Saturday, 5 April 2008

China's/Shanghai's new mid-range traditional Chinese style hotels

Link for full article

JUST a couple of years ago, travellers to China had two options: high end, high-rise chains or grimy youth hostels with squat toilets and snarling service.

But as China booms, so does its hotel industry, and there has been something of a revolution in Beijing and Shanghai, driven in the former's case by the Olympics in August and, in the latter's, the 2010 Expo.


This go-ahead city has more than its fair share of five-star lodgings but, to experience a taste of old Shanghai, avoid the futuristic skyscraper hotels of Pudong and stay in the city's most attractive district, the tree-lined former French concession, or in Jing'an, which is not (yet) as gentrified as other parts of the city. In Shanghai, you won't find hutongs but lilong, or converted alley houses, which date back to the city's glamorous golden age of the jazz-filled 1920s and '30s.

Old House Inn:
A delightful converted lane house, this inn has brought a breath of fresh air to the local accommodation scene, thanks to its small selection of beautifully renovated and stylish rooms at reasonable rates. The hotel's restaurant, A Future Perfect, is one of Shanghai's funkiest.

From 700 yuan;

Urbn Hotel:
Shanghai always has an eye for the latest trends and the new 26-room Urbn Hotel ticks the environmentally friendly box as well with its carbon-neutral status and recycled materials (the building was once a factory). Guests walk through a bamboo-lined courtyard and past a reception area decorated with antique suitcases; corridors on the four floors are lined with bricks taken from demolished factories, and the wood used on the floors and in the rooms is recycled Chinese mahogany.
One of the two expat owners is from Sydney and they have tried to make the rooms as different from a standard hotel as possible; there are sunken baths, low Asian-style beds and wrap-around couches that are great for lounging and watching a massive TV.

From 1400 yuan;

If relentless trendiness isn't for you, try staying at No.9, which is more like being in a friend's beautiful and surprisingly rustic '30s house than in a hotel. The Taiwanese owner has converted his grandfather's home and, with only five rooms, it's a world away from most anonymous hotel experiences.
You'll find this delightful B&B, with its walled garden, down a lively back lane where life continues in much the same way it has for centuries. But be warned: taxi drivers can struggle to find No.9 as it doesn't announce its existence and there's no website.

From 700 yuan. 9 Lane 355, Jianguo Xi Lu; phone + 86 21 6471 9950.

Lapis Casa Boutique Hotel:
Guests here couldn't be closer to the action: the hotel is a block away from Shanghai's main entertainment complex, Xintiandi.
This small and elegant place opened in May 2007 after its brother and sister owners spent two years converting the unassuming building into an antiques-filled hideaway. Guests enter through large wooden doors before reaching the stone-floored reception area and corridors lined with lovely stained glass. The 18 guestrooms have different themes, though all are from the past; the favourite (and most expensive) is the corner suite with its 1900s traditional Shanghainese decor, wooden floors, soft lighting and red carpet.

From 1500 yuan;

Jia Shanghai:
Describing itself as a residence rather than a hotel, the 55-room Jia Shanghai opened at the end of 2007 and has seen a host of stars through its doors (although presumably someone escorted them in as there isn't anything as boring as a sign).
The original structure was built in 1926, but few traces of the past remain inside; instead, like its original sister hotel in Hong Kong, it is cutting-edge design all the way.
The corridors are dark and mysterious but open on to bright, white guestrooms equipped with the latest entertainment systems and small kitchens.
There's a complimentary breakfast served in the arty lobby as well as free afternoon tea and cocktails all evening.

From 1395 yuan;

Friday, 4 April 2008

Free online make-over programs

Here are 2 ways to kill a LOT of time, and give yourself an ego boost at the same time!

1. My Heritage

I first discovered this site a few years ago but just decided to play with it again yesterday.

You upload a photo of yourself and in seconds it tells you which celebrities you look like! I think you need to try a couple of different photos for accuracy and I've noticed that the direction in which you are facing affects it too (eg if your face is tilted slight to the left or right, it affects the results).

I'm pretty happy with my celebrity look-a-likes. I used 7 different photos (make-up and hair done, no make-up and unbrushed hair, a self-taken photo, etc). These were my top matches:

Miriam Yeung (HK actress/singer) - 4 times
Lucy Liu - 4
Stephen Chow (HK actor, a man!) - 4
Michelle Kwan (Olympic figure skater) - 3
Grace Kelly - 3
Zhang Ziyi - 3
Gong Li - 2
Sammi Cheng (HK actress/singer) - 2
Jolin Tsai (Taiwanese singer) - 2
Jacqueline Bracamontes (Mexican actress) - 2

The funniest and weirdest one I got matched with was Macaulay Culkin - a pic of when he was in 'Home Alone'. Hahaha. As if I look like a blonde 8 year old boy! LOL :D

OK, so you are wondering why I've called this a 'make-over program'. Well, you can also do morphing videos between you and any of the 10 celebrities they match you up with. The results are really amazing!

At the end of it all you can save your photo collages or morphs and/or add them to your Myspace, Bebo, Friendster, Facebook, Hi5, Blogger, Livejournal and many more.

2. Taaz

I just found this a few days ago through one of the many blogs I read (can't remember which one). I then spent around 2.5 hours playing with it and totally lost track of time! Crazy. I have since read online that other people have said the same thing because it's so addictive. It is really a BIG time waster/killer but loads of fun.

I managed to turn myself into some freakishly unimaginably attractive person!

Once you sign up and start using it it's easy to see why this is so addictive. This program uses shockwave flash and complex algorithms and 'points' to allow you to apply make-up with amazing accuracy. But (to me) the most amazing part of all this is the hairstyle application. With a few clicks you can mould the hairstyle so it suits the shape of your face - it's even easier and more realistic than Photoshop! I do wish there were more hairstyle choices and better colours though. A lot of the colours seem very flat, apart from the default one.

You can apply foundation, concealer (under the eyes), blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, coloured contact lenses (kinda useless if you're Asian/dark-eyed though!), mascara, lip liner, lipstick, lip gloss, teeth whitening, and a hairstyle (and hair colour).

My only minor complaint though is that you can't do anything with your eyebrows.

If anything is not quite right you can tweak it. Eg the intensity of the blush or lipstick or eyeshadow, or the positioning of the mascara (although I'd more likely call this falsh eyelashes for the effect it gives!).

Now I found myself wondering (after having tried a similar online program which required you to pay) why something as good and easy to use as this was free. This is where you realise they have an amazing business model. The make-up that you apply to your photo is actually current make-up brands and models. And with a simple click it gives you a list of all the products you have used on yourself, so that you can go and purchase it. So in a way, it's subliminal advertising for the make-up companies who are no doubt funding this project in some way.

It's loads of fun so give it a go! (I also did my husband and he ended up looking like a drag queen - pretty funny!)

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Tomb Sweeping Day

So... tomorrow is Tomb Sweeping Day. It's actually on Saturday 5th April 2008 but for some reason Chinese always seem to celebrate the eve of an event more.

It's a public holiday tomorrow (which I guess makes up for the fact that hubby didn't get any days off for easter ;) )

Well, given that my ancestors 'live' overseas and I'm fortunate enough not to have any graveyards to visit I guess I don't really know anything about this day as I've never experienced it.

Qingming Festival or the "Clear and Bright" Festival is observed either on April 3,4 or 5 each year and occurs during the summer solstice.

Haishi Day (or Cold Food Day) is the very day just before the Qingming Festival. On the day every year, no fire or smoke is allowed and people shall eat cold food for the whole day.

According to the legend, the day is in memory of Jie Zhitui who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC).

Jie was a good official in the Jin State, working for Crown Prince Chong'er. When Jin State was in turmoil, Chong'er was forced to leave for other states with his henchmen, including Jie. On the way of exile they went through all kinds of hardships and difficulties. To save the starving Chong'er, Jie even cut the flesh off his own leg and boiled for Chong'er. After ascending the throne, Chong'er began to forget Jie by and by. Jie was so sad that he prepared to leave and live in seclusion with his mother in mountains.

Chong'er felt so guilty that he in person went to the mountains to look for Jie. For it was impossible to find him in the endless trees and hills, Chong'er ordered to set the mountain on fire, so as to force Jie out. But Jie didn't show up; he and his mother were found to be dead in arms after the fire was put out, together with a note written by him in blood: "I cut off my own flesh to dedicate to you, only to wish my king will always be clear and bright. "

In order to keep in memory of Jie Zitui, Chong'er issued an order to make the day Haishi Day, also named Cold Food Day. And on the Cold Food Day every year, no fire or smoke was allowed and people should eat cold food for the whole day.

It was not until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) about 300 years ago that the practice of Hanshi (or eating cold food) was replaced by that of Qingming, which had now become an important occasion for people to offer rememberances and sacrifices to their ancestors.

Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family's home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts rome around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not be plundered by strangers.

Besides the traditions of honoring the dead, people also often fly kites on Tomb Sweeping Day. Kites can come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Designs could include frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, crabs, bats, and storks.

The practice of annual visit to the family graves is quite universal and is not limited to the Chinese. Christians (Catholics, Protestants, Orthodoxs etc.), Jews and Muslims all do it. Americans often visit the graves on the Memorial Day.

Link | Link 2

I think it is a lovely sentiment, and nice to set aside a day to honour our passed loved ones. And unlike certain other holidays it's not commercial at all.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Olympics tickets

I totally forgot to mention that last week my husband got us tickets to the Olympic Games. No, not the $2000 Opening ceremony ones.. but the $22 regular event ones.

Also, my mother is coming to visit me soon.

Lynn restaurant

(OMG The Blogger firewall has been turned off! Woohoo!)

"Lynn", a brand new landmark in Shanghai's restaurant industry. To enjoy delicacies in a modern atmosphere will certainly make you relaxed and happy.

Lynn Restaurant, located in the intersection of Nanjing Road West and XiKang Road. The six feet high ceiling gives extensive vision to the restaurant, the two rows of floor-type wine cabinet at the entrance collect not only vintage wines from all over the world, but also Lynn's home-made top-grade wine. The huge tangerine fresco transmits warmth to every guest. Elegant pieces of antiquity furniture and beautiful ikebana set off low profile but luxurious atmosphere. The semi-closed separate rooms ensure you to enjoy the elegant environment of the restaurant as well as adequate

Lynn restaurant tries to create new Shanghai Cuisines. Here, Chinese cuisines are prepared in a western way and western foods are enjoyed in a Chinese way. It's wine flavored French goose liver, Italy jellyfish with vinegar and red wine, Heilongjiang smoked egg with roe, golden pomfret, Belgium chicory and arugula salad, eight treasure hot sauce mixed with butter bean curd, smoked pomfret with jasmine flower and salad juice, all these dishes are perfect integration of both Chinese and Western foods whether in terms of ingredients or in preparation. The "Five Flavor" cold dish integrates all tastes in one dish and the seafood crispy rice with abalone juice treated in Korea-type stone wok makes you intoxicated till the last bite.

The lunch dishes are custom-made for the white collars, healthy and tasteful. Varieties of fresh fruit juices with delicate cold dishes and Shanghai and Hong Kong snacks are not only healthy but value added.


Lynn is busy and big and a comforting din all but drowns the contemporary lounge music. There's a film set, New York slickness to the overall effect.

As prospective diners enter and climb some cool marble steps, a decent wine selection lining the walls, greeters welcome at the top of the short flight.

Guided round a partition wall diners are presented with a grand dining hall that looks somehow familiar and immediately aesthetically gratifying. Perhaps it's the dimensions, deep and with a high ceiling. The coloring is dramatic black and white with bold reds and light woods. There's a mixture of stand-alone tables and booths all classically set and during both of Shanghai Daily's lunchtime visits it has been packed.

Lynn is the Shanghainese-style restaurant that the busy Shanghai Center's environ deserves and, with hindsight, is long overdue. Let's face it going to Italy and eating Chinese food would just be plain daft.

The menu comprises many of those favorite dishes found in the earlier mentioned establishments, various dumplings, duck, minced chicken with pine nuts, soups and the usual suspects of seasonally-priced seafood. Lunchtime has set menus on offer with the 70 yuan (US$9.05) deal being the one to go for.

It affords four courses with the likes of a mixed platter: Smoked egg and caviar, fried fish, cold chicken; soup, double-boiled meatballs with freshwater crab; vegetables; fried rice and fruit. The Lynn drink, a stimulating combination of apple, grapefruit, grape and celery, is well worth the 20 yuan. Service is effortlessly accomplished.

On arriving in this fair city I was bemused, no startled, by the notion of re nao - bustling with noise and excitement - and how the Chinese valued this, above all else, in their restaurants. I bemoaned the lack of ambience but now I stand converted.

For the full effect of Lynn get there not long after midday but book ahead. Certainly don't leave it till 1.30pm when lunch is virtually over. After all, this is China.


It all started on 7 August last year when we saw this place. We didn't end up going (went to TMSK in Plaza 66 instead) but went back on 24 September when the inlaws were visiting. It cost about 490 for the 4 of us, including drinks. We were all blown away by the food. It was really tasty and amazing. My photos don't do it justice though!

Kiwifruit juice

Something I can't remember...

Thai-style fish with pinenuts

On Saturday I met up with a bunch of lovely ladies (I met through Facebook) for a all-you-can-eat dimsum (that's yumcha for you Aussies) brunch at a bargain price of 78 RMB per head. There were about 50 different dishes to choose from and it felt like we had all of them at one point! The quality and selection was really good. Unfortunately we spent so long chit-chatting and getting to know one another that before we knew it it was already 3pm and they were packing up the food and practically ushering us out the door, so the dessert was really really rushed. Still, I have no hesitation in recommending Lynn to anyone! especially if you are not used to the typical Shanghainese style of Chinese cooking. This is almost but not quite the more common and westernized Hong Kong style.

Vegetarian dish - my ayi has made this and it's one of my faves even though it's not much to look at (bean curd, bamboo and 'wood ear fungus')


Not sure since I didn't get around to tasting this - oops!

Chicken's feet and dimsums

Dim sims

Tiny little parcels wrapped in a tofu kind of skin. Nice.

Chinese-style green onion pancakes

BBQ pork buns

99-1 Xikang Lu (near Nanjing Xi Lu, next to Plaza 66)
Phone: 6247 0101
Daily 11.30am - 2.30pm and 6.00pm - 10.00pm

Adapting to different cities/countries

This is a sort of continuation from this post

From speaking to people and thinking about events in my life I've come to the conclusion that there are those people who love change and those who hate it.

I used to think I hated change but I think that part of the reason why I like Shanghai is because it is so different to Sydney. Totally different. There are many people like me who like different places to the ones they grew up in. Then, of course, there are those can only deal with the types of places they grew up in.

My parents are a perfect example. They both grew up in Taiwan and left in their late 20s. My father loves living in Australia and really doesn't like Asia at all. He did a 1 year stint in Germany and really liked that too (apart from the cold weather). He really looks up to Western people, culture, on the most part. Maybe it's because he suffers from this 'reverse racism' thing where he believes that everything in the West is better, white people are better, etc etc. My mother, on the other hand, although she lives in Sydney too, is always yearning to go back to Taiwan (or Hong Kong or China) and visit. She loves the hustle and bustle, the crowdedness, the cheap food stalls on the street, the great shopping the nightlife... My stepmother moved to Sydney a couple a years ago and is always complaining about it. She can't seem to see any positives about living there (despite the fact that there are millions of people around the world who would kill to live there, I'm sure). She is constantly whinging and complaining about how crap Sydney is and how great Taiwan is. ARGH. It's so frustrating. I guess age has a lot to do with it too as the older you are, the less malleable you are to change.

Then, of course, I think that the longer you stay in a place, the more it loses its 'lustre'. What seems like a great place for a vacation may actually be a shitty place to live! It got me thinking that it's like a relationship with a person ;) at first it's fun and interesting, then as time goes on more and more problems arise and you have to try harder to rekindle the interestingness that was there at the beginning!

Just a pointless post that doesn't really mean much to anyone except me.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Adobe Photoshop Express online

Just found out about Photoshop you can use online, for free. Obviously it is far more basic than the normal Photoshop with its bells and whistles but still... I guess they are trying to compete with various other online photo editing software sites.

Give them a go!

Photoshop Express