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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