Thursday, 27 December 2007

Shanghai - 10th most densely populated city in the world

According to Forbes Shanghai is the 10th most densely populated city in the world.

The others are:

1. Mumbai (Bombay), India
2. Kolkata (Calcutta), India
3. Karachi, Pakistan
4. Lagos, Nigeria
5. Shenzhen, China
6. Seoul/Incheon, South Korea
7. Taipei, Taiwan
8. Chennai, India
9. Bogata, Columbia
10. Shanghai, China

Density: 13,400 people per square kilometer
Land area: 746 square kilometers

A population of 10 million makes Shanghai the largest city in China. It's also the country's economic powerhouse, with financial, industrial, transportation and communication industries all growing. The city boasts the largest container port in the world.

11. Lima, Peru
12. Beijing, China
13. Delhi, India
14. Konsaha, Congo
15. Manila, Philippines
16. Tehran, Iran
17. Jakarta, Indonesia
18. Tianjin, China
19. Bangalore, India
20. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope your Christmas isn't as boring as mine.

We did have a nice time at the wedding last night though (unless you count the part where I felt very asthmatic after breathing in too much damn cigarette smoke). They actually give out cigarettes to guests like they give out sweets.

Friday, 21 December 2007

I hate banks

I hate banks. I hate queues. I hate queues inside banks. Don't get me wrong though. I don't hate queues because I'm inpatient. I don't mind waiting but I hate them because more often than not I want to do something that takes 2 minutes and am forced to stand behind 10 people who all decide they need 20 mins each to do their 'business'. To me that is not fair. So that's why I hate queues. It's a bit like wanting to buy 2 things at the supermarket and standing behind a queue of 3 people, each with a trolley loaded up with 50 things. Same principle, right? They have express queues in supermarkets (well not in Shanghai) why can't they have express queues in banks?! Grrr...

So it's bad enough that I have bank/queue phobia in my hometown, but when I'm in China it's 10x worse since I can't even read much.

Let me backtrack a bit. I amazed at the goodness and honesty of people here. I honestly don't feel that unsafe and feel like I'm going to be robbed or mugged. Generally speaking people are very honest, kind and friendly. Last week I ordered some water bottles to be sent as we had run out. I said I needed them ASAP as there wasn't a drop left. Usually they deliver them in the afternoon. That day I went to the Chinese doctor as I felt like I wasn't getting any better. It just so happened that they delivered the bottles to me while I was out (I didn't think they'd be that quick) and just left 3 of them outside the front door. Now, I had not paid them for this and they left them here (probably more trouble to take them back with them - they are 19 Litre bottles!) and, my neighbours/the cleaners didn't 'steal' them either. So I have a lot of faith that people here are generally 'good'.

Now, my dad decided to order me some asthma medication that his father had taken and had good results with. He thought they were sending them to me C.O.D. and that's what I thought too, except they were sent EMS (EMS seems to be really cheap domestically here.. everything is sent this way and it is super fast). Anyway, so they sent us this box of 20 packets (needed to order a large number since they normally only sell wholesale) and I hadn't paid them a cent. How weird...

The next day, the guy rang up asking me to pay him. He wasn't demanding or rude or anything. He was very friendly sounding. So obviously he had faith in me that I was going to do the right thing and not get away with getting the stuff for free... OK. So I got his bank details and said I'd pay him in the next day or two.

True to my word, two days later (yesterday) I went to his bank. Now, I had no idea where this bank was. I asked my ayi and she told me how to get there. Her instructions were very precise. She said I could catch this bus, and get off, walk across a small bridge and the bank would be right there. I followed her instructions. Crossed the road, caught the bus 6 stops, got off at the stop she told me to, found a bridge that crossed a little creek thing, and there was the bank. Too easy!

Inside, was that dreaded queue. With 20 people in front of me (yes I counted). Yikes! Luckily it seemed to be moving at a steady pace and there were even seats. That's right! A queue with seats arranged bench style so you kinda just shuffled along every few minutes. After 45 minutes it was finally my turn to be served. It seemed like a long time (and there were 3 tellers serving). The lady was rude as. She asked to see my ID. "Oh shit!," I thought. I don't have any ID on me. Only my foreign credit card. I needed my residency permit thingo or a passport. I said, "Is there any way I can do this without it?" and she said "No, you have to go home and come back." and I was like "What?! I'm not going home, coming back, and queueing up for almost an hour again. By that time you're probably gonna be closed..." and she said, "You won't have to queue up again. Just come back to me." But I really didn't want to go home. It wasn't that far, but it would take me around an hour to go there and come back. Ugh.

Finally, she said, "Oh there is a way but you have to round it up to the nearest 50 or 100." Since I had to pay 378, that meant I had to pay them 400. Luckily I had 4 100 RMB notes on me. I said, "I'm from overseas. I can't read Chinese (read: I'm hopeless). Please help me, what do I do?!" She said, "Go over to that security guard. He'll show you what to do." OK so he went outside and I followed him to an ATM where of course there was another queue. Great.

And as if this wasn't dragging on long enough, my bladder decided to speak to me. In fact, it decided to YELL at me. "I need to go to the toilet, NOW!" Great. I asked the guard if there was a toilet inside the bank or nearby and he said, "No, you'll have to go to that intersection, cross the light... What?? I'll never make it. I was busting. Geez. Great timing.

Not knowing what to do, I walked down the road, back over the bridge and came across a restaurant. Yes! Please be open.. thank God they were open (it was not lunch nor dinner time) I waltzed in and found the toilet straight away. I had visions of one of the workers yelling at me for not eating there or something so I did my business and got the heck out of there ASAP. Phew!

Went back over the bridge and back to the bank. The guard was now back inside the bank. I asked him what do I do.. He said, "Is it your turn yet?" (He didn't even know I had gone and thought I was still in that ATM queue). I said, "No.." He pushed me into the queue. There was two guys in front of me and he pushed me to the front of the queue. Weird.. but great! So I wouldn't have to wait much longer. Just my luck the woman in front of me decided to make about 5 transactions which seemed to take forever. I wasn't the only one getting impatient... the guard and the two men behind me were all wondering why she was taking forever.

While I was waiting I noticed the hood on her top. It had some funny Chinglish on it so I took a photo of it (as you do). Then, right at that moment I had this brainwave that I'd take a photo of the screen in case I stuffed up (still paranoid that I would). OK then it was finally my turn. The guard told me what to do, what buttons to press and I took a photo of each of the screens. I had to enter in the guy's bank number (19 digits!) and then his name came up. I matched it up to the one on his business card. Yep, so far so good. Then I put in the 4 100RMB notes. Then it spit out a receipt. Too easy! The guard also told me they charge a 0.5% surcharge so I actually only paid them 398, but that's OK since I only needed to pay 378.

Phew! With that done, I got the hell out of there... On the way to the bus stop I passed this cool looking homewares shop where I just went for a quick browse. This swinging chair looks like fun!

After I went home I noticed more decorations had been put up in our apartment foyer. It's looking very festive...

Not long after I arrived home the guy rang me to ask if I had paid. I told him yep and then he said he would check and ring me back. A few minutes later he rings back and says it's already in there. I'm gobsmacked. I actually did the transaction correctly and it's already in his bank so quickly!

Christmas Eve dinners in Shanghai

Since I'm in a weird mood for compiling such information, here is a list of places to have Christmas Eve dinner for those of us in Shanghai far far away from their family and with money to burn ;) ... I'll be having my own feast that night as we attend a wedding of one of my relatives.. :)

Christmas Eve

Crowne Plaza Fudan Shanghai - Cafe Mix
An extensive buffet with all the Christmas traditions including hams and turkeys. 399* RMB (* + 15% surcharge).

Crowne Plaza Fudan Shanghai - Crown Plaza Ballroom
Gala Dinner. Fun, entertainment, wonderful food and prizes! 1588*(VIP) or 1288*

Applebee's - Tianyaoqiao lu, Xujiahui
Holiday Set menu for two at 248. Enjoy steak, seafood and celebration, and the limited Christmas gift will be right here for you.

Millenium hotel - 2588 Yan'an xi lu, Hongqiao
Christmas Eve extravaganza. 988 per person. First prize - round trip to Phuket.

Barrels - 2068 Nanjing xi lu
Christmas Eve dinner show. 7pm till late. Celebrate the evening with family and friends! Enjoy our elegantly prepared 6 course meal and award winning wine and champagne. Dance the night away with our in-house live band. 1450 per person.

Las Tapas - Hongmei Lu and Hongfeng Lu Pudong
Christmas Fiesta. 298 RMB.

Radisson Shanghai (near People's Square) - Epicure on 45
6-10pm. 788*
The restaurant's team of chefs will prepare a feast of Christmas delights in a five-course Western set menu or ten-course Chinese set menu. You will be inspired by the food and Shanghai's urban panorama, with the 360 degree rotating view of the city.

New Heights
Four course dinner 450, three course lunch 375 inc. one glass of champagne. Features holiday menu that includes baked goat cheese and roast vegetable tart, traditional roast turkey with almond and prune stuffing, traditional warm Christmas pudding with butterscotch sauce and more.

for 388 RMB. Enjkoy a delightful five-course menu, featuring tortelli pasta filled with castelmagno cheese and barolo, peach and mint sorbet, duck confit with pearl barley and brocolini, and more.

Portman Ritz Carlton - Hanagatami
5:30-10:30pm. 835* RMB inc. a glass of champagne. You will be delighted by mater chef Hoshina Masanobu's ten-course menu, beginning with cherry blossom scented shark's fin, then continuing with glazed oysters in truffle oil, goose liver, Karasumi Hawaiian cigar, and sauteed Kobe beef medallions.

Hilton Hotel - Sichuan Court
6pm. 1188 RMB. If you love fiery foods, why not celebrate Christmas Eve dinner with a Sichuanese feast fit for an emperor. Choose from a variety of Sichuanese dishes such as hot and sour shark's fin soup with seafood, braised king prawn with Sichuan flavours, smoked duck wrapped in lotus leaves and more.

Shangri-La Pupdong - Grand Tower, China Hall
2688/2188 RMB. A lavish Christmas extravaganza of food and entertainment, with an exlcusive Christmas performance by Hong Kong's celebrated singer Gigi Leung.

How can you love without a heart?

For anyone studying Mandarin they probably know there is the traditional way of writing characters (complicated), and the simplified way. Having learnt both I can see the merits of both. I grew up learning the traditional way (which is what they use in Taiwan and Hong Kong) but one year we went to a different Chinese (Saturday) school, and in university they taught us simplified and pinyin.

Since all Chinese characters are derived from pictograms, the traditional characters make more 'sense', but the simplified characters are easier to write and remember (since they have fewer strokes). It is obviously easier to go from traditional to simplified, but not the other way around.

However, the problem with simplified is that a lot of the time the meaning is totally lost.

Eg in 'love' (ai) 愛 is the traditional method, and 爱 is the simplified. If you look closely they are exactly the same except there is a component missing in the middle. That is another character in itself 'heart' (xin) 心. So whoever did this 'simplifying' did a pretty bad job IMHO.

Here's another one which makes no sense whatsoever. 'behind, backwards, after' (hou)後 . The simplified way is 后. Now, first of all they look nothing alike. Second of all, 后 actually means queen. The only reason it was chosen was because it had the exact same sound (hou4). Weird, huh?!

Even though in China they have been using the simplified writing system for a few decades now, you can still sometimes see buildings and documentation with traditional characters which is why it pays to know both.

And people wonder why Mandarin is so hard to learn?!

Wikipedia article on "Debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters"

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Paris-New York-Shanghai

Shanghai has a lot of free English colour magazines that let expats know what is going on around town. I LOVE these magazines! I can't believe they are free. They are printed on good quality paper and the writing is excellent. There are reviews on everything under the sun from books to movies, theatre shows, restaurants, places to take the kids, extra-curricular activities - arts & crafts, sports, new store openings, massage parlours and spas, hotels, and more.

My favourites are City Weekly, That's Shanghai and Talk. Hint is good too but too thin. Not only do they talk about events going on in Shanghai but there is also funny news about the rest of the world, gadget reviews, stories on people who work/live here, great travel (airfare and hotel) deals to nearby cities or international destinations. There is so much to read (and look at) they keep me occupied for ages. You can get them at most foreign-orientated restaurants (eg Blue Frog, Wagas, Element Fresh, Tony Roma's and more) although not every restaurant has every mag and some come out weekly and others come out monthly. You can also buy Talk in City Shop supermarkets and That's Shanghai in the bookstore in Carrefour Gubei (for around 18 RMB each). But why would you want to buy them when you can get them for free?!

In the December issue of Talk magazine there is a page of book reviews. The review for Paris-New York-Shanghai by Hans Eijkelboom really caught my eye. I love pictorial books like this! It kinda reminds me of Colors magazine which I used to subscribe to for many years. This is what the reviewer had to say:

Though Hans Eijkelboom is, in theory, a photographer; in practice, he is more an anthropologist with a camera. Paris-New York-Shanghai presents ad project where, every day, he photographed one type of person or scene (sleeping train passengers, outdoor markets, etc). By documenting the same concepts inthe same concepts in three cities, the Dutchman presents a unique interpretation of global city life. The format both unites the cities and highlights the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances between the past, present, and (possibly) future global capitals.

I can't wait to check it out!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

P.S. I love you (Cecilia Ahern) and hot guys

A few days ago I finished reading Cecilia Ahern's novel "PS, I love you". (Cecilia is Ireland's prime minister's daughter btw and only 22!) I picked it up that day I went to Carrefour with my dad and went through it pretty quickly. I heard the movie was coming out in December and wanted to finish it before it came out. It was pretty easy to finish given I was sick and had nothing much else to do!

Cecelia Ahern's debut novel, PS, I Love You, follows the engaging, witty, and occasionally sappy reawakening of Holly, a young Irish widow who must put her life back together after she loses her husband Gerry to a brain tumor. Ahern has discovered a clever and original twist to the Moving On After Death concept made famous by novelists and screenwriters alike--Gerry has left Holly a series of letters designed to help her face the year ahead and carry on with her life. As the novel takes readers through the seasons (and through Gerry's monthly directives), we watch as Holly finds a new job, takes a holiday to Spain with her girlfriends, and sorts through her beloved husband's belongings. Accompanying Holly throughout the healing process is a cast of friends and family members who add as much to the novel's success as Holly's own tale of survival. In fact, it is these supporting character's mini-dramas that make PS, I Love You more than just another superficial tearjerker with the obligatory episode at a karaoke bar.

I really enjoyed it and had not read a novel since the "The Da Vinci Code" years ago. (actually I also read a spoof called "The Da Vinci Cod" but maybe that's not worth mentioning).

I went onto YouTube and looked at the trailer for the upcoming film and was quite disappointed.

1. The book is set in Dublin and somewhere in the storyline they go to Spain for a holiday. The movie is set in Manhattan, New York city and they go to Ireland for a holiday.

2. I could not imagine Hilary Swank playing the lead role of "Holly". I would've liked to see Jennifer Garner or maybe one of the many cute blonde actresses (I can't remember if the book mentioned if she was a blonde or brunette).

3. From the trailer I get a feeling the film leaves out the characters of Holly's siblings, which are one of the things that make the book interesting.

4. Her spouse leaves her letters, in the movie it's tape recordings!

etc etc. But the very spunky Gerard Butler plays "Gerry", the male lead and he is hot! So that's all I have to say about that.

(of course I prefer him without the beard. Ugh. I hate mustaches and beards).

For some reason I have been noticing a lot of hot guys recently. (Yes yes my husband knows, we just joke about it). On Friday when I went to Carrefour and then went back to my apartment, and got out of the taxi, a guy was standing there waiting for my taxi. I had never seen him before but he was totally hot! I was racking my brains trying to figure out which celebrity he really looked like. Then I figured out he looked like Ryan Reynolds from that sitcom "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place".

Thirdly, from The Amazing Race Asia season 2, Marc from the team Marc and Rovilson. He does not look fully Asian, he looks half or maybe that's 'cause he's Filipino (I think? I don't want to read anything about the show in case I find out too much) and I think he is totally and utterly hot! (speaking of which, the host of that show is pretty hot too!)

PS I love you trailer

Friday, 14 December 2007

Our Christmas tree

Lamp: Stranne lamp we bought at Ikea a couple of weeks ago (199 RMB).
Decorations: I bought from Carrefour today (26 RMB).
Time spent: 5 minutes.


Our Christmas Tree - Shanghai 2007 - Before


Our Christmas Tree - Shanghai 2007 - After


Hours of enjoyment: Heaps! :D


Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Amazing Race

Related post

Right now we're watching "The Amazing Race" season 12 on AXN on our good ol' satellite tv courtesy of the Philippines ;) I love this show and it's about the only show I watch on TV these days. We are also watching "The Amazing Race Asia" Season 2. I just love it! I love the travelling aspect, I love the competition side, the psychology side seeing how people interact with their partner and with the locals, etc etc. Fun fun fun!!

Right now I'm playing a bit of TAR myself. I am trying to get myself to Taiwan to see my grandparents but it's been a bit of a headache deciding the dates let alone the route!

When we were little kids there were no direct flights from Australia to Taiwan and we always had to go through Hong Kong. Similarly, although there are direct flights between Sydney and Shanghai it is easier to get flights stopping over in Hong Kong. All of our recent guests came via Hong Kong. So, obviously Hong Kong is the logical place for me to stop if I'm going to Taiwan (since you cannot fly directly between China and Taiwan).

However, my dad's ex-classmates were telling us it's quicker and easier to get to Taipei via Jeju (Cheju)-do (island) in South Korea. So I had a look into this.. The first quote I got off a travel agent quoted me this route as being more expensive than via Hong Kong, but the second one quoted me as it being cheaper. Weird.

What to do, what to do? And then, I had another thought. I could go back to Okinawa and visit there again since I loved it so much last time. I don't think the cost would differ that much. ARGH I don't know what to do?!

Here is a map so you can see my three options.


Pros: I've never been to South Korea, Jeju is apparently "The Hawaii of South Korea"!

Cons: I can't read or speak Korean! It'll be too cold to enjoy the island-ness of it all, don't know how to get around or what to do there

Hong Kong

Pros: I know my way around there, I have no problems communicating, it'll be warmer than anywhere else mentioned, I miss it funnily enough

Cons: I've been there so many times already


Pros: I've been there already and already know where I'd stay and what I'd do there, how to get around, etc

Cons: I've been there already, I can read Japanese but not speak it that well

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Silver Bells... It's Christmas time in the city

Like most of my posts this should be backdated...

On Saturday 1st December I had an awesome time with people I barely even knew. My father had arranged to meet up with his old college classmates from National Taiwan University (NTU) - the most prestigious university in Taiwan (yes I had to brag cos my dad is a brain, and I'm not half as brainy as he is :( ) anyway.. it turns out that after almost 40 years they are still in contact. Can you believe that? That is pretty cool. Not only that, a fair few of them are now living in Shanghai (but previously living in the States).

So he arranged to meet up with them and dragged Mike and I along for the ride. First we stopped at friend #1's house. They live fairly close to us, near Shanghai Zoo. We stayed and chatted for around an hour before they drove us to Pudong, all the way to Zhangjiang, what I like to call 'woop woop' and where, unfortunately, my husband's company is moving to next year :( There, we met up with another former classmate and another who was in town visiting from from San Francisco.

Then, we had lunch at the restaurant/cafe place near Zhangjiang train station called "Shanghai Legend". We went to the 'green looking one with funky big Buddha inside'. Great description huh? I don't recall the name of the place but it had Shanghainese Chinese cuisine. After that, the first friend drove us to the fabric market for my dad to pick up 2 pairs of pants he had made.

While we were there, I also picked up the jacket I had made a few weeks back (remember?) Well I won't say I am 100% happy with it but it does look good in photos, in fact, much better than it does in real life! so I can't complain.

Also while we were there, dad and I convinced hubby to get his suit made at the same place that dad got his pants at. So he ordered 2 suits in pin-striped wool fabric. One dark dark blue and one dark grey.

After that, it was still light and amazingly not that cold at all. There was no wind and it was really pleasant outside. I suggested a walk along the Bund. It was a little further than I thought but still a walkable distance. I said that I was there with the 'two most special men in my life' :)

Soon after, it got dark and the twinkling lights came on. The Bund is absolutely nothing special in the day time but come dusk it is magical. I said it looked almost like Hong Kong harbour and my dad agreed.

Unfortunately, I had left the house with my camera battery uncharged and only managed to take a handful of photos before it died on me.

Then, we crossed the road and walked all the way down Nanjing East Road (Nanjing dong lu) which was exactly the same route I had walked not long ago when hubby's friend was in town. We also stopped at exactly the same building/mall and had dinner at... Waga's.

After that we were all exhausted (it was a LONG day and we did walk a lot and it was now dark and getting cold rapidly) and decided to high tail it home. As the taxi drove around Nanjing Dong Lu, Fuzhou Lu, People's Square (Renmin Guangchang) and various others places I felt eerily like I was in a movie (as I described in an earlier post). All those twinkling lights had me mesmorised. But not just the normal every day neon lights but... the Christmas decorations were now in full force! They were everywhere and were beautiful. Especially the big ones outside hotels and department stores and malls. It was awesome. Of course I have no pics since we were zooming in a taxi driven by a crazed lunatic on drugs, and my camera battery was dead ... ;) (OK OK slight exaggeration!)

Cut to last Friday, 7th December. Feeling like death and freezing like anything. Had dinner in Grand Gateway (Element Fresh) and took a couple of quick photos all whilst freezing. We had to take the bus home (yes, slumming it - haha) because the taxi queue outside GG was massive (and not moving) and there were no available ones on the road either). So on the way I passed lots and lots of pretty lights but it was hard to take anything decent because 1) I felt like crapola 2) I was freezing* 3) I was holding a bag of groceries 4) I had no tripod and didn't want to use the flash which would be useless anyway. But all in all, not too bad. Take a look for yourself.

Xujiahui "Grand Gateway" Christmas Tree Shanghai

Xujiahui Grand Gateway Christmas Tree Shanghai

Xujiahui "Grand Gateway" Christmas Tree Shanghai

Xujiahui Grand Gateway Christmas Shanghai

Compare this...

Xujiahui Pacific Dept. Store Christmas Tree Shanghai

... to the photo I took before...

Xujiahui Pacific department store

And finally, this one I took on December 5th (from inside a taxi) of Jiuguang/City Plaza near Jing'An Temple

Jiuguang Plaza City Plaza Shanghai Christmas decorations tree

This is what it looks like lit up at night (beautiful!) This photo is taken from the very funny Shanghai blog,

* That night I was wearing 4 or was it 5 layers of clothes, 2 layers of pants, socks, 3 blankets, heater on high and I was STILL freezing. Whenever I get sick I get these horrible cold chills that run through my body that nothing can get rid of but thank God it only lasted about 24 hours.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Blog changes

You may have noticed some changes. I'm still tweaking it (but it's a bit hard to do anything that requires too much concentration as my head is still stuffy and all that HTML and Javascript... eerrghhhh) but basically now my blog:

* Is green instead of pink! I don't particularly like green, but I don't not like it either. But I felt like a change and it's a calming colour so why not. And the template is pretty snazzy too.

* I've added some RSS links to make it easier to read and subscribe to my blog. Yes yes I know I have crossed over to the 'dark side'.. sort of.

* The best one of all. I've added a search box so you can search for words and in a flash it searches my entire blog for those words. Be sure to click the second option though and not 'web' or else it'll search the entire web for your keywords. I tested it to see if it was actually good at finding the right data and it did a really good job so I'm happy :)

EQ Tests

Related post: IQ Tests

Well I said I'd do an EQ test and little did I know it'd be sooner than I thought! I think I have done them maybe once or twice before and it was such a long time ago. I had no idea how I'd score but I got excited when I saw that two of my friends on my Facebook list had added the test to their profile. I had no idea an EQ test on FB existed (and I never searched for one) so I was pretty excited to do it (even though I know it's only a bit of fun and games)...

I was actually quite shocked to see that I scored highly. (my friends scored medium). It said:

You have high emotional intelligence. You are very aware and understand almost all social situations. You are able to have deep and meaningful relationships. Your life is very social and you can get along with other social people very well.

I am shocked indeed because I have been told by those close to me (not mentioning any names hmmm) in the past that they thought I had low EQ.

The test is a bit weird as it consists of a series of pictures and you have to guess the relationship or emotions some of the characters are feeling but firstly you have to figure out who they are actually talking about! I feel it would've been easier if they just labeled the pic with names of the characters. Anyway You can find the test here.

Here is the IQ test.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) 色,戒

I remember seeing posters up for this a couple of months ago and commented to hubby that I wanted to see this. I had no idea what it was about but since it was directed by Ang Lee I wanted to see it.

I'm a big fan of his work having seen most of his prior films. It's funny because my father is so boring and doesns't appreciate anything to do with arts and entertainment by loves Ang Lee films (because he is Taiwanese and he supports anyone Taiwanese!) He took my sister and I to see "Eat Drink Man Woman" in Sydney many many years ago and ever since then I've been following his work. "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" (wo hu cang long) 臥虎藏龍/卧虎藏龙 was and still is one of my all-time favourite movies and I almost cried when I heard it won best foreign language film in 2001 at the Oscars. I also loved loved loved Tan Dun's musical talents in the film and saw him perform at the Sydney Opera House. (Coincidently, while I was there with hubby (then boyfriend) I bumped into my stepmum and we each had no idea we were both going to see it on exactly the same night. And knowing how many people the Opera House seats, it would've been a slim chance we bumped into each other too...)

Anyway back to "Lust Caution" I still haven't seen it yet, even though my local DVD store already sells it. The store owner told me the uncut version (from Hong Kong or the US) is not currently available but will be out later. The reason I haven't seen it yet is because my father told me that in China they cut out a part of the film. My first reaction was that they cut it because of political tensions/historical issues between China and Taiwan (I have no idea about the storyline remember?) but no, he said it was cut because it was too 'sexy'. Uh huh. OK. Great...

So I went searching on Google just now about some info on this...

China does not have a classification system and predictably enough, "Lust, Caution" has prompted a major row over what is suitable viewing and how to control access to movies with adult content.

And this - a bizarre, weird, news story about a Beijing PhD student suing and seeking apologies for the trauma caused by watching the film without the censored part. Haha!

...Dong Yanbin, a Ph.D student at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, had filed a suit against the nation's film censor, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT), for infringing upon his "consumer rights," the Beijing Times said.

"I felt greatly disappointed after seeing the movie," the paper quoted Dong as saying.

"Compared to Eileen Chang's original, the incomplete structure of 'Lust, Caution' and fragmented portrayal of the female lead's psyche makes it hard for the audience to appreciate the movie's art," Dong said.

Dong was seeking apologies and 500 yuan ($67) in "psychological damages" from both SARFT and UME, the cinema chain showing the movie, the paper said.

The court had yet to accept the case, it added.

UME had violated the audience's "fair trade rights," while SARFT had infringed upon "society's public interest" by failing to implement a rating system that would allow adults to see the film, it quoted Dong as saying.

"Lust, Caution" is open to children and adults alike in China, where academics and film-goers have been calling on authorities to implement a rating system for several years.

Despite the cuts, the movie has proved popular in China, reaping 90 million yuan ($12 million) in its first two weeks and being tipped by some to be the year's biggest box office success.

But some filmgoers in the southern province of Guangdong have opted to cross the border into Hong Kong to watch the full, uncut version, local media have reported.

Still, he has a point. China really has a hide censoring the internet as it is, and film as well. ARGH - it cheeses me off!

"Lust Caution" just won 7 awards in the 44th annual Golden Horse film awards in Taiwan.

The list of winners at the 44th Golden Horse Awards was announced Saturday in Taipei.

"Lust, Caution" won the Best Film award, as well as Best director, Best Actor and four other awards. Following is the list of the awards:

Best film: "Lust, Caution"

Best director: Ang Lee, "Lust, Caution"

Best actor: Tony Leung Chiu-wai, "Lust, Caution"

Best screenplay adaptation: James Schamus, Wang Hui-ling, "Lust, Caution"

Best film score: Alexandre Desplat, "Lust, Caution"

Best makeup and costume design: Pan Lai, Olympic Lau, "Lust, Caution"

Outstanding filmmaker of the year in Taiwan: Ang Lee

Best new performer: Tang Wei, "Lust, Caution"

Yay for Ang Lee! I can't wait to see the film in its entirety Thanks! :)

PS just found this on imdb. I generally try to avoid reading too much about tv shows or movies (that I haven't seen yet) on the 'net because I always inadvertently find spoilers...but... Woah that sux. I didn't know that every single person working on the film had to be 'foreign'? What is foreign anyway? (Would I be considered foreign?) That's kinda crap...

‘Lust, Caution’ was submitted as Taiwan's entry to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008), but it was rejected on 17 October 2007 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences because many of the film's personnel were not Taiwanese. Taiwan substituted ‘Lust, Caution’ with Huai-en Chen's Lian xi qu (2006).

Australia's economy is "Made in China"

Interesting article

If you have been into your local shopping mall and wondered why the prices of some goods like electronics and basic clothing are going down, while the prices of other things like haircuts and restaurant meals are going up, then you have noticed something fundamental about our economy. Australia is not one, but two economies. And they are dangerously misaligned.

If you walk into JB Hi-Fi or Just Jeans you are standing in the heart of the "traded" economy. This encompasses all the goods, such as clothes, toys and electronics, that can be shipped across national borders. Inflation in this part of the economy is very low. To find out why, just check the label on any of the products in these stores and read the words "Made in China". More than 80 per cent of Australia's clothing imports and 30 per cent of our electrical goods come from China and prices have been falling every year by as much as 2-3 per cent.

If you walk over to have your hair cut, buy yourself some lunch, or drop your kids off at child care you have moved into the "non-traded" economy. These are the goods, and primarily services, which cannot be shipped across borders and so must be provided by Australians. Inflation on many of the goods in this economy is running much higher at 4-5 per cent......

If you want to thank someone for your low interest rates in the past decade, thank China......

Second, Chinese wages are soaring as the supply of new labour to its factories begins to dry up. Population controls, increasing educational levels, and a slowdown in rural to urban migration have restricted the supply of new low-skill labourers to Chinese factories. As a result, wages of urban workers have risen more than 15 per cent in the first half of this year. China has the beginnings of its own skills shortage.

Third, China's government is starting to push up export prices. In June this year, Chinese bureaucrats slashed export subsidies. In 2005 the currency was partially floated leading to an appreciation of more than 10 per cent, which made exports more expensive for foreigners.

All this is bad news for Australian inflation and interest rates......

The roots of Australia's present problem stem from the mining boom that has made Australians much richer over the past decade, but also produced unintended side effects. Cashed up Australians have been using their new wealth to shop for more goods. Greater demand for imports has pushed up our trade imbalance while greater demand for domestic goods has created inflation. In a perfect economy, increased demand for domestic goods and services should be a good thing, which stimulates our economy to produce more. But after years of ignoring capacity constraints and skills shortages, the Australian economy is approaching its maximum production capacity. As a consequence, growing demand is just pushing prices up and creating an inflation headache for the Reserve Bank.


My thoughts?

Yes it kinda sux that everything is made in China now, not only in Australia but many other countries as well. And if they are not made in China they are made in India, Pakistan, Indonesia or some other 'poor' country. When I want to buy gifts for people overseas it is so hard to find something that is useful, nice, decent, and "made in Australia" but doesn't cost the earth. When I was a kid in the 1980s nearly everything was made on home soil. Why I say it 'sux' is because although it's cheap to produce it's still not that cheap to buy in many instances, particularly brand name goods/clothes.

However, I guess it's good for China's progress and economy but will it just end up like Taiwan and Hong Kong? I also remember as a kid that many things were made in these two 'countries' but now that they have prospered and wages have been raised and standards of living it is no longer that cheap to produce goods there. So will we get to the stage where labour is not that cheap in China and therefore prices of goods will not be that low? What will happen then?

As for the prices of restaurant meals, haircuts and any sort of labour? Yes it's a joke! Australia is not that cheap for these things and it probably only appears cheap to Americans and Europeans due to the exchange rate. UGH. The prices of those things really depress me and really makes living in Shanghai so much more bearable when those things are dirt cheap here. Incidenty, my hubby loves the hairdresser across the road from our apartment and he pays just 10 RMB ! (that's $1.50 Australian).

Re the economy, I guess the bubble had to burst at some point. It is depressing to think of rising interest rates when houses are already so unaffordable (esp. in Sydney). UGH!

I figured out how to comment on Blogspot blogs!

OK it's taken me this long to figure out how to comment without using a proxy (which doesn't work) or Tor or some such.

* Firstly you view the blog's URL through

* Then you click on the time at the bottom of a post, that brings up the comments if it's not already loaded.

* Then you click on "Post a Comment".

* Then it'll start loading a new URL.

* While that is loading, quickly highlight the address bar and delete the anonymouse part so the URL should be something like ""

*Then add your comment. Voila!

"Shanghai Kiss"

Ahhh maybe there is a good side to being sick afterall ;) I get to lie on the couch like a sloth and watch DVDs and have my husband make me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Enjoy it while it lasts I say!!

Despite our ever growing collection of bootleg DVDs we actually don't watch them that often. Anyway, we just finished watching "Shanghai Kiss" and was pleasantly surprised. From the cover I thought it was a cheesy teen movie something akin to Hilary Duff's "Lizzie Maguire".

On the cover was Hayden Panettiere who most people know as the beautiful young blonde girl in "Heroes." I didn't even know who the other actors were in it. I didn't read the blurb on the back of the cover either so I had no preconceived idea of what the heck the film was about.

Without giving too much away I was quite surprised. First of all, the majority of it takes place in L.A., not Shanghai. There is a part that takes place in Shanghai where the protagonist (Ken Leung) is looking out the window and seeing all the dazzling neon lights. I've had a few experiences like that myself. I've found myself looking out the window of a taxi and being amazed and wowed at the beauty that Shanghai has to offer, and imaging myself in a film. There is a similar kind of scene in "Lizzie Maguire" too and many other films. Of course they only portray the beauty of the city and not the ugly side to it. They even managed to make poverty look 'nice' in this film.

I found the first scene particularly comical and easy to relate to. I guess I can say what it's about since it's literally the first scene of the film. The main character, "Liam" is auditioning for a part in a tv commercial. As any Asian actor/ess will tell you, it is particularly hard to get any kind of role when you are in a Western country. I think that the States is actually pretty good and Australia is about 20 years behind, heck probably 50. When was the last time you heard of a famous Australian actor/ess who was Asian? Let's see - there is Nicole Kidman (born in the USA), Naomi Watts (born in England), Mel Gibson (born in USA), Russell Crowe (born in New Zealand). All caucasian and all funnily enough not even "Australian"! ... However there are lots of American Asian actor/esses..

On imdb the director, David Ren, says this:

Shanghai Kiss is an autobiographical story and a film that is very personal to me. Some of you have commented on the lack of Asian male leads in American films that are not in the action/martial arts genre. This is especially true for love stories. This is because Hollywood doesn't think America is ready to accept an Asian male as a romantic lead.

There isn't a great deal I can say about the movie without giving too much of the plot away (I really hate people who have to give away spoilers - knowingly or unknowingly - so I won't do it either). However I will say that it explores what it's like to an Asian/Chinese person growing up in a Western country, finding your roots, facing judgements and criticism about 'who' you are, parents/family, love, life, relationships...

Some on imdb have likened it to "Lost in Translation" which I liked but funnily can't remember much of. I think I preferred this film better though. Especially knowing what a small budget they had.

One thing I didn't like about the film was casting Kelly Hu in one of the lead roles. For one thing she's not even Chinese!! She is mixed-race and I doubt she can even speak Mandarin with a convincing accent (which is why she doesn't speak it in the movie except maybe a word or two here or there). I admit I didn't know who she was but knew that she wasn't fully Chinese and that she was reasonably famous. I didn't even think her acting was that good so she was a big disappointment for me.

I thought that Ken and Hayden were both wonderful and played their parts very believably and had a weird chemistry too. I can't believe Ken is 37 and played a 28 year old in the film.

I particularly enjoyed the Shanghai scenes because I was like "I know where that is!" for most of them. I even recognised the Jinjiang amusement park even though I've never been there (but read about it and seen pics of it). I've not felt that excited since the movie "Looking for Alibrandi" came out. That's one of my favourite films and set in Sydney. I think I could pick just about every location used in that film. Someone on imdb commented on why in "Shanghai Kiss" does he go from Pudong, to Puxi and then back to Pudong and of course we all know that geographical realism does not exist in films!!

In one of my husband and I's family films "Before Sunrise"/"Before Sunset" we actually found where the filming locations were and went to seek them out when we went to Vienna/Paris. It's hilarious when you think about how the heck they could've gotten from A to B to C to D... in such a short space of time and why they kept backtracking and criss-crossing all over the city!

Lastly, there was the issue of a large age gap in a relationship. I have to admit I try to keep an open mind for others but 1)I could never do it myself and 2)When it's over 10 years I start to feel it's getting a bit weird and when it's 20 years different well that's just freaky because it's a whole new 'generation'. However, this movie gave me insight on what it's actually like to feel love for someone who is so much younger/older than you are...

Anyway this is not a movie review as such other to say I really enjoyed the film. Go and see if it you can! (after reading the spiel by the director I kinda feel guilty about having an 'illegal' copy now :( ) There were some particularly comical parts and some weird parts which we both found very amusing. I just wanted to get out a mish mash of thoughts which probably don't make sense to anyone other than myself! Well my excuse is that I feel exhausted, my chest is congested, my head is dizzy and stuffy, I'm constantly hungry, I'm cold, I'm hot.. argh!

P.S. This scene which takes place in a laundromat is one of my faves. If you watch it it doesn't really give away too much either. (basically what you read in the 'blurb' anyway).

and here is the trailer

Friday, 7 December 2007

Sick :(

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Just yesterday I was marveling at how long it'd been since I was last sick.. June, July? Not long after I first arrived in Shanghai I got sick 2 or 3 times in rapid succession. Now, I had survived all these months not getting sick, including not catching it off hubby when he was sick in Japan and now.. ARRGGHH!! I HATE BEING SICK!! It takes me an absolute minimum one week to feel normal again, usually two, and sometimes longer. It also sux cos I'm asthmatic. Jeepers, I'm pissed off. This darn cold weather aint helping things either. I either freeze in the apartment or have the heater on and it feels so stuffy and start to feel headachey from having no air in here. I am also annoyed cos hubby and I planned to have a nice romantic dinner in a restaurant which we really haven't done (with just the two of us) since... gosh... September? Hmm... hopefully I'll still be up for it tonight but right now my throat is absolutely burning and my face feels hot but my body feels cold (despite wearing 5 layers). DARN DIDDLY ARN DARN CRAP! (as Ned Flanders would say).

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Mandarin and Spanish

Well it's been almost a month since hubby started his Mandarin lessons and I'm astounded by the progress he's made. I said that in a few months time he'll probably be better than me! (and no, I'm not joking). My main problem is just learning new vocab, words I never used growing up but need to know now for my adult life. So while he is having his lessons I am secretly eavesdropping hoping to learn a thing or two ;) :)

Meanwhile, I realised I have fallen off my Spanish learning wagon and need to get back into it. For those who are learning it I really recommend Coffee Break Spanish. My friend was using it and I decided to try it too. For something that is free it's pretty good! They are podcast lessons. The only thing is if English is not your first language it may be a bit hard due to the hosts' Scottish accent and also they teach the Spanish Spanish, which is a little different to South American Spanish (which I was used to and found easier). But anyway, like I said, it's awesome for something that's free!

I just did a quick search about language learning blogs (to add to my Bloglines of course ;) ) and there are soooo many blogs written by people currently learning a 2nd, 3rd language. It's great to see so many people embracing learning another language because we all know how hard it can be the older you get and the excuses people come up with: "I am not good with languages", "I'm too old", "I won't ever get a chance to use it", "I don't need it" etc etc. Bah humbug! Languages are one of the most useful things to learn. So you can play tennis or piano - so what? They are great skills to have but not nearly as useful as another language. Not that I'm brilliant with languages myself. I struggle just like everyone else and I admit I procrastinate, forget, become lazy, etc etc. But I think it's one of those things you don't realise how rewarding it is until you have accomplished it and understand those around you. To me you don't even need to be fluent enough to write an essay or to pass IELTS, or HSK or whatever. As long you can have a decent adult conversation and read books, magazines and newspapers, the web (even if you don't know every single word) I think that is a big accomplishment.

I mean, when someone whose second language is English speaks English to me, I can immediately pick out their faults in their grammar, pronunciation or whatnot but really, it doesn't matter because I think to myself, geez, their English is still a heck of a lot better than my German/French/Italian/Spanish/Japanese or whatever!!

It's funny though. I find myself noticing people's mistakes and the same ones are made a lot of the time. Some mistakes I notice friends and family members making are:

* "There have" instead of "There are/is" or "There were/was" because in Chinese it's 有 (you).. it sounds strange in English but if I translate it back to Mandarin in my head it makes total sense.

* "A.M. 11:00" instead of "11:00 A.M." My stepmum writes me notes (when I used to live at home) and she would always put the AM or PM before the time. I pointed this out to her, and to my dad, but she just keeps doing it. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

* Plurals where there shouldn't be any. eg Softwares, furnitures, jewelleries (jewelries),.. These words don't have s's on the end! (not that I know of anyway).

Anyway, I just found this blog commenting on this article about Mandarin being a 'fad'.

"...In a few decades China may indeed overtake America as the world's top economic power. Will Britons who make the effort to learn its language be rewarded with better careers? Barring some kind of sea change in global language learning, the answer will almost always be no.

With its tones and horribly complicated writing system, Mandarin is much harder to learn than most European languages. The Foreign Office, for example, gives its officers four times as long to get from beginner to operational level in Mandarin as it does in Italian, French or Spanish—and only those with the greatest aptitude for languages are selected for it. The vast majority of Westerners who travel to China to study Mandarin give up, go home and forget what they have learned. Undergraduates at British universities find it hard to adjust to a workload heavier than that for other subjects, and many drop out...."

Someone on the blog commented:

I do think a lot of the current craze around Mandarin is similar to that which surrounded Japanese during the 1980s, where Japanese was considered ‘the’ language to learn due to Japan’s booming economy and their increasing presence in foreign markets.

I can definitely relate to this as this was one of the reason's I learnt Japanese (well it was the 1990s but still...) and it's funny how this focus has shifted onto learning Mandarin. I don't regret learning Japanese for a second. I still shocked myself that when I went there recently I could actually understand a lot of what people were saying, despite not attaining a very high level (only crappy high school level) and not using it for 12 years. I really wonder if Mandarin is a 'fad' and in 10 or so years it'll be another language we are told we 'must' learn?

I do have a lot of respect and admiration for anyone who can master Mandarin, especially someone with no prior knowledge of any language apart from their mother tongue. It really is a very hard language to learn but in saying that, I think the reading/writing is a lot easier than Japanese and the grammar is easier than English!

When I go to coffee shops and cafes here I often see 'foreigners' with laptops and a whole stack of text books studying Mandarin. Not just any beginner type of Mandarin but bl00dy hard HSK level type stuff and I think to myself - How the heck did they get that far? Wow, I'm really impressed, amazed, jealous even.

On another topic, hubby and had a debate about which was easier to learn out of Mandarin and Japanese. On that same blog is an interesting discussion. Another thing about Japanese though is that if you learn Katakana (48 characters) and you know English you can read a lot of the signs because they are just English words written in Japanese characters (and read funnily).

Actually I have a funny story to tell. I love reading Katakana and I find that reading it regularly (on food packets for example) helps me remember it and never forget it. Anyway, many years ago I was at home with my sister watching "The Simpsons" on TV (or 'terebi') and it was the "Mr Sparkle" episode (one of my favourites!) When I saw the packet (written in Katakana) I put on my big sister all-knowing show-off voice and said, "Hey I can read that!... Mi-su-taa Su-paa-ku-ru... Mister Super Cool!" But it turns out it was actually "Mister Sparkle" and I felt a bit stupid so sometimes you can 'translate' Katakana incorrectly but most of the time it is pretty easy. :)

OK, back to studying for me...

Shanghai Disneyland

OK so according to this article building of Disneyland won't commence till AFTER the Expo in 2010.

SHANGHAI, China (AP) — Shanghai is awaiting approval of mainland China's first Disneyland, and the theme park could be built on an island in the Yangtze River, according to reports in the mainland and Hong Kong media....
The park would be built after 2010, when the city is due to host the World Expo, it said.
Chongming, first settled for farming during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, is slated for development as a non-industrial region. A Disney park would provide employment on the jobs scarce island, which has long relied on work schemes that put residents to work driving taxis in the city.
The island, which sits right at the mouth of the Yangtze, will soon be connected to the city via tunnels and a bridge.....

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

My life as an Amy Tan novel... Taiwan continued...

I can't believe I'm writing such personal stuff but I feel it's very cathartic and cleansing to get it all out...

My parents being typically Chinese don't talk about the past that much, or about 'taboo' subjects. I have to pry and pry and sometimes they will open up. During his time here, my dad and I had a heart to heart over Xi yang shen (or American Ginseng). We were both stuffing Xiyanshen powder into clear gelatine capsules whilst having a big 'heart to heart' chat. After two hours it still looked like we had hardly done anything. I can't believe it took so long!

Anyway for some reason or another we got talking about his parents (my paternal grandparents) and he was telling me stories of their lives when he was only a small child. So small that he cannot even remember the story and only knows from what they told him. He tells me that first of all, they were set up by a matchmaker. They were both living in Fujian province at the time. As in Chinese tradition, my grandmother moved in with my in-laws. Apparently my great uncle (grandfather's older brother) and great grandfather were horrible and mean to her. In 1947 at the age of 18 my grandmother gave birth to my father. In 1949, during the Nationalist-Communist Civil War the family moved to Taiwan. They had a reasonable life in China but now had practically nothing and were dirt poor. My poor grandmother... My father tells me she had to walk at least 2km each way on some crappy little dirt path, wearing shoes that were falling apart, whilst carrying 4 young children, to buy the food. Then she'd have to come back carrying the 4 children as well as the food. For those that don't know the summers in Taiwan are stifling and oppressive - not only hot but intensely humid (much more so than Shanghai - afterall, it is an island in the tropics).

My mother also told me some amazing tales of her mother's life before she was born. My mother's family are from Zhejiang province and my grandfather was in the army and the family was fairly wealthy. My grandmother didn't have to lift a finger and had multiple servants to serve her every need. After moving to Taiwan that all changed. They had nothing and had to start from scratch. My maternal grandmother ended up having 7 children, of which my mother was the youngest. She's told me stories like only having one pair of shoes per year and having chocolate once a year (usually Chinese New Year) and savouring every little tiny morsel.

Neither my father or mother had TVs or washing machines growing up. I am constantly being told how lucky I am to have these things. I was told when I was kid and didn't understand but of course now I understand and feel so grateful and lucky to be so spoilt and have such an easy life when they did not. I got driven to school every day, picked up from school or caught the school bus. My parents had to walk far distances - rain, hail or shine.

My mother had some big familiy secret that she didn't tell me till I was 12 years old. 12! I was angry she didn't tell me earlier and kept it from me for such a long time.

My father has told me things about my mother and what she was like before I was born and even before he met her (heard from other older relatives). My parents were also set up by matchmakers! They got married legally in Taiwan and soon after moved to the United States for the sole purpose of having children there, so that we would attain US citizenship. They had their wedding banquet in Los Angeles and I was born 1 year and 1 day after they were married, with my sister following 2 3/4 years later.

A few months after that they decided to move and were either going to choose Canada (Vancouver) or Australia (Melbourne). They crossed Vancouver off the list only because it was too cold and so we moved to Melbourne. My sister was only 7 months at the time and had a long haul international flight for the first time of her life. After a year or so in Melbourne it was concluded that the weather sucked (and it does!) and contributing way too much to my asthma, and they moved north to the biggest city of Sydney. This was in 1981 and we remained there ever since (where the weather was better/warmer/predictable but my asthma still remained).

Now I have family in China, Taiwan, the United States, Canada and Australia. I feel a bit sad that I grew up without any (none whatsoever) extended family around me but hey, you can't have everything! I guess I feel privileged to lead such an easy life and so amazed that my older relatives have gone through so much and come out so strong.

(oh my dad also told me he felt that first-borns were smarter, and of course I had to agree ;) I have big shoes to fill as the first born, of a first born, of a first born!)


Xi yang shen / American Ginseng

My dad's been making me take this stuff for years, my whole life probably and not once did I even think to find out the English name for it ... until now. It looks like a dried root and my dad grinds it up into a powder himself. To make it easier/convenient to take we put it in capsules.

For the quantity it is quite expensive. However, not as expensive as the ginseng we saw at Carrefour... almost 60,000 RMB for 160g! No, that is not a typo!!

So not only did I not know the English name for it, I didn't even know what it would do for me. I guess I just trusted him. Well, now that I've looked it up it is supposed to help with:

increasing resistance to environmental stresses, general tonic, stimulant, diuretic, digestive aid, anemia, diabetes, insomnia, neurasthenia, gastritis, impotence, fever, hangover, immune function, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pseudomonas infections in cystic fibrosis, aging, stamina, blood and bleeding disorders, atherosclerosis, loss of appetite, vomiting, colitis, dysentery, cancer, insomnia, neuralgia, rheumatism, memory loss, dizziness, headaches, convulsions, and disorders of pregnancy and childbirth.

Wow! Sounds like a miracle herb! :D Go check it out if you are interested. I am mainly taking it now to help build up my immunity towards nasty colds and flu for this winter. (you cannot and should not take it if you are already sick though).

IQ Tests

Frankly, I think IQ tests are a load of codswallop. They don't really measure intelligence in my opinion. Because - What is intelligence? I'm sure there are plenty of people smarter than me with lower IQ scores than me.

I remember the first time I took one very clearly. I was 15 and my dad borrowed a book from his colleague and photocopied the entire thing at work, then brought it home. From memory it was a very lengthy test and took forever to do and at the end of it my score was 130.

I have done lots of IQ tests over the years (just for fun and interest) and my score has always been around the same, it really doesn't change much. I recently did the Facebook one and got 136. Yeah it was flattering for my ego to get a higher score than almost everyone on my friends list - but so what??

I noticed that friends I considered more successful than me all had lower scores than me. Friends that had done PhDs, were doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.. ALL scored lower than me. And I'm a mere housewife! Why? This is crazy. I have a feeling that intelligence and 'studying ability' have no relationship whatsoever. I am willing to bet that my sister (currently doing a PhD and tutoring at university) would also score lower than me. I hated studying and was pretty bad at it. It was a miracle I that I did fairly well in high school and finished my degree. Yes I'm proud of the fact that I score relatively high but to me it doesn't mean anything because it doesn't guarantee a great life, great career and wealth, great health, great relationships, etc. Now if there was a test like that and I scored highly on THAT then I'd be a very happy camper indeed. :)

I think I'll go and do some EQ tests now... ;)

Monday, 3 December 2007

Taiwan vs China, Taiwan vs Japan

Ever since I was kid I was brainwashed into thinking "Taiwan good, China bad." "China communist, Taiwan not." Of course I was also told "Australia - safe to cross the road, clean. Taiwan - crazy drivers, dirty." etc, but that's another story...

OK so up until my late teens this is what I always believed. Now, when I had the opportunity to go to China for the first time (in 1997) and make up my own mind I didn't think it was that bad, but of course I could see the differences between China and Taiwan straight away, or China and Hong Kong.

In 2005, my sister was living in Shanghai... Mike and I flew from Sydney to Taipei and my sister flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Taipei and met us there. The first time the three of us took the MRT (subway) there, she commented that she couldn't believe that people were actually queuing in an orderly fashion to wait for the train, and that that would not happen in Shanghai. Throughout the trip she made similar comments about the differences between Shanghai and Taipei - not so much the city itself but the behaviour of the locals.

Likewise, when my father recently visited he was making similar comments. But it was much much worse. OMG. He was China-bashing 24/7. I don't even know how I could take it! "The air pollution is so bad" "The plants/trees are not that green." "The people are so rude." "That person must be Taiwanese because they said 'Excuse me' when they pushed their trolley close to us." etc etc. Oh did I mention we went to Carrefour after he told me I should throw out all our rice and condiments because anything made in China was 'bad' and 'crap' and made me buy Thai and Japanese rice, and Taiwanese soy sauce? hahaha.

Despite the fact that he was born in China himself he still (unfortunately) hates China and will probably continue to do so. :( He feels that China is what Taiwan was 40 years ago. Yes time will change everything but who knows how long it'll take?

On the other hand, my mother loves China. She loves the rapid progress it's made in recent years, the buzz, the nightlife, the shopping, the food, etc.

I wouldn't say I 'love' Shanghai but there are certainly good points to it. Just like any other city. There are good and bad points to everything.

It's just a bit much when guests come to visit you and start bashing the place you live in. I feel quite 'weirded out' by it. I just don't know what to say or how to react. Yes the air pollution is bad. So bad it's one of the very few things I can't stand here (along with the incessant smoking everywhere and anywhere), the footpaths are uneven, the drivers are all psycho, pedestrians have no right of way (EVER), etc etc. But frankly, I feel a bit offended. How would you feel if I visited you and pointed out every single negative thing about your city or country?

Now, getting back to the topic, hopefully I'll get to visit Taiwan real soon and make my own comparisons once again now that I've actually lived here (in Shanghai).

I just read here that the Taipei-Kaohsiung high speed rail is in operation. The trip takes a mere 1.5 hours instead of the 4 hours it used to take. Awesome!

When I was in Japan I started making a lot of mental notes and noticed so many similarities between Japan and Taiwan. The breakfasts. The breakfasts I was brought up to eat and my parents are still eat - are very similar to what the Japanese typically eat - rice with pickled vegetables, radish, eggs, fish, and bits and pieces. Also the love of tofu and soybeans and soy milk. (Still am surprised that soy milk isn't that popular in China. It is even more popular in Australia).

Also the delicious tidbits known as 'mochi' or 'moji'... The snacks in Taiwan are amazingly delicious. My relatives that live here in Shanghai are always bringing back suitcases full of food and snacks whenever they visit Taiwan. So many things that floated about in my childhood - I was suddenly brought back in time when I saw the same delicious things in Japan. My eyes glazed over and my stomach yearned to be filled. I wondered if Taiwan 'copied' them or that they were so similar simply because of their geographical closeness. Anyway mochi are (according to Wikipedia) "a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape." They are usually filled with delicious creamy sweet fillings like green tea, green bean and red bean. One of the ones I had in Osaka was peach flavoured - makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

Despite having been to Taiwan about 10 times now I always look forward to going 'back'. Every time I discover something new :) and every time, reality hits as I realise that everyone is getting older :(

Sunday, 2 December 2007


Thanks to the lovely 'Sognatrice' who befriended me and introduced me to Bloglines (I mean really, where have I been? Under a rock?)...

I tend to read blogs in a random fashion, I only really visit them when I think about visiting them - some once a day and some a few times a month. With Bloglines I now have all my favourite blogs listed there and they tell me when they have been updated. Too easy!! So what does one naturally do? Look for more blogs to put of the list of course! ;) My topics of interest are expat blogs (find them very fascinating and insightful), design/craft/photo related blogs, funny blogs, fashion blogs, all sorts, really.. with anything I can relate to or am interested in.

Here is a great site that guides you through it all with screenshots. (I don't even go looking for the RSS or XML URL. I just paste the actual URL (address) of the blog and it goes searching for the RSS or XML links for me).

So go on... what are you waiting for? Get an account with Bloglines :) (the amazing thing - for all you people in China - is that Blogspot blogs load up right in the Bloglines window - without a proxy!!)

Miss China crowned Miss World 2007

China cheers first Miss World title

December 2, 2007 - 5:11PM

China gave a cheer to its first Miss World on Sunday, with Internet chat rooms filled with praise for the 23-year-old beauty queen.

Zhang Zilin, a Beijing secretary who was born in the gritty northern industrial city of Shijiazhuang, scooped the title late on Saturday on the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan.

A blog by Zhang on the Web portal had over one million hits as of Sunday, with many fans posting their congratulations.

"You've brought honour to our country! We're all happy for you! We're proud for China!'' wrote a fan named "Tango''.

Long frowned upon by Beijing's Communist leadership, beauty pageants and other such contests have become hugely popular over the past several years. Many local television stations organise contests for everything from amateur TV anchors to models to American Idol-style singing contests.

Still, the government has tried to keep a check on them, banning television talent shows in prime time and telling anchors and contestants not to behave provocatively.

Newspapers ran only brief reports on Zhang's conquest.

The front page of the Beijing News, a popular daily in the capital, was dominated by a large photo of a migrant worker taking part in an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, with a much smaller photo of Zhang at the bottom of the page.

Micaela Reis of Angola came second and Carolina Moran Gordillo of Mexico was third, according to the pageant's Web site.


and in other news, Macau is set to become bigger than Las Vegas

Macau a Sure Bet to Become the Next Vegas of China

A Reuters report cites the Portuguese colony of Macau as the "new" Las Vegas. A special administrative region at the mouth of the Pearl River, just an hour by ferry from Hong Kong, Macau soon could surpass the American gambling oasis as the model for future entertainment destinations. Many believe it already has.

From 9.1 million visitors in 2000, arrivals to Macau has grown to 18.7 million visitors in 2005, 21.98 million visitors in 2006 and is expected to receive between 24 and 25 million visitors in 2007, with over 50% of the arrivals coming from mainland China. This recent growth has been driven by gambling and related tourism.

Tourists from Hong Kong remain numerous, representing about 30% of arrivals. Since the 1999 return to Chinese rule, Triad underworld violence, a dark spot on the economy, has virtually disappeared, to the benefit of the tourism sector. Macau also received the Future Award 2007, for being regarded the most promising future tourism destination in Asia, voted by 26,000 German travel trade members of GoAsia; an association that includes tour operators, airline companies, among many others. Macau is currently rated as one of the world's top tourism destinations by the World Tourism Organisation.

"Before the handover of Macau from Portugal back to China (in 1999), Macau was already getting 5 million visitors a year," says Michael McCarty, sales director for the trade-show group of Venetian Macau, part of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. "Being a part of mainland China, but a little bit separate, is a powerful combination."

Indeed. Flashy new hotels with brands such as MGM, Galaxy, Melco PBL and Wynn have sprouted up. The warm climate has drawn top-tier musical acts such as the Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce, and sports powerhouses such as the NBA's Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers and the U.K. football club Manchester United. Tennis giants Pete Sampras and Roger Federer are expected soon.

That's all aside from the gambling. And the Chinese love to gamble.

"Unlike Las Vegas, which has competition from Atlantic City, N.J., and Biloxi, Miss., Macau is the only city in all of China in which gambling is legal," McCarty says. "There isn't a one-stop entertainment destination city in China like Las Vegas in America. That's what we're trying to do here."

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Things to do in Shanghai...

After having guests stay with us recently I have made some mental notes of what they like to do.

Some are obvious like shop and eat, and shop some more, and eat some more... go to or just look at the Orient Pearl Tower. :)

Others which may not be so obvious but seem popular are:

1. Go to the fabric market. Get something made. If you want a suit you'll need at the very least a full week though. Simple things can be done in about 4 days. Bargain at least 10% if not 20% off! Start with 70% of the price they quote you. Addresses are listed in one of my older posts.

2. Get a massage. Massage places are EVERYWHERE and compared to almost any other country, are dirt cheap. The place we go to we pay 60 RMB for 1 hour for either a full body massage or foot massage. It is located in the Hongqiao/Gubei/Changning area known as "Little Japan" on Xianxia Lu and Zunyi Lu. It is always busy and they do a pretty good job!

When that's done, shop some more and eat some more ;)

Some places I can recommend are:

1. Xujiahui - where you can get anything under the sun, where there are 6? department stores, and the big Grand Gateway mall. Where the geeks can go crazy at Best Buy (or Metro City or Pacific Digital Plaza), and the foodies can go crazy at the top of Grand Gateway and Novel Place, and the shoe-aholics and clothes-aholics can go crazy at any store. My favourites are Pacific and No.6 department store. I can usually find clothes and shoes in there that I like at reasonable prices. The brands at Grand Gateway are generally way too expensive for me (since they are mostly foreign, mostly European brands). For basic staples (plain coloured tops, pants) Uniqlo (in GG) is great. Lots of easy-to-wear, mix-and-match stuff at great prices.

2. Huaihai Lu - previously known as Avenue Joffre, or the "Champs Elysee of the Orient" this road is about 15km long. Yep, mega long. It's divided up into three parts - West, Central and East. Most of the 'action' can be found in the Central part (which is also the longest). I have pretty much walked along the entire street. It is tiring but the most benefit can be gained (for a shopaholic) by walking across most of length of this street (not in the one go!). There is no point to take a taxi and you can take a bus or the subway but you miss a lot doing that since the stops can be far apart. If you are just randomly browsing it's much better to walk, and walk and... walk. Near Shaanxi Nan Lu, Maoming Nang Lu, Huangpi Nan Lu (and in between) there are lots of department stores and boutiques. This street is also the home of wedding dresses and bridal photography stores. One after another, big glass windows with glittering displays of fancy sequinned, frilled, coloured, embroidered, wedding dresses. Billions and billions of different kinds. They must do a good business because day or night, they are filled with customers looking at their large sample albums. I like to take the 911 bus along this street because it's a double decker one and you can feel like a real tourist sitting at the top and looking out the windows. At 2 RMB a trip it's fun just to ride the bus along the whole length of this road to get a feel of what it has to offer you! :) Once you have pinpointed the places that interest you (I actually marked on a map where my favourite stores were), then you can get out and start pounding the pavement.

3. Dain Ti Hill/Neo Tang Dynasty - crazy Chinese modern fushion cuisine. Really tasty. There are chains everywhere but seeing as I just talked about XJH there is one on the 5th floor of Grand Gateway. Usually it's so popular you have to queue for an hour or so but sometimes you can get lucky and only have to wait 5-10 minutes. There is also one in an expat type mall on Huahai Lu near the Hong Kong Plaza. The one with Delifrance out the front.

4. Lynn - modern Shanghainese cuisine. Now I don't normally like Chinese food much but this place was out of this world. It would have gotten a 10/10 if it weren't for the fact that they allowed smoking. The fish with pinenuts was absolutely delicious. It looks like an expensive type of place too (being right near the Ritz Carlton hotel and Nanjing Xi Lu) but for 4 people we paid 490 RMB including drinks.
99-1 Xikang Lu near Nanjing Xi Lu 西康路99-1号近南京西路

5. Wagas - the good ol' staple. My husband is addicted to this place. Opened by an Australian there are now restaurants all over Shanghai. It serves simple, healthy stuff - sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta for a reasonable price, and great smoothies and freshly squeezed juices. Everything is really fresh! If you go after 6pm they have specials on the pasta. The one on Huaihai Lu near Huangpi Nan Lu is always busy and easily accessible.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

I love my Dad and Polly Waffle chocolate bars!

So my Dad arrived on Sunday and will be here till Saturday. His entire suitcase was filled with stuff for other people. Me, and gifts for friends and relatives that live here. He only brought one change of clothes for himself and a small toiletries case and a camera. There was so much stuff I missed from home, and stuff I wished I brought over but didn't, random stuff, all on a list I'd been compiling over the last few months. One of the things I asked him to get me are Polly Waffle bars. They are a chocolate bar made in and exclusive to Australia (I think). They are not very popular nor common. They are not sold in service (petrol/gas) stations, nor in the checkout aisles in supermarkets. They can only be found in the confectionary aisle and are always on the very top shelf or very bottom shelf, never at eye/chest level. Anyway, I am having my little indulgence now.. the lovely soft marshmallow covered in crunchy wafer biscuit and then coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Ooh I'm so bad I think I'm gonna have to eat a kg of vegetables to make up for this unhealthiness! Hey my excuse is that I need something to cheer me up about this freezing cold weather. So cold I'm going to have to buy/wear long johns. (I should also add that my sister did a lot of the work in finding the things I asked for, so I should give her credit too).

Mixed reviews here

Monday, 26 November 2007

Shanghai Disneyland a reality

OK OK this is 2 weeks old news but I'm sure not everyone knows... yet. :) For the city that has (almost) everything, the world's biggest theme park will soon be landing on our shores too.

Disneyland plan dusted off in Shanghai

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-11-14 07:13

SHANGHAI: The authorities have confirmed that the previously suspended plan to build a Disneyland theme park in this city has been revived and preparations are going ahead full steam.

Qian Weizhong, director of the economy committee of Nanhui district, said residents had moved off the land targeted for Shanghai Disneyland, in suburban Chuansha town. The planned theme park will occupy 6 sq km, which is about 4.7 times the size of Hong Kong's Disneyland, according to the original plan.

"Local authorities have received positive feedback from the central government about the Disneyland project," Qian was quoted as saying by the Oriental Outlook.

Representatives of Disney yesterday declined to comment on the development, saying only: "Our focus is on the successful operation of our first theme park in China - Hong Kong Disneyland."

However, Walt Disney Company (Shanghai) Ltd said in a statement faxed to China Daily: "China is a priority for the entire company, and we have a continuing dialogue about a variety of Disney initiatives, including television, motion pictures and consumer products, of which theme parks are only a part."

Qian said arrangements had been made to ease travel to the planned site.

"The Shanghai A20 highway has opened an exit for Chuansha, near the planned east gate of the Disneyland," Qian said.

Foxtown, an outlet mall located near the site of the planned theme park, is one beneficiary of the development.

Lu Qiang, its CEO, said he was glad to hear the Disneyland project had been revived, as Foxtown had won the right to set up shop after several rounds of bidding.

"If the Disney project was aborted, Foxtown would face great difficulties recruiting tenants," Lu said.

He said he had been briefed about the recent developments by Nanhui authorities last week.

The planned Pudong railway will stop at the theme park. Metro line No 11 will also stop there.

When finished, the transportation connecting the park will be the biggest in the country's eastern region, bringing visitors from more than 50 cities in the Yangtze River Delta.

The plan to build a Disneyland park in Shanghai was first floated in 2005, but was soon suspended. Disney signed a statement of intent to build a Disneyland on the mainland in 2002.

Several suburban district authorities competed over the location of the theme park. The municipality compromised by putting the park in both Chuansha and Nanhui.

The Lujiazui Group and Walt Disney Company then set up a joint-stock company, but the plan was suspended. Hong Kong media reported there were widespread fears that having a third Disneyland in Asia, especially if it were in Shanghai, would harm Hong Kong's park.

An unidentified official from the Shanghai economy committee said the Shanghai plan had been suspended in part because of concerns the Hong Kong park would suffer.

My thoughts? If they want it to be a success they really need to un-China-fy it. Thinking back to our visit to the Dino Beach waterpark and our experience at Universal Studios Japan (Osaka) there needs to be:

1) efficient queueing and barriers to prevent queue jumpers
2) none of this pay an entry fee then pay for all the rides (or in our case inflatable tubes) inside crap
3) have more food outlets with different varieties of food (cuisines)
4) have decent gift/souvenir shops selling COOL or cute stuff, not tacky stuff, pleasantly displayed. Not put out randomly or in an ugly untidy fashion
5) an entry fee that is not extortionate
6) friendly, helpful staff that SMILE
7) lockers (not too expensive) and toilets spread out throughout the grounds
8) crowd control in general
9) signs in English and staff that speak English, mutli-lingual and/or pictorial signs would be most beneficial

They say that it's expected to be completed in 2010, the same year as the World Expo. If this is true then 2010 will be a very big year for Shanghai indeed!