The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth quarter review

22 Oct

I am trying to play catch up with my blog after such a long hiatus, so the content posted in the last nine months was not up to previous standards.  That said – I was reminded by my friend Carissa at Everyday Adventures in Asia that it is not a competition and I should continue to blog for the pleasure of it.

The eleventh quarter (like the last 12 months) was one of lots of travel – I had just finished six months at my new job and was definitely in the swing of things.  Unfortunately, that meant that the time I had to blog was reduced quite dramatically – meaning that I had to cut my post schedule, but I did manage to continue, which is more than I could say for June, July and August!

Even with the reduction in posts there were some fun elements and wanted to take the time to relive a couple of my favorites.  Do you remember either of these?

  • I posted on part of our trip to Greece and taking wedding photos in front of a certain church in “Do you speak English? (A Santorini photo shoot).”  Every time I walk into my apartment I am reminded of that wonderful trip because our “money shot” has been blown up and framed on the wall above our couch.  Believe it or not, I have even more photos from Greece that never made it onto the blog – but at least I was able to give you a sense of the wonder of that honeymoon.  I would go back again in a minute!
The church and the two of us - a perfect pairing - the money shot

The church and the two of us – a perfect pairing – the money shot

  • Replacing things in the new year (part 2) – My saga regarding the main air conditioner in our apartment where I narrowly missed an electrical fire thanks to the circuit breaker flipping.
    Would you use this plug?

    Would you use this plug?

    We have continued to have to replace things in this apartment, but did decide to stay another year when our lease came up in September.  The price is right, the location good and the landlord very responsive.  That said – I will predict now that this is our last year in this place (but I’ve been known to be wrong before.)  The most recent change was we got a new refrigerator at the end of August which we used as part of our negotiations.  It is larger than our old one and does not frost over every other week, so both of us consider it a good trade-up.

The eleventh quarter also contained Chinese New Year – introducing the Year of the Horse and after the official holiday we did slip off for a lovely vacation, so I’ll see if I have the energy to post on that one.  Any guesses where we went?

The twelfth quarter I also managed to get a handful of posts together – though this is when my work travel really started to pick up.  I’ll be posting retroactively on some of my trips (like the Hong Kong post earlier this month) to give you a sense of where I was and what happened – so more to come, but I did want to call out this post on living in Shanghai that I posted in May:

  • Door to door service - talked about the convenience of a big city – the good and the bad.  I’ve had even more things delivered since this post – not having to carry them and getting lower prices is a strong incentive, but luckily I have not had any more visits from the police recently.

I also thought I would leave a teaser – not all my travel in the twelfth quarter was for work.  Li and I managed to slip in a trip to Bali at the end of April that was absolutely phenomenal.  Here are a couple of photos.

A temple - and beautiful blue sky

A temple – and beautiful blue sky

Exotic Indonesian fare

Exotic Indonesian fare

Finally – the thirteenth quarter when I started posting again.

My most popular post was on Taxi Roulette – trying to figure out the best way to get a taxi and get around this city.  I have downloaded a new taxi app recently and am trying it out as well.  We’ll see how the taxi situation continues to evolve here in Shanghai.  Also – as per one of the comments – I have finally seen the new gold taxis on the streets.  They look like London Black Cabs, but they are gold – and since I was in London in June, I have a pretty recent comparison.  I haven’t ridden in one yet and don’t know if they are more expensive or have any special features, so more to come.

There are a couple of posts that continue to rack up the page views – even when I wasn’t posting which I find very interesting and thought I would call them up here as well.

1) Buying a jade bangle – which I did in Hong Kong two years ago AND

2) The pineapple cake wars – my descriptions of the two main competing pineapple cakes in Taipei in the summer of 2013.

I am guessing that somehow these two posts have gotten picked up by one or more search engines and they provide a steady stream of visitors to my blog.  It was definitely strange when I came back to see that traffic had not dropped all that significantly – which could be a good thing or a bad thing!  Folks don’t tend to leave comments on those posts now though – so I really appreciate those of you who stayed with me during the hiatus and your support as I share about my jumbled life.

Now I am (kind of) up to date, so hope to be back here soon with more stories in Shanghai and looking back over the last year.

Did I miss any posts you would have put at the top of your list?

 

More dumplings! Discovering Paradise Dynasty

18 Oct
Eight different types of soup dumplings!

Eight different types of soup dumplings!

I was lucky to have my mother visit me over the recent October holidays.  We had clear skies, readily available taxis (because so many people were out of town) and we ate like queens.  Each day we tried something special – either something I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before – or that I thought she needed to experience while in Shanghai.  It was a great visit.

On one of her first days, we tried something that had been on my list – Paradise Dynasty (乐新皇朝) – a dumpling restaurant that is known for its varied types of Soup Dumplings (小笼包).  I had been eating with colleagues at another restaurant talking about Din Tai Fung but one said she like Paradise Dynasty better.  One late afternoon we were in the new iapm mall in Jing An and I noticed that they had a branch there.  It seemed destined that we try their dumplings.

Their most famous basket of dumplings is the picture at the start of this post.  They give you a sampler of all of the different kinds of flavors you could think of.  In the middle is the traditional pork and then surrounding it there were cheese, foie gras, spicy Sichuan, black truffle, mushroom, crab and spinach dumplings (in no particular order).  Some of them we loved – the crab and spinach especially, others like the cheese were pronounced kind of strange.

In addition to the soup dumplings we ordered steamed veggie dumplings and the traditional pan fried shengjianbao (生煎包) pork dumplings.  They were lighter than Xiao Yang‘s and very good.  I would go back for more.

Finally, because we ordered the traditional basket and I shared it on my WeChat group they gave us a free basket of durian dumplings for the publicity.  My mom had never had durian before and Li really likes it so I went along.  They were okay – but I’m not sure I would get them again – I find durian has a strange after taste that lingers for a very long time.

All in all a very successful dumpling experience that I would recommend if you’re in Shanghai.

mmexport1412211767614

When you have visitors do you take them to tried and true favorites or do you experiment?  This trip we tried a little of both and I think the balance worked out great.

What is your favorite type of dumpling?

Happy Valley – a night at the races

8 Oct

Since I took my hiatus from the blog earlier this year, there are lots of places that I have visited in the last six months – both for pleasure and business – that I’d like to share now that I have some more time to go back through my memories.  Enjoy!

During my trip to Hong Kong in April I went to Happy Valley for the first time.  Happy Valley is Hong Kong’s horse racing track and they have races every Wednesday night there.  We were doing a launch for a new product, so had invited partners to celebrate with us and hear a product overview.

Because of the crazy rain the three days previous I wasn’t really sure what to expect – or even if the horses would race, but luckily the rain started letting up just before we headed over.  The box was packed with people ready to gamble and eat (I think our product launch was just the excuse).  They had a mix of traditional Hong Kong favorites and classic western dishes and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The last time I had been at the races was when I was still working in Chicago at a summer outing to Arlington Race Track.  I didn’t remember much about betting and so had to ask advice from others and study the guide.  In addition – some of the names for the types of bets you could place were different as well because Hong Kong follows the British system instead of the American betting system.

I had decided before I went that I would be leaving after the third race because I had a phone call later that evening.  I was so caught up in eating that I missed the opportunity to place a bet on the first race, but for the second I studied my book and my horse came from behind!  It was amazing – my odds were pretty much the highest on the board and I won at a 9 to 1 ratio.

After such a great win, I didn’t bet on the last race and slipped out as the rest of my colleagues and partners settled in for a late night.

The lone photo I took as I headed back to the hotel.  I'm not sure I would describe Hong Kong as the "Equine Capital" - but it was a fun night!

The lone photo I took as I headed back to the hotel. I’m not sure I would describe Hong Kong as the “Equine Capital” – but it was a fun night!

I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Happy Valley and would gladly go back for another Wednesday evening of fun next time I’m in Hong Kong.

Have you tried something again after a long absence and had a great experience?  I am not a gambler (despite many actuaries being very serious about playing the odds, especially for poker) – but the win was a bit addictive.  Share your travel or local explorations!

A telephone booth with a twist

4 Oct

Telephone booths in Shanghai are disappearing with the modernization of the city, but there are still quite a few.  Most of the remaining ones have been changed into wireless hot spots and I can’t remember the last time I have actually needed to use one since my mobile phone is always in my pocket or purse.

I was heading back home from somewhere and the taxi was waiting at a red light.  I looked to the left and saw this advertisement stuck on the side of the phone booth.

The color of the ad matches the phone booth!  Have you seen an ad for ketchup recently?

The color of the ad matches the phone booth! Have you seen an ad for ketchup recently?

Look familiar?

Ketchup is a staple food in China, though it is more likely to be used with fried eggs and tomatoes than French fries.  I can’t remember the last time I had seen a print ad for ketchup and it struck me as very funny – a US brand advertising a product on a telephone booth in Shanghai.

Behind the phone booth you can see the bamboo scaffolding which is used on the traditional row houses each year as the roofs are checked.  Another part of life in Shanghai.

What ads have you seen lately that have caused you to smile?

There’s always time for sunsets

1 Oct Just before it disappeared

Autumn is my favorite season in Shanghai.  The winds blow away the pollution, the nights get cool and there can be beautiful, beautiful sunsets.

The first glance out the window

The first glance out the window

We saw this one from our kitchen window on a recent weekend.  Dinner waited as we both stared in awe at the colors that splashed across the sky.  The sunset felt prophetic – the light leading into the heavens.

IMG_20140921_175855

IMG_20140921_180318

Ten minutes later – it was gone, only a memory.

Just before it disappeared

Just before it disappeared

I’m glad I took the time for this sunset.

Happy National Chinese holidays to you all.  Today kicks off a week of vacation during the best time of the year.  We’ll be staying in Shanghai – too much travel for me this year – and enjoying the fall.

Hopefully there will be some more sunsets soon!

Taxi roulette

27 Sep

Since I switched jobs last year I can no longer walk to work.  I miss my daily walks and now really have to make an effort to get out and about more – either walking in the evening, arranging lunches by my apartment when I work from home or taking a walk near the office at lunch.

Getting to the office means that I either have to take the subway (which is about a 40 minute trip) or a taxi (which takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic).  As I don’t go in every day because of the way my schedule works, I have been taking taxis quite a bit recently.  I know that if I get in a cab before 8am it normally means that I’m at the office by 8:20 and ready to start my day.  Rainy days are always tough – but I’ve had some bad taxi karma in the last several weeks where no matter what I try to do – in the morning it can be almost impossible to get a taxi.

I have my preferred corner and know if there is more than one person waiting at that corner it is normally going to be a very long day.   Sometimes you can see lots of taxis but they are all full.  Sometimes you see lots of empty taxis but they don’t stop.  And sometimes, people cut in front of me at the corner and jump into the taxi.

I have tried different tactics – I have a taxi app on my phone which sometimes will work.  I know if I head out before 7:30 my chances go way up – same thing if I go after 10am.  But really – there is no good way to predict if there will be others at that corner at the same time as me.

Once I get a taxi – it doesn’t mean all is well.  Our office is located near the Huangpu River, but right next to a ferry terminal – so very few taxi drivers have heard of it.  I have become an expert on telling the drivers which  tunnel to go through – which way to go if there is  traffic, how to get un-lost when they take a wrong turn when I wasn’t paying attention and even arguing if they take too long and the fare is higher than I expect.

It is funny how getting that taxi can affect my day and my mood.  When it works – my day starts very smoothly – when it doesn’t I can wind up flushed and discombobulated – not the best way to start my first meeting.

Similarly – getting home from work I have the same situation.  My normal tactic is to leave the office slightly early because of my late phone calls – but even that doesn’t guarantee me a smooth trip home.

Each time I put my arm out I am playing a game of taxi roulette – hoping and hoping that taxi will pull over in front of me and will whisk me off to my next destination.  The taxis remain affordable (about $4 USD one way to the office) and the drivers for the most part are polite and professional.

I would say that this is a cultural difference, but I don’t think so – I think it is a big city standard that I managed to avoid for a long time given the location of my apartment and workplace.  We have considered buying a car – but driving in Shanghai strikes me as even more stressful than playing taxi roulette – then I’d have to worry about parking too!

What tactics do you suggest for managing my taxi frustration?  I know it shouldn’t bother me so much – and occasionally I’ll have a week or so where everything will go perfectly – but that is the exception not the rule.  Any tips?

Happy birthday to me!

23 Sep

This year I was lucky and got to celebrate my birthday early because my hubby will be out of town today, the day itself.  He organized a perfect afternoon as a birthday treat – and I didn’t have a clue!

We started by heading to Shook! restaurant on the Bund where they have a special lunch menu – with beautiful food.  Even though the day was misty – we got great views of Lujiazui and felt very pampered by the staff.

bday rest IMG_20140919_142822

IMG_20140919_132135 bday main IMG_20140919_143110

After a delightful lunch Li said we had extra time, so we headed across the street to the famous Peace Hotel which has been completely renovated in the last several years.  We wandered through the lobby looking at the photos of all of the famous guests, marveling at the beautiful stained glass ceilings and then eventually treated ourselves to a slice of fruit cake in the coffee shop looking out over East Nanjing Road.  I had never gone into the hotel – even after nearly 7 years in Shanghai, so it felt like we were exploring a new (yet very old) place.

bday tea

Finally we headed to another district and got educated on the colored gem stone industry and my hubby presented me with a very delicate birthday gift – my Chinese zodiac symbol (a monkey) on a necklace.  It is adorable – and something  I will wear a lot, I’m sure.

A lot has changed in the last year – I wonder what my next year will bring!

What is your preferred way to celebrate?  For me, friends, food and something new to see made it perfect.

 

Flying business

20 Sep

As I mentioned before, I have traveled a lot in the last four months.  I’ve been all over – the States three times, South Korea three times, the UK (Britain and Scotland), Australia, Singapore and Indonesia.  All told I was traveling over two thirds of the time from May through the end of August.

Blue skies

Blue skies

With that much travel, I spent a lot of time in airports – on planes, in lounges and in the duty free shops.  I also saw many, many more blue skies than if I had stayed in China.  My status on Delta and its alliance partners has ticked up to the top and I must admit that I’m getting a little spoiled from not standing in line, cutting security queues and having first access to the plane.

In London I got to explore the Virgin Clubhouse lounge which has waiter service, a hair salon, a music studio and a pool table inside.  In San Francisco, Korean Air uses the British Airways lounge where I was the only person in the highest lounge for nearly an hour with a full buffet to myself.  In Shanghai I now know which lounges let you access the plane directly and avoid the scramble around the gate above.  Sydney’s lounges have a full barista set up where I could get a fresh cup of chai and homemade scone.

A buffet for one

A buffet for one

I bought English breakfast tea and Winston Churchill’s caramels in London, kangaroo jerky in Sydney and my ultimate foot lotion socks in Seoul, plus lots of candy and other small gifts as I made my way through the airports.  I completed a survey on the Seoul airport and got a free toothbrush.

The best way to pamper your feet - only found in Korea.  Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

The best way to pamper your feet – only found in Korea. Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

I spent a weekend exploring the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, I ate traditional Korean food in Seoul and caught up with old friends in Singapore.  My boss bravely tried haggis in Scotland where I marveled that there was whisky on the breakfast buffet.  I met up with a former colleague for a weekend in San Francisco where we had sourdough bread and met people I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years at an actuarial conference.

My visit to Jakarta was punctuated with a breakfast with one of my first friends from Shanghai who was in my Chinese class way back when I was teaching English.  She’s Indonesian and had moved back with her husband a couple of years ago.  One visit to the States I had a rental car and enjoyed driving again with the windows down.

Of course I also met with clients and colleagues and had conference calls at odd hours.  I struggled through jet lag and time differences and not remembering which room was mine at the hotel because I had three different room numbers in a week and none of them stuck in my head.

Will my carry-on fit?  Of course... I am flying business!

Will my carry-on fit? Of course… I am flying business!

It was fun and invigorating and exhausting.

In short, it was business travel.

I’m ready for a break.

Have you ever traveled a lot for business?  What are your favorite memories?

 

Looking down

17 Sep

On a recent weekend I was walking home past the maternity hospital that is close to our apartment complex.  I looked down and at my feet was row after row of characters written across the sidewalk.  They kept going – I could pick out bits and pieces, but wasn’t really able to follow what the context was.  The chalk was different colors and made a striking appearance against the gray sidewalk.

I hypothesized that it could have been a student practicing penmanship as sometimes in the parks I’ll see people doing calligraphy on the ground using a big brush and water.  As I slowed down to look a couple of other people were reading out the lines, but again I couldn’t quite catch what they meant.

So, I took a couple of pictures.

Multicolored characters

Multicolored characters

Poetry or prose?

Poetry or prose?

Later that night, I asked Li what had been written on the sidewalk.  He read it, then looked at me strangely.  His  question was unexpected, “Was anyone else around when you read this?”

I explained just some other folks walking along and reading aloud.

The text of the majority of the sidewalk poetry was about a beggar on the streets of Shanghai and his tale of woe.  He must have written it on the sidewalk and been begging by the side of the hospital.  By the time I passed by he had either moved on or been asked to move on, leaving only his written chalk poem as testament that he had been there.

Noticing details is part of experiencing a culture.  I’m glad I noticed this one, but not so happy as to what the result was.

Have you ever looked down and seen something you didn’t expect?

Happy Mid Autumn Festival!

13 Sep

IMG_20140908_202939

What a difference a year makes!  Last year at this time I was finishing up at my previous employer, looking forward to our upcoming delayed honeymoon to Greece and going to visit my sister-in-law who had just had a new baby.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the holiday was actually at the beginning of the week, but I figured after not posting for four months I should just take the plunge again and not worry about being a few days late.

This year I am almost a year into a great new job and waiting for more big changes of our own before the end of the year.  We celebrated in Shanghai in a very muted fashion as I had a terrible cold, but had to have some moon cakes and of course take a walk to look at the full moon.

The moon cakes this time were the traditional Hong Kong style with the egg yolk in the center – we tried two variations, one the classic and the other with bean paste and egg yolk.  I still prefer the classic one – though the ice cream moon cakes that some companies provide are also pretty yummy.

After an absolutely crazy travel schedule through the end of August, I should be in one place for a while now and will try once again to share my findings and stories of the jumbled life that I live here in Shanghai.  Over the last couple of weeks as I have been walking through the city I’ve noticed things that automatically I’ve thought – that would be a great post!

Now, I’ve taken the time to reactive my account, start transferring some photos and getting myself into that blog mindset.

I hope that once again you will agree and follow me on my journey.

Cheers!

Foreign Sanctuary

~ Photography ~ Nature ~ Culture ~ Travel ~ (Expat) Life ~

Crazy Chinese Family

My crazy Chinese Family I married into...

Writing Between the Lines

Life From a Writer's POV

Travels with Tricia A. Mitchell

Sharing Tales of People, Places & Passion. A travel blog to inspire & inform with slow-travel narratives about citizen diplomacy, culture, wine & food, and social good.

A Kick In The Butt

Advice on all things fitness: exercise, nutrition & attitude - by Personal Trainer Ariana Dane

China Elevator Stories

Conversations with locals in China

Chasing Sunsets

Current Location: The Daraja Academy; Nanyuki, Kenya

Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life: passionate about food & wine | random moments | and travel

simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple and active travel. They post about their trips, including their travels around the world in 2013-2014. They welcome your comments and suggestions.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 407 other followers