Saturday, 18 August 2007

Dino Beach

We finally went to the water park yesterday. Had been wanting and meaning to go ever since we got here but time was passing quickly and it would close on 2nd September so we finally made it there yesterday.

This is the fourth water park we've been to in 3 years.

1. Wild Wadi in Dubai, UAE (October 2004)
2. Whitewater World on the Gold Coast, Qld, Australia (January 2007)
3. Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (May 2007)
4. Dino Beach in Shanghai, China (August 2007)

I guess when you've been to a few water parks you tend to have expectations and start to make comparisons, but I'm not going to do that here or else I could be here all day.

We got there about noon, just when the sun was the hottest.

The layout of the park was quite confusing. The area was quite large and they didn't give us a handheld map so a lot of the time we were wandering around not even sure where we were going or what we were looking for.

We started off by riding the inflatable tube down the 'river'. This seems to be a common element in all water parks, but this time the ride was extremely long and dare I say it, I was getting impatient and bored! (this has never happened before). After I got home and studied the map (from the photo I took) I could see just how long it was, it went around the entire circumference of the park but it also went in an out in places too. Mega long!

We then went on a slide where you had to lie on a thin rubber mat face down, hold the finger holes and slide down. The slide was straight down and pretty fun. The second slide we went on used the same mat but the slide twisted and turned and right near the start I did something to my back and I was in pain the whole way down. Thankfully the pain wasn't too serious and didn't last long.

Then, we went to the artificial beach and rode the artificial waves. I had my waterproof case on my camera and filmed us riding the wave. It's so funny to watch in hindsight!

We spent way too long there because hubby lost his cap when one of the big waves pushed us around (and we both fell off our tube!) and he tried to find it (after the waves were turned off of course) but couldn't.

After that, we rode another slide, similar to the twisty turny one we rode before but this one requires you to sit inside the ring and slide down. There was a pretty good view from the top of the stairs and the water park seemed to be built in the middle of nowhere. The whole area (Minhang) seemed to be newer too, like Pudong.

There was something we found that we had not seen at other water parks. There were two of them. The first had cute jungle and forest type animals like crocodiles and frogs (that floated in the water and you could sit on) and the second one had an arctic them with polar bears, and seals. The first one had 'lily pads' which were pieces of foam that floated (but were tied down) and a big long rope above. The aim was to walk across and not fall into the water. Easier than it looked! Both adults and kids loved this 'game'. In the arctic area they were icebergs instead of lily pads - cute! :D It reminded me a lot of an 80's TV game show in Australia called "It's a knockout."

We had a fun day but were glad to be home. It was a bit hellish getting home in peak hour. It was our most expensive taxi ride yet - 47 RMB.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Die Simpsons Der Film (the world of bootleg DVDs)

Any English speaking person visiting or living in China is bound to want to buy some DVDs. Heck any French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian etc speaking person would probably buy some too.

Now let's get one thing straight. Yes they are pirated, bootleg, whatever you want to call it. I'm sure there are goody two shoes who say what we do is wrong, buying them only supports the industry, blah blah blah. Fair enough, but unless I'm mistaken YOU CAN'T BUY REAL DVDs here! I hear computer software is the same.

And if it weren't for the enjoyment of badly dubbed DVDs, then living here wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

It is always a surprise wondering what you'll get. Was it filmed by someone in the cinema? Is it actually the movie that is on the cover? What language will it be played in? If in Chinese, will the subtitles be in English and if they are, will they actually make sense??? All these Questions - it becomes such a fun 'game'. haha.

So after waiting what seemed like forever for this movie to come out, I was dying to get my hands on a copy of the latest Simpsons movie.

I bought it on Monday (two days ago) and patiently waited for my husband to get home so we could watch it together.

I played around with the audio and subtitle buttons on the DVD remote. Hmm... it was German or Chinese.. Chinese or German. Where was the English? Alas there was no English to be found so we couldn't watch it :( I can understand the Chinese but there is no fun in that, no puns, no play on words. At least it's not totally wasted. I can give it to my sister and her boyfriend who speak fluent German and they can have a laugh at how bad the dubbing/translation is!!

So I get out another movie from our 'collection' and it seems it is in Mandarin with Finnish, Swedish, Danish or Norwegan subtitles. OK.. but, after fiddling around with the buttons on the remote again, Eureka! Out came the (accurate) English subtitles and we were 'rescued'.

Last night I was looking for something completely unrelated and then came across this post on Shanghaiist. So I wasn't the only one who bought a German copy! haha.

Should I perhaps go back a little further and entertain the non-resident readers some more? I was out shopping with a friend and we did not see any shops selling DVDs. So she asked one of the shopkeepers, who then walked us over to another shopkeeper (they all know each other you see.. I wouldn't be surprised if they were all related!) who then called out to a third shopkeeper. The tiny shop sold Nintendo and Playstation games but upon close inspection there were a few DVDs but the Simpsons one was nowhere to be found. So we asked and she didn't know what we were talking about, and we assumed she didn't have it. Then the shopkeeper in the store opposite heard us and at first thought we wanted the game "The Sims" but in the end she figured out what we wanted. So then the DVD shop owner rummaged through a drawer full of hidden treasures and pulled out what I wanted! Phew! If only I knew it was in German then.. hmm...

Living in China is full of such 'fun'!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A Changing Shanghai

When I first arrived in Shanghai I found myself sitting on a train with my mother. A man walked up and down through the carriages selling maps. We bought one and someone sitting near us commented, "Why buy a map? Shanghai is changing every day. Tomorrow the roads will be different."

Of course to a newcomer this comment seemed a bit absurd but what he said was entirely the truth. Shanghai is changing every day at an extremely rapid rate.

Another day I was out with my mother and we were browsing the big Xinhua bookstore in Grand Gateway. I hovered around the English section (very small) and browsed through the books which were not wrapped in plastic. I came across a book called "A Changing Shanghai" and made a note to myself I would buy it later. Well yesterday I finally bought it. It is a fascinating book filled with photos of Shanghai taken 10, 20, 30 years ago and photos of the same places as they look today. I an endlessly fascinated with photos such as these. I already own several books like this about Sydney.

I feel so many emotions (shocked, saddened, confused, excited, happy, strange, humbled, perplexed, amazed) when I look at such photos comparing the same place with photos taken decade/s apart.

I feel sad because I'm a very nostalgic and sentimental person and I always like to have things the way they were and don't really like change. But on the other hand I realise change can be for the better and the Chinese are a tad obsessed with 'progress' and building more and more. One final thing I wanted to say was - in most cases the photos were only taken 10 or 20 years apart whereas in many parts of Sydney you need about 50 years to see some real change. I know that the suburb I grew up on has barely changed at all and most of the houses on my street are still the same (albeit renovated). There have been a few changes over the last 20 or so years, but the really drastic ones happened about 50 years apart.

Here are some pictures from the book:

Hongqiao Road station 1983

Hongqiao Road station 2004

Pudong exit of the Yan'an tunnel 1990

Pudong exit of the Yan'an tunnel 2004

Xujiahui 1990

Xujiahui 2004 (virtually unrecognisable!)

If you are interested in buying it you can get it from any bookstore in Shanghai that sells English language books. The prologue is in both English and Chinese. The cover is silver and there is also a second edition with a bright green cover.

Walk, walk, walk

It's easy to see why the majority of Chinese people are so thin and fit. They work hard and most walk fair distances daily. I even find myself walking a fair bit, much more than I did back home (since I no longer have the luxury of a car). For example even if I catch a bus, train, or taxi I am still forced to walk.

Bus: I may have to walk 5-10 minutes to the bus stop at both ends, and then walk to where I am going. The distances between each stop here are much bigger than back home. In my estimation, the distance between each bus stop averages about 500m-1km. So if you accidentally get off too early or too late, you have to walk a fair bit! If you have to walk across a footbridge there is yet more walking and more stairs.

Train: Walking to/from the station and walking up/down LOTS of stairs. Even if there is an escalator it only usually goes up. Also you have to walk from the road or shop or wherever to the station which can also be far, and then if you change lines it's yet another 5 minute walk along tunnels and yet more stairs.

Taxi: Not so much walking here but when they are hard to get you have to walk to somewhere where you can 'beat' someone to it! Also due to traffic gridlock it is sometimes easier to just get out and walk rather than sit there anymore and let the meter keep ticking and ticking.

Shopping: The malls are huge. The streets with shops on them are LONG. Shopping may seem leisurely but there is HEAPS of walking involved. Particularly if you are as fussy as me and end up walking for 4,5,6 hours to find the perfect ____ (whatever).

I thought this post was interesting :)

I wanted to write about this topic for a LONG time but only decided to when I found out a friend of my mother's was offering us a free trip to Taishan, a beautiful mountain in Shandong province. There are approximately 6600 steps to the summit. That is crazy because I can tell you I have walked up almost 300 steps up a steep mountain? and it was quite grueling but that might just have been the scorching sun and 90% humidity ;) This was in the Batu Caves in Malaysia. I also walked up some stairs in a temple in Chiang Mai that was roughly 300 steps. I know it doesn't sound like much but just wait until you've experienced it :) So anyway Taishan has over 20 times this many steps! ARGH!!! Fortunately, there is a cable car that halves the number of steps for lazy bums ;)

Check out the steps!

The view at the top. Temples amongst temples, atop the 1500m high mountain, shrouded by cloud.. how dreamy :)

The custom of taking off ones shoes when entering a home

I am going to have a whole heap of posts all in one go because I have written them offline whilst getting annoyed that half the time I can't get onto this blog site :(

The custom of taking off ones shoes when entering a home

I was reading a Japanese travel forum when I came across an interesting post. (here it is here) and here is another one.

It was discussing the custom of taking off shoes in people's homes.

I find it interesting that most Asian and European cultures remove their shoes when entering their own home or someone else's home but it doesn't seem so common in English-speaking countries, of course I could be wrong.

Since I have a Chinese background I've been brought up to take off shoes in our own home as well as other people's houses. However, if I go to someone else's house and everybody else has shoes on then I'll leave it on. But it depends. It depends if I think the floor is dirty or cold, in which case I'll just keep them on.

Personally I find it very weird not to take shoes off inside because:

1. Your house will get dirty a lot quicker, particularly if it's been raining or you have been walking in God-knows-what.
2. After wearing shoes all day and your feet sweating and feeling cramped, it feels so much more relaxing to just walk about barefoot, or in socks or slippers.

I also can't understand why people put their disgusting shoes with dirty soles in their wardrobe with their clean, freshly washed clothes. Very very strange! Then again I guess some people think having a shoe cabinet by the front or back door is strange ;)

That's my opinion anyway!

Monday, 13 August 2007

What does an expat wife do with her time?

I'm kind of getting sick of being asked this question and I thought I would get my thoughts out there once and for all.

It's funny you don't see retired people constantly being asked, "What do you do with ALL your free time?" but I guess it's totally incomprehensible that someone under the age of 60 (who is not a full-time student or full-time mother) does not work full time. I guess people look down on you. A LOT. Look at Paris Hilton for example!

There seems to be four types of people in this world:

1. Those who are workaholics and feel that if you aren't working 40, 50, 60 hours a week there is nothing to do and it becomes 'boring'. They 'live to work'. They can't understand why anyone who want to retire, they want to work forever!
2. Those who 'work to live' but not 'live to work'. This seems to be the most popular type. These people wished they didn't have to work but don't mind their job too much and the income that it brings.
3. Those who don't work but wished they were working. This is usually students who wished they had more cash, or homemakers who used to have great careers but are now at home looking after their young children and prefer their old life. Retirees, also who wish for their job to give them 'something to do'.
4. Then there is the non-working type who don't mind not working.

I obviously fit into category 4 and my husband into category 2. My father, category 1. Retirees can either fit into 3 or 4.

I guess for workaholics (1) you are deemed a lazy arse if you don't work. Simple. For non workaholics who work (2) they are - dare I say it - jealous of anyone who doesn't have to work.

My husband and I agree that as long as you have something meaningful to do with your time then not working is fine (obviously assuming that you can get by on one income). So, the million dollar question is: What do I do with all my free time?

First of all, I am not someone who likes to fill their week with endless activities one after the other. It in fact exhausts me and I am perfectly happy to do just 'nothing'. I do not get bored easily.

The things I have managed to do since being here are:

1. Perfecting my cooking ability. I have gone to being totally incompetent to maybe quite alright.
2. Learning and continue to get better in Mandarin.
3. Taking up learning Spanish.
4. Working on my website which will hopefully get me an income in the near future.
5. Meeting up with friends.
6. Eating out with my husband and just 'growing together' to use a corny phrase.
7. Going to the gym and staying fit
8. Going to the Chinese herbal doctor (TCM) on a regular basis so she can fix all the things 'wrong' with my body.

I can honestly say that I feel a lot happier and healthier than when I was back home.
I haven't been sick in ages, my skin looks better, my hair and nails are strong and grow like crazy.

How can anyone say that my life is unfulfilling? Bah to them, I love my life! :)

Shanghai toy town

A few days ago I was playing around with Photoshop and turned some of my photos into what looks like miniature toy towns. It was so much fun and the results look pretty good I think! Note if you are viewing this blog from China you need to install the Flickr add-on for Firebox to circumvent the great firewall. You can get it from here.

Overpass near Huaihai Lu

View of Xujiahui in distance

Busy roads in Xujiahui

People's Square (Renmin Guangchang)

What do you think?

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Our sixth month wedding anniversary...

Last night we celebrated our 6th month anniversary. We were to-ing and fro-ing about which restaurant to go to. It is always so hard to choose because they are just SO many here! We were going to go to a fancy one but it was raining and a bit horrible so we decided just to go to a cheapish one, more like a cafe, serving Western-style dishes. We already have their menu in a home delivery booklet so we knew the types of dishes they had and it seemed to have good reviews online.

We decided to go to Wagas on Huaihai Rd (not the one in the picture)

As soon as we walked in I was really happy because 1) it did not reek of smoke (in fact the whole place was non-smoking, a rarity and a treasure in China!) 2) there were lots of people on laptops (free wireless?) and it just reminded me so much of home. The only thing that gave it away that we were in China was the bilingual menu and all Chinese staff.

There were 4 people with laptops and 2 of them had macs (a fairly high ratio I would say!) that made me feel like it was even more like 'home' haha.

I was very impressed and humbled when a guy sitting next to us, typing on his Mac laptop, was speaking to the waitress in fluent Mandarin. But not only was it fluent, it was quite complicated business-like jargon. I actually didn't even really know what he was saying as it was far beyond my level of comprehension. In that precise moment I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I, with my Chinese background, and him with his American or wherever (Western country) background could speak such great Mandarin! (and not to mention read and type it too).

What better way to console myself than going across the road to the Pacific department store (gotta love the 10pm closing time every night) and going shoe shopping! It was packed as usual and the sales are so great. Eg 50% off then another 20% off. And beautiful soft leather, both inner and upper. My size is also right in the middle of the range and very common (whereas in Australia I can hardly ever buy anything because they just don't make my size or have sold out of it). They were 890 RMB (AU$140) down to 350 RMB ($55) which is freakin' expensive for China but the quality is so good, and leather so soft, like Italian shoes.

Oh btw the food was absolutely scrumptious and now I have read more from the site I just posted, I had a good reason why it felt so much like 'home'. Because the manager is Chinese Australian and there is definitely the Australian connection there... :)