Future trips to Chinese Grand Prix & Olympics Football, Shanghai

I am pleased that now i am starting to really try to maximise my weekends as much as possible, and generally get up around 9 to help fit more in. One difference between living here and living in London is that i know i will not be in Shanghai again once i return, so i need to do as many things as possible whilst i have the chance. The longer i am here i expect the more ambitious my trips will be. Currently i have stuck to investigating Central Shanghai. For the next few months i plan to have regular trips to other Chinese cities and also out to the vast areas of countryside, which bring an interesting variety of culture. Ultimately, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia & Mongolia are on my list too.

The domestic trips begin from this weekend as Ruby and I are off to Wenzhou, her home town, to visit her Grandfather who will be celebrating his 80th birthday. This will be a great experience i hope. My only concern is getting to her first via train by myself, which may be tricky. I shall make sure i take some photos and also videos of the party, as the videos have proved quite popular and are better at getting across the atmosphere of a moment. It sounds likely that much local chinese booze will be on offer here, so i’ll be careful not to embarass myself. As no-one will be able understand a word i say, i surely can’t do anything that bad…?

For the rest of this week before the trip i shall continue on with my 24 Boxset, i am nearly through Series 2. I am now starting to think that perhaps Jack Bauer deserves a pay rise, at the very least. I’m sure that future seasons will be rubbish and go the same way as Lost, but hopefully i’ll be proved wrong. Other than this i’m still sorting out my Chinese mobile phone, plus attempting to get tickets for entertainment in the following months.

With regards upcoming entertainment, there is good news and bad news.Olympics in Qindao looks unlikely now due to cost, demand, and no guarantee of actually seeing any good Sailing up close. But i hope to organise some tickets to see some Olympic football instead, as some of the games are in Shanghai Stadium. Instead for my birthday weekend we will now visit an island (Putuoshan) which i shall tell more about nearer the time. On another exciting note, it seems i am going with a work colleague to the upcoming Chinese F1 Grand Prix, which am also very pleased about. I am not a huge F1 fan, but this opportunity is too good to miss. I shall keep an eye out for further events, as i seem to have a greater motivation for such things now that i have moved onto to a new city. Furthermore, there is an International Athletics meeting in October which i’m considering too. It is only about £10 per ticket, so if its as boring as Athletics might well be, i can just leave. For atmosphere alone it may be ok though, as Chinese people seem to be able to get excited at any sporting event.

The weather here today is rather British, which i’m quite enjoying. There are some miserable clouds lurking over the Shanghai skyline, and after weeks of extreme heat, its a welcome change. To cycle in to work today with a cool breeze behind me was very nice. The weather was previously around low to mid 30s and i expect it to be back to that very soon.

My new bicycle, the “Carrefour Cruiser” as i have nicknamed it has proven a great way of popping around the city. With my secure D-lock i’ve still not had it stolen after 2 weeks, which is apparently good going. Only problem so far was a flat tyre, caused by an unfortunately placed nail lying on the road. Some local bike dude fixed it no problem for about 15 yuan / £1. His bike shop was just across the road from where i hit the nail. In some ways that was fortunate, but i was also quite suspicious of this, and wouldn’t be surprised if he had laid a few nails down there himself!

What continues to both amuse and annoy me is the extraordinary tactics that people use on Chinese roads. I regularly swear at people who just cut you up or travel down the wrong side of the road without even looking where they are going. Indeed it was easy changing from UK left hand to the Chinese right hand lane way, as most people just go where the hell they like. On the plus side i can swear freely without fear of getting smacked by someone bigger than me. Quite simply, most Chinese people do not understand my swearing, and are normally smaller than me anyway! haha. But it helps to release my anger. I have also seen several road rage incidents already where someone inevitably gets a good slap around the chops. Quite funny from a far distance.

Saturday night in Blarney Stone Irish pub, Shanghai

We spent saturday night in a traditional Irish pub, or atleast something reasonably near to it, and had a very amusing time. I managed to get a decent pint of Guinness in The Blarney Stone Irish Pub, 5 Dongping Lu. There was also the proper sing-a-long that one expects from such places, and there was a nice cosy feel to the place.

The atmostphere stepped up a notch upon the arrival of a group of foreigners clad head to foot in kilts. After closer inspection we decided they were Dutch, or something similar, and to see them singing traditional Irish songs was certainly bizarre, but quite entertaining. See the video below… You will be able to hear Ruby in the background who found it particularly funny and was clapping along with enthusiastic encouragement, despite not understanding a word that they were singing. For her to go somewhere with virtually no Chinese people was a little unusual but she enjoyed herself, and has taken a liking to Baileys now. We had a chat to an Irish expat for an hour or two and i got some advice from him on living in Shanghai. It seems his wife has long since given up accompanying him to such pubs and prefers to stay at home and laugh at him in the morning instead, once he has rolled in, in the early hours. His wife was actually from Chongching, but he was visiting Ningbo soon, so Ruby and I gave a little advice on where he could explore there.

I expect that we will return to the Blarney Stone again but maybe not so often as each pint of Guiness set me back over £4 which makes even London look cheap. Generally pints of lager here are about £2 in bars. For atmosphere alone it was a good decision to visit this pub. I hope the video gets across the fun that we were having.

Earlier that evening we visited Fuxing Lu, part of French Concession for some shopping and then relaxed in a bar called Shining, in Sinan Road. This bar was unfortunately very quiet at the time we went in so we left and headed for Dongping lu. It was early evening at the time, so perhaps this bar gets busier later. It had a nice feel to it with plenty of random pub type things in every free space. Perhaps it will be worth a visit again sometime. Close by we also saw a random funny dog, see pic, which i had to take a photo of. If anyone knows what type of dog this is, please let me know, as i would now love one myself!

I have finally got a mobile phone here and will temporarily post the number on this blog incase anyone wants to text. But obviously the Internet is fall of crazy people, so i wont keep it posted for too long.

On saturday morning Ruby and I finally found a reasonable swimming pool close to the flat. It was a little crowded with kids, but there was enough room to do atleast a few laps and get a break from the heat outside which at the moment is incredible. This pool is only about 80p per hour aswell which is great, plus there is a gym upstairs which is only 30p per visit, which is a bargain. These are only public facilities but good enough to consider. I checked out some pools and gyms at local 5-star hotels but they worked out at around £1,000 per year membership, which in comparison, seems ridiculous.

**** By the way, just a quick note to say thanks for every message that has been left on my blog so far. I love to receive them, and it is nice to know people are reading my nonsense!! ****

Next week should involve two nights out with the company plus at the weekend Ruby and I are hoping to try out a Chinese restaurant that was recommended strongly to us, plus perhaps visit Moller Villa and Xujiahui Cathedral. We are now to watch Mr Bean – The Movie, who Ruby believes looks quite like me :-P

This weekend’s plans – much needed exercise

After receiving the results of my Visa medical it is indeed time to get back to some kind of healthy regime. After leaving Bupa about 3 months ago i basically have done nothing except a bit of Wii.

I may have passed my checkup, but it was hardly with flying colours, and considering the fact that i feel permanently tired here in Shanghai, it is best to get back to how i was before. I am popping down to the decent hotel’s pool tomorrow morning to begin this. I may have to cut down on the amount of Jiaozi (delicious chinese dumplings) that i am throwing down my gob, but that is a last resort. Gyms here seem relatively expensive but i’ll join one soon if i think i’ll actually go.

I’m not too concerned by the thought of trying to shed some pounds as generally it is so humid i only have to turn off the air-con for five minutes to get a sweat on, yuck!

The hotel Mariott pool looks pretty tasty (see photo) but that may be a tad pricey, i’ll get Ruby to find out for me. Its in a great location, 399 Nanjing West Road at Tomorrow Square, so if we do go, there should be plenty to do around there afterwards.

I researched local pools around Shanghai, but was put off for several reasons:

  • Too many people
  • Maybe not exactly clean
  • No-one swims in the way they’re supposed to, so you can’t do laps easily
  • I might have to wear a swimming cap (hello?!!)

Also, with the weather as it is at the moment i really have a strong urge for an outdoor pool if possible, preferably with a fanxy cocktail bar. Nice! The old t’internet is proving very useful for my daily problems as there are plenty of forum threads with similar problems posted, generally with solutions. :-)

England lose again, this time at cricket

Not happy with my beloved cricket today, we managed to lose even after picking an Aussie. But atleast Freddie Flintoff is back. And Broady continues to impress too. I think i shall stick to Beach Cricket on the Wii for now, i am unbeatable. (Admittedly no-one here knows the rules).

Does anyone know when the footie is back on? I miss saturdays in the Alex, Clapham watchin Sky with a few bets on. Won’t be quite the same without that. Perhaps i need to open an online betting account again as there are no bookies around here. To be fair, betting is actually illegal in China! For this reason most people invest in the stock exchange to get their ‘fix’.

It seems the poorer people are, the more they like to gamble. I saw this too in West Indies with the horses. It seems strange to ban it as it doesn’t really do much harm generally, but that’s the way it is. Mind you, having said that, most things are banned here and people still do it. International Cable TV, for example (not me mind!). Its ok having laws, but when there are over 1 billion people in your country, its maybe not so easy to implement them. Also, there are many things that are less controlled here, which i appreciate with my “Power to the People” type philosophy. These include Health & Safety which in the UK does my head in, general traffic behaviour and copyright infringement. I also don’t have to put with the usual UK Right-wing newspaper nonsense which just recycle whinges stories about immigration and such like.

I am stepping up my mandarin learning by writing flash cards. I aim to do 5 words a day, which in theory is 1500 words a year! Lets see if i keep it going… I am atleast a little more motivated as im living in the country of whom’s language i am learning, this is where i struggled with Italian. I want to be able to be comfortable by christmas in most everyday situations. I dont care if i make grammatical mistakes, as long as i am understood reasonably easily. Hopefully if i end up staying in Shanghai quite a while then my language skills will be good by the time i go back to UK.

All you can eat Sushi/Wasabi/Sachi/Beer for £10

An offer too good to refuse was presented to me by a work colleague last week. Several Japanese restaurants in and around Dongping Lu offer all-you-can-eat-and-drink menus for around 160 yuan, just over £10. Some pretentious twats turn their noses up at this sort of thing, but the food was good. Add to that an endless supply of Sachi and beer and everyone’s happy! We managed to get through 20 plates in the end (predominantly seafood) but it was actually the effect of the Sachi that holted my crusade. I was under the impression that it was just hot Japanese wine, but after two jugs of it i was suddenly about to fall asleep on the table. I certainly lost that battle, and it was time to go home.

Needless to say we got our money’s worth, and to get through so much tasty seafood it was a certain bargain. Below are some photos from this visit plus also a random video of when one table’s chef started to burn all his food which left me struggling to breathe, let alone eat anymore. I plan to go back to similar such places maybe once every 6 weeks or so, as it was great fun. As you would expect with such an offer, the place was rammed with greedy drunk westerns (like me!) towards the end of the night.

I shall have a look out for similar places in Shanghai that perhaps do the same offer for maybe Mexican or European food. The morning after this trip was not so good, my back was ruined for some reason but it was worth it for the night before.

… Its now Tuesday and im back to my best(ish) now. I think i shall stick to an Irish pub this weekend for some well deserved Guinness and Irish Coffee. I shall also make a video of my journey to work on my fancy new bike, that shoul be quite entertaining. I haven’t been run over yet, but i’m certainly going to get medical insurance which the company offer for free.

Trip to Madchester

Hi again. Well, after a pretty boozy trip back to Manc for the first time in a while i thought i’d better stick some pics on here of that. It has taken me until now to fully recover what with approaching 30 this summer and all that. Once ive worked out how, there will be some videos of Butcher dancing in Aj’s Nightclub, Chorley. Classy stuff im sure you’ll all agree! As for important news, well, im still sat at home waiting for my Visa and starting to get a little worried as the flat is up on the 31st of June, so it’d better turn up soon or i’ll be camping in the front garden, chasing the postman every morning. There is talk of Noeline & Butcher visiting the mighty Shanghai at the end of the year. Quite what the locals would make of their Northern accents remains to be seen but im sure there will be fun to be had somewhere in that city…

Mmm… With a bit of luck they’ll be better news next week but i’ll have to wait and see.