Friday, August 31, 2012

Yup, You Guessed It

I'm in Shanghai.  So what else could this post be other than about Shanghai?  A city about which I grudgingly admitted that "there is a grace to living here that I love" while also describing my feelings toward it shortly thereafter as "a morass of love and hate".  Conflicted, much?

I have not been to Shanghai since I lived and worked here in 2007 and have been itching to visit it again, as five years in a large Chinese metropolis practically renders it a different city.

Unfortunately, the tried and true adage about being careful about what you wish for rings true.  The ONE time that my sister is here from halfway around the world visiting me, staying with me, with both of us eager and happy to hang out and catch up, in all of its anticipated glory.... I have to leave on a business trip. 
Into the jittery wee hours of the night.
Oh, well.  At least I have lots of pretty pictures of Shanghai my hotel room, view from my hotel room, my office, and view from my office.  The hotel starts on the 54th floor of the Jinmao tower, a very famous, tall and pretty building in Pudong.  My room is located on the 71st floor.  My office is located on the 22nd floor of the same building.  (So actually, and sadly, upon my arrival I have not yet left the Jinmao tower.  It's convenient but also kind of horrible). How do you like my fancy digs?

View from the room - the building e on the right is part of the Jinmao tower - the corners of the building cut in and out.
View of Pudong

Swirling lit interior of the hotel that causes a bit of vertigo
Swirling lit interior looking up toward the skylight
Lots of marble... lots
The writing's on the wall...I admit this weirded me out a little

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Foooood... nom nom nom

There has been quite a bit of food feasting lately.

Monday was a jam-packed day for Amanda, who somehow managed to see more of Kowloon than Michael and I have managed in our entire time here.  She found a bunch of cute boutiques in TST,  checked out the Avenue of Stars, hit up several markets, including Jade Market, in Mongkok, and then walked around Jordan, with a stop at Temple Market.  Along the way, she also found fresh fruit juice and candy stores and snapped a ton of pictures.  I'm impressed and not a little exhausted at the same time by her progress.  Some of her pictures here:


clockwise from top: man chopping and discarding bloody meat at the market, a fried pork sandwich, a really cool tree and cobbler man right by our apartment, fish drying out on the sidewalk, typical big umbrella wet market scene, famous Tai Cheong egg tart.

For me, I was only able to keep up at the beginning and the end of her journeys -- we had lunch together at Crystal Jade in IFC, a Shanghainese restaurant famous for their steamed soup dumplings (xiao long bao), fried Shanghai dumpling buns (shen jian bao) and hand cut noodles.  It was so delicious.  The spicy noodles (dan dan mian) struck the perfect balance of flavors and textures: a  light, spicy savory broth that played and contrasted with the gravitas of the slightly sweet peanut sauce, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and fresh green onion.  Unfortunately, the noodles were too good and we started eating before any pictures could be taken.  Ditto for the steamed soup dumplings.  The cabbage was meltingly tender, cooked with just the right amount of salted pork to accentuate the creamy juicy cabbage.
Grinning in anticipation

We capped off Monday evening with dinner in Jordan at the Beef King Seafood hotpot restaurant.  Not very good, and not that good of a price/deal either.

On Tuesday, there was a celebratory dinner at work for our trainee who was returning to the UK.  I went to Bistecca with a bunch of people from work, where I shared a 24 oz. Wagyu steak.  The size of the steak was impressive, although my main complaint was that my meat was overcooked for medium rare.  I am convinced that they switched the tags on the steaks and gave the other co-workers the oozing slab by mistake.

On Wednesday, a family friend took us out to sushi at Sen-ryo in IFC mall for lunch.

On Thursday (that's today, for those of you keeping track) I came to Shanghai for a last-minute work trip and worked nonstop all day with barely any time to eat anything.  Sigh.  That's payback.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Amanda's Arrival and Shek O Beach

My sister landed very early Sunday morning, touching down at 5:30 A.M. at Hong Kong international airport for the first time ever, and found her way to my apartment by 6:30 A.M.  I continue to marvel at the efficiency of the Hong Kong airport.  With four pieces of luggage and no resident ID, my sister was still able to sail through immigration, baggage pickup and transportation to arrive at my doorstep within an hour of landing.

With such an early start to the day, we caught up, unpacked and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over some of the items she had brought over from the U.S., and had a friendly and cheery FaceTime call with our parents and grandma, all before heading out to my favorite breakfast congee spot at a bright and early 8:30 A.M.

Afterward, we walked up through the wet markets, pausing to buy some miniature yellow pomegranates (we couldn't resist the color and the size) and some super skinny dark purple Japanese eggplants (ditto).

After some much-needed coffee and a quick nap while lazing around the couch, we headed to our first destination in Hong Kong.  My office.  (Yes, sadly, that is the first place we headed!  I needed to print out some papers but they weren't ready.  But at least my sister got to see where I spent a lot of my days.)  After that, we procured an Octopus card for her, and with that headed to Shek O beach on the MTR.

The beach was nice, the weather was sizzling, and the mouth-watering barbecue occurring all around the sides of the beach was irresistible.  Unfortunately, it meant that after the three or so hours there, we traipsed home smelling like cooked meat.  While the water quality here was better than Repulse Bay or Lamma power station, and the expanse of beach is so far unrivaled, I think I will stay away because the barbecue smoke is simply too overpowering.  It is also a very crowded beach, although I found the rows upon rows of colorful umbrellas and striped beach chairs whimsical.

Views of the beach as we wound our way home on the double decker bus:

We finished the night early with some Indian food delivered directly to our door, and my sister, triumphant that she made it to 8 P.M. (her 8 A.M.), likely fell asleep as soon as she slipped into bed.  All in all, a very successful first day!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Only in Asia...

This afternoon as I headed out of my apartment, I smelled the unmistakable, sharp, acrid smell of smoke.  Upon further inspection, it became quite clear that there was a LOT of smoke wafting about in one of the stairwells.  When we reported to the security guard/doorwoman, she said without any concern, "Oh, it's probably the incense from the 9th floor".

Seemingly without a qualm in the world, she walked us to the source, where we witnessed the following outrageous scene.  The pictures from the stairwell are so gray due to the smoke, which was mostly coming out of a metal bin full of papers (paper money) on fire:
The smoking bin.  Smoke was just wafting up.
Close-up of the metal bin for burning paper money
 The offender's shrine
More shrines
Does anyone appreciate the irony of this sign?  No smoking, but fires are ok?
And it was only at that point that we realized we didn't have smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in the apartment, or in the building.  It was something I never thought to check.  Gee, you would think that in a city as compact as Hong Kong, with their citizens as keen to burn incense and paper money in their ancestor-worship rituals as they are, the city would have learned to be more cautious and installed a few more fire safety ordinances.

Michael stormed downstairs and gave them a piece of his mind about how dangerous it is to have open fires in high-rise buildings.  The security guard, who doesn't really speak any English, shrugged.  Another tenant, who translated for Michael, replied, "She knows about it and told them, but what can you do?"

Well, at least we have two stairwells.  But in the dire case neither provide an escape, Michael has stewed and brainstormed this afternoon and settled on a sound escape route: out the bedroom door window, onto the ledge, onto the pipe, from where we could launch ourselves onto a neighboring rooftop.  Yes... This is neither the time nor the place to point out the flaws in his plan...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Introducing... Flat 12D

It has only been five months since we moved in, but better late than six months, right?  The apartment is now cozier and happier than ever, no thanks to not insignificant (but thankfully also not insurmountable) challenges.

I hope to hang up a few more paintings, or put in an accessories ladder for the bedroom (have you heard of this?  It's perfect for someone like me, who can't always summon the energy to put everything away neatly after a long day at work or a really lazy Sunday morning or at pretty much any time).

In putting this production together, credit must go to Michael for his endless hours of scrubbing and cleaning, and also for his photography skillz.  The paintings and maps are Allison's creations / crafts projects.  The colorful knives clinging to the metal rack in the kitchen are thoughtful and whimsical presents of Allison's sister, Amanda.  And last but not least, the beautiful black and white photographs of North Carolina, including the extra-cute shot of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse that brightens up our bathroom entry and hallway, is gratefully attributed to Michael's brother, Joey.

Without further ado, I introduce to you our humble abode. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I'm so excited.  After eight months here, I'm finally getting some guests (well, my parents came in the spring but that was it).  And by "some" I actually mean we are going to have guests, coming in and out, for an entire month! Non-stop.  

The guest bedroom is all set up.  I have a whole list of beaches, dim sum joints, attractions and THINGS to DO.  Time to get the party started...

A little video to whet your appetite:  Hong Kong: Funky Time Lapse

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Splashes of Color

Make me happy! Wheeeeee.

1. Mermaid's Tears, OPI nail-polish.  A new favorite.
2. Navy blue print dress from Moncollet
3. Racer red patent leather flats from Bloch

Note: taken in the work elevator, which provides a rather staid, dreary backdrop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday Swimming

It has been ho-o-o-o-t in Hong Kong lately.  On Sunday afternoon, we went swimming at JW Marriott in Admiralty, which was the perfect antidote to the heat:

Then we finished off the night at a hole-in-the-wall Thai joint in Tin Hau, where I had a most delicious Tom Yum shrimp vermicelli soup.