Sundays in Shanghai – Mr X

The cell doors closed behind us and the room fell into semi-darkness. I turn on my torch and try not to think about the Walking Dead. In the dim light of the cell we hunt for anything that might help us escape.

Yes, we had elected to spend this rainy weekend escaping from jail at Mr X House. A locked-room puzzle house in downtown Shanghai.

And this weekend we shall mostly be escaping from jail…



We started getting our Crystal Maze on and just under an hour (and with a little help) later we solved our final clue and stepped blinking into the light. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside (no cheating!) but the set up was great!
Fresh out of jail we headed to the bar for congratulatory drinks where we were handed our swag. 


Bring it on Prison Break!

Sundays in Shanghai – massage

It’s a drizzly, sweltering day in Shanghai. The kind of day that makes you want to stake out the air-con and live off instant noodles for the next 3 months to avoid the summer heat.

It is most definitely indoor weather.

Time for a massage!

My absolute favourite thing about living in China is affordable massages. Ok, so I’m not talking £6 an hour Thai affordable, but for £16-£20 you can find a pleasant, mid-range massage parlour or spa.


So how does it work?

If you opt for a Chinese Massage this may be done with you fully dressed in your own clothes, or you may be asked to change into pyjama-type clothes.

You can choose 60 or 90 minutes and usually you pay after the massage.  Couples or groups may be together in a room, so if you’re not keen on that, let your masseuse know.

A Chinese massage is quite, erm, aggressive, but most of the spas I’ve been to assume that foreigners want a more gentle experience.

After your massage, healthy herbal tea is often provided and occasionally snacks too.


Dragonfly is the expat spa of choice. With a relaxing atmosphere, English speaking receptionists and convenient locations around the city it is easy to find a good quality experience. Their prices are a little higher than more local places, but if you’re just visiting, Dragonfly is a good go-to for a Chinese massage experience.

If you are feeling a little braver (and have a mildly masochistic streak) you should check out a local spa. My favourite is Lotus Land at Xujiahui.


Shanghai is one of China’s more expensive cities, so if you happen to be somewhere else you’ll find amazing massages for a fraction of the price.

Sundays in Shanghai

I love Shanghai.

Home for six years this awesome city has everything you can ask for and more. It has stuff you never even knew you needed!

I never realised how incomplete my life without water-melon-people was.

 

So I’ve decided to spend more time out and about in the city, and sharing the awesome with you.

The first ever Sundays in Shanghai started with a trip to an old favourite: Laser tag.

Yes, I’ll admit it now, I’m a huge kid at heart!’

The afternoon began with a looooooong metro ride to the Dark Side. Well, Pudong, a place rarely visited by Puxi dwellers (and somewhat derided for its bland, sanitised feel).

Our destination – Eclub.

The dingy feel of this underground entertainment centre gives the distinct impression of a Student Union complete with chintzy bar decor and sticky floors. The whole place is bizarrely situated in the basement of what appears to be a bank and is not the easiest to find.

Apparently in Pudong they have a problem with feline terrorism….

 

Once inside you are greeted to an East-meets-West mishmash of fooseball, KTv, pool, laser tag, archery and a well stocked bar.

Yes, you read that right, archery and a bar.The archery staff must be pretty fearless considering the ready sale of alcohol!

The place offers great deals with a 100rmb flat fee from 2 – 7pm or 7pm – 2am for unlimited laser tag and archery.

What more could a bunch of wannabe Katniss Everdeens ask for?

With unlimited access (aside from waiting in turn) we spent the afternoon thoroughly exhausting ourselves and getting a great work out in the huge laser tag maze. Between games we released our inner Robin Hood and had a go on the archery range.

Daryl Dixon got nothin’ on us!

Lost in Laos

Almost 21 hours after leaving Chiangmai we arrived, bleary eyed, in Luang Prabang.

A small, tourist friendly city finding our hotels should be easy right?!

Wrong.


Dropped off at the tourist information office (unsurprisingly not open at 6am) myself and my Australian companion loitered suspiciously on the street corner somewhat disoriented. With no map or wifi, and no cafes open yet, we were resigning ourselves to aimless yet hopeful wandering when help arrived.

A passing French tourist stopped to ask if we were lost. Fortunately my Aussie buddy is a fluent French speaker.

Then the propriator of a nearby hotel wandered over and handed us a business card with a cheery ni hao. Perfect! The 3 way translations began.


The following conversation (complete with my horrendous grammar) resulted in this lovely Chinese lady letting us come back to her hotel to use her Wifi.

She plied us with sweet coffee and chatted about her hotel. Having resided in Luang Prabang for 6 years she spoke neither Laos or English. This made me feel considerably better about my horrible Chinese.

Her young employee spoke a smattering of English, so an impromptu lesson  – business card being the key vocabulary – while we studied google maps, appeared to be satisfactory compensation for their hospitality.

Eventually we figured out where we were and headed off with a smile and a big xie xie!

Our Chinese saviours

GISHWHES – MishaStoleMyCandy

It’s madness and mayhem time again! Yes GISHWHES is back and the hunt is almost on!

https://www.gishwhes.com/

What is GISHWHES? It’s the greatest international scavenger hunt the world has ever seen. Started in 2011 by Misha Collins to raise money for charity and have fun!

The crazy is catching!

The challenges are crazy and crestive, and sometimes result in Guiness world records. I’ll post updates as the week goes on!

Have you been part of a Guiness World Record winning event?

10 reasons to love Hong Kong 

Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities. So in no particular order here are my 10 reasons to love HK!

10: Public transportation – from creaking sampans to crazed light-buses Hong Kong is fantastically easy to get around. The MTR, public buses, ferries and taxis all accept the Octopus card, making things even easier and to top it off all the transport information is bilingual! 

9: architecture- soaring skyscrapers, colonial relics, traditional temples and WWII outposts Hong Kong has it all.

The skyscrapers of Central

8: beaches: for a massive city Hong Kong’s beaches are surprisingly nice. Repulse Bay and Deep Water bay are the most popular but secluded Shek’o is probably the prettiest 

Repulse Bay, some of Hong Kong’s most expensive real estate


7: hiking: the dragon’s back hike is renowned as one of the best urban hikes in the world, if you can stand the heat.

6: skyline – just stunning from every angle


5: shopping – high end designer, custom boutiques, antique shops and street markets, Hong Kong has it all. Not to mention the huge residual British influence; high street names such as M&S, Top Shop, Boots and Lush can all be found.

Temple Street market


4:The Film Industry – from Jet Li to Jackie Chan Hong Kong cinema is famous worldwide. Art house to action you can find it all. Enjoy spotting sites from famous movies and visit theAvenue of Stars for some cheesy Hollywood style.


3:multiculturalism- truly a world city Hong Kong is increasingly embracing its international status.    For a snapshot visit Chung King Mansion, quite literally the world in one place.

2: History – Hong Kong’s turbulent history is fascinating. Ming dynasty villages, opium wars, Pirates, 99 years of British rule, Japanese occupation, the 1997 hand-over, the umbrella protests. Time to hit some museums!

King George in the botanical gardens

1: Food – a foodie’s heaven Hong Kong has everything from Michelin starred restaurants and celebrity chefs to hole in the wall noodle shops, street vendors and copious international cuisine.

#a-zchallenge Qinghai lake

Qinghai lake is the largest lake in China. Sometimes known as the Western Sea this salt water lake covers more than 4000km/sq. It is so big that to walk around it takes 23 days or to ride around it on horse back takes 18days (according to pilgrims who take this trip every year of the horse).

Nomadic herders and farmers live on the grasslands around the lake for much of the year. We were lucky enough to be spotted by some herders and invited into their tent for tea. We attempted to repay the favour with an impromptu English lesson. Hello, goodbye and some numbers seemed to satisfy everyone and we all went cheerily on our way.

Summer home for the nomad family we had tea with.

Qinghai lake is a great site for bird watching. A stopping point on major migration routes hundreds of thousands of birds flock through this area from April to June each year. The surrounding grasslands are home tothe critically endangered Przewalski’s Gazelle. With only around 150 animals anywhere they are some of the most endangered mammals on the planet.

We didn’t spot anything that exciting but we did find this little guy. Any ideas what it is?

The Tour de Qinghai is another annual event where some of the worlds great cyclists come to challenge themselves. The route circumnavigated the lake at an elevation of over 3000m . At over 2000km in length the route takes approximately 13 days to complete. 

#a-z challenge – Pingyao

When strolling through the bustling lanes of the town it is a little overwhelming to think that Pingyao’s history goes back over 2700 years.


Considered the best preserved ancient city in China, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The walled city retains its layout from the Ming and Qing dynasty and retains around 4000 original structures. 


During the Qing dynasty Pingyao was a major financial centre. It was home to the first “bank” in China, and at 20 financial institutions (half of all of those in China) it was the Wall Street of its day. Today many of the historical buildings are open to the public, including the city walls, several houses, the bank and an old martial arts school.

We may have enjoyed that last one a little too much!


Armed with a city pass, it is easy to spend a couple of days enjoying the ambience of old-meets-new China. 

#a-zchallenge Oolong

In the mountains of Fujian province are some of China’s famed tea plantations. Mile upon mile of carefully tended tea bushes cling to the terraces, infusing a soft tea-scent to the warm air.

Amongst this plethora of tea, one particular type stands out. DaHongPao.


Clinging to the rocky hillside in a valley of WiYiShan National Park stand 6 diminutive tea bushes. Dating back to the Song Dynasty these plants produced tea that cured a Ming Emperor’s mother of illness. Now their leaves  for more than gold, over $35000 an ounce. 

Understandably DaHongPao tea is reserved for honoured guests.

#a-zchallenge Nanjing

One of China’s ancient capitals Nanjing feels somewhat provincial today considering its proximity to metropolitan Shanghai.

An easy weekend trip Nanjing is served by high speed rail connections and a comprehensive metro system. There are 4 main areas to see. The old town around the Confucius temple, the ancient city gate, the purple mountain and the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum.

musicians in a Nanjing temple giving a free taster

The old town is similar to many other old walking streets in China. The restored shop fronts and refurbished temples giving a sanitised “feel” of old China without actually being old. It’s still a pleasant area to walk through with lots of opportunities to try local foods and other potential gift products. 


The Confuscius Temple is large and central with halls and courtyards to explore.  To the right of the temple, on the first floor, is a restaurant that specialises in local dishes. For a reasonable price you are treated to a tapas style meal where small samples of local dishes are brought out in their multitudes. It’s a great way to try some of the dishes you would never normally dare to order, such as blood soup, thousand year egg and stinky tofu.

The ancient city gate is a small remnant of Nanjing’s original defensive walls. Built in the 1300s parts of the wall still stand over the city and are impressively sturdy in its design. If you have already visited Xi’an you might be a little underwhelmed. 

The purple mountain area is a large open park space with two key attractions. The Ming Dynasty Tombs and the mountain top memorial To Dr Sun Yat Sen. Between them are acres of forest and plumb trees that spark a blossom festival each year.

There are a lot of stairs!

 

The Ming Dynasty tombs are spread through a large compound of temples and memorial structures. The ruins are charmingly under restored and you can actually get a real feel of their age. 

During WWII Nanjing was occupied by Japanese forces. The atrocities they carried out on the citizens if Nanjing are almost beyond belief. From rape and biological weapons testing to a publicised beheading competition between two Japanese soldiers. Built over 2 mass graves and with several sombering reminders that 300 000 people died in a matter of days, this is probably not suitable for young children. 

The museum is new and has a huge amount of exhibits which I found surprisingly balanced in the presentation of information