Beautiful Bintan

Many are the reasons to take the five-hour flight from Shanghai to Singapore – a bit of business, an eating escapade or to visit old friends who have opted for less pig-infested waters. While a tropical breath of fresh air is guaranteed, the city-state can also feel like just another big metropolis. But skip across the Singapore Strait and the blue sky, powdery sand and clear turquoise waters of Bintan await. (read on…)

ImageImage

_MG_9974 _MG_0022 _MG_0098 

Muslim Market gone for good

Every Friday the Muslim Market sets up on Changde Lu, right past Changshou Metro. Red tents serve up fresh pumpkin dumplings, baked breads, bags of almonds and dried fruit, kebabs and whole racks of lamb. Congregations of Uighurs and Huis (and a few of us foreigners) swing by to chat, eat and soak in the colorful community as smoke billows past and traffic trickles by. You might remember me writing about it before – you can read that post and see photos of it right here.

The reason they’ve come to congregate here is because of Huxi Mosque. Friday is their day of worship and from 11am to sundown the market sets up for a little post-prayer fellowship. Or it did.

We’ve just learned that weekly commerce is no more.

Read more here. Image

72 Hours in Shanghai

Image

Times they are a-changin’ my friends, but in a good way. From the start of this year, wandering nomads and the like can stop over in Shanghai and Beijing for a total of 72 hours, visa-free! A swift, passport-dealt slap in the face to the many of us who’ve struggled with visa-related issues, but at least travelers (from a list of 45 countries) no longer have an excuse not to visit for a weekend excursion.

But with only 72 hours to eat, drink, tour, party and… drink your way through Shanghai, where does one begin? Never fear city-dwellers, we’ve taken care of your guests as we would our own. 

Find the ultimate guide to your stay in Shanghai right here.

The Golden Land

With the country’s first election in 20 years, a move towards a civilian government and visits from world leaders including President Obama, the tourist floodgates have opened to Myanmar, turning the country into the latest travel hotspot.

ImageStriving to keep up with the influx, most guidebooks are already out of date, often providing tips that no longer apply. Better exchange rates, for instance, are found at banks versus the black market, despite what our book advised. The need to carry crisp, unmarked, post-2005 American dollars to exchange for the local kyat, however, still stands.

Visitors coming to Myanmar hoping to go ‘off the grid’ may be somewhat disappointed. McDonald’s may not have arrived yet, but the country is certainly seeing a touch of tourism contamination. Landing in the former capital Yangon, our hostel, the Mayflower Hotel, has flat screen TVs, a touchscreen elevator and, yes, Wi-Fi. Yet, despite Western conveniences, this is still a land like no other in Southeast Asia: unspoilt and very much filled with genuinely kind people…. read on.ImageImageImage

Above the clouds in Baiji

A month ago I went on a trip with Dragon Adventures to Baiji, a region that houses a collection of villages nestled in between mountains. My article on the trip, featured in the latest addition of That’s Shanghai is now up and online. (First printed travel article!)

Here’s a snippet from my trip or you can read the whole article in full, right here.

“Meet in front of The Camel Sports Bar at 4.45pm. Arrive earlier if you want to enjoy happy hour.” That was the first bullet point on Dragon Adventures’ detailed itinerary for our weekend trip to Anhui Province’s Baiji Mountains, home to a quiet cluster of Tang Dynasty tea villages.

Launched just over a year ago by the fun-loving folks behind the Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl, Dragon Adventures has earned a solid rep for their well-organized, relaxed getaways for 20-somethings wanting old-fashioned fun, fresh air and new friends. Trips typically fill up to capacity, and Baiji was no exception….”

A snapshot of the trip:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friday Find: What should we call me, Shanghai?

GIF’s are all the rage. See here.

We can all relate to many, many on the list, but aren’t they all just a little bit funnier, when they’re a little more personal? Like catered directly to your home city for example? Like catered directly to Shanghai, where everything is already backwards as it is?

Yes, it’s finally happened. There is now a ‘What should we call me’ for Shanghai.

‘When the masseuse touches my butt,’ ‘When Sherpa’s stops delivering due to bad weather,’ ‘When I hear a ladle against a wok in the distance…’ Oh we’d know that sweet, sweet chaotic clang anywhere.

If you plan on heading to Shanghai and definitely if you have lived here, check out Wuluwu.   Warning: Will waste time.

‘Why we’re banned from VUE Bar’

 

Friday Find: Excellent coffee

Second Friday find about coffee, out of about five or so Friday finds. Clearly, I’ve got a thing for the bold and beautiful or am just an addicted American. Let’s go with the first one.

Convenience store coffee in Shanghai. Yes, it does the job. Tastes like you just licked the inside of a grinder that hasn’t been cleaned out in 10 years, but it does the job. If you want the best of the best though, go to Sumerian on Shaanxi Lu by Beijing Xi Lu, where California native (Poway to be exact-represent) Dave and his fiancee have recently set up shop. They have the best stuff brewing.

Beans are imported from Peru, Sumatra, Bali and Ethiopia, one from Bali coming from a volcano and possibly the only of its kind served anywhere in China. Not only do they import quality coffee, but both were trained under roastmaster Mike Perry of world-renowned Klatch coffee. (Originally, Dave’s fiancee wanted to open a chocolate store so they compromised on a finely crafted hot chocolate edition on the menu. Excellent compromise).

They present their coffee (RMB28) with a passion- Kyoto drip, pour-over or what looks like some sort of bunsen burner, known more commonly as a siphon. Espresso drinks (RMB32) are immaculate and the coffee is so pure and fresh it’ll have you humming for days. As an American (I feel like this is a certifiable statement) I average about five venti’s a day to keep me alive; cups here are so on fire that just one does the trick. They also present American-originated desserts (what could probably be something of The Cheesecake Menu lineup) and huge homemade sandwiches.

The key to any good service industry is hospitality. They nail it. This organic-style (reminds me of Cafe 11), local shop is the type of spot many dream of (no, just me?)- the kind where they know your drink order and treat you as though you’ve been coming there for years, irregardless if they just opened two months ago. As the shop continues to grow and new staff is added behind the bar, the warm welcomes, friendliness, western-style service and general charm doesn’t get lost. Quite the contrary, as it just feels more like a family as the shop continues to grow. They just make me smile.

(Photo by That’s Shanghai)

If you want an excellent, not good, not decent, not wake you up, but get you fired up, kind of coffee, Sumerian is the only name you need to know. To read our food and drink editor’s full review, click here.

(Wifi limited at present time, seating and outlets limited. Meaning order your coffee to-go so I can still head here to do work!)

Friday Find: Fabulous dresses at the Fabric Market

I’d be lying if I said this was my find (although I guess if I’m honest, most of these aren’t really my finds). Rather, our life and style editor Hart and editor Tongfei wrote about the lesser known, less expensive Shiliupu Fabric Market back in February. (And now they’ve got us all hooked- when I was picking up my dress today, another one of my colleagues walked in! Shanghai is so small!)

One of the stalls the girls highlighted is Mary’s, No. 100 on the map.

Mary creates perfect party dresses, from silk to satin and in all sorts of colors, you will surely find something special to wear here. She has plenty of look books laid out on the table, but if you bring your own style in, either her or her assistant Anna can surely piece a beautiful ball gown for you.  

It only takes them about a week, they both speak English (although it’s a great chance to practice your Chinese and prices are extremely reasonable. So far I’ve had two made (see below), with two more on the way. (My next mission is to take a step away from the dress thing and actually get another article of clothing made). Will keep you posted on how both (the future dresses and the future non-dresses) turn out. Directions and location to Shiliupu can be found in the attached link above. 

Image

(Teal dress on far right, sash around waist, loose fit. RMB200)

Image

(Long satin, slit in the center covered by trail, extra long trail in back, RMB400, need fancy party to wear this to…)

Friday Find: Cheap and delicious breakfast

Mr. Pancake is a staple breakfast stop for Shanghai locals, but now, there are some new kids on the block. Literally.

Right around the corner from the original Mr. Pancake, AE kitchen has set up shop. And they’re good. Realll good.

Basically the same menu as the pancake masters, but less greasy and their pancakes don’t taste like cardboard. Still are no match for my hometown Sea Oat’s stacks, but they’ll  certainly suffice for Shanghai.

All sorts of specials. A cup of soup comes with your sandwich or salad. Great breakfast deals and cheaper than their rivals. Smoothies, delicious. Uber-friendly staff. Just an all around good mesh.

They’ve got full-menu offerings (pasta’s, pizza’s, beefsteak…), but if you’re like me and love breakfast for dinner, then don’t even worry about the second half of the menu. Breakfast items include hearty omelets, breakfast combos (RMB42-58, ends at 5pm), which includes coffee or tea, pancakes, waffles, crepes or just choose your own sides for approx. RMB10 each.

Their latest steal: RMB15 breakfast sets with a choice of a small stack of pancakes, egg dish or ham and cheese melt. Rumor has it comes with a cup of coffee or tea too! (Mon-Fri, 8-10am)

While it doesn’t compete with the quick-and-easy, RMB5 jianbing on the street. If you want a good homestyle, American breakfast, that doesn’t leave you feeling like a grease pan, this place is the ticket.

Wifi available. 184 Wuding Lu by Beijing Xi Lu. (Stay tuned for an article from That’s Shanghai, coming soon!)

Dancing Matt returns

Last February, I wrote a short aside about Dancing Matt, a guy who goes around the world and just gets everyone to dance with him. Amazing. Genius. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?!

He’s been doing this dancing act since 2006 and finally, he’s back:

Dancing Matt 2012

Love this guy. Keep ‘em coming Matt. Maybe one time, I’ll even have the pleasure to dance alongside of you!

A smile for your day

Sometimes you just need a smile for the day. I’ve been needing one. Maybe you need one too. BuzzFeed recently posted the article ’21 pictures that will restore your faith in humanity.’ It’s a good one and it’ll give you that warm fuzzy feeling where, for a moment, everything seems right in the world.

Here’s the first one:

This picture of Chicago Christians who showed up at a gay pride parade to apologize for homophobia in the Church.

Image

… and the reaction from the parade.

Image

Thanks guys. I needed this.

To see the rest of the album, click here.

Word of advice. Don’t read them when you’re at a cafe. It’s awkward when you start tearing up in front of strangers.

Friday Find: Cheap Pure Blondes

Forget about Bud Light Lime, there’s not even Bud Light here. Low-calorie/low-carb beer just hasn’t hit the market in China.

But thanks to our good old Aussie’s, they’ve saved the day (and our figures..kind of) with Pure Blonde. Hot dog.

Image

From Cheers-In they run you a cool RMB15 and you won’t find them any cheaper than that. But, we all know, more often than not, we’re shelling out the cash at the local pubs.

Most bars in town charge you roughly RMB45, unless you hit HH hour at Camel for RMB25 drinks from 4-8pm (which is where I’m heading as soon as I finish this!), but for normal nights out, no matter how later, there’s only one place in town I’ve found them reasonably priced.

Not my favorite, but The Shed sells ‘em for RMB25 (along with a score of other low-priced beverages) all. the. time. So when 9pm rolls around and you haven’t even hit the bars yet, this is a good spot to start off, especially if you need to save your money for a late evening out and forget to order your beer delivered to your door.

They’re moving locations soon, but will still be roughly in the Kanding Lu area. Details have yet to be confirmed, but you can look forward to their moving sale when all drinks are RMB20.

On a side note, you can now get Virgin Blonde Lager at Camel (at least during Euro play), which are alcoholic despite the misleading name. They’re just okay.