Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all!

I hope you have a fun, safe New Year's Eve celebration, and a wonderful 2010!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Fat Fish in Sembawang

I recently went to Fat Fish Steamboat Restaurant in Sembawang with some friends. The food was not bad, and the atmosphere was lots of fun. The service was good, both polite and prompt.

We ordered a steamboat set, which was good. The mango salad, though, was my favorite, and seemed to be the favorite of everyone in our party, along with the pandan chicken.

Fat Fish is up on top of a hill on Old Nelson Road. When I was there, they said they'd only been open for 3 months. It was not crowded, but also not empty. The location is a bit off the main road, but it is not hard to get to (right across from Sembawang MRT Station, though a bit of a walk up the hill). It's not bad for a night out, and the grounds look like someplace I wouldn't mind snooping around more, though we didn't do any exploring that day.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy a good holiday with your friends and family.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Back to Kukup

A few years ago, we took a group of young people from our church to Kukup, Malaysia, for a short retreat. We had so much fun at the kelong that we are going again, and this time bringing the whole church along. In fact, we'll have an additional 10 friends from the Philippines there to join us this time around.

We are looking forward to a fun retreat, with good food, good friends, and a nice spot to relax and enjoy each other's company. If it is as good as our previous stay in Kukup, I am sure we are all going to come home very happy, and with lots of fun stories to share.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It's funny how a place can get into the mind, and really begin to affect how we think about things. I was discussing with a friend a month or so ago the importance of place in our thinking, and how our environment can shape us so completely, without us even realizing it. Since I started splitting my time each year between two homes, this has become even more apparent to me.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be engaged to write a travel guide on the city of Suzhou. I've been there a number of times over the years, but have taken it mostly as a place to visit, enjoy, and then move on. It has long ranked as one of my favorite spots to visit, full of lots of beautiful places to see, but not a lot more than that.

As I've been researching, thinking, planning for the guide, and just generally having Suzhou on the mind, I've found it really getting hold of everything that goes through my mind. I want to know more and more about Chinese gardens. I want to understand the depth of thinking that goes into gardening and appreciating those gardens. It is really a captivating subject to consider.

And the nice thing is, I've found that it gives me something of a quiet space inside my head. The environment of Suzhou got into my mind when I made recent visits there in order to research for the book, and somehow that quiet, thoughtful environment has remained inside as a place I can sort of retreat into when I need it. (Which is often.)

I suppose that this is what I love most about travel. The change of environment can allow for a change of thinking, if you pay attention. It can push you out of the same old train of thought that accompanies the daily routine, and give you a new mode of thinking. It is amazing how that works.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Poetically Challenged

My blog poetically challenged has been offline for a while due to some difficulties I had accessing the site for a while. I think the issues are now resolved, and I will be updating it regularly again.

The blog focuses on publication opportunities for poets. I hope you'll find something useful there.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kitagawa Japanese Restaurant

A few weeks ago, I made my first trip to Kitagawa Japanese Restaurant inside the Orchid Country Club in Singapore. My friends and I had a great time, enjoying good food, a nice atmosphere, and good company.

Here's a look at a couple of the dishes that we indulged in that night.

First, the dragon roll, which was a favorite of everyone at the table

Then there was the octopus, which had a nice kick, with its generous portion of wasabi

I didn't get a picture of the beef, as it didn't look like anything special, but it was everyone's favorite. It was so tender it seemed to melt in the mouth. Some of the best beef I've ever had.

Overall, we had a great time. The service was a little slow, but the staff was polite and tried to make up for the slow service by being a little extra nice to us.

If you're looking for a nice spot for good food, Kitagawa is definitely worth a visit.

Oh, and... Kitagawa is one of the finds I picked up at Hungry Go Where.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Good deals for a limited time at Sembawang Shopping Centre

There's a lot of good deals this week at Sembawang Shopping Centre.

We went last weekend for a nice hot Chinese dinner at Prosperous Kitchen (Level 2), where several dishes were on offer for $1 each! We got prawns and fish, each for just $1, and both were very good.

Today, I had lunch with my 2 oldest godchildren (ages 7 and 10) and their mom. Once again, there was a $1 offer — all sushi (except red plates) from Hei Sushi's conveyor belt is just $1 per plate. Red plates are 2-for-1, up to three free. And if you don't believe me when I say it's good, just look at how much those two ate!!!

There are lots of other offers at Sembawang Shopping Centre. Many of the shopping centre's restaurants have something on offer right now, most with something for just $1. And it's good stuff!

It's only for this week, I think, but it is certainly worth the visit.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Wedding Muso

I just came across an interesting post (posted about a year ago) of an interesting sight in Shaoxing, China. There are some fun pictures there.

Shaoxing is in Zhejiang Province, situated between Ningbo and Hangzhou. I've never been, but it isn't that far from Shanghai, and this post makes me wonder if it might not be worth the visit, just to see how different it might be from big, bustling Shanghai.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Good Resource for Serious Cyclists

I stumbled across a really useful site recently, with loads of bicycle maintenance and riding tips. It's written by someone who obviously knows what he's doing, and with tons of experience on long trips.

Take a few minutes to pop by, if you are a serious cyclist or are interested in doing some long trips. Even if you only do long trips infrequently, the tips there are useful.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

All the Tea in China

I've always been quite a tea drinker, even when I was a kid. In China, I've found many new reasons to love my drink of choice, even though I have yet to sample All the Tea in China.

My favorite tea is probably pu'er tea, though I'll drink just about anything. And, probably the type I drink most is Oolong tea, though I usually settle for the cheap bottled types you can find on shelves in convenience stores all over China and Singapore. i know, I know, kind of lazy, but still...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I. M. Pei and the New Suzhou Museum

I am presently doing a lot of research and preparation for a book I am writing, a travel guide on the city of Suzhou. I'm putting this book together in cooperation with the publisher of the largest English language magazine in Shanghai.

On a recent research trip to Suzhou, I visited the New Suzhou Museum, prompting me to write a little article about I. M. Pei and the New Suzhou Museum. It is an impressive facility, designed by an impressive man.

If you ever make your way to Suzhou, don't neglect the museum. It is well worth walking through, even if just to see the structure itself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hungry Go Where?

I was trying to plan a birthday dinner over the weekend, and was having trouble thinking of a good spot to eat. (I guess I've been away too long!) I remembered then that a friend had recommended the website Hungry Go Where for just the sort of time when you are cracking your head for ideas, and seem to come up with nothing more than a headache.

The website is good enough that I came up with 5-6 options all nearby, and all places I've not eaten before. I was glad for that, and have kept the list handy (got more birthdays coming up soon to think about).

I'll also have to keep Hungry Go Where in mind. It's a great resource for hungry Singaporeans!

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Changes in Spain and Finland

It was interesting to read about some changes in both Finland and Spain that will guarantee some basic broadband services to residents of the two countries, making broadband a right of people in those two places.

Very cool, and very much a sign of the times, isn't it?

Makes you wonder when the rest will catch up. The US is, of course, lagging behind in this area. And yet, it is hard to be overly worried about that when there are so many places where rights that are even more basic — like clean drinking water, freedom from oppression, etc. — are neglected.

What a strange world we live in.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

South for the Winter

Looks like my timing was just right. I got back to Singapore late last night for my 3 month stay during the winter months. I am in my shorts and t-shirt now, as comfortable as can be.

But back in Shanghai, the weather has turned nasty. It's cold, rainy, and there are predictions for snow! The temperatures are going to be below 10 degrees Celsius this week. Ugh!

The nasty winter weather is pretty much the only thing I am not going to miss about Shanghai this winter (I was really enjoying the momentum developed there), but I am glad to have some tropical sunshine on my shoulders right now. I loved being in Shanghai during the autumn months, enjoying a bit of comfortable weather and seeing and smelling the changes in the air, but I don't know if I'd want to stick around now that it is really turning to winter. I am definitely cute out for this peregrine lifestyle, as far as the weather is concerned.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

dark 'til dawn

Having just launched dark 'til dawn, I've been getting lots of feedback on the project this couple of days. The launch was good, and the feedback has been really encouraging so far.

If you'd like to have a look at all of the lamps in the series, I've posted a PDF catalog. It isn't of very high resolution, so hopefully it won't take too long to load.

If you are interested in purchasing one of the lamps, drop me a note and I can let you know which ones are still available. There is only 1 of each piece, so once it's gone, there won't be another chance to buy that piece.

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Arizona Rentals

When trying to find a rental in Arizona when I was a kid, I can remember my parents poring over a magazine with cheap paper and tiny print. We were going on a big holiday that would spread across 3 weeks, driving from Texas to California. It was a tedious process for my parents to do the planning, but we had a great time when all was said and done.

Finding rentals in Arizona is so much easier today. Locating good prices for my travel needs is probably one of the top 10 uses I make of the internet. I travel a lot, and have found lots of good deals online to make my travel more affordable, and much easier than it was back in the days when my parents had to use materials that weren't very user-friendly, nor were they very extensive in the information offered.

Today, searching for, say, a rental in Scottsdale is much easier, but it still has its difficulties. For instance, there are so many sites offering travel information and travel services. How do you know who to trust.

Arizona Lodging Experts would be my first choice when traveling to Arizona. There is a whole lot of information at the site, with pictures and prices all available right at your fingertips. You can make your bookings directly through Arizona Lodging Experts too.

For me, this is just the sort of website I look for when I want to make a booking. It is easy to navigate, has good information, and is convenient. It is hard to beat this sort of service.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Launch of dark 'til dawn

Yesterday was the launch of the dark 'til dawn series of collectible art pieces with decollection. The series is built around 30 of my haiku, and features 30 unique lamps, each designed and hand-painted by Chinese artist Peter Zhou. Each is a one of a kind art piece, and comes accompanied by a birth certificate signed by both the poet and the artist.

Here's a picture of the poetry reading I did at the launch yesterday. There was a fairly big crowd there (though not all are visible in the photo), and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Five Elements in Chinese Thought

The Five Elements in Chinese Thought have been on my mind a lot for the past year. I am writing a series of poems that considers the interrelationship of the elements in Chinese thought. It is actually a series of poetry collections, and the whole project will stretch over a very long time, I think. (er, it already has, actually, though it has not yet made its debut into the public eye.)

The history of this aspect of Chinese thought is interesting. It shows up everywhere in the Chinese mind. It is a fascinating study, one that can take a lifetime to explore.

Friday, October 30, 2009

All the Tea in China

I've just posted a short article at HubPages called All the Tea in China that might be of interest to readers here.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Reviews

When I first moved away from the US about 17 years ago, fresh out of college, the market for Christian fiction was just revving up. I read a fair number of novels that are now smack in the middle of that very vibrant (and lucrative) field, but those were just the early precursors of what was to become a pretty big industry.

The flood of Christian fiction seems to be mostly contained in the US, with much smaller amounts available in the markets where I currently live. I usually pick up a few novels within the genre when I am back in the States visiting my parents. But I find it a little overwhelming sometimes to be faced with so many options. Of course, with as big as the market has gotten, there is often a lot of really bad writing to wade through before finding the good books.

With that in mind, I've started putting together a website with reviews of Christian fiction. I am going to include all sorts of titles there, whether they be books marketed specifically as Christian fiction, or works that seem to be of interest to readers who tend toward that market. I've started posting reviews, and will continue doing so. I'm also inviting other reviewers to submit your thoughts for other readers. It doesn't matter to me what your background is, or even whether you yourself are a Christian at all. I am open to reviews from all readers, but the reviews need to be written specifically with the Christian market in mind. Feel free to review titles that are already listed on the site (I'm open to multiple reviews of the same book from different readers), or send something over on any book not yet listed there. I'd really like to see the site expand, with lots of new titles being covered.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

A Huge Project Completed

I've been hard at work on the dark 'til dawn poetry lamp series, in cooperation with decollection. We started back in April, and have finally completed the 30 designer art pieces in the series. We've got a launch scheduled for Nov 7, with all of the available spots already booked up. It looks like it is going just as planned..... which, naturally, scares me to death!

This is the first series of collectibles launched by decollection, and I hope it will be the first of many. They do excellent work, and it was a pleasure to collaborate with Peter Zhou of decollection on this project. Pictures of the lamps (along with order forms) will be available soon at the decollection website.

This is also the first time my poetry has been used in a series of art pieces, and the whole process has been quite enjoyable for me. You can read more of my reflections on dark 'til dawn at my main blog site.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Open Mic

We had a good crowd at Open Mic in Shanghai last night, including a few newcomers, and of course, all of the old regulars that we love. There was lots of poetry read, and several musicians had songs to share. The theme was "Night," and was a lot of fun.

Next week, the theme will be "strangers." I think that is going to be a fun one, and I hope we have a good crowd gather for it. We meet at A Tale of 4 Cities. That’s at the 3rd floor of the Ke Art Center, No. 613B Kai Xuan Lu. Stop in and join us on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.

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White Collar Crime Lawyer in Dallas

Details for: White Collar Crime Lawyer Dallas

The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy are one of the leading firms in addressing white collar crime in North Texas. When faced with charges for a white collar crime, a tough defending attorney is the first thing you look for, and this Dallas criminal lawyer is as good as they get.

McConathy handles all level of misdemeanor and felony cases. So, whether one faces charges for homicide or failure to pay a parking fine, McConathy is the man for the job. There's a little video snippet of an interview with him at his website that is kind of interesting. It talks about the problem of outstanding citations, and the desire of the city to collect the hundreds of millions of dollars owed it, and the mistakes made that can result in seeing warrants issued for the arrest of people who have paid their fines on time. That's not exactly the sort of situation I first think of when I hear "white collar crime," but it is one that, if I found myself in it, I'd sure want someone who took my case seriously to address it for me. McConathy does just that, taking both the big and small cases in hand, and treating them with the seriousness they deserve.

Check out criminal lawyer Dallas for more information on Richard C. McConathy if you need the services of a good white collar crimes attorney.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Earn Travel Rewards as You Travel

It's pretty much common knowledge that credit cards make travel much easier. No one wants to be on the road without a few credit cards in the wallet. The best sort, though, are those that offer good credit card rewards that let you earn more savings on travel, hotels, and more. Some even offer good cash back options when you use them, which puts money right back in your pocket.

There are lots of good packages to choose from. Before packing the bags and heading out for another trip, you might want to take a look at this website and see some of the better credit card reward programs out there, allowing you to earn travel rewards as you travel.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Exciting Opportunity

Woo-hoo! I'm working now on a travel guide for the city of Suzhou. The guide will be published by the group that puts out Urbanatomy and the That's magazines.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming months of work on the guide. I've been getting my feet wet the past few weeks, and so far it is going well. I am enjoying it, and really happy about the whole project.

I'll keep you posted as things go along.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

National Day in China - the 60th year

Lots of fun stuff going on this week with all of the National Day celebrations.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pins on the Map

I only recently set up my Facebook account — I know, way behind the times, huh? Anyway, I had a good time playing with one application, designed by Trip Advisor. In this little game, you put pins in the map marking places you've been. I posted my map here recently.

On thing that this little game reminded me of is that there is a whole big world out there that I haven't seen. It is amazing that I think I've seen a lot of places, and yet there is so much out there still unseen, unvisited. And that I probably won't live long enough to see.


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Monday, September 28, 2009

Visa Difficulties

I had a really rough time getting visa matters settled for my employment visa to live and work in China. I am glad it is done, at last.

The whole process of getting this thing done is rather convoluted. When applying for a visa to work in China, it is important to allow plenty of time to get it done, and give lots of special attention to the details of paperwork and red tape.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Contemporary Art, Shanghai style

The big Contemporary Art Show I attended in Shanghai last week was quite an event. It was held in the big Shanghai Exhibition Center at 1000 Yan'an Zhong Lu — what an amazing facility! The Russian style architecture is beautiful, and it has all these huge open halls. I really loved the feel as soon as I walked in.

But the facility was soon overshadowed by the art hanging on its walls. I saw lots of great pieces from a wide variety of countries. I loved the anime-style Sun Wukong paintings, and was very impressed by images of cyborgs presented by a team of Japanese artists. There were all sorts of solid, well-constructed pieces that carried some real weight. Some of the pieces had clear political messages, while others were a little harder to decipher.

I was fortunate to attend the event with a painter friend. He explained the techniques used in many of the pieces, and it iwas a real joy to appreciate the art with the advantage of his expertise. I will look forward to next year's event.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Contemporary Art Show in Shanghai

Beginning tomorrow, there will be a big event going on in Shanghai, the Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair. It starts tomorrow and lasts through Sunday.

I'll be at the preview event tonight. If I can get back on to this site in the next few days, I'll make sure and post an update. It should be lots of fun. There are some really excellent events scheduled over the next few days — should be great for anyone who is interested in contemporary art!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back to Shanghai

I'm heading back to Shanghai now. I plan to be there until mid-November this time round. It should be lots of fun.

While I am there, I am planning a big book launch for my new poetry collection Cyborg Chimera. I'll have more info posted here soon about that. I'm really looking forward to the big event.

Sometime after I return to Singapore, probably on a weekend toward the end of November, I'll do a follow-up launch in Singapore as well. Watch here for details of both events.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tekka Market Reopens

I popped in last week at the newly reopened Tekka Market, and really liked what I saw. The revamped place is spacious and clean, and looks like it will be a big improvement over the old place (not to mention the horrible temporary facilities it's been in for the past several months!).

Not all of the stalls were filled up yet, and only about a quarter were opened the day I was there. I don't know how badly the reopening of every stall will affect the ease of moving about in the market, though it will obviously have a big impact. All the same, the place seems very well laid out and put together so as to be quite spacious.

I got a good deal on shark at Tekka Market when I was there. My dogs love it, and the new mix of shark meat, cabbage, and white rice is doing wonders for their skin. The girl has healthier skin and coat than she ever has right now. The shark at Tekka Market was just what the doctor ordered (literally), and I managed to pick up 2 sharks (about 6 kg total) for under $40. That's enough to last my dogs several months, so it's pretty much a steal. (Certainly less than what dry dog food was costing.)

The only knock on the renovated Tekka Market is the parking. I had to park on the road when I was there, as the carpark seemed to be closed (though I later saw some cars driving out, so I'm not sure there). When the multi-storey carepark is fully functional, this problem should be solved. I am impressed with the renovations. It looks like the facelift has done wonders for the place.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Did It!

We did it! The round-island cycling trip I've been wanting to do, and it was great!

We did 92 km in 7 hours (5 hours on the bike, plus 2 hours for rests), and we went through these estates:

Woodlands - Sembawang - Yishun - Seletar Air Base - Seng Kang - Hougang - Tampines - Simei - Bedok - Geylang - Bugis - Chinatown - Outram Park - Tiong Bahru - Telok Blangah - past Sentosa and all the way down West Coast Highway - Clementi - Jurong East - Boon Lay - Bukit Batok - Choa Chu Kang - Kranji - Woodlands

It was a hot day, but we managed with taking lots of water and salty snacks. We had divided the trip into 4 legs (Woodlands - Tampines, Tampines - Chinatown, Chinatown - Jurong, and Jurong - Woodlands). We figured roughly 2 hours per leg, but managed all of them more quickly than that. This was partly due to some roads that have been newly opened in some areas I have not cycled in some time, and partly just because we kept a better pace than I expected.

It was a great day, and I am glad we did it.

Watch for pictures here soon!

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Sonoran Sun, Mexico - Beach Rentals

The beach rentals at sonoran sun in Mexico look so inviting! The waters are clear, the resort is in a spot that is just quiet and solitary enough, and the accommodations look top-notch. It makes me want to hop on a plane today and head that direction.

If I were free to do so at the moment, I think the puerto penasco condos look like a perfect spot to spend a holiday. I would love the beach and the multi-tiered swimming pool. I think you'd find me in one spot or the other as long as it was daylight, were I there at the moment. (I have to admit, I'd be more likely to be in the water than in the well- equipped gym at the resort, though the gym would do me some good, I'm sure!) I would love a long cycling expedition along the coast as well. There are some amazing views of the sea from puerto penasco sonora mexico, making it an ideal spot for a nice, relaxing holiday.

In the evening, the resort has plenty of entertainment to offer as well, with excellent dining and bar facilities. I'd probably still spend a good deal of time out on the beach at night, on my dream vacation to Mexico. I'd be most likely to sit out by the beach under the moon, watching its reflection play over the face of the sea. I would undoubtedly have a book, a pen, and some blank paper. It would be a good kick-start for some writing that I need to be doing, to spend a couple of weeks in a Sonoran Sun beach rental in Mexico.

Unfortunately, it isn't holiday time for me at the moment. I am having to live out Puerto Penasco in my dreams for the time being. All the same, you can be sure you'll find me there often!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Finally Going to Do it

For a long time, I've been wanting to do a round-island cycling trip in Singapore, but I didn't quite feel it safe to go alone. I've got a friend in town now who is willing to give it a go with me, and if all goes as planned, we'll set out for it today. It should end up being about 150-180 km, if I've calculated correctly. Our plan is to allow for 2 days, but if we hit the halfway point and feel we can finish in a day, we will continue.

I'm really excited about the whole program, having wanted to do it for several years. In fact, it is one of the things I have on my list to complete before I turn 40. If all goes as planned, I should be able to strike it off the list this week.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Day is Today?

I was very pleased to attend the performance of What Day is Today? at the Esplanade earlier this week. I was not quite sure what to expect, and so was pleased to find it one of the best shows I attended in Singapore this summer (and I saw quite a number.)

What Day is Today?, with its innovative narrative structure, is a mix of music, speculation, oration, and very profound thought. I loved the way the neighbors of the protagonist were incorporated into the show, but not highlighted in any way. I thought the use of sound — whether voice, instrumentation, or whatever — was amazing. Bani Haykal impressed greatly with his performance.

It was not a huge crowd there, being the end of a holiday weekend with everyone getting geared up to go back to the office, but a good percentage of those who did show up also stayed back for the Q&A. It was one of the better Q&A sessions I've attedned too, reflecting a good engagement with the performance on the audience's part.

I'll be keeping an eye on the work of this crew (B-Quartet) in upcoming months and years. They were good, and quite worth watching.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I've Been Stung by a Jellyfish!!!

Getting stung by a jellyfish when you are out enjoying a day in the sea can be quite frustrating and very painful, even if it is not one of those of the more dangerous variety. (In which case, it can be deadly!) I've been stung by a jellyfish once and sea urchins twice. It is not fun.

On the recent trip to Pulau Sibu, one of my friends got stung by a jellyfish. It got her on the top of her right foot and along the inner part of the left thigh just above the knee. Ouch!

So what do you do when stung by a jellyfish? Of course, there is the remedy that was aired on an episode of Friends, but that isn't the only way to take care of it. Here's some things that I've learned. (All of these are effective for sea urchin stings too, though you have to take an extra step there to make sure the spine doesn't remain intact under the skin.)

• salt water is effective for killing some of the poison in the jellyfish sting, so stay in the sea

• lime juice likewise kills the poisons, so get some limes and squeeze as much juice as you can onto the affected areas

• vinegar has the same effect, so drench the skin in as much of it as you can take

• commercial allergy medication can help reduce the body's reaction to the jellyfish sting

The lime juice and/or vinegar treatments are pretty easy to do in most areas in Malaysia and Thailand where I have been snorkeling, as these items are readily available. One thing to keep in mind with both options is that it can really hurt whne you put the juice onto the affected area. But the sting of it is worth the relief it will bring, and it is the only way to ensure you've killed the poison in the affected areas. If you don't apply (at least) one of these treatments, I've heard that the poison can continue to spread and do its work, making the whole ordeal even more miserable than it already is.

The best, of course, is to avoid jellyfish and sea urchins altogether, but that is not always possible. (Easier with sea urchins, but even then... it can happen.) If you do get stung, don't panic. These home remedies can be quite effective, if you aren't dealing with the really dangerous varieties of jellyfish. And for those cases, don't wait — get to a doctor immediately.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Getting Your Own Boat for the Day

The best way to really enjoy a snorkeling trip is to have a boat that takes just your own group. This way, you can decide where you want to go, how long you want to stay, and all those sorts of things. The best experience I've had of this variety was probably when a group of 8-10 of us had our own boat to go around Perhentian. We saw a huge parrot fish that day (about a meter and a half long), loads of huge clams, and, best of all, a giant sea turtle. The turtle was in deep waters, and with our own boat, we were able to stop out there and get really close to it. Five of us even got down and swam with him for some distance.

We had our own boat for our day of snorkeling in Pulau Sibu recently too, and had lots of fun with that. It worked out well for us, as we had little ones with us and wanted to be able to decide when to come back based on their needs.

If you want to get a boat for your own group at Pulau Sibu, you can book it from the Tanjong Leman ferry terminal. You have to bypass the main window, though, and go over the the small shops behind it that sell snacks and so forth. In some of those shops, you'll find name cards for boat operators who can get you started.

Having your own boat for the day is definitely the way to go, so it's worth the extra leg work to get it arranged. The operators are all friendly and helpful, and I've never run into any who weren't ready to do what was needed to make the trip a fun one.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Snorkeling in Sibu Island, Malaysia

Sibu Island is not a bad place for snorkeling, and was especially fun for the first-timers who were with us. I have been snorkeling quite often, though, and didn't find the marine life in the area to be especially diverse, though it was quite easy to see the normal types of fish you will see in the region. We saw plenty of clown fish in the coral (like Nemo), and some parrot fish, angel fish, and other varieties that you'll often see in the waters around the islands off of Malaysia's east coast. We didn't see any of the really exotic things, but then, we had some members in the group who weren't up to going in deeper waters, so all of our snorkeling was along the coast. That is one really good thing about the location — you don't have to take inexperienced (or young) swimmers into deep waters to see lots of activity. In our group that included very small kids, this was a big plus.

The down side of Sibu is the jelly fish that often pass through the waters there. One of our group members got stung, and I've read reports from other visitors to the area saying that they met with the same problem. It is certainly something to be aware of.

The big draw to us for Sibu Island is that we could stay on the mainland rather than the island itself. If that is a high priority for you too, then I think that Sibu is a good spot for a day trip with the snorkel. If you are looking for more, though, and don't mind whatever accommodations you can find on one of the bigger islands, then snorkeling in Redang and Perhentian, way up north, is much better. Of the southern islands I've visited, Tioman has better snorkeling, but gets very crowded.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Holiday Cottages

Finding perfect holiday cottages sounds like a daunting task. We all know the feeling of sitting down in front of the computer and looking at website after website, trying to judge from the information and pictures presented to us on each page which will be the best for the planned holiday. The Owners Direct website helps make the whole process a whole lot easier.

Apartments and Villas for the Self-Catered Holiday

At Owners Direct, you get to look through listings for all sorts of holiday villas and apartments. When you choose a spot where you would like to stay during your holiday, you then book it directly from the owner. To me, that's one of the greatest features of this site. They provide the listings, but you do your booking with the owner rather than through a third party that might mix up the details of your booking.

There are plenty of holiday villas and apartments in locations all over the world available for booking through Owners Direct too. You can find all sorts of accommodations, and choose the one that best suits your needs. That will help you get started on the ideal self-catered holiday. (And self-catered is always the best, I think!)

Let's look through some samples of what is available at Owners Direct.

Accommodations in Devon, England

Let's say your looking for a list of Devon cottages to choose from before starting out on your holiday. If you were to visit the listings at Owners Direct, you'd find links to special offers, new properties, accommodations suitable for bigger groups, and then links to sites separated out by the number of bedrooms. That helps you narrow down what you are looking for already. But the site offers you further alternatives in your search, if you prefer, by offering links to accommodations divided up by areas in Devon too. So, whether you want to search by size of the flat or by geographical division, it's all laid out nice and easy there.

Or maybe Scotland?

Perhaps Devon is not on the agenda for you this year, and you'd prefer to search through the cottages Scotland section of the site. The first thing you'll find there is a page divided up by region, with links to cottage size below each region's name. That's a very convenient, easy way to conduct your search. And the deals at the site can be pretty good too. In poking around over there, I've found deals on 1 bedrooms in the £300 range, and on units as big as 5 bedrooms for roughly £800. Those prices look pretty good to me. And, when you use the site, you deal directly with the owner, which is a big perk.

If you're looking for good accommodations in locations worldwide, Owners Direct is a great place to start.
And do enjoy your holiday!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Driving from Singapore to Sibu Island's ferry terminal

After getting our car in Singapore, we set off to travel to Sibu Island. Because we had some little ones with us, we decided to stay on the mainland rather than on the island. Our experience staying on Malaysia's islands has been pretty broad over the years, so we knew that getting a reliable, comfortable hotel for kids (one is below 2 years) could be a little iffy. You can get great places, but you can also be unlucky enough to get spots that don't have water or electricity for some reason or another. If you're on the mainland, you've always got the choice to drive on until you find a nice spot to stay. Taht isn't true on the islands.

So, we decided to drive to Tajung Leman and stay there, taking a boat out just for snorkeling during the day. Our drive was fairly smooth, but there were three little hiccups along the way.

The first came at customs, where we were stopped and the 4 members of our party who were carrying US passports were asked to go have their temperature taken because of the H1N1 scare. All had been in Singapore for more than a month, and one had not been in the US since 2008. But still, that was the requirement. (Never mind that one of the Singapore-passport-holders had been in the US more recently — she was exempted!) It was not a big deal, but did slow us down a little.

The second obstacle we met was a very heavy rain. Traffic was pretty slow, and the downpour was very heavy. Nothing much you can do about the weather, but it, again, put us coming in later than we had hoped.

The third thing was the most irritating of the 3. I had found road directions online, and they said that the signs from Singapore to Tanjong Leman were clearly marked. That is true, except for in one spot where the signs direct you to turn off earlier than you should. There are actually 3-4 different spots where you can turn off from the main highway and get to Tanjong Leman, and the first one (coming from Singapore) seems to take the longest. We ended up turning into a palm oil plantation and having quite a long drive (much of it in the rain). It doesn't have to be that way, as the later turnoff is really good.

Anyway, the trip from Singapore should take roughly 2 1/2 - 3 hours, and we stretched it up to around 4 because of these 3 hiccups. Not a bad trip, but a part of the journey that could have been a little smoother. We were able to make the trip home much more quickly, so it is possible.

If you head up that way from Singapore, do check out the best directions you can get. And beware of the tricky signs on the highway.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Road Trip to Malaysia — where do I get a good deal on a car?

Well, it has taken me longer to get my computer fixed than I thought it would, and so my report on my recent trip to Malaysia is somewhat overdue. All the same, here it is (if a little late). Let me start my report with where the trip started — getting a good deal on a car.

There are lots of car rental spots in both Singapore and Malaysia that can get a vehicle for you. Prices can vary, but overall, it isn't hard to find a decent deal. Getting good service can be a different story. Knowing who to trust is the key here, as good service will make the whole experience a lot more pleasant and comfortable.

I prefer Chan's Car Rental to all the other companies I've used. In fact, the competition is nowhere close. Chan's is a family business, and they obviously take pride in the family name. I have used them at various times over the years, and was very pleasantly surprised this time around when the father, Mr. Chan himself, came out to greet me by name. The business is mostly run by the two younger Mr. Chans now, his sons, and they were equally friendly and helpful, as they have been over the past 15 years of our acquaintance.

Chan's offers good prices on their cars, and the vehicles are all very well maintained. For repeat customers, there is a discount available (and of course, there's the added touch of that personal greeting!). I was able to get our vehicle for 8 of us to travel in for around $300 for the 2 days that we needed it. That's a very reasonable price, and the car was very comfortable and provided a nice driving experience.

There are other car rental companies in Singapore, of course. I've had to use them from time to time when I could not get a vehicle at Chan's for some reason or another (though that doesn't happen often). From my experience, Chan's is still the best, with good vehicles, good prices, and outstanding service. If you need to rent a car, truck, or van, I can highly recommend them. For this recent trip, they've maintained the standard I've come to expect from them, earning full marks once again.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

I'm Back (I hope)

Apologies for the long break blogging here. I've had some trouble with my network. I think/hope it is resolved now, but one can never quite be sure... At any rate, if it is taken care of, I should be back to a more normal blogging schedule around here.

I've also just returned from a short snorkeling trip in Malaysia. I'll be posting the breakdown of our trip over the next week or so, so check back over the next few days for more on Sibu Island.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Electra, again

When I first started this blog, I mentioned in an early post a staging of Elektra in Singapore. I was able to attend another during the recent Singapore Arts Festival, this one by a Japanese troupe, The Suzuki Company of Toga, that included some Korean actors. It was quite a breathtaking performance.

The staging of Electra this time around was set in a mental hospital. It turned out to be an appropriate enough setting. I loved how it emphasized the wounded nature of all of the characters. Electra's own inability to speak was very thought-provoking, as was the projection of her thoughts by use of the wheelchair-bound chorus. The chorus was, in fact, one of my three favorite parts of the show, the others being the percussionist (Midori Takada) and Clymenestra. And I have to say that they really stole the show.

Clymenestra, played by Chieko Naito, first came onstage standing atop her wheelchair, as if riding a chariot. Even in her wounded state, she was proud and unbending. She was powerful, evocative, and sometimes funny. I really found her performance moving, even though I don't understand Japanese at all.

The choreography of the piece was amazing, and it was the percussion that really tied it all together. There was a good blend of the sort of frenzy that Electra played almost without stopping, and a quieter, more subtle force. It was amazing to watch the performance.

It seems that Electra can't miss with me. And I especially love these sorts of adaptations that take the play in creative directions. I will be looking forward to the next time it is staged in Singapore. And, for that matter, won't want to miss anything the Suzuki Company brings our way either.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

The Farnsworth Invention

It's another preview night at the Alley Theater!

Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention will run June 10 - 28, and it previews tonight on the Hubbard Stage. David Cromer is directing the tale of the invention of television with Sorkin's ambitious new play.

It is a David and Goliath type tale, and it looks like it should be loads of fun, and perhaps even challenging. Do get your tickets now, and get set to enjoy the show at the Alley Theater!

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Flute Festival

Make your plans to attend the Flute Festival in Singapore. It runs from June 11-14, with events held at the YMS Auditorium.

Events will include
1.Flute competition - 1st Flute competition in Southeast Asia.
2. Concert - Come hear and be captured by these fascinating performances for flute and harp, flute and piano, flute quartet and ensemble.
3.Masterclasses - Be taught by the master flutist on flute technique and interpretation skill.
4.Workshops - Band masters will bring insights into band dectionals and foundations technique.
5.Exhibitions - Free testing of flute from Altus, Azumi, Evida and accessories.

Tickets run from $10 to $150. Get yours today!

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Wessex Tehatre's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at DBS Arts Centre in Singapore last week was a lot of fun. Bottom and the mechanicals were hilarious, and really stole the show. That was probably the best part of this staging of the show, getting continual laughs out of the audience.

Other than the mechanicals, I didn't think the performance overall was very creative. It was a rehashing of various versions of the play's performance that I've seen here and there. But still, A Midsummer Night's Dream usually goes over quite well with audiences, and this staging was no exception.

I've been enjoying the recent shows at the DBS Arts Centre, and am looking forward to what is up next — Caryl Churchill's Top Girls.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009


I promised in an earlier post to give some feedback after seeing TNT do Romeo and Juliet in Singapore. I have to say that the show in Shanghai was actually a little better than the same performance in Singapore. I actually had better seats at the Singapore show, though that was wasted because we ended up sitting behind a group of students who were somewhat noisy throughout the show. But what I thought was the bigger difference was the absence of a very moving scene between Cupid and Juliet. In Shanghai, the interaction between Cupid and Juliet as she delivered her soliloquy was very beautiful. Cupid was not included in the same scene in Singapore, and it really diminished the overall show. (I am sure, though, that if I had not already seen it in Shanghai, I would not have felt anything missing at all.)

Anyway, TNT's standard is always good, and I am always happy to see whatever show they put on, in any locale! It was fun getting to watch the two performances of the same show and get a feel for how differently it was played out in the different locations.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

You Tiao in Hong Kong

You tiao is always a favorite, so it was lots of fun to watch it being made at this great little dim sum shop in Hong Kong!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Proof at DBS Arts Centre

I've seen the movie Proof with Gweneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, and thought it not bad. I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the staged version at DBS Arts Centre in Singapore much more when I saw it last week. The acting was very good, and the story was very well played out.

Overall, Proof is a very enjoyable play, though the end is something of a letdown. Still, David Ashburn's script coaxed a lot of laughs out of the Singapore audience. It was a lot of fun to be there and enjoy the performance.

There are a lot of great shows coming up at DBS Arts Centre over the next few weeks too. I've got plans to see A Midsummer Night's Dream and Top Girls before the end of this month. Top Girls is one of those plays I've never gotten to see onstage, and have always wanted to see how it plays out. I am really looking forward to that.

There are some really great lines in Proof, and the delivery at this performance was mostly spot-on. It bodes well for the next few shows I'm planning to see there as well. May is really a good month for theatre in Singapore!

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is a site with a rich history, and it still houses lots of excellent activities and facilities today. It is easy for those of us living in Singapore to forget how great a building the Raffles Hotel. I know that for me, I have only recently been reminded when I was showing off the hotel for a friend on a temporary stay in Singapore. Here are some of the great things at the Raffles Hotel:

1. Jubilee Hall is a Victorian-style theatre that commemorates the old Jubilee Theatre that stood on the site before the hotel was renovated into its present state. The facilities are excellent (I know from having helped put on an event there), and the atmosphere in the theatre really brings a past era back to life. I recently saw TNT Britain's staging of Romeo and Juliet there, and was reminded of just how great a place Jubilee Hall is.

2. The Long Bar is the site where the Singapore Sling was created way back in 1915. The Long Bar still looks like an old club from colonial days. It is fun to stop in and have a look at this place where so many famous people have sat and done their meeting, socializing, and perhaps even writing. And of course, the site where the last tiger in Singapore was captured is something everyone should see!

3. The illustrious guest list.... it really is amazing! Writers such as Noel Coward, Joseph Conrad, and Somerset Maugham have long been associated with the Raffles Hotel.

4. And of course, there are lots of nice places to eat and shop in the Raffles Hotel. The ice cream from the Raffles Creamery (under management of Seah Street Deli) is really good, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable for ice cream of that quality.

It is easy to forget how great the things you see day in and day out are. I don't know how many times I've walked past, or even right through, Raffles Hotel without giving a second thought to it. It is kind of fun to get to show it to a friend and see it with her fresh eyes. It helps me to appreciate it all over again.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heading South

I guess I am an odd sort of peregrine creature, heading south for the summer months and spending the colder winter months in colder climates than I actually like. Well, so goes life for me. (Perhaps I don't have very good instincts.)

I'll be heading south this week, back to my equatorial home. I'll spend most of the summer in Singapore. I've got lots of friends coming in for the summer (some having arrived before me!), and am looking forward to lots of great activities. I've already got tickets for a good number of shows, so you can be sure that you'll see lots of reviews of those things here.

I do hope to do some traveling with my friends this summer too. Malaysia is our most likely destination, but a few of us have kicked around the idea of Vietnam too. I might also be meeting some family members during the late months of summer somewhere. We'll see how that all shapes up as it draws nearer.

We're also still making our plans for the mini-triathlon in July. With all these things on the schedule, it's promising to be a busy (and fun!) summer. If you don't see me around here for a couple of days, it's just because I'm in the midst of travels and getting settled back in. But I won't be gone for long (and hope not to miss any time at all, really).

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Rock 'n' Roll

It's time for Tom Stoppard at the Alley Theater!

Tonight's preview of Rock 'n' Roll at the Alley Theater in Houston should be lots of fun! (Isn't Stoppard always fun?)

The show will be directed by Gregory Boyd, and held at the Neuhaus Stage. It will run Apr 29 - May 24.

It is a London Critic's Circle choice for Best New Play, and it looks like a lot of fun! It is an expansive tale, spanning 3 generations and two countries.

Don't miss the show if you have the chance to see it. It should be a grand time at the theatre.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Paper

I got to attend a really nice amateur performance this past Saturday (and plan to do a follow up visit this weekend). I'm translating the title (《谈纸》) as "On Paper," though I don't know if someone has given it a better title.

The piece was remarkably meaningful, and a very pleasant surprise for the setting in which I viewed it — a performance geared more for the "grassroots" on a Saturday afternoon, rather than in some highbrow arts center. It was very profound, and performed very well too.

You can read a more detailed set of reflections over at my Tai Shan blog.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Xin Fu 131

Xin Fu 131 is one of the hotspots in the Shanghai dining scene at the moment. It is "hot" in two ways, actually. First, everyone is talking about it. Everyone is going to try it out. And everyone is loving it.

But it is also "hot" in that the food is pretty spicy. You can get good Sichuan cuisine there, and it is quite authentic. And hot. And really, really good.

Two of my favorite dishes so far were probably the bullfrog and the shrimp. They are both especially spicy, and quite tasty. Nearly everyone I've eaten with says the same. My #1 favorite, though, is probably the BBQ fish. The chili gets down into the bones, and when you chew on them for a while, it is really hot.

Xin Fu 131 is located at 237 Wan Ping Lu, across from Xu Jia Hui Park.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TNT's Romeo and Juliet

I was at TNT's opening night performance of Romeo & Juliet last night in Shanghai. It was a typical TNT performance, which is to say... fantastic stuff! I really love watching this troupe perform. They do outstanding work all of the time.

I'll be viewing this same show again in Singapore when I return there at the end of the month. I don't think I've done this before, attending the same play in two different cities within a very short time span. I am looking forward to it, as I think the audience reaction will be quite different in Singapore than it was last night here in Shanghai. I am planning to make some observations on that aspect and see if it bears out.

I am excited about seeing the performance in Jubilee Hall in Singapore. It's a place I'm quite familiar with, having been involved with a staging there some years back. I couldn't help last night, at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, but notice some things that I think will be quite different at Jubilee Hall.
Anyway... we shall see! I'll have an update after the next show.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fellini Gallery

An acquaintance at the weekly Open Mic session told me about the Fellini Gallery in Shanghai, at 339 Changle Lu. It happens to be around the corner from the Friend's Cafe, where we hold the Open Mic, and since I was a little early, I dropped in at Fellini to have a look.

The exhibition on display now through the 17th is Feng Fangyu's photo collection entitled May Rain. It is an excellent mix of traditional Chinese dress and setting, using flames in each photo. I was very impressed with the whole collection. In addition, there were more paintings and several unique installments by various artists upstairs.

The gallery looks deceptively small on the outside, but has a fair bit of space inside for displaying a wide range of work. I am far from an informed critic, but I really liked the work displayed there.

If you get a chance, do pop in to visit. And, there is a new exhibit scheduled next week.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

And it just keeps getting better....

I was very thrilled, as I said in my previous post, to find a seller of secondhand English books. I was talking to a friend about this find, and she mentioned that there is another shop that sells cheap secondhand English books, this one in Puxi. (And I have a direct bus from home too!!)

I popped in yesterday afternoon, and found a fairly good selection of English books. Interestingly, the shop carries secondhand books in a great variety of languages. That was quite impressive to see. I picked up about 10 titles for under 150RMB. (And it would have been a fair bit cheaper if I had left out the textbook, which was the costliest of the lot.)

The shop has been around for a long time, though there was apparently one stretch of time in which it was closed down. (That's why no one had mentioned it to me before — they thought it was closed permanently.) It is located at 36 Shanxi Lu, just near Fuzhou Lu. If you are much of a bibliophile, plan to while away a good bit of time there.


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Sunday, April 05, 2009

What a Find!

I came across something here in Shanghai that makes me really happy — a bookstore for second-hand English books!! I think I am in heaven!

I went to the new shop the other day, only to find they had not yet finished moving in. They expect to be done by the end of this week — and of course, I'll make another visit then.

There were a good number of books there, even though they were still in the process of moving. They let me browse about, digging through the boxes and stacks of books lining the floors. I found about 10 volumes that I bought and brought home, all for less than 200RMB. Not a terrible price, even if it is not quite like what I could get in my hometown in the US at the library book sale. Still, it is the best price your going to find in Shanghai on English books at a shop that has such a wide selection.

There are lots of kids' books, as well as books for adults. If you stop by the shop, you'll probably want to look around the shopping center too, and maybe have a nice meal there before heading home. There are plenty of options, including both Western and Chinese fare.

No.199 fangdian rd,new pudong district,shanghai.
(Da Mu Zhi Square second floor room 216)

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Singapore Skyline

Singapore's skyline has grown prettier over the years that I lived there, especially down near the marina. When I first moved to Singapore 16 years ago, there was only one little shopping mall down in the area, Marina Square. Some years later, Suntec City grew up, and made the area much brighter. Now the marina's skyline is dominated by the Singapore Flyer.

A couple of months ago (during Chinese New Year), we stopped in at the Marina Barrage late one night, and I took these shots back across of the skyline. It was a very pretty sight.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Long Spring

It seems like this has been a long spring. That mostly stems, I guess, from the extended Spring Training we've seen in Major League Baseball this year as a result of the World Baseball Classic. With a 6-week-long Spring Training, instead of the usual 4 weeks, it has really stretched out the wait for Opening Day. While it is good to have live baseball, it is also not the same, what with the less competitive atmosphere you'll see in Florida and Arizona during this time. None of this has been made more bearable for me, when you consider the Astros (my team) have had such a poor showing during the exhibition season.

But the meaningless games come to an end soon. In a matter of days, all the teams start again, in a 30-way tie for first place. The games played each day will be waited with significance, each win and each loss counting in the standings. We'll be well on our way into summer with its dog days, and before you know it, we'll all be speculating about October baseball.

I'll be glad that next year's Spring Training isn't of the extended variety. For now, I am just looking forward to Opening Day later this week.

Play Ball!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

On Her Way to Singapore

A friend of mine is leaving from here (Shanghai) today to go to Singapore, my other home, where she will be staying for several months. Her departure got me to thinking of what all I miss back home. Here's the things that came to mind:

• Friends (of course)

• The tropical climate

• The casual atmosphere

• Singlish being the (unofficial) national languge

• Curry

• Long distance cycling on a top-notch bike

• Running on the track, or on quiet roads, rather than in the crowded spaces I do my running here

Overall, I really love being in Shanghai, but I can't help missing these things while I am away from Singapore. I guess the thing is, I'd like Shanghai even more if I didn't have to be away from Singapore while I was here!

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Second Round

I thought I would be making a trip to another locale this month, when I needed a stamp in my passport in order to renew my visa. As it turns out, I am moving house this week and may not have the time for a more elaborate trip, like I'd like. So, it looks like it will be Hong Kong again, though this time I won't stay overnight, and I will fly directly into HK instead of going through Shenzhen.

So much for the big plans to do a little traveling. A real pity, since tickets to Seoul were fairly cheap this time! :-(

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Live Bar

A little video from The Live Bar in Shanghai, on Kunming Lu, taken on March 13. This is a great site to get to see some of China's underground music culture. While that is all much bigger in Beijing than here in Shanghai, it was still a lot of fun to see.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Running in Shanghai

I am not a very good runner, but ever since my two nephews stayed with me during their holidays and got me in the habit of running, I've tried to keep it up. While in Singapore, I usually manage to take at least some moderate enjoyment from running. In Shanghai, not so much.

The worst part of running in Shanghai is the traffic. I don't like treadmills and gyms, so do all of my running on the road. I've found some spots that work, best being using the track at my friend's school. It's some distance to travel, though, and I can't make it as often as I need to if I am going to keep up with my running.

The best I can find, then, is to use the bicycle lanes when on crowded roads, and make my way to some less congested spots. I've found a few, including the parking lot around the stadium near my house (and no, the stadium is not open for just anyone to run). That parking lot can get crowded on weekends, though, so I don't always go there.

Most days, I just end up crossing the highway just south of my house, and then starting from the other side of the intersection. I run anywhere from 2-5 miles, depending on the day, the weather, and how far I think I need to run. There are a few quiet roads, though the path to get there is rather crowded. The bicycle lanes have worked, so far, as a means to get back to the quieter roads, although you do have to be somewhat careful still.

There are several nice parks around my house, but unfortunately, none of them are very suited for running. They tend to be crowded, and there's no way to avoid bumping into people as you run on the twisting and turning paths.

For now, it looks like it will continue to be bicycle paths that link up to quieter neighborhoods. If you are a runner relocating to Shanghai, you might want to spend a few days getting used to the way traffic moves before you try this, but once you get the system figured out, it is a pretty good way to keep up with your running schedule.

Walking, on the other hand, is one of my favorite activities here, and if I can manage to find the time, I often like to take very long walks. The roads are nice, especially those lined with trees, and there are plenty of interesting things to see along the way. It is one of the best ways to get to know the city.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

House of Blues and Jazz

The House of Blues and Jazz on Fuzhou Lu at the Bund is a really swanky place. It's the sort of spot I probably would not have visited if a friend hadn't gotten a voucher for us to go there and enjoy a really nice meal FREE! I am glad we did go, because the food was really good, and the atmosphere very nice.

The voucher was pretty hefty, so we tried as many different dishes as we could hold (to be honest, it was much more than we needed, and I am surprised we could hold it all). The best was probably the King Prawns and the lobster risotto. The baby back ribs were not nearly as good as I hoped, but they were probably the only thing we tried that night that really missed for us all.

If you get a chance to go, I think you'll enjoy the food, and I know you'll love the live jazz band. It plays every night from 9:30 pm onwards.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

travel insurance — overrated?

Now this is something every traveler should consider before buying travel insurance.

An old argument, but never out of date.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

House Hunting

Interesting thing happened while helping a friend with some house hunting last week....

My friends, and American couple, needed some help with translating while they were looking for a flat last week. We looked at about 5 places for them that afternoon. While we were on our way up to the 18th floor to view the final one scheduled for the day, we bumped into a lady in the lift who said she wanted to rent out her flat. I asked her a few questions about it — much smaller than what my friends wanted, but just right for me. I asked more questions, and found out that it is newly renovated, in an ideal location for me, bigger than where I live now, and infinitely nicer. AND, the exact same price. I expressed some interest. She said she could wait for us downstairs in 10-15 minutes, when we finished viewing the flat we were scheduled to see then for my friend.

We went to see it, and it is even better than she described. Perfect, in fact. And so, I've got a new place lined up, starting next month. All without any house hunting at all. At least, not hunting for one for myself. Can't get any better than that!

I'll put some photos up when I move in next month.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

making good

I recently wrote about C-Trip's good service. I've traveled with them a fair bit in the past year, and had only good experiences. At least, up until a week or so ago.

They messed up, fairly big. It looked like I was going to lose out on about US$200 as a result of their mistake. I spent a whole day on the phone with them. (Not exaggerating.) It seemed to take forever to get us on the same page about what actually happened.

Finally, though, we got there. And, the good thing is that C-Trip was very good about owning up to their part in the mistake and making it right. They ended up issuing my tickets at a discount, and delivering it to the door. And, of course, refunding the US$200+ (that being of secondary importance to getting the tickets, but still significant!).

The process for getting both the refund and the tickets was incredibly slow and tedious. It became quite infuriating at several points. Still, at least it is done.

It is frustrating when something like this goes wrong. But seeing a big company like C-Trip work overtime to make good when they've dropped the ball was very encouraging. It was enough to make me say that C-Trip is still the place I will look to first when I want to travel, and to recommend others do the same.

Seriously, the only thing better than flawless service is the service that will make good on their word when things go wrong.

Important Word of Advice
When you use C-Trip, don't pay via PayPal. It will only cause headaches, and then the two companies will spend a lot of time pushing blame back and forth before you get your refund. You'll eventually get it, but not without some serious headaches in the process.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Something to Look Forward to...

Woo-hoo! There's something exciting going on tonight...

One of the guys from Open Mic has a gig on tonight at the Live Bar at 721 Kunming Lu. Glen is always the bright spot of the Open Mic session, and everyone really enjoys his music. If you have a chance, pop by to hear him tonight at The Live Bar. The show starts at 7:30 pm.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cats will be back!

Cats is returning to Singapore!

I am very pleased that the show will be in Singapore again April 10 - May 3, especially because I missed it last time it was here. I am looking forward to getting my tickets toward the end of this run, right after I get back from Shanghai.

Cats is a favorite with musical-lovers, and was very popular in Singapore the last time it came through. I am sure tickets will be selling out early, so it is wise to book as soon as possible.

Tickets begin at $70 ($85 for weekend shows), and run through $140 ($150 for weekends). There will be matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Performances will be held in the Esplanade Theatre.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Vedic Life

Vedic Life on Jianguo Lu (No. 5, at the intersection with Wulumuqi Lu) is one spot where you can find good Indian food in Shanghai. I haven't ventured into a lot of Indian fare here, preferring to indulge in it when I am back in Singapore, but my friend really wanted to go a couple of weeks ago, and so we did. It was much better than I expected.

The palak paneer was my favorite, though I think my friend preferred both the potato and eggplant dishes. The naan was a little too thin, but the flavor was right.

One thing to be aware of is that the portions are huge. We over-ordered by a lot. Which worked out fine for me, as my next 3 meals consisted of the leftovers!

If you get hungry for Indian cuisine in Shanghai, Vedic Life is a nice spot to look into. Be prepared, though, as it is a little pricey.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

There Goes a Couple Who Knows How to See the World

I was recently invited to do a book review of The Return of No. 44, by Bob Rogers. I really enjoyed the book, and was happy to review it.

After reading, I went to check up a little more information about the author, and WOW! What an interesting life he leads! He and his wife Claire travel all over the world on their tandem bike. They've logged lots of hours, and lots of miles, traversing many countries.

Check out their website, New Bohemians, for a look at a really exciting and meaningful lifestyle. It is really a great way to live, and to see the world.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Mosaic Music Festival

The Mosaic Music Festival will be held 13-22 March. Some events connected with the festival begin as early as the 9th, so keep an eye out. (You can see a schedule here.)

The festival opens with a George Duke concert on 13 March. Other events will include performances by Ellane Elias, Ivan Lins, Fredrico Gonzales Peña, the Brad Mehidau Trio, the Yellowjackets (with Mike Stern), the Indigo Girls, Brian McKnight, the Cinematic Orchestra, and many others. All performances are held at the Esplanade.

The event promises to be entertaining, as always. I am sure you'll find several don't-miss events on the schedule.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lots of Good Reasons...

There are lots of good reasons to make a quick trip from Shanghai to Hong Kong. I posted five of them at my other blog. I'll have a better description of the trip coming up soon, and will either post it here or link to it later. For now, you can visit the quick list at High Fidelity.

Overall, even though the trip was a quick one, it was fun. And of course, it accomplished the main purpose of getting the passport stamped.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Miller Outdoor Theatre

The season is rolling around to the time that you can catch shows for free at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston. From March through November, there are shows going on all the time, and all are free.

When I was growing up, I attended all sorts of events at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. It is located in a nice part of downtown Houston, near all of the museums and cultural centers. I saw musical shows, dramatic performances, and all sorts of live entertainment there. It really is a nice spot, especially in the early evening. There's nothing like enjoying an outdoor live performance. I always love the experience.

Check out the website for a schedule of events, and make sure to stop by if you are in downtown Houston. The events are always lots of fun!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

a typical Shanghai day

I am often asked by friends back home (either of my other two homes) what a typical day in Shanghai is like. My life is so lacking in routine that it is hard to give a rundown of what I do day in and day out, but I did manage to capture an experience typical of my life in Shanghai here.

If you want a feel for the every day here, that should do it. I think every foreigner who lives a "local" lifestyle in Shanghai would say that this experience is pretty much the norm.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Element Fresh

Element Fresh is a pretty nice blend of East meets West. The atmosphere at the Kwah branch (at the corner of Donghu Lu and Huai Hai Lu) is pretty snazzy, and you get a really big crowd there at lunchtime. We couldn't even get a table there last Friday afternoon! I've been to the Xujiahui branch as well, and it is somewhat less crowded in the middle of the day, so it might be a better bet if you want a quiet place for lunch.

The sandwiches and salads are good. I haven't eaten any of the Asian dishes there, but my friend last week said the sweet and sour duck was especially good too.

There's a pretty extensive menu, with lots of choices for both Western and Eastern taste buds.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

some good resources

I finally got myself signed up with C-trip last year, and now wish I had done so sooner. I've always seen it here and there, but had not paid much attention before. But then, last year when I went to Xiamen with my godchildren and their family, I signed up when I booked my tickets online. It turned out that we used C-trip to locate good prices on hotels several times, even getting an excellent deal on a huge suite in Xiamen when we returned, right on Zhongshan Lu.

I've come across another good resource recently for travelers in China, Sherpa. At Sherpa, you can find all sorts of good tips on places to eat in Shanghai and Suzhou. It is a good resource for scouting around and finding good food.

Of course, if your taste is much like mine, you'll find some recommendations for food here too, from time to time. But then, it is sure not to be as extensive as Sherpa's, as I haven't been to as many places as the writers there.... yet!

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