Friday, October 31, 2008

My "Scary" Story for Halloween

Being as it is Halloween, I suppose I should tell a scary story. Hm.... here's the best I can do at the moment.

I've found over the past couple of weeks that something has changed in my experience in China. In the past, wherever I went, if there was English on a signboard or something, I couldn't keep from reading it. As I'm sure you've seen on other blogs that talk about life in China, that can lead to some very amusing experiences with the English language. It gets all twisted and garbled up, and comes out as something very fun to engage.

What has changed for me is that I've begun to notice English words less, and find myself reading the Chinese more and more. I guess the Chinese words have (finally!) become more "real" to me through my language studies, and so they stand out to me as language now in a way that didn't seem to happen much before.

As a result, I've come across some "scary" revelations. I thought that I knew Shanghai quite well, but it seems that there have been some things that remained "secrets" that were kept from me, just because the written language didn't really click much in my mind in the past. Now, I'm finding that it is working in my head much like the spoken language did when I first came here — allowing me to hear the language used in a way very different from what I am used to in Singapore.

The "scary" part is what I have learned about the neighborhood in which I live. I knew there was one massage parlor near my front gate, as it has "Massage" written in English. I wasn't entirely sure whether "massage" is really the best word for their main business, but I also didn't feel much like going in to check it out. Since I've been noticing the Chinese words more lately, I've found that there is an "adult health" shop (which may be a massage parlor, but may also be something else) at the back gate to my housing estate too, and a block of about 10 similar establishments along the path where I run several times a week (along with a slew of shops advertising "adult health care products" — none of them being the kind of spot you'd stop in to pick up your prescriptions or daily vitamins). It is funny that since I noticed the wording on the sign at the back gate, I've started seeing such shops everywhere around where I live. It is the kind of place one might not think would be displayed so openly in China, but the signs and ads are actually quite prominent (even if the wording is somewhat euphemistic), making me wonder how I ever missed them in the past.

The scary part of it all is that I had no idea that my neighbourhood was surrounded by such "interesting" shops. Who knows what I might find next.

One way or another, it has certainly given me an incentive to keep up my language studies.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe's BBQ

Alvin, Texas, is not the sort of place most people would drive to for a good meal. In fact, in my growing up days in Alvin, eating out for a nice dinner meant leaving our small community for some of the more happening places in the area.

But there is one place that can't be beat. Joe's BBQ. When I am visiting, we almost always either go for a meal at Joe's, or buy BBQ home from Joe's. Hardly anything on the menu will ever be a miss with us. The ribs are the best around. The chicken fried steak is always good. Their special BBQ baked potatoes are wonderful (and very filling!).

It is always good to visit Joe's BBQ. It seems that every time I am there, we always bump into old friends from my hometown, which is not surprising since just about everyone in town eats there from time to time. I have even bumped into Nolan Ryan there a few times, though it has been some years since I saw him there. I guess our social schedules just run in different directions these days.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cinderella at the Majestic (Shanghai)

Cinderella completed its run in Shanghai last week. The final show, on Tuesday night, played host to a very large, appreciative audience.

The Broadway hit was well-received in Shanghai. Lea Salonga made a beautiful Cinderella — beautiful to both eye and ear. The songs were fun, the pageantry was amazing, and the whole spectacle of the theatre was just right.

The magical elements of the story were very well staged. Early on, when Cinderella was singing in her kitchen alone, there was a nicely staged piece where she walked away from her shadow, and the shadow kept performing its own transformations in the background as she sang. It was very cleverly done, and you could hear all the "oohs and aaahs" of the audience. But nothing was more amazing than the transformation of Cinderella's rags into her gown for the ball. It was so well-done that it was not hard at all to suspend one's disbelief for this show.

I am glad that Cinderella made a stop in Shanghai. It was definitely a show worth seeing!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Waiting for Godot

I got to catch a showing of Waiting for Godot over the weekend, a contemporary Chinese version. It was a lot of fun, with several really hilarious segments. The cast was quite young, but still managed to handle the piece quite well.

I was overall impressed with what I saw at Ke Center, the venue for the event. I've got tickets for a couple of more activities that will be held at the center over the next few weeks, and am really looking forward to seeing what they will be like. If their production of Waiting for Godot is typical of their work, then it should be a lot of fun!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Chong Qing Ji Gong Bao

There are several branches of Chong Qing Ji Gong Bao in Shanghai. It is really good food, with hotpot selections from spiciest to mildly spicy. I've had the medium and spiciest, and neither is overly hot. Even if you aren't a big fan of spicy food, the flavor of this one is good enough to go for the mildest of all. That's not always true of Sichuan food, so this is a good one to try.

This hotpot is a bit different from the traditional Sichuan hotpot. Here, you eat as much of the meat that is first served to you as you can (or would like to), and then add water to start cooking the other ingredients you've ordered to go in the hotpot. I've been with bigger groups, or with just 1 friend, and either way, it is a good spot to eat. You can order as much or as little as you like to go into the hotpot, and it will still be a nice experience. When there are just 2 of us, I usually just go for 1 vegetable and an order of 'fen tiao' and that works out just right when added to the chicken (or beef or pork), onion, and celery base. But of course there are lots of other things you can choose from. And whatever you choose, it's almost sure to be a hit here.

There are branches all over the city, but I most often dine at the one on Wan Ping Lu or the one on Xie Tu Lu (very close to each other, but with a very different atmosphere at each spot). At both locations, I've had a good experience every time I've been.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekly Poetry Open Mic Session at Creek Kitchen, Shanghai

I was at the weekly Open Mic session at Creek Kitchen in Shanghai for the first time last week. It is a great location for this kind of gathering, on the 6th floor of Creek Art on Guangfu Lu near Datong Lu. The decor is quite pleasant, situated in an old warehouse turned arts centre. The food is good, and the company was very nice!

The poetry open mic session is a weekly event. Stop in at 423 Guangfu Lu every Wednesday from 7:30 to 9:30, and bring something to read. (There's also material available there, if you don't want to read your own work.) It is a lot of fun, setting up a very non-threatening situation to do some poetry reading.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Curry Garden

The Curry Garden, located at the old Turf Club (Singapore), is a really nice spot to stop for lunch. Although it is outdoors, it is in a breezy, comfortable location, and makes for a pleasant spot to eat. And the food and prices are very good. On my last trip to The Curry Garden, I had the vegetarian naan set (one of my favorites). With a drink, the whole meal cost less than $4! And it is very, very filling. It's hard to find such a good deal these days, so I was very pleased.

There are lots of nice eating spots at Turf City, but The Curry Garden has to be one of my favorites. It is a perfect spot for lunch, and I especially like it on weekdays.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Lake Pend Oreille

I haven't been to Lake Pend Oreille before, but found the facts shared at silken's blog about the place to be quite fascinating.

Just how deep does this lake need to be to house a Loch Ness-type monster and to test submarines? Well, it is 350 m (1,150 feet) deep in some spots. That is amazing! The depth of the lake make it acoustically similar to the ocean, so some Navy testing is still done there.

The wildlife that lives in and around the lake is extensive. The scenery, they say, is spectacular. It sounds like the perfect spot for a vacation, if you ask me.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Poetry Reading

The recent poetry reading at xiao xiao was a fantastic event. Lynn and Jen both did a great job with the reading. Each has a rich, resonant voice, perfect for reading poetry. Xu's approach was, to me, the more somber of the two, while Jen had a bounce to both voice and body that brought a lightness to her sometimes heavy ideas. Jen has a tendency toward clever, disruptive twists of language, and that made her reading quite fun.

The location at xiao xiao was completely unexpected for me, and I heard several other first-timers express the same feeling. It's in a little dark alley off of Fuxing Lu, and there is no sign on the door to announce that the place even exists. It gave it a nice cozy feeling for the event.

It was a lot of fun mixing with the crowd there. I was excited to meet up with Lynn and a couple of her fellow Fullbright scholars, and hope to meet up with them again soon to hear more about their work here. It was refreshing to hear about their experiences of their first month in Shanghai.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Hey Kids and Parents!
a-tishoo is a program for 3- to 6-year-olds, running from 30 Oct thru 9 Nov.
It is a visual fantasy... all about having a cold!
You're sure to enjoy the show, put together by ACT3.

Tickets are $20 per person.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pesta Raya

The Pesta Raya Malay Festival of Arts will be hosted at the Esplanade beginning this week. The festival runs from 24 Oct through 2 Nov. Events will include a concert by Indonesia's popular band Ungu. It will be their first time in Singapore. Tickets are $55 per person ($35 concession price for students). It will be a good way to end the month, as the concert is on 31 October at 8 pm.

There are lots of other exciting events to be held at the festival. Here are some you might want to watch out for:
A Love Story between Jazz and Gamelan (Oct 24 & 25)
Sidang Burung (Oct 24 & 25)
Fatskunks (Oct 26)
100% Cilik (Oct 27)
Infinita (Oct 31)
Perempuan Itu Rawanhiba, Rawanhiba Itu Cinta (Nov 1)

There will also be numerous free events throughout the course of the festival, including singing and dancing in various traditional Malay styles.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Upcoming Running Events in Malaysia

There are still a few big runs coming up in Malaysia this year. Here are some you might want to be aware of:

25-26 Oct
Sarawak Adventure Race 2008
Kuching, Sarawak

2 Nov
Genting Trailblazer

9 Nov
Powerman Malaysia
(includes cycling)

21 Dec
Malakoff 25km, Johor Bahru 2008
Dataran Bandaraya, Johor
organized by Pacesetters

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Riders Cafe

There is a nice little dining spot in Singapore called The Riders Cafe. It is nestled in a nice little spot, so scenic it is hard to believe you are in Singapore when you are there. There are lots of horses, and sometimes you might see someone riding past as you eat.

Besides the beautiful scenery, you'll enjoy the food there as well. I had the chef's special the night I was there, a spinach ravioli. It was very good. The highlight, though, was probably dessert. When it's called "Death by Chocolate," you know you can't miss with me. I was really glad we shared it though, because it is a huge portion!

Overall, The Riders Cafe is a nice spot for a quiet and enjoyable meal. It is located near the old Turf Club. Just turn in off of Eng Neo Road (you can't miss the turn off when you are on Eng Neo Road headed to the PIE).

Riders Cafe
51 Fairways Drive
6466 9819

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

A (Last Minute) Reading

I just received an announcement via email about an upcoming event that looks very interesting. I will just post the whole announcement verbatim (with thanks to Monika for sending it along):

Please join us for the third round of A (Last Minute) Reading @ le
petit xixoao. As usual, it's an informal (and informally bilingual)
reading and discussion of experimental writing & translation to be
followed by free-form discussion. Includes delicious xiaoxiao snacks!

Our featured readers are Shanghai-New York poet Lynn Xu, currently in
Shanghai on a Fulbright grant, and visiting Los Angeles poet and
translator Jen Hofer, currently in Shanghai on pleasure, but willing
to do "business" for an evening (to our pleasure). See below for more
info on both poets.

Time: Monday, October 20 – 7:30pm
Place: xiaoxiao: 626 no.2 Fuxing Zhong Lu, between Maoming Lu and
Ruijin Er Lu (closer to Maoming. Turn into the lane and make your
first left - the building is to your right.)
Cost: 25rmb includes one drink + snacks
Questions? call David at 134 0211 2418 or email him at

Jen Hofer's recent publications include an epistolary and poetic
collaboration with Patrick Durgin, The Route (Atelos, 2008), a
translation of books two and three of Dolores Dorantes by Dolores
Dorantes (Counterpath Press and Kenning Editions, 2008), lip wolf, a
translation of Laura Solórzano's lobo de labio (Action Books, 2007),
and Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by
Mexican Women (University of Pittsburgh Press and Ediciones Sin
Nombre, 2003). Her forthcoming books are from the valley of death
(Ponzipo), Laws (Dusie Books) and a book-length series of
anti-war-manifesto poems titled one (Palm Press). She has published
poems and translations in numerous small-press publications, including
1913, Aufgabe, Black Clock, Bomb, DISASTER, The Brooklyn Rail, eough,
Jacket, Mar con Soroche, Primary Writing and War and Peace. Jen Lives
in Los Angeles, where she teaches poetics in the MFA Writing Program
at CalArts, works as a Spanish-language interpreter with the Los
Angeles County Superior Courts, and is happily a founding member of
the City of Angels Ladies' Bicycle Association, also known as The
Whirly Girls.

Lynn Xu was born Shanghai. She co-edits Canarium Books with poets
Josh Edwards, Robyn Schiff, and Nick Twemlow. Her poems have appeared
in Best American Poetry 2008, The Walrus, Tinfish, 6x6,Eoagh, and
forthcoming in 1913: A Journal of Forms, Court Green, andZoland. She
currently lives in Shanghai, on a Fulbright, and she hates to admit
it, but she really misses her books and, well, all the other things
floating in a storage room somewhere in lower Manhattan.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

8 Femmes in Shanghai

The drama 8 Femmes will be staged at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Theatre on Fengxian Road. The show begins on Oct 31, and will run through Nov 23. That's lots of opportunities to catch this popular program.

Tickets begin at RMB100, and you can book online.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


Windswept Seafood Restaurant is one of my grandparents' favorite spots to go for an nice meal out together with the whole family. It is one of those spots where we gather for any of a variety of special events, which included Grandpa's 80th birthday a little over a year ago.

The seafood is good there. It is hard to beat the buffet, but there are also a lot of platters to choose from. My favorite, when I don't think I can manage a buffet, is the fried shrimp. It is good.

The staff at Windswept is always very nice too. We've always enjoyed our meals there, and I'm already looking for the next visit with my grandparents!

Windswept Seafood Restaurant
(979) 233-1951
105 Burch Cir
Freeport, TX 77541

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Singapore Sun Festival

The Singapore Sun Festival - Singapore's premier music & lifestyle festival!

250 international artists and celebrities
90 events
10 days

Celebrate the art of living well!

People to look for at the Singapore Sun Festival:
Robert Redford
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Murray Perahia
Sergio Medes
Charlie Trotter
Fredrica von Stade
and you can also see
the Los Angeles Philharmonic

There will be many indoor and outdoor concerts, films, and events, along with excellent food and wine. Make your plans to enjoy the show(s) from 17-26 October.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TNT Britain: Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew at the Lyceum Theatre, Shanghai

The performance of The Taming of the Shrew at Shanghai's Lyceum Theatre (57 Mao Ming Lu) this past Saturday was brilliantly put together by TNT Britain. The troupe travels to Shanghai once a year, but this year we were lucky enough to host them twice (they were here for Hamlet in the Spring too).

The Taming of the Shrew is one of those plays that can be quite uncomfortable for modern audiences (actually, it has always offended some viewers), but the troupe managed it in such a way as to redefine it in their staging. The audience ate it up. You could hear loud laughter throughout the performance, and several times the actors provoked spontaneous applause for an especially good display of talent (like Richard Keightley's "racing" through the description of Petruchio's dress at the wedding — very funny!).

TNT Britain travels all over the world, and I imagine they are as warmly received everywhere they go as they are here in Shanghai. I am eager for their next visit, and wouldn't mind it one bit if they made their 2 performances here this year a norm!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Camera Obscura in Singapore

At the Esplanade Concert Hall, you can catch the Camera Obscura concert on 29 Oct at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $58 (concession prices available).

The music of Camera Obscura has been described as "poppy," "catchy," "confident," "jaunty," "shimmering," and "folk-twee-pop."
If that sounds fun to you, then you won't want to miss this event.

Book tickets through Esplanade or through Sistic.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Menu at Ginger Cafe, Shanghai

At a party at Ginger Cafe on Fuxing Lu last week, an expansive new menu was unveiled. The food is very well prepared, and the atmosphere is fantastic. Ginger Cafe describes its fare as "panoramic cuisine with a Japanese attitude." You can tell someone put a lot of thought into that little tag, because it is very accurate. There are plenty of sushi-type items on the menu, along with more European-style fare too. I think my favorites were the quiche and the salmon dish. Very good stuff!

The atmosphere at Ginger Cafe is quite lovely, especially this time of year. The weather was just perfect for the party, making the outdoor patios an ideal spot to sit and sample all the fare on the new menu.

There is also a branch of Ginger Indochine on Taikang Lu.

299 Fuxing Xi Lu
Between Huashan Lu and Gaoyou Lu
(86 21) 64339437


Lane 248 Taikang Lu
(8621) 5465 7355

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kayne West

Here's something that looks like fun!

Kayne West Glow in the Dark Tour
in Singapore 29 October
Singapore Indoor Stadium
8 pm

You can book your tickets at Sistic. Prices range from $88 to $188.

This is making its way across Asia now. After Singapore, it will hit Beijing (Nov 1) and Shanghai (Nov 3).

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Friday, October 10, 2008

October Eco Films in KL

Palate Palette in KL will be screening shows for the 2008 Eco Film Fest this month. Palate Palette is located at 21 Jalan Mesui, off Jalan Nagasari, 50200 Kuala Lumpur. You can take the train to Raja Chulan to get there.

Here's what's on the agenda:

October 16, 9-11 pm
Anything Goes, Anything Shows! (Part I) featuring What Happened to Green? and Wasiat

October 23, 9-11 pm
Anything Goes, Anything Shows! featuring the film A Crude Awakening

October 26, 1-7 pm
Junkyard Sale (a hands-on recycling effort)

The film screenings are free, so make sure and pop by to have a look at what's going on. It should be a fun time for all.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dance Festival

At the Esplanade, beginning tomorrow, you can enjoy the Dans Festival 2008. The festival will run from 9-19 October, and there is a great lineup of events available. You can watch the Russian Ballet Gala on Centre Stage on Oct. 15 and 16, or move over to the Theatre Studio to see Albert Tiong on 10 Oct at 8 pm. Perhaps the Recital Studio's 17 Oct Cambodian and Malaysian collaboration between Hun Pen and January Low is more to your taste?

Whatever sort of dance you enjoy, you're almost sure to find it at the Dans Festival. All of the venues at the Esplanade will be filled with events for the 10-day festival, beginning today. Check the website for more details on the events that interest you.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Faust onstage

At the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Faust will be staged from Oct 18 - 27. Tickets run form RMB 100 to 380, and are listed as "hot selling."

I am planning to be there, and really looking forward to it. I've not seen any version of Faustus staged before, so it will be quite a treat to finally have the opportunity to see what will be done with it onstage. You can watch for my reflections on the show here in the next few weeks.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Cuckoo in Shanghai

Just off of Chun Shen Lu, you can visit a nice Hunan restaurant called Cuckoo. The food is not bad, and the atmosphere is very amusing. Mao Zedong's hometown is in Hunan, and the restaurant uses that in its advertising. The place is set up with very traditional style buildings, and all the staff wears the drab green army-style uniforms that were the norm in China 30 years ago. It is kind of a cute idea, and I couldn't help but smile when I went in.

The food at Cuckoo is not as spicy as you normally would like for Hunan cuisine, but the flavor is not bad otherwise. It's worth a visit, just to enjoy the cute concept underlying it all.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Blonde Bombshells of 1943

The musical drama Blonde Bombshells of 1943 will be showing at Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel (Singapore) 29 October - 2 November. The play is by Alan Plater, and will be performed by the British Theatre Playhouse. There is lots of great music from the 1940s, including hits by Glenn Miller and Fats Waller. It really looks like lots of fun!

Tickets range from $105 to $125. If you want to have champagne cocktails before the show on 29 or 31 Oct, tickets will range from $145 to $285. Seats at the Charity Gala will cost $350 per person, or $3500 per table.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Motley Crue in Singapore

It's not to late to get your Motley Crue tickets for just S$150 (prices will go up to $160 on the day of the show).

See Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, and Nikki Sixx live at Fort Canning Park on 16 October. Tickets are on sale at Sistic.

This is a show you won't want to miss!

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Catch it Before it Ends

Winding down this month at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts is the Houston Collects: African American Art. The exhibit, held in the Caroline Wiess Law Building, will end on October 26, 2008, so you'll need to make plans to attend very soon.

Houston Collects: African American Art examines the institutional and private efforts at collecting, documenting, and preserving African American art during the 20th and 21st centuries in Houston. There is a very diverse grouping of pieces at the exhibit, making it very worth seeing.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Wizard of Oz — book early!

You'll definitely want to book early to avoid disappointment on this one:
The Wizard of Oz is coming to Singapore!

From October 24 - November 15, the Drama Centre at Victoria Street will play host to this popular musical, presented by I Theatre Ltd. Shows will be at 10:30 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, or 7:30 pm (see schedule for the times on the day you are interested in), and tickets begin from $28.

Check the Sistic website for more details, or call at 6348 5555. Book early. Tickets are sure to go fast!

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

KL Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

The KL Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour lets you see KL through the glass rooftop of your bus. And, as the name implies, you can get on and off the bus at the various sites that might be of interest to you.

The bus will take you to all the major sites in Kuala Lumpur, including KLCC, Twin Tower, Bintang Walk, Merdeka Square, KL Tower, KL Sentral, Lake Garden, Petaling Street, Jamek Mosque, Sri Mariaman Temple, St. Mary's Cathedral, and many more. That's lots of sight-seeing and shopping to do in the city!

Seats are RM19 for locals, RM38 for tourists. Children below 5 are free, and ages 5-12 pay RM12 for locals and RM 17 for tourists.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


On October 6, Brothers will be showing at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center. Tickets begin at RMB100, and are selling quickly. You can book your tickets online.

The show runs through Oct 12, so there are a few chances to catch it. It looks like a good one, at one of my favorite locations.

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