Tag Archives: China

Things I Miss About Shanghai

I haven’t been away from Shanghai for that long but it feels as though I didn’t live there for a year. Kind of like when you return from a trip and the next day it feels like a dream. As I reflect on the fastest year of my life, these are the things I’ll miss the most.

Cheap Taxis
I would take a taxi to work for no joke $2.85. I lived in the French Concession and worked in The Bund area, all the way across town, usually sitting in traffic, and it never failed – it was only a few dollars. Talk about great value!

The Fabric Market
Since I was little, I always wanted my clothes made. I would imagine bringing a picture of a designer coat to someone who would measure me and make it happen for a fraction of the cost. My dream came true at the South Bund Fabric Market. I benefited from living in Shanghai and having access to it year round, because it’s actually hit or miss. Sometimes they make it bang on, and other times your item has to be re-worked. Sometimes you can barter a good price and other times they won’t budge. It takes practice. I got practice and great clothes.
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Real Chinese Food
We all know that the Chinese takeout we get in Canada is NOT real Chinese food. I don’t get it! Why don’t they stay true to their food? It was a learning curve discovering the different types of Chinese food. The variety is huge and I will miss the dumplings the most – more specifically xiaolongbao. The most delicious little soup filled dumplings. I’m on a mission to find good ones in Toronto, although I’ve been told I have to go to Markham for the good stuff.
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Door-to-Door Delivery
You can get anything delivered to your door in Shanghai – groceries were a big one for me…and McDonald’s blizzards! They would actually deliver one blizzard. The sites were user friendly, affordable, and offered free delivery. I will miss it dearly because grocery shopping is one of my least favourite chores.

mcdonalds delivery

Seniors in the Park
I loved seeing old people dancing in the park and doing all sorts of activities like singing, playing checkers, tai chi, basketball, walking their dressed up dogs, eating, everything happens in the park. It was a spectacle every morning and evening, and especially on weekends.

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KTV
You’ll see KTV signs everywhere in Asia and that means karaoke! It’s not like the karaoke we’re used to in the Western world where you sing in front of the whole bar. No. Not this. KTV takes place in a building with hundreds of private rooms. You need to make a reservation and when you show up, it’s like checking into the front desk at a hotel. They bring you to your room where you can sing your heart out until 7 am. They serve drinks and food and there’s a disco ball. So much fun!
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Travel: Beautiful Yangshuo China

One of the greatest highlights of China was our trip to Yangshuo. I heard it was beautiful from friends and I checked out pictures online, but being there in person was an amazing breath of fresh air and the views are spectacular.

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If you’re thinking about going to China, Yangshuo should definitely be on your list. It’s a 2 hour flight from Shanghai and you need 3 or 4 days, no less. Here’s a bit of advice on how to navigate the area:

Fly into Guilin and take the ferry to Yangshuo (down the Li River). It’s a key highlight and takes about 4 hours. If you fly in at night, stay the night in Guilin and take the ferry the next morning.  The ferry only goes from Guilin to Yangshuo (not the reverse) so don’t miss it!

The town center of Yangshuo is kind of ugly, so you should stay in the country side. Two good places to stay are The Giggling Tree and Secret Garden. Both are very charming.

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This trip is all about making the most of your day outdoors, so I would pack workout clothes and good trainers. Get a map in advance – try printing online. We had a hard time finding a map…our B&B only had one so they couldn’t give it to us and we got a little lost.

Rent bikes and ride around the country side. Your hotel will tell you the route and you’ll see a lot of people on bikes. Take a bamboo boat ride along Yulong river – you’ll come across this on your bike ride. Splendid!

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The next day, take a local bus to Xingping (takes about 45 minutes). Walk around Old Street, hike up Laozhai hill, visit the fishing village (by boat or hike), or hike around the Li River. There’s a really good restaurant on Old Street called Warm Cafe – definitely worth it.

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Back in Yangshuo, if you’re into something different, there’s a live show called Impression SanjieLiu that takes place every night along the Li River. You have to buy tickets in advance and it’s great! It was kind of like watching an Olympic opening ceremonies.

Another friend suggested visiting the rice terraces in Longli but it’s 3 hours outside from Guilin (the other direction of Yangshuo), so you would need more time. It’s a day trip. We were there for 3 days and didn’t have time. This is where the fourth day would have been nice.

Overall the trip to Yangshuo gave me a whole new appreciation for China. I was so impressed with the vistas and the overall look and feel was unmatched by other experiences. Definitely worth the trek.

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Overnight in Suzhou

After working out the train kinks (see lessons learned from Hangzhou post), we packed up our passports and headed out to Suzhou, a canal town 30 minutes on the fast train from Shanghai. There’s not a ton of stuff to do in Suzhou, but we lucked out with beautiful spring-like weather, so that makes everything good.  We toured around the old town, checked out the gardens, went to traditional tea houses along the canal, and climbed Tiger Hill. I loved the zen vibe of the gardens and appreciated the break from beeping car horns. A few shots….
Amazingly bright fresh-cut flowers

IMG_4496Peeking into one of the many gardensIMG_4578Overloading on teaIMG_4586Climbing up Tiger HillIMG_4662Loved the mini treesIMG_4663Picture perfect ChinaIMG_4656Leaning tower of China…except it looked straightIMG_4661Don’t go chasing waterfallsIMG_4655

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Weekend Trip To Hangzhou

Within a few days of being in Shanghai, we decided to be spontaneous and take a train ride to Hangzhou – a garden city also known as West Lake, just outside of Shanghai.  Although I love being spontaneous, I learned that we should have done a bit more research before venturing out…especially to a place where English is hardly used.

We got to the train station, waited in line forever to buy our tickets, only to discover that we needed our passports! We were travelling an hour away and not leaving the country, so we didn’t think it was necessary.

Back home for the passports.

Got back to the train station, expecting to get on the next train (they leave hourly), only to discover trains actually sell-out here, so we had to wait another two hours for the next available train.

Finally on the train!

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So we got to Hangzhou and thought we were going to hop in a taxi to go to our hotel, but every taxi we showed the address to refused us. We were about eight denials in before we decided to start walking. We walked. And walked. And walked. Big shout out to Google maps for leading the way. We eventually got a taxi to take us to our hotel. It was the most adorable little villa in the hills — in the most confusing, tiny, and winding roads. No wonder taxis didn’t want to take us!

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Luckily the hotel was a gem and the staff were SO helpful and accommodating. It was a small villa with only 10 rooms, but the staff treated it as a high end as a Ritz Carlton, which was impressive and so nice.

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We encountered a monsoon and so many little mess-ups over the two days, due to lack of research and translation issues, but we just had to laugh about it. We checked out the giant gardens and parks, rented a two seater bike, toured West Lake, tried crab on a stick, and ate at a great restaurant called The Grandmas.

Waiting for the monsoon to pass

IMG_3672Crab on a stick….it was delicious
IMG_3679Chic white chandelier at The Grandmas restaurant
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West LakeIMG_3671
It was a great little getaway and a good first trip to realize we need to be better planners when visiting vastly different places. Toto: we’re not in Canada anymore.

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Life In Shanghai

Well hello there. I’ve been in Shanghai for just over a month now and I can tell you that time is flying. It took a couple of weeks to ease into the culture shock, and day by day I’ve been adjusting and discovering new things. 

I absolutely love our neighbourhood. The French Concession is an amazing part of town with so many cool places to discover. I can keep myself busy just within a four block radius.

The city is always and forever buzzing, literally. Cars honk their horns non-stop from 6:30 am till about 9 pm, and even through the night you hear the odd beep. I can’t count to three without hearing a beeeeeeeep. They really lay it on with their beeps.

Something I didn’t know and have had a hard time adjusting to – the internet is junk. Hence my delay in posting. There are a lot of blocked sites, delays, and technical issues. I have to say it’s my number one frustration, because how can you function without fast internet in 2013? Patience is the name of the game.

Before my screen freezes, here are a few pics to share:

View from our apartment on a sunny day

ImageMy New Bike
ImageOld vs. New

ImageGreen space does exist!

ImageA little bit of home on my head before hitting the streets

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From One Adventure To The Next

I had a busy and exciting year that went by in a blink. Hence my absence from the blog world. I was busy working on the PR team for Holt Renfrew. I worked on a lot of amazing projects and met a lot of awesome people…from stylish and sassy co-workers to world-class designers and even a few celebs. Being in the presence of Elton John, Domenico Dolce, and Christian Louboutin were cool experiences, but I especially loved meeting Emily from Cupcakes and Cashmere, Oscar PR girl, the Dannijo girls, and the guys of Rag & Bone. All of them are incredible examples of success with a genuine, funny, and down to earth vibe. I quite admire that.

A few pics…
HR CollageStella McCartneyStella McCartney dress I swooned over all spring season

So, the year has come to an end, and I’m embarking on my next adventure – which involves a BIG move to Asia! In just a few days, I’ll be moving to Shanghai for the year. Even after all the mental preparing and goodbye parties, it still doesn’t seem real.  I suppose once I’m actually there, it will hit me. The look on my face will be “what just happened / why am I here?” But in this moment, I’m pretty darn excited. I’ll be meeting my bf who has been living there for the past 2 months. I’ll be blogging about my adventures, doing a bit of travelling, and I’ll be on the job hunt. I also plan on taking Mandarin classes. That will be a crazy challenge, but I’m going to try.

IMG_2257I was fortunate to visit Shanghai for a few days (yes, we went all the way there for a few days) in June to check it out before making a decision about the move. I must say I was quite impressed. It wasn’t like anything I pictured. My favourite neighbourhood is the French Concession, which is where we’ll be living. It has a European vibe with beautiful tree-lined streets, and countless exquisite boutiques from local fashion designers. There are a ton of chic restaurants and cocktail bars, and it’s not crowded like other areas. My first impression of Shanghai was that it’s a ‘cool city,’ and bf has reported that it is indeed. Here are a few shots…

IMG_2266Pretty buildings reminded me of Europe

IMG_2264Delicious lunch at Crystal Jade
Shanghai shopsA couple of awesome boutiques
IMG_2265Cocktails at Lost Heaven in The Bund
IMG_2272Designer Nicole Zhang’s FW13 fashion presentation

IMG_2273Commenting on the collection. I loved it!
IMG_2236Playing dress up at Nicole’s studio. Wanted everything.
IMG_2275In deep thought along The Bund

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