Shanghai Moments

Some great moments to share….

IMG_7991I walked into a convenience store and saw a baby in a box. Need I say more? I love Asian babies so much. They are so cute with the chubbiest cheeks. And usually well behaved.
IMG_4705The mall that looked like a spaceship right near my apartment. Best mall ever. I’m not a mall person but in Shanghai I loved everything about this mall. The best restaurants, roof top terraces, beautiful design, clean air, gorgeous stores. IAPM mall is something to remember.
IMG_8188Becoming friends with local fashion designer Nicole Zhang and going to her amazing shows. She’s super talented has the coolest style. She’s been featured in Vogue China.

IMG_8187Getting snapped by street style photographer Roy on the Street with my British friend Selena who was an editor for Time Out Shanghai.
Screen shot 2014-12-18 at 4.49.24 PMNo joke, you see people on bicycles carrying EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, like foam boxes, cardboard boxes, random metal equipment. I once saw a giant dead pig on the back of a motorbike, but I wasn’t fast enough with my camera.IMG_9197Delicious street food, especially this one – a type of bread served piping hot.

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Back in Canada

I left wild China and I’m back in glorious Canada. As an open minded, curious, and travel savvy person, living in Shanghai was nothing short of adventurous with ups and downs. It opened my eyes to a world I really didn’t know much about. I learned so much about different cultures, expat life, the working world in China, the digital world, the shopping world, and a lot more that I could tell you about over tea one day.

China is a hard place to adapt to, but my experiences will stay with me forever. I gained true life and work experience and I learned to tap into patience in times of chaos. The best part was that I got to see a lot of Asia including Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines. I look back on my pictures and I still can’t believe I saw all of that.

It’s difficult to describe everyday life to friends and family. I’ve shared some stories, but nothing could truly capture the daily things I saw, unless I had a video camera glued to my forehead. I should have tried that.

Seeing a family of three zip by on a motorbike is a daily sight I’ll definitely miss. Not to mention indulging in the local food stalls. Chinese food will never be the same.

Even though you were crazy Shanghai, I’ll always hold a special place for you in my heart.

IMG_9365Quite possibly the hottest day of my life. There are no words.IMG_9554The side car tour of Shanghai is an interesting and really fun way to see the city

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Ladies in the park doing their thing
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The historical staircase at my work
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Old roof tops that give Shanghai its charm
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Exploring one of the many areas being torn down for new development
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An amazing participatory art project I organized for work
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Roof top view
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Last night celebrating before taking off to tour Asia

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Travel: Beautiful Yangshuo China

One of the greatest highlights of China was our trip to Yangshuo. I heard it was beautiful from friends and I checked out pictures online, but being there in person was an amazing breath of fresh air and the views are spectacular.

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If you’re thinking about going to China, Yangshuo should definitely be on your list. It’s a 2 hour flight from Shanghai and you need 3 or 4 days, no less. Here’s a bit of advice on how to navigate the area:

Fly into Guilin and take the ferry to Yangshuo (down the Li River). It’s a key highlight and takes about 4 hours. If you fly in at night, stay the night in Guilin and take the ferry the next morning.  The ferry only goes from Guilin to Yangshuo (not the reverse) so don’t miss it!

The town center of Yangshuo is kind of ugly, so you should stay in the country side. Two good places to stay are The Giggling Tree and Secret Garden. Both are very charming.

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This trip is all about making the most of your day outdoors, so I would pack workout clothes and good trainers. Get a map in advance – try printing online. We had a hard time finding a map…our B&B only had one so they couldn’t give it to us and we got a little lost.

Rent bikes and ride around the country side. Your hotel will tell you the route and you’ll see a lot of people on bikes. Take a bamboo boat ride along Yulong river – you’ll come across this on your bike ride. Splendid!

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The next day, take a local bus to Xingping (takes about 45 minutes). Walk around Old Street, hike up Laozhai hill, visit the fishing village (by boat or hike), or hike around the Li River. There’s a really good restaurant on Old Street called Warm Cafe – definitely worth it.

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Back in Yangshuo, if you’re into something different, there’s a live show called Impression SanjieLiu that takes place every night along the Li River. You have to buy tickets in advance and it’s great! It was kind of like watching an Olympic opening ceremonies.

Another friend suggested visiting the rice terraces in Longli but it’s 3 hours outside from Guilin (the other direction of Yangshuo), so you would need more time. It’s a day trip. We were there for 3 days and didn’t have time. This is where the fourth day would have been nice.

Overall the trip to Yangshuo gave me a whole new appreciation for China. I was so impressed with the vistas and the overall look and feel was unmatched by other experiences. Definitely worth the trek.

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Travel: Hong Kong

At long last I finally visited Hong Kong for a weekend! And what a wonderful weekend it was. It had been on my trip list for 10 years ever since my Dad went and told me I would love it. Hong Kong is amazing and truly lived up to my expectations. A very cool city filled with excitement, lots of shopping, beautiful vistas and good food. To me, it felt like a cross between New York, San Francisco and Vancouver.

New York for its bustling action, memorable taxis, and delicious restaurants. San Francisco because of the cool neon signs, and hilly city landscape. And Vancouver because it is mountainous and rains a lot.

Unfortunately it rained a whole lot during our three-day stay, but it didn’t put a damper on my love for the city. Truly a ‘must visit’ place for all the city lovers out there.

IMG_7682Hotel Indigo in Wanchai – a great place to stay

IMG_7683I loved this side street in SoHo, it looked like a movie set

IMG_7815Skyline view from the ferry

IMG_7706Ted’s Lookout…cool little corner in Wanchai

IMG_7712Pretty street in Wanchai. The streets in this area are called Sun, Moon, Ship and Star :)

IMG_7793Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road

HK streetsTypical street view with lots of outdoor stairs
JD in HKAt the top of Victoria Peak, so foggy we didn’t see the famous view. A reason to go back!

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Malaysia: Land of Food and Friendly

Over the Chinese New Year break we ventured out to Malaysia. It was a much-needed escape from the never-ending traffic noise and air pollution of Shanghai. I didn’t know much about Malaysia when we booked our flights, except that I tried a Malaysian dish in Australia some years ago and it was terrible. Beef Redang. Wasn’t a fan.

But we love to travel to a place of good food and we were told Malaysia would not disappoint. It most certainly did not disappoint and I realize that the restaurant in Australia was probably crap.

We started the trip with a big FAIL by missing our flight!!!! Despite being super organized with all hotels booked in advanced, everything printed, and an expert packing job, we arrived at the airport for our 1:30 flight only to realize, it left at 1:30 am! Worst!!!! What kind of flight leaves at that hour? Air Asia.

We bit the bullet and booked another flight (price not to be mentioned). After waiting in the airport all day, and getting delayed again, it was 4 am by the time we got to our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Luckily our hotel was in a bustling part of the city, right near the famous outdoor food market Jalan Alor, and it was still going strong. We ate dinner…er breakfast at an amazing Tandoori place nearing 5 am. But who cares, vacation means no real schedule.

A few hours later we were off to Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s rich in history and heritage. We toured around by foot and admired the pretty buildings. At night we went to the Jonker Walk Night market. A long street selling food, trinkets, and more food.

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Our next stop was Georgetown in Penang, another UNESCO World Heritage site, but much bigger than Melaka. Penang is known as THE food capital of Malaysia, so it was here that we sampled all the dishes you’re supposed to try in Malaysia, including the strangest fruit we ever did eat – durian. We’re pretty open to trying new foods and liking them, but durian wasn’t one of them. It’s about the size of a melon but with a prickly outside. When you open it up inside, it looks like play-doh and smells like garbage. I watched DT eat it first and his face was priceless. I wish I filmed it. To give you an idea of the offensive smell, many hotels have signs banning durian be brought on their property. Keep in mind – it’s a fruit! Strange I know.

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Penang was really nice, it’s part historical, part brand-new city, and a short 30 minute bus ride brings you to the National Park and beaches.

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The last leg of the trip was spent on the island of Langkawi, the jewel of Kedah. It was beautiful and quaint and a perfect way to end the trip. There are a number of beautiful beaches, mountains, parks, and it’s so close to Thailand that you can do day trips there. Wild.

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One of the best things about Malaysia is how friendly the Malay people are. We loved them! Their accents are awesome, they smile a lot, they’re laid back, and just overall seem like a happy bunch. The weather was perfect every day and the food was so interesting with Indian and Thai influences.

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I highly recommend checking out Malaysia, and if you’re interested in doing the loop we did, we stayed at excellent places – The Yard Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Wei Far Guest House in Melaka, Glow Boutique Hotel in Georgetown, and La Pari Pari in Langkawi. All awesome, affordable, and highly recommended.

Dreaming of the beach now. My happy place, always and forever.

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Health. It Really Matters

Does my title sound like a Public Service Announcement? Or better yet, the name of your grade 6 health class text book? I’ve been in hiding lately and that’s because I’ve been sick on and off since Christmas…and doing nothing fun. Not entirely true, I have done a few fun things, but my health was in the gutter so it’s been a rocky road.

It started with getting knocked out at Christmas after flying back to Toronto from Shanghai. It may have been a combination of jet lag and my body being out of sync with the environment – different food, water, climate, all that stuff. I spent two days in bed. I flew back to Shanghai and suffered from extreme jet lag again. A fourteen hour flight and thirteen hour time difference is no easy feat.
Then my stomach and chest and throat started turning on me and I ended up with a case of pneumonia, which was a result of the poor air conditions in Shanghai. I spent 12 days doing nothing but staring at my ceiling, coughing, playing candy crush, coughing, and spending hours on Pinterest. I couldn’t do anything productive, it made me so moosh and lazy.

More stuff happened, including a shoulder injury and being attacked by sand flies while on vacation (more on that later), and I was beginning to think someone cursed me with The Malocchia (Italian for the evil eye, full description here).

ImageA few things I learned through this dark zone:

1) Even if you do things right, sometimes things still go wrong. This is a sad but true statement. Before getting sick I was eating healthy, working out, getting lots of sleep, drinking lots of water, and stress was minimal. But I still got sick! I didn’t understand how all these things could go wrong, out of no where. But sometimes, they just do.

2) If you feel like things are at their worst – things could always be worse. I was complaining about being dumped on, but then I would think of a situation that could be worse, and that put things into perspective for me. Saying “things could be worse” has become a good tactic.

3) If you find yourself worrying and getting paranoid, just stop. I really worked myself up at times, but I had to stop and remember that there are low times and there are good times. Always think about the light at the end of the tunnel.

4) Friends and family are my saviours. I spent hours texting, emailing, and on the phone with family and friends who gave me words of encouragement, advice, and checked in on me daily to see how I was doing. These notes meant so much and I was extremely thankful for everyone’s care….especially my man for taking care of me and putting up with my grumpiness.

The good news is I’m starting to feel like a human being again. It’s true that your health is the most important thing before anything else. It doesn’t mean I’m in the clear (see point #1), but I do know that I have never appreciated feeling healthy more than I do now.

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The Dish on Life and Work Abroad

Thanks to Lisa Ng of This Beautiful Day blog for interviewing me for her awesome lifestyle blog. Here’s a screen grab but you can see the full piece by clicking here.
Peace ya’ll.

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