Saturday, 2 February 2008

Will I be able to fly home?

Yikes! My parents have expressed concern I may not be able to fly back to Shanghai due to the snow... My mother thinks I should postpone my flight back. I said, "What?! Are you kidding? It's Chinese New Year.. I'll never get a flight back around that time and even if I could it would cost a fortune." So I don't know what's going to happen but I hope I get back OK. I fly to Hong Kong on the 4th, and am going to check out the city for a few hours before flying back to Shanghai later that evening.

China snow storms cancel 3,250 flights - Jan 31

China steeled for worse weather as holidays loom - Feb 1

National Wear Red Day - February 1st, 2008 (22 red dresses)

I'm a bit slow but as I'm typing this it is still the 1st in the States.

February 1st was "National Wear Red Day" for Valentine's and for heart research.

Just like the pink ribbon supports Breast Cancer research, the "Wear Red Day" supports women with heart disease research.

Well since the day has already passed and I don't live in the States I can't really participate, but if I were... I went through Polyvore and picked my favourite red dresses. Not many long-sleeved ones to choose from (there should've been more given that it's freezing in the northern hemisphere now) but I've put in two that I thought were OK.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Looking for a bra...

I absolutely despise bra shopping. Nothing ever fits. If the cups fit the back doesn't close up, and if the size is right the cups are too big. Another problem is that I want a padded bra but I absolutely hate - no - despise underwire. I don't need it and it just digs into my stupidly bony breastbone.

I went to a lingerie store today. I saw a big sign saying 50% off everything so I went in. I should have known it would be a waste of time. There were hundreds of gorgeous designs in different colours, patterns, and prints but only ONE of their bras had no underwire. A plain beigey peach coloured one. Like the many I already own.

Am I the only female who wants a padded bra without underwire that comes in funky designs, colours, and prints? ARGH!

I just went to and there are a whopping 4 types of bras that come in small sizes, are padded and don't have underwire.

1. VS Cotton™ Padded wireless bra
It comes in 15 designs, 2 of which are printed

2. Victoria's Secret Pink® Wireless padded bra
Comes in 1 design - a pink and white pattern

3. Very Sexy® NEW! Infinity Edge™ wireless push-up bra
Comes in 7 designs, one of which is a leopard print

4. Victoria's Secret Pink® Wireless padded bra
Comes in four 'exciting' colours - black, white, nude and light pink

So I should just go and buy one of these right? No... I already know they won't fit. I have a problem with bras designed for Western women. The straps are always too far apart and dig into my armpits. On the other hand Chinese bras fit me fine across the front and shoulders, but never do up on the back! Plus, their models' cup size is about 300 times bigger than mine so how am I supposed to know what it looks like on me?!

ARGH - where is that despair smiley when I need one?! I should start my own business but I am guessing I am the only person looking for stuff that does not exist. I think I should just wear a bikini top. They quite often come in padded, un-wired varieties and lovely colours and prints!! Haha.

ShanghaiExpatWife's travel tips part I

One of the things about travelling overseas is that you might need a visa. Some are easy and you just get them at the airport as you go through, others you have to apply for in advance.

It is always a bit confusing because the rules change so often.
Example - it used to be you could only stay in Taiwan for 14 days and if you wanted to stay longer you had to extend your visa. Now it's 30 days (and I just scraped in staying 27 days!)

It's fairly easy to assume you won't have any troubles with an EU, US, UK, Australian, New Zealand or Japanese passport but you can never be too sure. I know that Russia has certain requirements...

Anyway I stumbled across this great website which tells you at a glance what visa you need based on your nationality/passport and where you are travelling to.

Taiwan is actually listed as "Chinese Taipei", the name they also go by in the Olympics as certain countries don't recognise is as a 'separate country' to China.

SkyTeam Visa, Passport and Health information

On another note - everybody in my immediate family, as well as my husband has dual nationality and two passports. But I have never heard of or met anyone who has three. I wonder if it is possible to have three or four different countries' passports?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Mii and You chocolate

It's coming up to that time of year and no I don't mean Chinese New Year although that is coming up too.... Valentine's day. What will you give your loved one?

The funniest and cutest and coolest thing I've seen in a while... Chocolate Mii / Wii (Nintendo) figures. HERE.

Made from 2.1 ounces of gourmet chocolate, each Mii character pair is presented in a console-shaped box. It's perfect for your Wii-obsessed partner! :D

Breeze Center (Mall), Taipei 微風廣場

(View from Zhongxiao Fuxing station)

24 January

I went to Breeze Mall in Taipei. I had to go to this place because I am still suffering from Japan-withdrawal symptoms and I could get my fix by going there because they have: Kinokuniya (bookstore), Hands (lifestyle/homewares store) and Muji (clothing and general goods). As well as that they have other cool shops and a great food court. I lost count of how many hours I spent browsing in here! About 3 or 4 I think. I think it is my favourite mall in Taipei so far...

The lower floors feature all the impossibly gorgeous and impossibly expensive goods from brands such as LV, Gucci, Prada, Cartier etc.. but I was after something a little more affordable, and a little more interesting.

First stop: (Sony) Plaza store
They sell lots of cute licensed character goods and homewares. At the entrance there were Barbapapa character seats. I have an affinity with these characters because my sister and I owned books featuring these in our childhood, and we discovered through our baby photos that we also had a purple Barbapapa plastic doll too. Then, a few years ago we discovered what they actually were and both fell in love with them again.

From Wikipedia:

Barbapapa is both the title character, and name of the "species" of said character, of a series of children's books written in the 1970s by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, who resided in Paris, France. The books were originally written in French, and were later translated into many languages.

Barbapapa himself is a generally pear-shaped, pink shapeshifting blob-like creature who stumbles upon the human world and tries to fit in. The shapeshifting is usually accompanied by the saying "Clickety Click—Barba Trick". After various amusing adventures, he comes across a female of his species (more shapely, and black-coloured), named Barbamama. They produce seven children, known as the Barbababies, each a different colour.

Obviously the Japanese loved the darling characters too, and made lots of merchandise featuring these 'blobs'.

Second stop: Hands Tailung
Known as Tokyu Hands (that's not Tokyo) in Japan, Hands features the most amazing stuff that is mostly Japanese-designed but also some cool American or European things for your home. They are all beautiful, cute, useful and practical. I could go on and on about how great this store is! Check out the photo - unbelievable how many types of food package clips they can design and sell!

Third stop: Kinokuniya
A Japanese bookstore I am familiar with having visited their large Galleries Victoria/Sydney store many times (I also visited their tiny Neutral Bay store way before they became so widely known). I also visited a Kinokuniya store in Osaka JR station. The bookstore here (just like the Sydney store) sells books in three languages: Chinese, Japanese, and English. I browsed through all three languages to find books on my topics of interest. I can't read the Chinese or Japanese ones much of course but for design/art/craft books it doesn't really matter - all you want to see are the pictures anyway and most of it is pretty self explanatory. Their English section is fairly decent but there are no computer/software/internet/web related books in English (in fact NO bookstore in Taipei sells computer books in English. ARGH! :( ). Also like the other bookstores in Taipei/Taiwan, if the books are shrink wrapped you can ask them to unwrap them for you so you can look at them. Not sure if this applies to magazines though - probably not!

Fourth Stop: The Basement (B1 and B2) floors
Featuring the food court and supermarket known as Breeze Super. I particularly wanted to check out "Dean and Deluca", a NYC deli which was featured widely on one of my fave tv series "Felicity" starring Keri Russell. (See what I mean about Australia never getting anything cool like this?)

(order of photos) 1: Lamingtons from Australia... really? I found the koala motif rather amusing.

2,3: Maison Kayser - Amazing French bakery selling DELICIOUS bread. I bought some to take home to have for breakfast the next morning (ditto above comment about Australia getting cool stores...)

4,5,6,7: Dean & Deluca - Everything looked so delicious. Look at those cakes! I ended up having dinner there (vegetarian quiche) - 170 or 180 NT I think it was. It was nice but not as nice as it looked!

(sorry for the crappy layout of the photos. I still have no idea how Blogger lays out photos. Ugh. Also the photos are pretty crap because they were all taken without a flash and are unedited).

Breeze Center, Taipei, Taiwan
39, Fu Hsing (Fuxing) South Rd, Sec. 2
(about a 5-10min walk north from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station along Zhongxiao Fuxing Road)

2008 Pirelli calendar shot in Shanghai


PIRELLI launched “The Cal” 2008 calendar in Shanghai, the 35th edition of the Italian tire maker's famous calendar collection and the first ever shot in Asia.

23 portraits in the calendar were shot entirely in Shanghai by renowned fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier: the bustling Nanjing Road E., narrow lanes in the old French Concession, the beautiful gardens at the Yong Foo Elite restaurant (the former British Legation) and ancient Chinese style architecture.

11 beauties as raising supermodel Agyness Deane, Lily Donaldson, Doutzen Kroes, Catherine Mc Neil, Gemma Ward, Sasha Pivovarova, Coco Rocha, Caroline Trentini, the chinese actress Maggie Cheung and top models Mo Wan Dan e Du Juan

First published in 1964, the calendar is famous for its artistic portraits of beautiful women and limited availability. It is not for public sale and is given as a corporate gift to a restricted number of VIPs and celebrities including Prince Charles. About 23,000 copies were printed this year.

Pirelli opened a US$97-million plant in China's Shandong Province on Tuesday. Both of the company's two plants in Asia are in China.

"China, for us, represents the future, a new world to explore," said Francesco Tarallo, head of communication of Pirelli. "China and the other Asian markets are the new frontiers for international expansion of the group."

I think the images are beautiful. Breathtaking. Stunning.
I could only dream of looking as beautiful as those models, or being as talented as the photographer!

The site

The Canon Powershot G9 digital camera

I feel compelled to write about my camera because three people/friends have bought the same camera recently upon my recommendation.

This is the third digital camera I have owned.

The first one was bought in 2001 and was a gift from my mother. It was a small, silver Kodak somethingorather and had 2 megapixels and NO optical zoom. Also, photos without the flash came out looking like nothing. It only really took good photos outdoors in adequate lighting. It was pretty crap and I ended up resorting to using both my SLR and compact film cameras instead and was dying for a new digicam...

The second one was bought in 2004. I bought it on eBay because I really wanted the black model which was not sold in Australia (I really really hate silver!). Also, I could get it cheaper that way. I paid AUD$600 (including exchange rate and shipping) instead of the $800 I would have paid if I had bought it in store locally. It was the Canon powershot S50 and had 5 megapixels and 3x optical zoom. The seller didn't ship overseas but I got it through a very unconventional way. I had it shipped to my uncle who lives in the States, he brought it to Taiwan. He and my dad were going to be in Taiwan at the same time so then he passed it to him and then my dad brought it back to Australia - phew! I was so happy with it. It was brand new in the box and what with all the bad stories about eBay I didn't have any problems with the seller nor the item. It still works perfectly now, despite me dropping it a few times too.

Despite the S50 being a great camera (has several manual modes and can record in RAW format) there were some things I longed for which it didn't have. I really missed the ability to use filters (as I could with my SLR camera), I really wished the optical zoom was 'better' (preferably at least 10x), I wanted 'image stabilization', a better macro mode, a 'vari-angle' LCD screen, and the 2:3 format.

I researched and researched (am a research-aholic as well as a camera-aholic) and concluded there wasn't a single camera that existed that met ALL my criteria. I searched through endlessly to no avail. I contemplated getting the Panasonic or Olympus models with the superzoom - 10x, 12x, 18x even! or the Canon S5IS (at the time S3IS). However the more I researched the more I realised I really wanted a smallish camera and a Canon camera as I really think they make the best cameras. Almost all the news photojournalists use them.

I found a little beauty called the Canon G7 and decided that was the one I wanted. But what with being in debt from the wedding, it had to take a back seat for a while... luckily I waited because in September 2007 the Canon PowerShot G9 arrived on the scene. I had suspected that a new model would replace the G7 but Canon wasn't giving anything away! I perused forums and blogs awaiting any news and hoped that the G8 would be able to record in RAW format (the G7 couldn't) and have a better than 6x zoom. I got the first wish but not the second. However, the LCD screen on the G9 is much better too. It is a whopping 3" and you can view it easily from all angles making overheard or low shots easy.

So in October (just before the Japan trip) I finally got my hands on the little G9 beauty. I bought it in Pacific Digital Plaza in Xujiahui (after scouring PDP, Metrocity and Hong Kong Plaza for the best price). I paid about AUD$580 for it (it had only just come out in China at that time).

It's not a perfect camera by any means but it suits me perfectly. Many have asked me (knowing I'm a photo/camera buff and that I studied photography throughout high school and university) why I didn't get a DSLR. The reasons are simple:

1. They are expensive and get outdated much more quickly than film SLRs
2. They are big and heavy and after having a neck injury I no longer wish to carry a heavy camera around my neck
3. I like to take 'photojournalistic' every day type shots and you can't do that easily when you have a big huge camera which attracts attention
4. I don't like the feeling of being a target of being mugged whilst I am travelling overseas. I have actually been mugged before for my cameras (they didn't get away with anything except some cash) so it's not a pleasant feeling!
5. I know people buy SLRs and mean well but never end up using them much and taking them out because they are 'too big', 'too bulky' and stuff. So what's the point of a camera if you aren't going to use it?
6. I don't believe that SLR cameras 'take' better photos, in the same way that buying a Porsche won't make you a better driver. It's the PERSON that takes the photo, not the camera!

So, I wanted a camera that had SLR type features and functions but was still compact. The G9 is not small by any means but I can easily still fit it into my palm, my pocket, or a pocket inside my handbag. Best of all it has the ability to use filters with it, or to add on an external flash (which is my next camera-related purchase). I think the 6x optical zoom is good enough. I rarely need to zoom in that much and the digital zoom takes it up to 24x zoom! Another bonus for me is that it takes the exact same batteries as my other Canon camera.

I love it! I won't rave on about the technical aspects and tests as you can read about that on various sites online. But if you are a G7/G9 owner who stumbled upon this make sure you check out this site - customized accessories for the G7/G9 which look like they actually were made by Canon, including a hot shoe cover, and the new cable release.

I spoke to a friend who is also a Canon fan and was also looking for a new camera and was contemplating getting a low-end DSLR till I told her I had my eye on the G7 and together we awaited the released of the G9. We contemplated getting the G7 (since it would now be cheaper) but both ended up getting the G9. Then, I had another friend tell me that they bought the G9 too (previously a G2 owner). Then, recently, I met up with my sister and her boyfriend here in Taiwan and he was fascinated with my camera and I was telling him all the great features about it and it won him over too! And he ended up buying one just hours before leaving for the airport to go back to Sydney. He was particularly impressed by the fact that it is 12.1 megapixels! :)

So to summarise... I'm a secret geek girl at heart, I love gadgets (except mobile phones), and I love the Canon G9! It fits most (but not all) of my criteria and I hope to use it for a long-ish time (well, at least 3 years judging by my history ;) )

PS - the reason why the model 'G8' was skipped was because it sounds like a rude word in Chinese!! hahaha...(the S4IS was skipped too because 4 is a bad luck number in Chinese/Japanese superstition).

PPS - I have now taken over 10,000 photos with it (5,000 alone on the Japan trip) in just 3.5 months - scary!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

More Shanghai snow pics

I love photos. I don't just love taking them, I also love being in them, and looking at them. But more on that later... People know I am a photo-addict so they send them to me and show them to me.

Another friend in Shanghai sent me some of her recent snow pics. Take a look. As I type this tells me it is "0 degrees but feels like -4 and there is 'light snow' in Shanghai"

Thanks for the pics, Susie! :)

Swatch Fanatic

I've long been a fan of Swatch watches. I remember when my friend got one (she must've been around 10 years old or so) and I thought it was the coolest thing. She got one with a clear face where you could see right through the whole watch.

I ended up getting one when I was 14 or 15. My mum got it for me at a duty free store. I loved it so much and was devastated when I lost it. I don't even know where I lost it except the last memory I had of it was putting it on as I was heading out the door to go to piano lessons. After that I searched endlessly around our front door/yard area to no avail and realised I must've lost it before that in another place.

Every time I go past a Swatch stand or store I can't help but look at them and try them on. The next time I got a Swatch was in 2004. I was browsing Myer (a department store in Australia) and there were a few that caught my eye. Even better one of them was actually on sale - reduced to AUD $60 which is a bargain. (The metal bands cost more).I never liked the plastic bands and my first Swatch had a leather band, but now being older, I had 'graduated' from leather bands too and only wanted one with a metal band.

Not only that, I have another major criteria for the design and that's that the face must be small. My wrist is impossibly small so most of the faces are too big and look ridiculous on me! I can only ever wear the Swatches with the smallest faces.

So anyway I bought this watch and I wore it on my trip to Shanghai/China/Taiwan exactly 3 years ago. Then, when I was packing to go back home I discovered that it was gone. I was devastated. I thought "Not again!" But, funnily, when I got home I found it. Not even straight away but a few weeks later. And then I lost it again, but not really lost. Just misplaced it. I know it's somewhere in my room. Very strange and unfortunate but yes I am a muddle-head sometimes :(

Every time I go past the Swatch stand on the basement floor of Grand Gateway (in Shanghai) I check out the watches there. They are such a rip off in China. The kinds that I like (small face, metal band) are over 700 RMB which is more than $100 Australian.

Whilst I was at Hong Kong airport on the way over to Taiwan I saw them at the airport and they were pretty cheap (I can't recall the exact cost but I'm sure I couldn't get them cheaper anywhere else at this stage). I didn't have any time to look at them nor try them on but I said to myself if I have any money left by the time I get there I'm going to get me a(nother) Swatch!

I like them because they are fun and whimsical and can also be classy and in the scheme of watches are not that expensive. I also love Chopard watches but could buy about 500+ Swatches for one of those!

Yesterday I was at Taipei 101 (for the third time!) and checked out the Swatch store there. I saw a new one I hadn't seen before.

I have also had some el cheapo watches that never lasted the distance but the current watch that I'm wearing is still going strong. I bought it in Hawaii on our honeymoon as I wanted something cheap but was waterproof. (I also went to look at Swatches in a store in Waikiki - geez, I think I am obsessed?!) I went to the ABC store (which is like a 7-11 and souvenir store all in one) and bought a USD$15 watch. I didn't expect much from it but almost one year later it is still going strong. I've had to change the battery once but been snorkelling with it numerous times and it still works perfectly and is water tight. As good as it is, it isn't exactly classy or nice to look at. The band is a clear plastic rubber job which has now turned yellowish and greyish. The thing I like about the face though is that it is very clear to read. The background colour is light pink and the numerals are black. Very few Swatches are easy to read like this! Hmm...

Anyway, there are so many current and not-so-current Swatches that I love but at the same there there are none that I'm 100% happy with because I am so fussy. My criteria:
1. Small face of 24 or 25mm diameter.
2. Narrowish band. Band must be narrower than the face.
3. Metal band. Prefer silver colour since I already own one that is gold coloured.
4. No or limited colourised enamel metal (makes it look a bit cheap IMHO).
5. Numbers must be visible. I don't like the ones where there are no numbers or dots or anything. How are you supposed to tell the time?
6. Plain but not too plain. Swatch-type-whimsical but not too OTT and child-like.
7. Must be 'timeless' and elegant and suit a variety of clothing styles.
8. Must not feature too much of dark colours (hands or numbers are OK), green, orange, or yellow as I don't like those colours.

I don't ask for too much, do I? ;)

But these are my 'contenders' :

1. Very plain and classic but I don't like the style of the band. It has too many 'bits' like a basketweave. I love the face colour and design though. Very easy to read.

2. This one is absolutely beautiful and looks just as good in real life. It can also double as a bracelet and features my fave colours of light pink and light blue. The stones and pearl bits are gorgeous. The thing I don't like though is the face is too 'thick' and too 'high'. It makes it feel clunky. I prefer the thin flat faces (the Swatch 'Skin' series does these but there are no thin yet small face ones!

3. This is probably the one I'm leaning towards the most at the moment as it is the most versatile. I just wish it had a tiny bit of colour on it in the form of stones/crystals.

4. This one is really nice. I really love this one. The band reminds me of nomination link bracelets. It is plain but not too plain. Pretty and cute but not OTT. The only thing I don't like about it is that it is quite hard to read the time because all the colours are too similar. If the face was black (or dark blue like the first one), or the numbers were black it would be perfect!

5. This is an older design from last year. I loved it when I first saw it but now I'm not so sure. The bracelet is actually made of elastic (clear, thin elastic that is used in beading jewellery) and I'm worried about the longevity of it since I'd like to think of Swatches as collector's items. However, I saw it on a girl working at Kinokuniya in Breeze Mall and it looked great on her. The crystals are AB crystals and have a rainbow sheen to them.

6. I love the face and the crystals but I don't like the abstract and unsymmetrical shape of the strap. ARGH. I think I should just buy two watches so I can get the face that I want, and the strap that I want ;)

Gorgeous Packaging

Special Valentine's edition

7. Last but not least the gorgeous 2008 Valentine's special edition. It is by far the nicest Valentine's Swatch yet to date. I love anything with hearts on it, and heart-shaped items and I like that it's not too colourful or OTT BUT I don't like the dangly bit, and the colour combo on the face is also hard to read.

2008 Chinese Year of the Rat edition

8. I'm not interested in this one but just put the pics here as I love the packaging and cute purse. Swatch have some really great special edition packages!

Beijing Olympics edition

8. And finally, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games edition. Cute for a kid, I think.

PS - Swatch have also invented these very cool 'Puzzle Motion' watches. Check it out!

PPS - If you are in Taipei and are a Swatch collector you should go to Shilin Market and check out the Swatch shop there. There are loads of second hand Swatches for sale. It is on the corner of WenLin and JiHe Roads. It is across the street as you exit JianTan station, a bit to your right. The shop also has Coke collector's items.