Friday, May 30, 2008

Money May Not Be Able to Buy You Love, but it Can Sure Buy Courtesy

I just got home from a whirlwind trip across the globe. On my way to the US last week, I was put in Business Class due to some issues with ticket availability. Now that is the life! It's as if you can have anything you want when you travel Business and First Class (part of the ticket was First Class). Champagne before takeoff, a fully reclining seat, and some of the best service you'll ever hope to encounter.

On the way back yesterday, now with two kids (7 and 8) in tow, it was back to Economy Class for me. And man what a difference! You'd think an adult traveling alone with two kids could get a little help, but that is simply not the case when you sit in Economy Class.

I don't know if it's true or not that money can't buy love (I don't have enough money to have even the slightest idea that it isn't true), but I do know for a fact that money can sure get you some courtesy.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hamletmachine

What a coincidence. I recently wrote about a staging of Heiner Müller's Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome in Australia, and then found out today that his Hamletmachine will be showing in Singapore beginning Thursday. It will run for about 10 days at Emily Hill.

Heiner Müller is not an easy playwright. His work is not always immediately accessible, and is often violent. For all that, though, I have to say I really like his work. It is powerful and moving, and even laced with tenderness through all the violence.

My two nephews will be in Singapore for the summer, and they are too young to be introduced to Müller's work yet. I've found a babysitter, though (who will basically sit with them after they've gone to bed), and will be able to attend the last night of Hamletmachine. I am really looking forward to the performance.


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Three Days of Mourning

After last week's earthquake in Sichuan, China is in a state of real mourning. Not only the Southwest has been devastated by the disaster; it has affected the whole nation. All over China today, tomorrow, and the next day, there is mourning. The crucial point for rescue teams passed today (though they remain hard at work, against all hope), and the nation is officially grieving.

Each day during this period, there is a 3-minute period of silence beginning at 2:28 pm (the time the earthquake hit last week). All entertainment centers are closed for this 3 days, and all radio and television stations are airing nothing but news. It is a national period of working through grief.


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Vesak Day

Today is Vesak Day. For many in Singapore, it is just another day off to rest or play with friends. But for Buddhist, it is a day for religious observation.

Vesak Day is meant to commemorate Buddha and his teaching of universal peace. It remembers his birth, enlightenment, and death, though it does not actually fall on one of these days (at least, as far as we know). It falls on the first day of the full moon in May. It is named after the month on the Indian calendar.

In Singapore, Buddhists celebrate the day with elaborate ceremonial rites, including chanting mantras, freeing of caged animals, and making donations to various causes.



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Rembrandt Hotel London

How would you like to stay at the Rembrandt Hotel in London for dirt cheap prices? If that sounds appealing to you, visit hotel-assist.com today to make your arrangements.

When you go to the website, I think you'll be surprised by the excellent prices listed under Rembrandt Hotel London. It's not always easy to find good accommodations in London for a reasonable price (believe me — I've WAY overpaid in the past!), so the good deals at hotel-assist.com are really a good find.

One good thing to know is that the Rembrandt Hotel has a spa and swimming pool — the perfect spot to stay when you are on holiday to London. With the offers at Hotel Assist, it is really hard to resist a stay at the Rembrandt.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Good Price and Good Service on Car Rentals in Singapore

A friend of mine knows that I have often rented a vehicle in the past when I needed it, and he asked me to recommend the best place to rent a car. I don't have to think twice on that one — Chan's Car Rental on Sembawang Road has just about the best service anyone could ask for. I first used the company more than a decade ago, when it was run by Mr. Chan with his sons' aid. The only big change since that first time is that the company is now mostly run by his sons, with their father's help.

The service that the Chans offer is really good. It is very much what you think of when you say "family business." They know me by name, and are quick to give me the best price on the vehicle I need when I call. They also give my friends a good rate on vehicle rentals, if they tell them I recommended them. There's no perks in it for me, but I am always more than happy to tell people about the good service at Chan's Car Rental.

My friend called Chan's after getting the number from me, and is currently using one of their vehicles. He said he got a good price on it, and is renting it for about 6 weeks while he waits for his new car to be ready. He seems as pleased with their service as I am.

It's hard to find a place that really understands good service, but Chan's Car Rental is exceptional in this regard. I wouldn't rent a car anywhere else.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

China Earthquake

The earthquake (magnitude 7.8) that happened on Monday in China has caused a lot of chaos in the country. I was in Shanghai at the time, a good distance away from the epicenter. Even so, there were parts of the city that felt the shocks of the earthquake.

A friend of mine is presently working in Chongqing, in Sichuan. His story was pretty exciting. His office is on the 27th floor, and was evacuated. While they were walking down the stairs, it felt as if the building were spinning and swaying, making it very difficult to make one's way down. Everyone cleared out of the building safely, thanks especially to various evacuation drills that have been held there over time. The thing was that when everyone got downstairs, they only knew to stay in open areas and not go back to either work or home, particularly if the buildings were high-rises. The parks were crowded all afternoon and into the late night, with many choosing to spend the night outdoors rather than be at home in their skyscraping beds when the aftershocks began.

Another friend of mine is stationed in Xi'an, also much nearer the epicenter than Shanghai is. She is an American and does not speak much Chinese, but one of her students took good care of her, helping her make her way home through the chaotic streets of the city. She was fine, as was everyone in her campus.

Not all of the country has been so fortunate. Much of the area nearer to Chengdu, further west in Sichuan than Chongqing is, and nearer to the center of the earthquake's activity, is in real suffering. Mianyang and Mianzhu are two towns I've read/heard about having a good deal of trouble and loss of life as a result of the earthquake. There are "aid drops" going on in the region, trying to get food and warm clothing to the people there in need of it. The weather has turned quite bad, with rain and cool temperatures. Many of these areas are nestled high in lofty mountains, and are not easily accessible even in the best of conditions. With the rains starting, it looks like getting aid into the area might get more and more difficult.






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Monday, May 12, 2008

The Last Day

Before I left Singapore to come to Shanghai for a 3-month stay, I got a little nervous, feeling like 3 months was a long time to be away from home. As it turns out, I was not wrong... it is a long time to be away from home. On the other hand, it is a very short time to be in the place you are staying. It seems like the "extended stay" in Shanghai has flown past. And now here I am, with the last day upon me.

It has been a good experience to stay for a little longer than I normally do when I come to Shanghai, and the language courses have been a great help to me. Getting to be here day in and day out for 3 months has given me a chance to see a lot of things I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a part of otherwise.

This being the last day, I'm practically dead on my feet. I've been running about spending time with friends (saying goodbye), and only started packing about an hour ago. I've got to get the flat all lined up to be away for a while (I'll be back in July for another short stay, then probably another extended stay in the Fall), get laundry washed, pack my bag, and all that good stuff.

It's always hectic when trying to juggle one's time between two homes, but it has all been worth it so far. An extended stay overseas for language studies is definitely the way to go if one really wants to get to know another country's culture.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Day in Shanghai

I am having to write about 2 essays per week for my Chinese class. My favorite topic assigned so far was "A Day in Shanghai." I decided to write not really about my own day or anything like that, but what you would see on a typical day walking through the streets of Shanghai, if you were to walk from morning till night. I posted that essay on one of my other blogs, where I mostly write about language learning and Chinese culture. The essay is pretty simple, but it is the only one I've written for class that I am more or less satisfied with.

It is in Chinese, so if you read Chinese, it's something you might like to have a look at.


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Walking Shanghai, from one stadium to the other

I really enjoy walking tours in a city, and Shanghai is one of my favorite cities for extended walking trips. It is a very pleasant place to walk, and the streets are very lively, offering lots to see along the way.

The walk from Hong Kou Stadium to the Olympic Stadium in Xu Jia Hui is a great half-day trip. It is just over 20 km / 13 mi, and it can take you into some very interesting parts of the city. You can stretch it into a whole day trip, if you decide to take it at a more "tourist pace." There are lots of places to stop along the way.

I did the walk last week, taking just under 3 hours. Here's the route I took:

Cut through Lu Xun Park (a pleasant way to start)
Head south on Sichuan Road
Turn right (west) on Hai Ning Road (it is nice to cut through some back roads just north of Hai Ning Road if you want to see "local flavor")
Cross the big overhead bridge at Chengdu Road — make sure and stop for a picture of People's Square here
I cut through some small roads heading roughly southwest here, till I hit Shi Men Er Road, where I turned left/south
When you get to Nanjing Road West, you make a little hook back to the right, and Shi Men Road will head south again (right off of Nanjing Road) — when you are here, you'll see WuJiang Lu to the left, if you are looking for a spot to eat (you should do this if you are taking the "tourist pace")
Turn right (west) on Yan An Road
At Chang Shu Road, head south (left turn), follow this as it turns into Heng Shan Road, which will bring you to Xu Jia Hui Park
You can cut through the park, then come out at Xu Jia Hui and cut across to Tian Yao Qiao Road
If you follow this south, you will reach the Stadium



If you would like a little more touristy type of route, don't turn off at Hai Ning Road, but follow Sichuan Road all the way down across Suzhou Creek. You will be in the heart of downtown then. You can wait till you get to Fuzhou Road to head west (turning right on Fuzhou Road). If you follow this all the way through People's Square (it will turn into Ren Min Da Lu), you can hook back to the right at the Grand Theater and over to Nanjing Road West. From there, you can get to Wu Jiang Road for lunch, and pick up the route toward Xu Jia Hui from there.

This is a fairly long walk, but not at all hard. The roads sometimes have heavy traffic, but I didn't even find a whole lot of that (mostly because I did not cut through People's Square). In most places in Shanghai, it is not at all difficult to keep up a decent pace while walking on the road. For the most part, pedestrian traffic here moves at a quick pace.





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Easy to Book

Easy to Book is a website whose name says it all. If you are looking for good deals on accommodations in many European destinations, you'll find great rates at the website. And, of course, it is easy to find and book those great deals.

Wherever you are traveling, whether Rome, London,, Prague, or Barcelona, you should check out easytobook.com for great hotel deals. There is lots of information available for you on the website, whether about hotels in the city you are traveling to, or about the place itself. You'll find write ups on attractions, places to eat... the whole works. Having all of that on the website to go along with the good prices on hotels there is just an added bonus.

Remember to check at easytobook.com before you finalize your plans for your trip. You will be very pleased that you did.



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Monday, May 05, 2008

The Architecture of Silence

You can catch The Architecture of Silence at the Esplanade, presented by the Singapore Arts Festival 2008.

The Architecture of Silence is described as a "musical and visual performance that explores intimacy within relationships," and the performance in Singapore marks its Asian premiere. Edward Clug is the choreographer in this dance-music production. The production "portrays requiems as an ode to life, an ode to our 'heritage,' the traces we leave behind in our time and space for those who remain and those who are yet to come." It sounds like a very moving production, and the Esplanade will be the perfect venue.

Date: May 29-31, 8:00 pm
Prices: $35 - 130


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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Driving in France

Continuing on the theme of driving tours in Europe, France is another country that is very suitable for a road trip. The system of highways is very well developed. Many of the roads there are toll roads, and all toll stations accept major credit cards. If your card is equipped with a chip, you can use the automated toll stations.

The scenery of France's countryside is famous for its breathtaking beauty. The romance of the country is perhaps best captured by being out in such idyllic locations, and a driving tour is the perfect way to do so. What I most love about driving trips is that you get to set your own pace, and see whatever you want. It is one of the best ways to really see a new place, I think, perhaps only matched by walking or cycling (though then you are limited in how far you can travel).

Another advantage to a driving tour is that you can really keep the cost down, especially if you are traveling with a group. I've found that I can cut a trip's cost down a whole lot by doing a road trip instead of flying, taking the bus, or taking a train. One of the reasons you can keep the cost down is that you are able to choose hotels that are not necessarily nearest to the public transportation stations. When you do a road trip in France, you can find Bordeaux Hôtels, Toulouse Hôtels, Marseille Hôtels, Paris Hôtels, or hotels in pretty much any city along your route when you visit hotelsenfrancais.com. You can really save some money when you find good hotel rates on your journey, and you are sure to find good rates at the site.


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Driving the Autobahn

I was very young when I first became aware of the Autobahn. I learned about it from reading a novel, where the character was cruising along at unimaginable speeds, running from whoever dared to chase him at the pace he was going. At the time, I thought the book too fantastic to be true — a fantasy or sci-fi novel. When I was a teenager, I remember reading some facts about the Autobahn and finding that the "fantastic" story I had read was actually very plausible, and that German roads are just that good.

The Autobahn was the world's first motorway, and German love of engineering for fast and efficient transportation is well known. On the Autobahn there is no blanket speed limit (though there are spots that limits are posted, where the road might be particularly dangerous). Germany's national roads (Bundersstraßen), state roads (Staatstraße), and country roads (Landestraße) are all wonderfully maintained, and make for a great time on a driving tour of the country. (One of my favorite ways to travel.)

If you decide to hit the road in Germany, you can find Munich Hotels, Frankfurt Hotels, Köln Hotels, Berlin Hotels, or hotels at any stop along the Autobahn. Just check out hoteldeutsche.com for the best deals on German hotels.


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Moon River Diner, Shanghai

The Moon River Diner has three branches in Shanghai, in Pudong, at Hong Mei Lu, and near Jing An Temple.

The menu has a really good assortment of American-style food. You'll find salads,hot dogs, a little Tex-Mex, burgers, soups, sandwiches, and plenty of ribs, chicken fried steak, and so on. The drinks are free flow (!), and they even have Dr. Pepper on the menu. That's a bit of a rarity in Shanghai (and it is not free flow, unlike the other drinks).

There is free internet access at the diner, which really appeals to many of the patrons there. Lots of people spend the afternoon working there, downing glass after glass of lemonade or fresh brewed ice tea.

The atmosphere is like a diner right out of America of several decades ago. It's a cozy feeling, good food, excellent drinks, and free internet access. It's a great place to spend an afternoon hard at work, or chatting with friends.


The Moon River Diner
3338 Hongmei Road
Shanghai
Phone: 6465-8879

68 Yuyao Lu,
The New Factories
Building #1 (near Xikang Lu)


Phone: 5213 5106
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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spring in Shanghai

Spring has finally decided it is here to stay in Shanghai!






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