28 Mar 2011
China really impressed me. The whole PuDong side of Shanghai is new and pretty nice and well kept. There are some older parts of Shanghai that are more Gerard-Street ish, but overall they sure do make an effort. I had sort of expected the area near work to be sort of ghetto, since I knew it was in the sticks (a la my visit to Mumbai) - but nope, it is very very nice.
Shanghai kind of reminds me of a cross between Tel Aviv and Las Vegas and Silicon Valley - hahahaha.
And the bathrooms (except for one at that village with the river - it was an Indian-style hole in the wall kind, which in and of itself isn't such a big deal, but this one was sorta dirty, and it also had the problem of being near a stinky tofu stand) have all been clean and stocked. To me this indicates a pretty high level of sophisication. Like, no one seems to pee on the seat. Genius! At work it seemed like they were being almost continuously cleaned - in Markham they are cleaned pretty often too, but I think the Shanghai office edges it out, slightly. Although no automatic toliet flush here, since all the toliets have the #1/#2 option.
I will likely not be posting as frequently for the next phase of the trip, I don't know how often we'll be around Internet connections and such.
Update: I'm in HK, but we're super busy - I will try and post later tonight! Macau today! :)
On Saturday two colleagues took us to a small village outside of the city, recontructed to look like a Chinese village of 1000 years ago. I am not being deliberately obtuse about the name, it escapes me right now - and it is long and complicated.
There was a smidge of traffic getting there (ah, reminds me of home - miss you 401! [not]) - interesting, it seems like randomly a cop will block an entrace to the highway for some minutes, to aid in regulating traffic flow. Kind of like that light that lets you on the QEW one at a time from Mississauga Rd, but in this instance the cop stands where the on ramp is for ten minutes or so. We were debating in the car, and we don't know if they do it randomly or with traffic theory in mind.
The little village was pretty cool! Except that parts of it smelled like stinky tofu. You know. There was a river running through the little village, and stone bridges every so often. People actually work and live in the village. There were little shops and things. I bought some cute things, and a new purse - hahah, not a knock off, a real regular purse, from a local Shanghai designer. We had lunch overlooking the river (or is it a canal?) - that was nice, but a wee bit on the chilly side. We had our tea to keep warm, it was ok.
We also took a boat ride, that was really fun. There is a guy in the back making the boat go - sort of like a gondelier, except he's not punting along the river, he's sort of turning this oar thing to propel us. To me it seems like maybe not the most efficient way of getting a boat down the river, but I'm no mechanical engineer, I can't really say.
YangBo dropped us off in a French area of town, since I have been hearing about this French Concession, and wanted to see it. By then we'd all had a little snooze in the car on the way back from the town, so we needed to stop for a coffee for a little pick me up.
We walked around a bit - I have no real conclusions to draw from it. I'm not 100% sure we were in the right place. Anyhoo, Wallace came up with the idea of us all getting foot massages, so we went off to find a reputable place. The first place we decided was not reputable - hahaha. You know, these things can be a bit sketch.
Anyhoo, the place we ended up in was AWESOME. Apparently a foot massage is sort of a China specialty. It was a 75 min massage, which started with a neck massage. This was my #2 fav thing we did in Shanghai - awesome! And the rooms were all super nice and decorated, all three of us (Wallace, Matthew and myself) were in one room, so we could chat. Fun! AND food/drinks (limited selection, but still) were included. So essentially we ate dinner while our feet were being massaged. Hrmm...I think this could be an addition to brighten any meal! :) They also gave us a bag of hot stones for our lower backs while the massage was going on. So neat. And they were so attentive - when I ran out of juice, the girl would notice and press a button, and a guy would come with more juice. So luxurious!
So Friday before dinner we went out to the Shanghai World Financial Center for a glass of wine on the ~100th floor! (I say "about 100" because the elevator had like 3 buttons - "lounge", "restaurant" and "lobby" or something like that. Oh - and getting in was neat - we were trying to act 'cool' like we belonged in this fancy hotel - but really, you just walk in - through a set of rooms and automatic doors - like a mission impossible scene but with good design, then just take the elevator up. It is not a big deal like the CN tower is. It was an internal elevator, so no scary view. Ears popped like three times!)
Hot! It was super cool. Best part of Shanghai visit! :) (Seen in this pic )
Dinner we went to Xintiandi, which is some sort of hot clubbing district.
We went to dinner with Gina, who is a girl who used to work for AMD, but has lived in Europe for a while, and now lives in Shanghai, so she's coming back to AMD. It was cool to meet her, I've heard lots of stories about her, since Betty is friends with her.
FINALLY, a good soup dumpling in Shanghai! Yay! Dinner was good (Taiwanese restaurant - like - hahha! I will be there Wednesday!). We didn't go clubbing or anything - not my scene. We did go for Vietnamese for dessert. Highly freezing. It is cold here - why we all ordered iced deserts is beyond me. I had rambutan, which is kinda like lychee. Good. Hilariously, Matthew ordered a plum dessert - and I was like, "Really? Ok-ay!" - since Matthew is is NOT adventurous in food, and doesn't enjoy all this weird and wonderful cuisine. In fact, I could NOT get him to try a soup dumpling. Oh well! But Matthew didn't know Chinese plum things are (imho) a gross salty business. Needless to say, he didn't enjoy it.
(I'm in HK now - not much time on Internet do I have, trying to catch up!)
25 Mar 2011
This is turning into a food blog, eh?! Hahahha. So it goes.
Awake at 4am, up arond 5am. I had a nice phone call with my Darling husband, and I read for a bit. Nothing useful like yoga or working out today. But really, reading a nice book in a comfy bed at 5am is sort of luxurious. I enjoyed it. And the bed is really really comfy. I like the pillows - and the duvet is lovely and fluffy.
Breaky: I did go out to try the street meats! Fun!!! I had a chi-fan. Like you can buy at T&T. It is a rice roll wrapped around boiled egg, shredded pork and mustard greens, and chinese doughnut - you know. Very tasty. 4RMB! I also walked around the plaza a bit, got a starbucks, and bought some more water from the Lawson. You'll notice breakfast was 4 RMB ($0.60) for the food, and 21 RMB ($3.24) for the western-style coffe - hahahha! It totally always seems to be like that - which is probably good - you want 1 bln people to be able to feed themselves, but 1 bln people do not need to be able to have a Starbuck's every morning.
We were at the same place as yesterday. It was good - I had a bowl of noodles in soup. They put a tremendous amount of noodles in one bowl - like, way more noodles than one person should eat. These are the sort-of equivalent to spaghetti - but far, far too much to eat at once! hahah - so obvi I did (when in Rome!), I am having a sluggish afternoon maybe due to that!
Last night we went to the 'thumbs plaza' which is a hip neighbourhood on this side of the river (PuDong side). My favourite part was killing some time in a grocery store (Carre-four) before the rest of our colleagues showed up. Awesome! It was like a big loblaws, where they don't just sell you food but also stuff. And THIS is where regular people shop, not the crazy expensive malls with seriously overpriced western good. I had to be torn out of the grocery store. This is my advice, always try to hit up a grocery store in a foreign country - they are so interesting! I couldn't resist buying some 'cute things' - little packets of napkins and things. I am hoping to spend some time saturday in a grocery store, hopefully without boys that think it is lame, ahahha.
Dinner was japanese - um... not really very distinguishing. Fine, but not outstanding. It was nice eating with those colleagues (the main team I have been training all week), but I would say TO has better Japanese food, based on this one experience. There was a large group of VERY drunk and loud Japanese men, that provided amusement for the rest of us! (It seems like this isn't ok behaviour for the Chinese guys - they seemed slightly shocked and embarrased by the Japanese guys - maybe that was just because we are in a business setting though?)
Breakfast was lame (well, except for some really good won ton soup and a nice steamed glutinous pumpkin ball). That's it, I've had it with the hotel breakfast. As we dove to work I saw there there are lots of street meat right outside our hotel, and people queueing up to get a quick breakfast, I'm going to try that tomorrow morning, I think. (As long as sleep goes well tonight)
Lunch was good. I would say so far it is has been my favourite meal overall. It had lots of nice veg (Chinese celery was very good) and it came with yummy asian pears to finish. They peel all their fruit here - due to pesticides and bad water, I suppose.
I am really jonesing for an apple, and the hotel puts out bowls of them, so I stole one - but I asked Wallace, and he said I should peel it. So I am going to look for a knife.
Dinner: Haha - SUPER lame! We walked around the Nanjiang Road and Bund last night - very cool. Again, lots of bright lights and shiny buildings. But for dinner we didn't quite know where to go. I led us up into a mall in hopes we'd be able to find a way to ride up a tower and eat at a restaurant on the top - only to not be able to get to the top, so really we just were stuck in this little mall for a while. So we ended up at Pizza Hut. My colleagues are not very adventuresome with food, and all this 'weird food' makes them uncomfortable.
But really, Pizza Hut? I don't even eat cheese. So...there wasn't much that looked good for me to order. I ended up ordering some "vegetable tempura" which turned out to be fried veg (not in a temperua batter, just flour) with a side of ketchup. I also ordered some thai meat fried thing which wasn't good, and some octopus and quail egg thing that wasn't good. All in all, worst dinner ever.
The only upside was that my collegeae ordered a Pepsi and they brought him a blue drink, so I drank that. Some sort of fizzy juice, with bits of stuff in it.
In general - Shanghai is BOOMING! My colleague that was here 3 years ago keeps saying - "that building wasn't here last time I was here", "THAT building wasn't here last time I was here", "this area looks a lot different", etc. In these fancy areas at least, it really is beautiful and twinkly and shiny and nice (like, sort of Las Vegas-y). I've decided my fav building is this one:
It is SO pretty at night. And the pic in the link above is old, there is now another tower right next to it. I'm hoping we'll get to eat in it or at least go up it at some point. It's pretty $$$ though - even by Cdn standards.
22 Mar 2011
SH: Tuesday Food
B: Hotel Buffet. It sort of sucks, actually. I end up eating hot dogs and fried rice for breakfast every morning.
And congee. And there is only gross tea (steeped black tea that is a bit oily - you know? ugh.). It doesn't make sense to me, the rest of the hotel is so nice.
L: One of the managers took us out for Taiwanese food. It was good! They had this mayonaise fried shrimpy thing
that was outta sight! Seriously, I don't know what they did to this little piece of happiness that was oozing with
mayo, but it was delightful. There was not really even discernalbe shrimp.
D: Wallace and his wife took us out to a restaurant with an amazing view. It was on this side of the river (the
PuDong side) in a humungeous mall believe it or not, but it was looking over the river at the Bund - the cool
historical district of Shanghai, that also has massive skyscrapers.
The area we were in had massive skyscrapers. It is really interesting, sort of 'downtown PuDong' (for lack of the
real name of the neighbourhood) is crazy full of skyscrapers. The one that Tom Cruise jumped off in Mission
Impossible is here - but now there is another sky scraper right next to it. And they're all quite different and
interesting architecture-wise. Like, why are all condos in Toronto big green glass cubes? Here there are all
sorts of interesting shapes.
And colours. Like, all the buildings twinkle and light up and show moving pictures and things. It is reminiscent
of Las Vegas, but taller.
After dinner we walked around a bit before hailing a cab back to the office. There is a manager from SiV that was
Dinner itself was sort of a let down. With this hot restaurant/view/district, I was really expecting it to be
awesome. Every dish was so-so. We had some soup dumplings - um... they are better at asian legends! Hahahhaha.
And the staff seemed to be not to clever - Wallace had to direct them with everything.
Interesting thing - shopping is super expensive in Shanghai. People from Shanghai go to Toronto to buy things like
Coach bags and makeup from Sephora - essentially any brand-name western goods. To me this is super crazy! Um - it
is all made in China! ahahha. I would be pissed if I were them. But I don't like coach bags, so I would be safe.
So food is crazy cheap here, but finished goods are crazy expensive. Actually, I think the gov't adds a sin tax
sort of thing, which makes sense. Appaarently HK is cheaper to shop in, because they don't have this tax.
For example, I wandered into the Crocs store- they were like $50!
In sleeping news: I slept all night! YAY! 11-7am, baby! woohoo! Now, it was not uninterrupted - I still did
wake up every hour or two to drink water and look at the clock and go back to bed - but I'll take it! I feel GREAT
Sorry, wee bit o' trouble getting photos off my camera - honey, I don't have the cable! But I'll try to get around this today.
21 Mar 2011
The flight was long but manageable. And surpringly, I was somewhat impressed with Air Canada. The flight attendants were very nice (except for one I call sassy pants, but it was all in good fun), and the food was ok! I ordered a special meal due dairy and I not getting along well, and it was sort of ok! We only had a wee bit of turbulence - me likes.
On the plane - Watched some movies, slept a bit (like...2.5hrs?), played some scrabble slam with Matthew...whined about how long 14+ hours really is...
Shanghai airport is SUPER nice and new and shiny. Nicer than Toronto airport. And all the signs had Chinese/English - which is good, since I'm on my own on Sunday to fly to HK. Is that considered a domestic or Internation flight I wonder? [Update: Wallace says it's International]
YangBo (our coworker) met us at the airport, and we took the MAGLEV train into town! Cool! We cruised along for 7 minutes at like 300 km/h. Apparently that trip takes 1 hour on the subway. Wow. Almost too fast for me! And I think it goes up to 400 km/h!
Weird thing - as we were driving from the train station to the hotel in YangBo's car, we passed two sets of random overhead cameras. Like the ones as you get on the 407 - but we weren't getting on a toll road, we were just driving down a street. We asked YangBo, he said they were just for security. Big Brother is watching...
Any time we violated what would clearly be traffic rules in North America (and are probably rules here, but I'm not sure how much people care), Matthew (my coworker who is here with me from Markham) was amused. We almost ran over people in a scooter at least twice, no one seemed to mind. And the scooters - it was dark out when we were driving. Did any of them have their headlights on? No. And no helmets! Hahahha. Makes me nervous for them! The lines on the street are just suggestions.
Lots of Western chain restaurants are around - BK, Pizza Hut, and right around the corner there is a little plaza of restaurants, with Subway, Starbucks, Coldstone (Hah! Coldstone is barely in Canada, to me Coldstone is California!), McD's...hahah. No thank you. But interesting still. (/sad?)
The hotel is pretty nice, but maybe getting a tinge of shabby. My room is like 5 miles from the elevator! It is quite nice though, no complaints. The bed served me well last night - slept ok until about 4am, then I was awake, but didn't get up until 5am. I did yoga, went to the gym, and now I'm all showered and relaxed! I checked out the change room while I was at the gym - hot tub, cold tub, steam room and sauna! Hot! I will try to avail myself of these things later tonight, maybe. [Update: I had a massage. Nice!]
Word on the street is shopping is cheaper in HK than Shanghai, so I will try to hold back. :) Another thing that stunned me - I realized that I paid like $0.17 for a 550mL bottle of water last night. To me this is excellent evidence the chinese currancy is being artificially held too low. Interesting. 17 cents!
Sorry, couldn't get Internet at the hotel the first night! And speaking of which - CHINA blocks blogger AND facebook! How's a girl to get out her travel thoughts to the masses??! I had to go to extreme lengths to get this published (Thanks to JCS for all her help!)
19 Mar 2011
I didn't really think I would have any more world travel after I left Entone, but here I am.
Ok, wish me luck on this flight and with this jet lag! I have a very poorly timed flight with respect to jet lag...oh man...
Also, it is an EXTREME super moon tonight, which the conspiracy theorists like to link to hurricanes and space storms (which can affect high flying aircraft, mind you).
I'll try to report "tonight" if I'm not destroyed due to sleep issues. Some nice colleagues are picking us up at the airport and taking us to the hotel, so I'll be fine. Also, I'm traveling with a co-worker, so at least I'll have someone to gripe about airline food with! :)