Monday, March 31, 2008

Yangshuo, China

We spent last weekend in a small town called Yangshuo, southwest of Shanghai.
More well known may be the city of Guilin which hosts the areas main airport and is approx. a 1.5 hour taxi ride away from Yangshuo. The entire area is known for it's amazing landscape - seriously, just beautiful! - it's covered with mountainous karsts, which are limestone "mountains" and are just amazing to look at. Yangshuo area is still pretty low-key, there are quite a few Chinese tourists that go to see the karsts as well as a very well known light show called "Liu Sanjie" - for more info click here - that is performed on the Li River (yes, literally on the river.)

Other than the light show, most people go for the outdoors activities in the area like; Rock Climbing, Hiking, Biking, Hot Air Ballooning, Cave Tours, and probably the most common Bamboo Rafting. You'd probably need at least 3-4 days to do and see everything, but if you're just looking for a weekend trip out of Shanghai for some fresh air 2 days is fine. We stayed at a fantastic little hotel outside of "downtown". It's called the Li River Retreat and is set up on a hillside overlooking the river. Fabulous place!

Some photos we took are below - some are from on the ground and others are from the Hot Air Balloon ride we took which was an all together amazing experience just on it's own.

**I'm having problems loading pictures...I'll post more later...sorry!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Potential New House

We are pretty sure we've found a place we'd like to buy in Shanghai - the process is long and arduous but we are prepared! You'll see from the pictures that it's a second hand home, meaning it's not brand new and it's already been lived in. It's small, 2 bedroom/2 bathroom but it's big enough for us now and will be something we can rent out when we move out in a few years.

The location is fantastic, (Huaihai Road Area near XangYang Park) within 1-2 blocks of 2 subway lines (1&7), a high end western grocery store, tons of shopping, my favorite restaurant is 2 blocks away and there are many other restaurants and cafes in the area. It's very centrally located in downtown Shanghai so we are pretty happy with our decision!

Below are some pictures we took of it in it's current state - we will essentially have to re-do the entire apartment, put new flooring in, change the kitchen, update the bathrooms, paint and molding but it's going to look fabulous when we're done!

Spring in China

Now that spring is on it's way in - we've started seeing fruit vendors on the streets. Today we spotted a couple selling more exotic fruits out of the back of their truck, so we picked up a pineapple for 80 cents and they even clean it for you! If you can see in the picture, the pineapples are smaller than we ones we find in the US, we were told that these came from Hainan, a small island off the south coast of China.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blocked Websites in China

There are many websites that remain blocked in China. The government doesn't allow people to access many "free speech" sites like blogs, etc. But normally news sites like the New York Times or the BBC can be accessed.

I've been meaning to compile a list of all the sites I can't see and,below is a list of sites I haven't been able to access since I moved here in December.

  • (all blogs - I can't even view my own blog!)
  • Amnesty International
  • Human Rights Watch and basically any other website related to Human Rights
  • Wikipedia
  • Wordpress (all sites)
  • *Update: There is an article in today's news about some monks that were killed for protesting China's rule over Tibet. I'm unable to access the whole article. boo!! 8/14/08
I'm sure there are hundreds of other sites, I'll update this list as I come across others...

Harry Connick Jr. Concert in Shanghai

Last night I went to a concert - this marks my second cultural (well music related) outing in Shanghai. We were lucky to get to free tickets to the Harry Connick Jr. concert!

He's always been a favorite of mine, I think he has a fantastic voice, and he's an amazing jazz/blues pianist. If you like jazz mixed in with a little pop, Harry Connick is your guy (not to mention he's not bad to look at either) ;-).

The concert was held at a pretty large venue, the Shanghai Gymnastics Center. When we arrived I wondered if Harry could bring in a full house. Well he didn't, the venue was probably about 1/2 filled and mainly with expats, although there were a good number of Chinese in the audience as well. Harry opened with an instrumental piece and moved on to do some more memorable numbers like, Only you and Here come the big parade. He's very charismatic and even pulled a Chinese man up on stage for a quick Q&A about Chinese food. It was very entertaining!

I had a great time! It's great to see Shanghai pulling in musicians other than just popular pop groups like Maroon 5 or Celine Dion. :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My favorite new quote...

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."

-Charles M. Schultz

Bjork in China!

Man, we are getting overloaded with celebrities! Apparently Bjork was in China for some concert dates and I missed her. :-(
Being the fabulous, creative artist that she is she made a few political comments that upset the Chinese government.

Click here to see what she said.

David Beckham in Shanghai!

And I missed him!! How did that happen?

Check it out.

Chinese Classes

I've recently returned to Shanghai from California and started "official" Chinese language classes at a University here in Shanghai. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive about the classes, language classes at a university can be a little intimidating for someone who hasn't been in college for a few years!

But, I'm happy to say the classes are going well so far! There's an interesting mix of international students from all over - Spain, Norway, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, Argentina and Columbia. There are far fewer "westerners" than there are Europeans or Latin Americans....

I have a full load of classes everyday - Monday through Friday, that include Listening, Reading and Speaking. So far the homework load isn't huge, but I have a feeling things are going to get much harder as the weeks progress....let's hope my Chinese progresses too!

Chinese New Year Photos

We spent Chinese New Year in Houzhou with Andy's parents and family from Taiwan. The relatives are mainly cousins that his mother grew up with in Taiwan and their children. They also brought andy's great-uncle from Taiwan, he's 89 years old and demonstrated some calligraphy for us while we were there.

The trip started on the bus. Yeah, I know - I wasn't excited about it either, but due to the train situation (the weather caused massive train problems) we opted for the 2 hour bus ride from Shanghai.

The celebration was at Andy's 2nd cousin's home in the Houzhou countryside - he is a farmer and lives in a farmhouse where he and his family raise chickens, rice, bamboo and other vegetables. It was really really interesting to see. As you can see from the photos, the snow was plentiful! It was freezing, and we all were bundled up to stay warm, even inside!

We ate some amazing food, and drank homemade chinese rice wine to stay warm. We played poker, mahjong and set off what seemed like hundreds of fireworks!