Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bride to be and her Chee Pow

A friend of mine here Kristin who went with us to Anji, is heading back to the states in two weeks to get married!  Being here has proved to be little difficult with planning and getting everything ready.  But she did have the great idea to incorporate their new home into a few of the details, like wearing a traditional Chinese dress for her rehearsal dinner!  Such a cute and great idea, plus it looks great on her!  We went to the fabric market where they fully custom make the dress and fit it perfectly to her.  It took about 3 fittings but it is perfect!

The fancy dressing room.

Almost done, a few more changes!
Finished product, beautiful!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anji- the bamboo forest

Last weekend we took a trip with our friends Kristin and Tim to Anji.  Anji is in the bamboo forest where the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed.  It was so great to get to real nature and be able to relax.  We went with a travel group,, so everything was taken care of for us.  Transportation, lodging, food and guided hikes were all included plus a BBQ party.  It was so great to not have to find our way around and have someone else worry about everything.
Anji was about a 3 1/2 hr drive from Shanghai and we were with everyone who was going for the weekend on the bus.  There were ten of us total which the guide said was a small number.  We stayed in small bungalows that were actually pretty nice.  Joel and I were given a 3 person one at first but we had to move the second day to a 2 person room.  It was fine because to compensate they brought us a cooler full of beer and our new room also had a mahjong table.
The first day we had breakfast prepared for us and then we set out on a long hike.  We had to take the bus to the top of the mountain and then we went down the first and up and over another mountain.  It had rained the day before so the trail was slick but the views and the scenery were awesome.  Bamboo is so beautiful.  The hike lasted about 3+ hours and by the end it was pouring rain.  At least it was warm so we were't freezing from being soaked.  I don't even think the pics do the hike justice.  It was so beautiful, probably more so since we hadn't been to real nature like that in months.  At the end of our hike the bus was supposed to pick us up but something was miscommunicated so our guide paid a local to drive us back in groups.  The local kept his gasoline for his small van on the floor in front of the back seat, covered with plastic wrap.  I think we were all high by the time we arrived back, at least we made it in one piece!
After cleaning up and drying off we had lunch prepared for us, traditional Chinese that was really good.  We decided that once we were finished with lunch we would relax and have some beers and play mahjong.  That night was a big BBQ party that the company threw for us so we just hung out until then.
The BBQ was really good.  We hadn't had grilled food, hamburgers brats and fries since coming to China so it was a little taste of home in the bamboo forest.  There was a younger single German guy on our trip who is in China studying Chinese.  He made friends with a few of the workers at the resort and they challenged him to a drinking contest.  For the Chinese this meant beer.  For a German this meant Vodka.  Let's just say it did not end well.  All parties involved were sick that night and at breakfast the next day.  It was really funny to watch.  After the party was over we went back to our room for some cards and then to bed.
Day 2 started again with breakfast and then we set out on a hike.  Kristin and Tim didn't join us for the hike so Joel and I went with the rest of our group alone.  It wasn't quite as challenging of a hike as the day before but still really beautiful scenery.  We made some new friends and chatted with everyone the whole hike.  After the hike was lunch and then home.  Way too quick of a weekend but a good time to recharge and get a break from city life.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Our trip to Beijing a few weeks ago came during the hottest time of the year but was more than worth it to get to spend some time with friends there.  We took the high speed train (which Joel was super excited about) to Beijing and it took about 5 hours.  It really wasn't bad.  Joel and I had dinner in the dinner car and it was ok.  In my head head I had visions of classy white linens and waiters and menus but really it was just a counter where you could order some noodles and sit at a table.  Lol.  Oh well.  The ride went really fast, we watched a movie on the Ipad, read a little and then we were there!
After checking into our hotel (we were surprised with an upgrade to a suite as big as our apartment!) we went to the regency lounge for a cocktail and a snack to wait for our friends Jerry and Suzie for dinner.  We went to a really good chinese restaurant and let Jerry and Suzie order for us.  Everything was really good.  We had this one chicken dish that was cooked in a salt crust that you had to break open with a wooden stick.  The waitress let Joel and I try and we did get quite a bit of attention but it was fun.
The next day Joel and I took a walk in the area around our hotel and didn't last too long because the pollution was so bad.  We did find a nice park to walk in but then headed back to the hotel for lunch.  The night before we had ordered a duck (you have to do it in advance) from a famous restaurant in Beijing that is know for their Peking duck called Made in China.  It was so delicious.  We tried several other of their famous dishes and from where we were sitting we could watch all the cooks work.  It was a great meal.  Later that day Jerry and Suzie came and picked us up and we headed up to conquer the Great Wall of China.  We arrived after they had closed, but this is China, so Jerry just gave the guard some cash and we were in!  Even though it was 5pm by the time we got there it was still crazy hot.  We did climb but all of us had to take several breaks and were drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top.  It was cool to be able to check it off my list, but the pollution in Beijing was so bad that it wasn't as awe-inspiring as I thought it would be.  Maybe if we could have seen more than 10 yards in front of us it would have been better.  We also had a mung bean popsicle for the first time to cool off after our walk, it was weirdly good and addicting.   After we were done we had the pleasure of being invited to dinner by Jerry's mom and we spent the evening in her house.  It was good to have a home cooked meal with a really great family.  The dinner was so good and Joel and I felt like we were at home.  Made us a little home sick but was a nice change from the fast paced city life we are used to.
Our last day in Beijing We got up early for breakfast at the hotel and then went to see Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City with Jerry and Suzie.  It was huge and really cool to see even though it was soooo hot!!  We, of course, were some of the very few non-Asians there so we were sort of a spectacle, had to have our picture taken but we are starting to get used to it.  For lunch to cool off we went to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant and had some cold beers.  The restaurant had old rickshaws (I think that is what they are called) as chairs and also had a roof top where you could see a lake and old shopping street.  It was a great area to walk around in and have lunch and then do a little bit of souvenir shopping.
After our fun day we unfortunately had to say goodbye and get back on the high speed train to Shanghai.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grape Picking

A friend of ours from kickball was nice enough to organize a bus and tour of a local family grape farm.  Thirty of us boarded a bus and took the hour long ride from the city to the Chinese farmland.  When we arrived the family who owned the farm served us a home cooked lunch.  They also let us try their home-made wine that was unlike any wine we had tried before.  A mix between brandy and port I think would be the closest way I can describe it.  Let's just say that none of us had a second helping of it, except our friend Paul who we talked into taking a shot of it.  After lunch some people played ping pong while others explored a bit.  Once our lunch was digested was headed out to the vines to pick some grapes!  It was over 100 degrees so we didn't last too long in the sun, but everyone got their fill of grapes that is for sure.  Joel and I came home with extras for friends plus we now have a freezer full.  Yum.  They are delish!  After we all had our fill of the farm we loaded back on the bus and made a stop at the small old canal town near by.  We explored some of the shops and Joel and I bought tickets to go to the top of the ancient pagoda.  It was really cool inside and a great view from the top!  We got back on the bus and headed back to Shanghai, Joel and I napping the whole way!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The UAE (finally!)

I know I have been saying that I would show the pics and tell about the middle east for a while now but my social schedule as a Shanghai Tai Tai (house wife) has been very hectic!  Lol, but here I am, finally sitting down to share with you our trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
This trip was right after I went to the UK with my mom (you can read about it here and here if you missed it!)  We flew from London to the middle east with a layover in Frankfurt.  Not too bad of a flight.  After several 14 hour and 12 hour flights since moving abroad, 7 hours is a drop in the hat!
We arrived in the middle east around dinner time, which was perfect because we were meeting my hubby (who I hadn't seen in 2 wks!)  and some of the people from his office for dinner and drinks.  This was a working trip for my dad and Joel so my mom and I were pretty much on our own during the days, and for one night when the guys travels overnight to Kuwait City.
So our first day my mom and I were very fortunate to run into another mother and daughter traveling together.  We were waiting behind them at the concierge desk to see if we could plan a few trips.  She was discussing the big bus map with the concierge (which you all know by now is my favorite!)  and my mom and I sort of butted in.  It worked out for the best because we decided that it would be fun for the four of us to see the city together and hire a private car so we could see the sights that we wanted to see.  So we met up after lunch and headed out.
We saw pretty much everything there is to see in Abu Dhabi that day.  We went to the cultural center, which is for tourists obviously but it was still interesting.  We also went to the Big Mosque, which is new but boasts the largest carpet in the world.  Let me tell you, it was huge!  The entire mosque was really awe inspiring.  We did however have to wear full burkas to pay our respects to the religion (and to be let in), which was a weird experience having lived my whole life being able to wear whatever I wanted (except the one time in 7th grade I got in trouble by my mom for wearing a tube top to school).  Totally worth wearing the burka though because the Mosque was not something I would have wanted miss seeing!  We also stopped at the giant mall for a starbucks, and finished off the day with a little shopping.

The next day our new friends left so my mom and I were on our own.  We hired a private car to take us around for the day again, this time in an SUV incase the shopping got out of hand (which it did and my mom had to ship an entire suitcase full of stuff home) to drive us to Dubai.  Dubai was only about an hour drive and it was actually very interesting scenery, even though it was really just sand.  Once in Dubai we got the driving tour, saw the world's tallest building a few small mosques and then stopped for some shopping at the gold and spice markets.  While we did not buy any gold, we did buy some spices and we also bought some amazing embroidered pillow cases and my mom bought a beautiful hand embroidered scarf.  It was some very amazing shopping.

The next day was our last day and my mom and spent it just chilling on the beach.  We  just swam and read and hung out.  Our last night in Abu Dhabi we went on a desert safari with the guys and people from Joel's work.  It was a blast.  The night started with four-wheeling on the sand dunes (which was slightly terrifying) with a stop at the camel farm, to our dinner location where they had camels for us to ride, sand boarding, dune buggies to drive, a lady doing henna tattoos, hookah to smoke, belly dancing and of course food and drinks for us.  It was a really fun night to be out under the stars (not something you see in Shanghai) and to experience new things.  I of course got a henna tattoo and Joel of course rode the dune buggies, which after the guides warned us they were dangerous and that they didn't have insurance to cover accidents, Joel still managed to go flying off his.  But all in all it was a really fun night.  The next day Joel and I headed back to the 'Hai to rest while my parents went to Hong Kong and then came to spend a week with us in the city.  But more on that in another post!

Click here to see a video of our trip!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chinese Junk Store

For those of you who know me in real life (which let's be honest, I think is most of you) you know that I love junk store, garage sales, thrift stores and any other place where I can explore and find "junk" for my house or to fix up.  In China they don't have any thrift stores and they don't do garage sales but after almost 5 months of living here I finally found a real junk store.  Even better than the ones I have found in the states because here it was rows and rows of crap but they will fix it up for you and paint it if you want included in the price.  I luckily have found a few friends who share my love of junk so we headed out to explore the store.  Getting there was quite the feat.  We had to call and ask for directions twice (I say we but I don't speak Chinese so really it was Jacqueline's driver who talked to them for us) but we finally found it.  After exploring for about an hour we ended up with a thousand mosquito bites and covered in dust but it was totally worth it.  We brought home a few small items but we will definitely head back to buy some furniture in the future.  I found several items that I really liked and something tells me they will still be there when I go back. : )

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guest Blogger-Nicole in Australia

One of the places high on my list to visit has always been Australia.  Now that we are a little closer I think I may have to finally make the trip down there.  Hopefully this blog of Nicole's travels to Australia will inspire you to plan a trip as well!  Enjoy!

Hello all! Since Jenny is on the theme of world-traveling guest bloggers, I asked her if I could blog about my experience in Australia. My boyfriend Chris and I travelled around Australia for almost two weeks and had a great time. Our first stop, after a long flight was to Sydney. In order to catch our flight from Brisbane to Sydney we had about an hour and a half to clear customs, pick up checked luggage, go through the baggage check part of customs, drop off the checked luggage, and take a bus from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. We made it with about five minutes to spare. It was very stressful. While in Sydney, we took a boat tour of the harbour which included views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. We also saw some very large houses that were pretty amazing. The next two days that we were in Sydney were extremely rainy, not just a drizzle, but a downpour. We heard later that this was the most rainfall in 60 years. We tried our best to find indoor activities. We went to Wildlife World and the Sydney Aquarium where we saw a 5-meter saltwater crocodile, the world’s most poisonous snake and spider, koalas, kangaroos, and a bunch of other cool animals. We also went to two breweries and a bar that is said to be the oldest in Sydney (The Hero of Waterloo has tunnels that connect to the wharf area. When sailors didn't want to return home, the captains would get them drunk and drag them back to the ship.) At one of the breweries, we got to see some teams doing a scavenger hunt with a pirate as the director of the scavenger hunt. Watching people dance and sing around a bar at 11 am is pretty entertaining, especially when they bribe you with chocolate to give them a high score on their dance. We wanted to see as much of the city as possible, despite the rain. We walked through the botanic gardens, the area by the government house, and along Mrs. Macquarie's Road. She was the wife of the first governor and she would walk around this area everyday. This walk went out between two bays. Thankfully there were some sandstone "cliffs" that we could hide under. From there we walked to Woolloomooloo to get meat pies at a place called Harry's Cafe de Wheels. I guess it is a pretty famous place because they pictures of celebrities eating there, including KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
Our next stop was Melbourne (Pronounced Melbin as they don’t prounoune their r’s in the middle of words, but add them to words that end with ‘a’. For example, if you name is Fiona, you would say Fioner). We found a brewery that was suggested to us by a local and learned a lot about the breweries and taphouses in the area. The bartender gave us a book that he had on hand about beer in Australia. The other bartender was from Albuquerque. We used the book for the rest of the trip to help us find breweries and taphouses. As we walked around the city we found the football stadium. They had merchandise for the North Melbourne Kangaroos for sale so we bought a hoodie and a t-shirt. The lady told us to enjoy the game, which we had no idea was going on. We decided to experience the Australian-rules football game for ourselves. We found a place to sit and then asked the people sitting by us the explain the rules. It is kind of like our football with elements of soccer and volleyball thrown in. Without asking about the rules, the game really made no sense. The North Melbourne Kangaroos beat the Brisbane Lions with a score like 122 to 73, or something like that. It was actually very fun to watch. The buildings here are a mix of new modern skyscrapers and buildings that look like they belong in Venice or Rome. We did a side trip to Phillip Island to visit a Koala conservation center and watch the Penguin Parade. Little Penguins go out to fish in the ocean and then return after sunset to find their homes. After sunset, they start waddling up the beach and then calling for their mates. It is very cute. But, they don’t allow pictures or video.
Our next stop was Ayer's Rock, in the Northern Territory or the Outback.  Ayer's Rock is a small resort village with about five hotels, a shopping center with a grocery store and a few restaurants and restaurants at each of the hotels. We saw some local wildlife...with eight legs. I took a picture of one, but we found another that was bigger. We watched the sunrise at Ayer’s rock (or Uluru, which is its Aboriginal name). The rock looks different colors at different times of the day or after it rains, ranging from oranges and reds, to purples, and even black). We went to another area of rocks called the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and did a short hike. It is an absolutely beautiful area.
Our last stop was Cairns (pronounced Cannes). We found the local brewery (so that Chris could material for his beer blog, and it was their trivia night. We came in second, which is good because the sports round was mostly about rugby and Aussie rules football and we had no clue what any of the answers were. We did win a bonus question and got a six pack of their pilsner. We took a side trip to Kuranda, an area that is mostly rainforest so we walked along the short jungle walk trail. They also had a lot of tourist shopping stuff and market area. We did get to enjoy meat pies for lunch, which reminds Chris of his semester he spent in New Zealand. They have a bat rehab center for bats that have been injured or abandoned. They had huge fruit bats and some very tiny bats as well. They lady gave us a lot of info about the bats and it was a cool experience. We took the scenic railway back, but the moving train just made me sleepy and I took a nap.
We were able to snorkel twice in the Great Barrier Reef. Our first snorkel trip was to Green Island. The boat ride going there was miserable and so many people were getting sick. Luckily Chris and I did not get sick, just a little uncomfortable. When we got there we tried one side of the island to snorkel, but the water was too shallow. So we went to the other side which was better, but we didn't get to see a whole lot. We did a glass bottom boat tour and again didn't see much. The boat ride back was better and we briefly saw a humpback whale. Our second reef trip was to the outer reefs and you snorkel off the boat instead of the beach. It was amazing. We saw so many fish, a couple sea turtles, a white-tipped reef shark and a nice display by a humpback whale on the trip back. I am sure that I missed a lot of the details of our trip. It was great to experience the culture in Australia. 
Sydney Opera House 
Harry's Cafe De Wheels - Meat Pies

Ayer's Rock

Port Douglas -Near Cairns

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A typhoon is coming...

Not just any typhoon, a level five super typhoon.  It is a little scary, all though we are a ways in land so we should be fine.  Just wanted to let everyone know that we have prepared a little (extra water, food, beer and a trip to the movie lady) so we should be set for this weekend.  The last few days we have been getting bits and pieces of the edge of it and it has been intense!  I have never seen sideways rain until now.  The lightening was hitting buildings and the thunder was shaking our windows.  Poor murph (a friends dog) was terrified and had to be cocooned in his kennel.  But so far each day when it has hit it only lasts about an hour.  Hopefully it will be the same when we get the full impact on Saturday.

The first day that it hit, I got home from bible study right as the rain started.  I called Joel because he had come home for lunch and I had missed him.  When I called him the wind was starting to pick up a bit and the lightening was getting really intense.  It turns out that right as he had gotten on the ferry to get back to work the lightening had started and the ferry couldn't go anywhere.  So Joel was just sitting on a Chinese ferry with no emergency exits (I have checked)  in a lightening and rain storm.  So I told him to get off the ferry and get his butt home.  Seriously it is about a 4 minute walk from the ferry to our back door and this is what showed up at my door...

I guess an umbrella doesn't help when the rain is coming in sideways.  Lol.
I will keep everyone posted!

Visit from a friend!

We recently got to catch up with a friend from home who is a pilot and flys to China a lot.  It was great to hear about everyone at home and share a beer in China!  We took Steve to a place called Boxing Cat Brewery where the expats like to hang out for some good bar food and home brewed beer.  The food is great, the beer is decent but it is just a great place to hang out and catch up.  After drinks the boys tried to sneak into a absolute vodka party but they weren't on the list.  Sorry Steve, we aren't that cool!

I thought this looked like Penelope!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Flowers from Joel

My husband is the best...

Surprised me with flowers and showed off his arrangement skills!

Showing off the goods!


Monday, August 1, 2011

A day at Carrefore...

Just another typical day at the grocery store.  You can get just about everything on your list at Carreforre!

Fresh fish!

Fresh eel and frogs!

Even frozen headless frogs to keep in the freezer for those nights you don't feel like going to the store!