a second time. My flight arrived around 6pm and left the next day around 3pm – just enough to experience the highlights.

Note:  Short layovers, like this one, do not require a visa. You can leave the airport as a 24-hour international transit passenger. I believe the same applies for a 72-hour transit passenger but see the Chinese Embassy site for details.

I reserved a hotel at the St. Regis in Beijing for less than $200. The same type of room in New York City would easily run 3-4 x’s the price. I was blown away a bit when the butler rang the bell to give me a tour of my room and serve me green tea!

Below are some highlights from my trip to Beijing, with captions describing what you see. There are scenes from the Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City and a tea marketplace with unending stores serving hot Chinese teas. Look for my mask in the video, which was a prerequisite due to the poor air quality.

I made a brief video of some of the highlights. Take a look!

Beijing Layover

Lionfish cooking demonstration by Sandals Foundation | Photo: Ocampo

Lionfish Are Destroying The Planet, So Eat Them

During a recent trip to Jamaica, I attended a lionfish cooking demonstration  by the Sandals Foundation – the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, which owns Beaches Resorts.

Lionfish cooking demonstration by Sandals Foundation | Photo: Ocampo
Lionfish cooking demonstration by Sandals Foundation | Photo: Ocampo

Chef Juan presented the fish to the group and walked us through how best to prepare it. Before he did, though, he explained the dangers of the lionfish, and how the species is forever changing the Caribbean ecosystem.

Image credit: Edoen Kang on Fineartsamerica.com
Venomous Lionfish | Image credit: Kang on Fineartsamerica.com

Why are lionfish dangerous

Lionfish, formally known as Pterois, are a voracious fish native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. With few predators, most likely due to the effectiveness of their venomous spines, they have proliferated in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, as well as the Pacific Ocean over the last 20 years.

Deceivingly beautiful, they are adept hunters and have been found with over 50 different species of prey in their stomachs such as mollusks, invertebrate and minuscule fish. One reason for their excellent predatory skills has to do with their bilateral swimming technique. Able to move up and down in the water column, they spread their pectoral fin and eat their prey in one single motion while altering their center of gravity. Another trait to facilitate their kills, is the blowing of water – like a jet – at their prey, which disorients them just long enough to be eaten!

So what’s the problem? The problem with lionfish is that they are feasting on incredibly important fish, like the parrotfish, to the reefs. These fish that they are demolishing eat toxic algae, wich keep the coral healthy. In some estimates, lionfish consume 80% of the reef’s smaller fish in just over a month.

What can you do about it?

Eat lionfish, of course! One way to help the spread of this invasive species is to strap on your snorkel or scuba gear, arm yourself with a speargun and hunt them. There are companies out there that offer underwater excursions to help eradicate the Atlantic and Caribbean of this amphibious nuisance; however, you may not be quite ready to get all Crocodile Dundee on it.

Another, more tasty, option is to simply eat them as often as possible. If your favorite eatery doesn’t carry lionfish, ask them to order it. Public awareness is one way to fight off the destruction of the coral reefs as we know it.

You can also cook your own lionfish at home. Here is a tasty recipe for you, and your family to enjoy, all while making the world a better place.

Lionfish Nachos

Lionfish Nachos
from The Lionfish Cookbook by Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins

Lionfish Nachos
Photo: David Stone/The Lionfish Cookbook

8 wonton wrappers*
1/2 cup oil
8 lionfish fillets
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce*
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce*
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup seaweed salad*
1/4 cup wasabi mayonnaise*

*Items can be found at Asian markets.

Place oil in a small frying pan and heat oil until hot. Place one wonton wrapper in at a time. Cook briefly until it starts to bubble (approximately 10 seconds). Turn over and cook another 10 seconds. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.

Put wasabi mayonnaise into a squeeze bottle and set aside. Combine sweet soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and soy sauce together in a bowl and set aside. Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Cook lionfish fillets in skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until flaky and tender. Cut or flake lionfish so it is in small pieces. Toss lionfish in soy sauce mixture.

Place lionfish on wonton wrappers, top with seaweed salad and drizzle with wasabi mayonnaise.