Category Archives: Travel

See China’s first HD snowboard movie (for free)

If you’re into snowboarding and live in Shanghai then here’s an event for you over the weekend.

Mellow Parks is a group of snowboarders based up north near Beijing and run the snow parks at Nanshan, Xiling, and Qiaobo. This weekend they’re headed to Shanghai to show off their first snowboard movie production called “Happy Niu Year” – a witty play on words if you’re not familiar with the word for Ox (it’s the year of the ox this year).

When: November 21, starting at 8pm
Where: The SOURCE gallery, Shanghai. 158 Xinle Road
How much: Free (and you get a free copy of the DVD) There will also be prizes at the event.

You can see the trailer for the film here and an interview with the Mellow Parks team (by me) over here.

And while I’m on the road of self-promotion there’s also another yarn about Ping Tian, the proposed “mega-resort” in Xinjiang Province and China’s answer to America’s Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, it’s been delayed for another year.

Places to eat: Xi Bei

Now that I’m leaving Shanghai in a few days it’s time to spill the beans on places we recommend to eat. First cab off the rank is Xi Bei (West North) – some of the freshest cuisine from the north-west area of China you’ll ever have.

Delicious, fresh, and cheap are the three things you only need to know about Xi Bei. With a menu as thick as a bible there’s enough dishes to keep even the less adventurous eaters happy at this place. Filled with locals who line up in busy times to get into this place (this should be a good indicator for any restaurant) it’s not often visited by white folks – or ginger folks for that matter.

One of the unique things about this restaurant is that the kitchen and preparation area is out in the open. Customers are encouraged to see how the food is being made. In the case of the photo below, dumplings made with oat.

On our visit we tasted the oat-flavoured dumplings, lamb off the bone, tofu covered in toffee (tastes better than it sounds – pictured), and a mix of vegetable dishes. Instead of raving more about the food I took some food porn pictures and video which may better give an idea of why you need to eat there.

Now I can’t find the address in English anywhere but I did get their card to print out if you don’t read Chinese.

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Shanghai Metro gets sharks, no frickin’ laser beams

There’s many restrictions when you get inside the metro system in Shanghai – no explosives, hand guns, fireworks, and you’re not even allowed to smoke. In fact, you’re not even supposed to spit.

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But sharks? Well they are more than welcome:

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It just goes to show that you don’t need to put too much gel in your hair and hang out at pretentious bars near the Bund to see Sharks in Shanghai.

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What: Sharks
Where: Jing’an Temple Metro (Underneath Haushan Lu)
How much: Free

Video: The Sichuan Taxi of Death

Last week we ran around the countryside of Sichuan to see Pandas, eat hot pots, and visit Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟. More on the logistics and good times later – let’s fast forward to the juicy part – when we almost died.

We’re already accustomed to fast and crazy taxi drivers. Give a Shanghai taxi driver 100m of traffic-less road and you’ll see just what a VW Santana can do. One particular chap has even demanded we call him “Shanghai Schumacher” before hurling down Yan’an Road at about 140km/h and weaving in and out of traffic to prove it.

But straight lines on a highway without a seat belt are one thing. Overtaking police cars and trucks on blind corners, and using the whole road to turn around tight corners with ice on them is another.

And so is this video. Yes, it’s been speed up for effect. Yes, I’m on the passenger side so as you can see we spend more time on the other half of the road. Yes, I’ve inserted a music track to drown out our prayers, repenting, and sobs of joy when we finally arrived at our hotel.

So, instead of my own snuff video, here is a view of riding down towards Jiuzhaigou – by far the most un-touched, naturally beautiful places I’ve seen in China – maybe this planet.

Update: Seems Flickr cut off the video after 1.30 minutes. The full video is now up on Vimeo – which means that people inside the great firewall probably can’t see it right now as it was recently blocked:

More photos to come.

Photos: iTool Shanghai

It’s true, I gave in and finally got a phone from the company of Jobs. Other than the 24-7 access to e-mail and procrastination there’s also a bevvy of good photo processing apps which I’ve had fun messing with.

In no particular order here is a scrapbook of recent photos.

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Where to buy glasses in Shanghai

Need new peepers? If you have your script handy there are plenty of places around town to get a stylish pair of glasses at a fraction of the cost you’d pay back home.

When I was a wee new expat I was scratching my head at some of the asking prices of glasses around the centre of town in Shanghai – it seemed like prices were almost a 3rd more expensive than back home. Considering the amount of people in Shanghai who wear glasses and relative income of locals this just didn’t make a whole lot of sense – were people spending almost half a month’s salary on a new pair of glasses?

“Of course not!”, I was soon told by my Shanghai friend more than a year ago now – and that week I was introduced to the world of cheap, cheap glasses in China.

While I’m only slightly short-sighted, keeping up appearances that I’m a nerd smart guy is important, which is probably why I’ve puchased almost 4 pairs already – all of them still in good working order.

For better or worse, here are my recommendations on where to buy glasses and some extra tips you may want to consider before forking out your hard earned RMB.

- Glasses shops which offer cheap glasses are all through the city. I visit my local shop in Jing’an where I get a good price for helping the shopkeepers son practice his English while I wait for my lenses to be put in the frames. Like most things in Shanghai, the better you know the shop keeper, the better the price.

- There are whole glasses markets around town. For foreigners the easiest one is the markets just near Shanghai Railway Station on Meiyuan Lu – it’s called 3yes Optical and located on level 5F – there are two levels of camera equipment below it which is also worth checking out. It’s full of fashionable glasses made to order but you need to bargain to get a decent price. Most shopkeepers understand English and foreigner’s poor Chinese. If you’re more adventurous there are more markets located north of town – prices are actually about the same but no English.

- It does cost more for better lenses. An 80RMB or 100RMB pair of glasses will probably include cheap lenses.

- The frames are most probably fake. Personally, I hate having brands on my glasses but I’m guessing that the D&G branded glasses and the like are probably imitations. If you have a moral objection to it then it might be worth avoiding these shops and paying 3000RMB+ for a pair of original frames.

- Get your eyes tested by a professional. I’ve never had my eyes tested here but when a friend was in town recently they did their testing and it was off slightly. It might be best to get your eyes tested by a doctor back at home or someone who is professionally qualified in China. I’m guessing the people at the markets may not be university qualified (but I’ve been wrong before).

- Don’t spend too much. Unless you’ve got some seriously complex eyes I wouldn’t be paying over 500RMB for a pair of glasses at the markets.

Feel free to add in further tips in the comments section below.

Video: The Bund’s Wonka ride

One of the most convenient, expensive, and kooky ways to travel across the Huangpu River in Shanghai is the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. I finally got around to doing this late last week armed with a regular point-and-shoot digital camera.

The results are a bit sketchy but I’ve borrowed Gene Wilder’s voiceover from the boat ride scene in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to give readers a better feel for this attraction.

What: Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Where: The Bund roughly near Nanjing Road on Puxi side
Times: 08:00 – 22:00
How Much: 30 RMB

Photos: Trip to Wuxi

Last week we went on a short jaunt to Wuxi, an industrial town with a population of a lazy 4 million people and situated just an hour north-west from Shanghai. Known for it’s peaches, gardens, enormous Buddhas, and 3 kinds of white dishes the trip didn’t disappoint.

When I get time I’d like to write up a reasonable guide to getting to and from Wuxi from Shanghai and a short list of things to do. I can safely say that the latest edition of Lonely Planet is already out of date and the descriptions were way too cynical and short to give the city the justice it deserved.

In the meantime here are some pictures:

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WuxiClick on the Image to see the full album on Flickr.

Happy National Day, China

Today is the start of a week’s holiday in China to celebrate 60 years of the People’s Republic of China and the Autumn Festival, collectively known as Golden Week. Expect fireworks. Expect parades. And expect to eat moon cakes.

For those in China, you’ll hear many people saying “Guó qìng jié kuai le” which pretty much means have a happy national holiday day. Be sure to say it back if someone says it to you. There seems to be a lot of happy faces around this week – mostly because many have the week off and get to hang out with their family and friends. People we talk to are also nationalistic and very proud of where China is in the world right now.

For us, we decided to catch the fireworks which kicked off in Century Park last night. I’ve heard there will be fireworks on the 3rd and the 6th of October as well. Tickets to get into the park are 200RMB but if you stand outside the gate of Century Park you can easily see the same view.

More from Golden week later. Happy Birthday China.

Update:To see the whole parade see the video on YouKu here. Also, here are some fantastic photos on Flickr by Shian Chen:

Update #2:Here’s a nice time-lapse of the video from the UK’s Gaurdian:

China’s 60th Anniversary national day – timelapse and slow motion – 7D and 5DmkII from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

Shanghai tip: Don’t show fear to the monkey

Ahh Friday’s. What would they be without a good monkey story?

About a month ago I was sipping, as elegantly as one can at 10pm, on a margarita at Cantina Agave on Fumin Lu (which is the best Mexican in town by the way) when a monkey came up on the bench and started begging. It’s fairly common to see people beg around western restaurants and bars in town but we were surprised by the monkey. It was the first monkey we’d seen in China, let alone Shanghai.

Unfortunately, the monkey was on a leash and was trained to beg – not far behind the monkey was a toothless character thinking we’d give him some money for his show of animal cruelty. When we said no, the monkey shot off and went to go to the next table. Instead of begging the monkey went straight for a loose handbag on the table. Luckily the woman who owned the bag was firm and shooed off the monkey like an old hand the owner disappeared fast after one of the women who worked there started chasing him down Changle Lu.

What did I do? Not spill one drop of the margarita, of course.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post: Don’t show fear to the monkey. According to a report in the London Metro we were extremely lucky the monkey in Shanghai didn’t get loco on us like one did recently in Chengdu:

A 60-year-old woman,Zhou Juchang, was pushed off a cliff by a monkey. She made the claim after winding up at the bottom of a seven-metre rockface, fracturing her hip and breaking three ribs.

Now she’s suing her travel agent, who organised her trip into China’s Chengdu Wildlife Park.

The monkey allegedly flew into a rage when the woman refused to hand over the bag of monkey food which her tour guide recommended she buy.

A spokesman for the park said the woman’s mistake was showing fear.

Anyway, if you are after Mexican in Shanghai I do highly recommend Cantina Agave. Relatively cheap Mexican food, good tequila, nice owners, and expensive jugs of margaritas. It’s located in the French Concession at 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu.