Big Bamboo, Shanghai Sports Bar

Big Bamboo, Shanghai Sports Bar was the destination for last night’s fun. I writing this as i put my head back together after a night of good old fashioned drinking.

Apparantly it is a British bar, but the interior seemed far more American style to me. We went there to enjoy some Premiership Football, plus play a little Pool and Foosball. It was Ruby’s chance to meet some of my work colleagues, and they warmed to her immediately.

The football itself was a bit of a non-starter really. Trying to explain to a chinese waitress that Bolton V West Bormich Albion is about as appealing as a Chilli in the eye just didn’t work and we only got fleeting coverage of EVerton V Portsmouth and the West Ham match. But football it still (just about) was, and the bar felt cosy.

Big Bamboo is probably the closest to my flat for western sports, so i expect i will be back soon. With pints of Tiger Beer at around 40 yuan each (£3.20), i cannot afford to go too often though. Budgeting in Shanghai is rather difficult, even after 2 months. Western pleasures are highly expensive, on any wage, but if i avoid them i cannot live on virtually nothing. We are starting to enjoy cooking together rather than ordering takeway and generally i can do lunches whilst Ruby knocks up a little Tofu Fish Soup for dinner.

I am pleased to see Ruby being comfortable with my friends and with western bar life. Indeed she seems to enjoy it as much as i do. She seems quite happy at the moment, and i have to plan some things for her birthday on the 9th. We’re starting to get a little competitive over our blogs too (geeks?!) and her’s is doing a little better than mine at the moment. She talks about chinese girly stuff, which seems quite popular. I pointed out that its because there’s alot more Chinese people to read hers :-P

I continue to work on our online painting shop website (http://www.oil-painting-shop.com) and am trying to improve its position on Google at the moment. This can take time, and is a very dull but necessary task. When that is done i can finish the site and hopefully start to sell some items. I hope to have everything in full progress by christmas which should be a busy time of year.

Trip to Moller Villa, Exhibition Centre in Shanghai

This weekend was rather good after getting up early both Saturday and Sunday in order to make the most of not being at work. We watched the closing parts of the Olympics, including the UK 8 minute interlude for the handover to London. Very funny, with umbrellas too, great! I think we should just stick Becks out there and let him do the rest for the real thing in 2012.

Aside from that i have been to the Exhibition Centre and Moller Villa which are VERY central Shanghai, just off Nanjing Lu. Unfortuantely the Villa was being renovated and the weather was fairly drab, so the photos off of my phone are not so bright. Saturday night we tried a lesser-known curry house which turned out to be pretty tasty, and i expect we’ll visit again soon. Ruby is now officially sold on Indian food which i am pleased about too. I was planning on visiting the English pub around the corner after this to watch some Live Premiership football, but unfortunately she was too drunk too continue, so i had to escort her home. It was quite funny really, as she had only drunk half of one bottle of lager, crazy lightweight!! Funny.

Today we set up her dancing mat on the Wii but i was exhausted when i had a go. It is clearly designed for seven year olds and the like, not aging drunks like me :-P I also bought a cheap Gamecube controller which means i can play 2,500 old Megadrive, SES & NES games from way back when. Can anyone that had a Megadrive, SNES or NES in the 90s please tell me which games are good? There are too many to try them all, and i have no idea where to start as all us Cambridge lads where brought up on the wonderful Amiga.

After a good tidy up i have continued on my shop which will be at www.oil-painting-shop.com when finished. Still much to do on it, but the design is at least starting to take shape. If i can sell a few paintings around xmas time then this will give us some extra cash for our holiday next year.

This week i will mostly be…

Watching Premiership Football, great!!! I have worked out how to get Match of The Day onto my Laptop and so can catch on up on all the footie action tonight.

GOD BLESS BIT TORRENT!!!

Of course, as a Liverpool fan, seasons generally start with high expectations and end in tears but “maybe this season might be different”, hahaha. (Ditto for England too!)

I have now started watching a little more of the Olympics too as Team GB is really doing well and i am proud of that. Cycling seems to be our forte. People are banging on about this Phelps lad, but 8 medals in one Olympics? Seems a bit silly to me! Maybe there should be less Swimming events???!

Things are going well at work now and i am finally used to having a permanent job again. I plan to visit more places outside of Shanghai again in the coming weeks, but perhaps will opt for locations that are a little nearer next time. The thought of another six-hour coach trip in the blazing heat really turns my stomach! The cities of Suzhou and Nanjing apparently have much to offer, so i can check these out more easily. They are just an hour or two or the train i think. I know i will not be in Shanghai forever, so must take advantage of this opportunity to see other parts of China while i can. Of course Beijing will be done at some point too. I have found some decent tours that are available for that. Depending on available holiday time, i may do a long weekend or a full week.

Ruby’s birthday next month also needs some planning but she doesn’t have many ideas as yet. Ski-ing and a trip to the zoo are our best ones so far :-)

My trip to Morocco for my sister’s first wedding has now fallen through due to lack of funds, which is a bit sad. To get to Agadir i would’ve had to go via Gatwick. But i can still visit UK for the second one next spring which will be in Norfolk. In the meantime i will try to save for that plus our Thailand hol, which i am starting to gather ideas for.

So, all in all, things are going well at the moment, touch wood, i don’t have too much to grumble about. (Apart from my peeling face and shoulders :-P I explained to others in the office that is part of my UK culture to get burnt!)

Trip to Zhu jia jian & Zhou shan from Shanghai

I am on the way back as i write this from our weekend of island hopping around Zhu jia jian & Zhou shan islands. I took the train to Ningbo on Friday and spent the evening introducing ruby to pub games such as darts and pool. I quickly distracted her away from this to just watch the Olympics on the large screens as darts started to be strewn all over the bar!

On Saturday lunchtime we then travelled out to the islands with the hope of a little swim in the uncharacteristically clean seas which exist in this area, and to try the freshest of seafood. This is what i really wanted for my birthday weekend, and both were certainly worth the wait. We arrived late on Saturday so left the swim for Sunday morning before travelling back our separate ways. People here do seem happier to chat to me when i am alone, but without ruby i have no real way of communicating. I did however chat to one family from Ningbo on the ferry back and i think they have invited me for dinner next time i am there! In the UK such a friendly offer might would me a little suspicious but here, outside the main foreigner hotspots, people seem highly curious and excited by westerns.

As you will see from the photos below we managed to find a great family run barbecue next to the main beach which offered amazing food for little money. It was possibly the best food that i have had in china yet. They gave us 6 large marinated squid for about £1.50 and everything that they offered had been caught fresh that morning. The place where we sat down to eat was basic and a little dirty, but this did not matter because of their kind hospitality and tasty grub. Yum!

Barbecue by beach in Zhu jia jian

I have just received a nasty reminder of how i am not protected by the big city smog out here after getting a proper UK sunburn after just 2 hours in the sea.

My only bad moments from the trip were when i was turned away from some hotels on the island of x. As first i thought that it was just anti-western bias, but it later became clear that it was more to do with bureaucracy, which is a common problem in China. During the Olympics hotels are not allowed to accept foreigners unless they have a specific license, in order to keep control of security issues. According to one hotel, someone was locked up for a whole day after breaking this rule, crazy. So after hearing this i couldn’t be angry at them, and ended up finding a hotel close by. See photo of the hotel that we ended up in below. The exceptional security measures continued on my way home after my passport was checked three times. I am not the greatest fan of the police anywhere, but in China i know it is best to just keep my mouth shut and do as asked. Most here expect such things to relax after the Games have finished.

Ruby and I had a great time on this trip and felt that we would need much longer next time than just the 2 days we had. Perhaps in October we can go back to this set of islands, if our budget allows. Currently we’re saving for bigger trips next year to Thailand, among others.

See map below to show position of Zhu Jia Jian & Zhou shan in relation to Shanghai & Ningbo.

Map of Zhu Jia Jian, Shanghai & Ningbo

King Kebab, Shanghai – Straight to my door!!

I am slowly but surely bringing back everything i do in the UK into my daily life here. Yesterday Soaps made a reappearance, and as of tonight my weekly Kebab dosage can begin again. I was delighted to find somewhere which not only does good quality kebabs, but also delivers them for a small fee. They’ll be about 4 pounds a pop, but i can’t put a price on a good kebab! King Kebab, i salute you! I will let you know my experiences later. Sadly, no Naan or Chips are on offer, but its a start atleast.

Other than that, not too much to report really. I shall spend my birthday evening playing computer games at work with free Pizza and stuff, which should be ok. On Friday i am out in Ningbo with Ruby and her girly friends in some western bars, playing Foosball and such like. This should be lots of fun, and i can try out my plethora of quality Chinese phrases. Then on saturday morning we will travel onto the island nearby and explore there. I don’t really have too much planned for the rest of August and am trying to save a little towards a travelling budget to use at the end of my time in Shanghai. With each day i am here, the more i feel that i should stay for a little longer than planned.

Got my soaps, does that make me sad?!

I have been enjoying some proper UK indulgence tonight with last weeks espisodes of EastEnders and Corrie that i downloaded off BitTorrent. When i watched these in the UK, that was pretty embarrasing, but to go out of my way to watch them in China – that is probably even worse.

It is good to see that things haven’t changed much. EastEnders is clearly still as depressing as a kick in the knackers, but Mr Beale always cracks me up. I’d actually kicked my Soaps addiction in the UK but with living over it here, it is kind of comforting. Most things are available here if you look hard enough, that’s the beauty of the internet (and its disregard for copyright, Lol!!)

I was hoping to go out tonight but after a proper soaking on the way home from work i had to stay in and work on my upcoming art website. I swear i have never seen thunder and lightning like this, i was scared to even walk outside. As bad as it was, i prefer hot sun with occasional floods to the miserable clouds of home that seem to hang in the sky whilst you’re sat at work moaning like there’s no tomorrow!

It’s another 4 day week this week, which in any continent is a great thing! I shall be at work on my birthday so can distract myself from the big 30, and then am off to Putuoshan for a couple of days. I am very excited by this. It should be a chance to see somewhere fun. On returning to Shanghai i really need to finish off the Art shop and hopefully put it live by the end of the month.

Oh, and finally, i am really hoping to go to Thailand next March-ish. Everyone seems to have gone there already, so please pop advice down here if you have any. I am just looking for a relaxing time, good value and that sort of thing. Islands, hotels, etc that people like, pop them down here. Thanks!

More Olympics, I might have to start supporting China!

There has been seldom little coverage of British athletes on Chinese state TV so far. I told Ruby that this was unfair, but to be honest it is probably because we haven’t looked like getting any medals. We lost to the damn French in the shooting for a bronze, and most other sports that have been shown on TV aren’t even things we play – Synchronised Diving? Rubbish! The only decent sports like Football, Ruby, Cricket, etc… either don’t have British teams, or don’t exist at the Olympics at all.

I say for London 2012 in order to get more medals we should bring in the following:

Darts
Rugby Sevens
Pie eating
Binge Drinking
Synchronised Morris Dancing

There must be some better ideas out there to, perhaps comment on them here and we can start a thread in time for the London Games…

I was hoping this weekend to maybe go somewhere interesting but i have instead mainly been in watching the sport on CCTV. China has taken quite a few golds, so Ruby is very happy but i am already starting to lose my interest. I popped to the electronics shop around the corner to buy a replacement power unit for my Wii which blew up yesterday and also get some music DVDs for about £1 each. I got some ideas for things to download as well such as House Season 1 High Definition (is it any good?) plus Glastonbury 2008 and Francesco’s Italy. If anyone has any recommendations for new UK programmes worth watching then let me know.

Start of the Olympics Fun

Everyone is obviously Olympics crazy here today as the Opening Ceremony kicked things off. Many events had actually already started last week, but for most people it is only now that things have properly begun.

Ruby and I watched on TV in a local restaurant and i found it interesting looking at their quizzical faces when some of the more obscure competing nations were unveiled. Many of the African nations seemed a mystery to them, but i think they got atleast an idea of where they were from by the loud shirts. I didn’t recognise anyone from the UK group but was just pleased we didn’t get booed. Most will be home in a couple of days i expect :-P

I expect to be in London for the next Olympics and will definitely get involved and see some of the events. I do doubt that the UK will manage to match the enthusiasm that the Chinese have shown in recent weeks, but i do believe we will put on a great event aswell. Euro 96 and the Commonwealth Games in Manchester were both great successes, and this should be too. I am hoping the extra flats made available by the regeneration will help me to find a home on my return :-)

This weekend we will also be working on our online painting shop which will be ready by the end of he month hopefully. We’re trying to bring in some extra cash to save for travelling and others fun things. She works in import/export, so can bring good expertise to out venture, while i can handle everything online. I bought the domain name www.oil-painting-shop.com which should bring in people through search engines. We shall visit Ningbo at the end of the month and try to buy a little stock to put on the website.

Next week we’re off to the island of Putuoshan for my birthday. This should be very relaxing and just what i need. It has seemed hard to relax anywhere in this busy country, but an island classed as a national park, and home to many budhists must be my best hope around Shanghai! It is only around 4 hours away by coach, which is relatively local. I am still also working out if i can manage trips to Morocco, Vietnam & UK in October, December & June respectively. Its difficult to plan too much as i have no idea how long i shall be in China for.

Last wednesday i went out with the landlord to improve our Chinese/ English skills. This was alot more fun than sitting in a boring classroom and we plan to make this a regular fixture every wednesday from now on. He prefers my accent to those of Americans, and rightly so! Last week we went to the location of the first meeting of the Communist Party which was great. I found it ironic that the whole area is filled with foreigners and foreign bars nowadays. But that sums up modern China, where Communism is not very apparant in everyday life.

Trip to Chinese countryside, then refused entry to Shanghai!!

I must have been the smelliest person in China after clocking up 20 hours of coach travel this weekend. I also returned a day late after being initially refused entry back to Shanghai without acceptable identification. That was quite a concern as i was several hundred kms away at the time! It was a bit like being stuck in Scotland, trying to get back to your job in London (and not understanding a single word of the local language :-P)

We eventually reached Ningbo where the new Olympic security checks do not apply and from there received a faxed copy of my passport to gain access to Shanghai. The actual quality of the fax was dreadful, but Ruby “persuaded” the local police to accept it by generally shouting very loudly, which in Chinese, does sound quite scary. But it worked a treat! Now back in my Shanghai flat, i can reflect on the more enjoyable parts of the trip, of which there were many.

As can be seen from the photos, the countryside close to a city called Wenzhou is quite beautiful. I was pleased to explore the plateaued hills which contain rice plants and many the farm workers on Sunday afternoon. It is from places like this that China’s huge hunger for rice is fed. Such areas feel a million miles away from the impression most have of China, of dirty cities with pollution and traffic. Here i met many people who have relatively very little, but had much to give in terms of kindness. Indeed the local language was very different to Mandarin, and i was told that as a Brit i was known as one of the “Yingyam” people, which i found funny.

The purpose of the trip was to attend the 80th Brithday Party of Ruby’s Grandad. He lives in the next village to where Ruby grew up, and it proved a good seven hour journey to get there from Shanghai. But the experience that i had whilst i was there made it easily worthwhile. Despite no-one speaking any English i felt very comfortable in the village. The party proved to be as i had expected a chinese family get-together to be. Both Saturday and Sunday consisted of endless food and drink, and whether i was hungry or not, i had to be polite and try my best to keep up with everybody else. Fortunately the food was superb, ranging greatily from one dish to the next, with fresh crab, squid, lotus plant, bamboo shoots amongst my favourites. I joked that the leftovers would be enough to feed the Chinese army for several years, and that seemed to amuse the locals alot. Perhaps this was helped by the endless supplies of local lager (which we drank from bowls) and their perculiar Great Wall wine / Lilt combinations. :-) I always thought that Chinese people were slim because of their diets, but i dont really think that is the case now.

At the end we were welcomed back for Spring Festival next year, which i am happy for. However we will definitely be flying next time as coach travel remains a tiring prospect even in this relatively modern province. There is huge investment in the infrastructure here but it is still a little way before i can feel confident of travelling around without any problems or delays. The Chinese certainly seem to be using all the cash flying around at the moment to good use for the future, with new bridges and motorways popping up everywhere. Things should also speed up again once the Olympics has finshed and security checks return to normal.

After the Olympics i am hoping that my access to UK websites will also improve. Currently any overseas sites that i view from here are checked by central sources before appearing on my computer, which obviously is a little frustrating if i need some information quickly. Some international journalists have complained of this recently, but i certainly couldn’t care less about them. Personally i respect China’s right to implement the Internet in its country as it wishes, and i have a very different, more positive view on Chinese life and politics now that i live here. I don’t think the picture painted by western media is particularly fair or accurate, but that is just my view. I also can’t be accused of succumbing to any supposed propaganda, as i wouldn’t understand a word of that :-P I just genuinely believe things here are good.