Wet and Cold – Shanghai Part 2

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So after having two magical days in Shanghai Disneyland, Doran and I had the opportunity to spend two days in the “real” Shanghai. By real, I mean the tourist traps. We had such beautiful hot weather the days before (almost boiling) that it was a terrible surprise that our time in the city felt so cold and dreary. Here are my most memorable (not always my favourite) moments in Shanghai:

1. The Food. I had high hopes coming to Shanghai because it’s the birthplace of my favourite dumpling of all time. The Xiao Long Bao. (Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have large and soupy dumplings just a five minute walk away). I was very interested in comparing what we can get in Australia with what they are supposed to be like in the motherland. So we went to one of the top rated chains, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and immediately asked for the English menu. Sorry mom.

img-20161020-wa0005.jpgThe flavour was amazing, but I was surprised that they are supposed to be that small. The most amazing thing was that what you see in that picture above only cost three Australian dollars!!! THREE!!!!

We also tried some Tang Bao from Nanxian Mantou Dian because it was the thing to do. Basically, it’s a giant dumpling with just soup inside and you drink it through a straw. The novelty of having a dumpling through a straw was intriguing, but after having the soup, you are left with a thick skin sack. We didn’t know if we were supposed to eat it, so we left it. Sorry Shanghai.

Some of the other food things we bought while wandering Yunnan S Road included: baos stuffed with minced meat, noodles and free range chicken. We even ordered something from a cart on the street. They were good, but not great. AND!!! We survived the night; bowels intact.

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And as usual, we tried unique McDonald’s items and even found a CoCo Curry House!

2. Yu Gardens is very picturesque. Even in the rain we got some beautiful pictures. This place is by far the biggest tourist trap I have ever seen. The massive garden itself was surrounded by an even larger “market” where you can get random trinkets and souvenirs. It is also where you can find a Starbucks every 50 steps.

3. The Bund and Shanghai Skyline are iconic to the city. I mean. Look at how the mix of modern and old work so well together. Even in the rain, it’s pretty.

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So that was our trip to Shanghai, China. Even though we had to tell the Chinese visa office our life story to get into the country, it was worth the trouble. Thanks for everything Shanghai!

Especially Disneyland.

Singapore: A Country City?

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The only thing I knew of Singapore was that it was famous for its Merlion statue and most recently, the Marina Bay Sands and their infinity pool in the sky. As much as Doran and I would have loved to pay over $400 dollars a night to take selfies in the pool, we decided that it was best to spend our money on other things Singapore has to offer. ie. tourist traps and food. Lots of food.

I can’t believe how much good food can be found in Singapore. We were lucky enough to have a friend that knew what’s what in Singapore and gave us an awesome list of places to eat. From cheap eats to high priced crab, we are very grateful to Yilin for hooking us up!

So without further ado, the following are pictures of food for you to salivate over. Enjoy.

 

Milk tea (the best outside of Hong Kong), pork floss on toast and eggs (apparently it’s a thing to crack open soft boiled eggs and eat it like soup) from ToastBox

 

Food court food has cheap but delicious noodles and CHICKEN RICE!!!!! Western food courts need to step it up.

You can also get durian desserts at the mall. I guess no one cares that you keep burping up durian hours after you finish eating. There is also a Takashimaya Food Hall on Orchard Road to give yourself a taste of Japan.

Bak Kut Teh 肉骨茶 at Founder Bak Kut Teh. An amazing peppery herbal soup that’s usually served with pork ribs. So good, that we brought home the soup base to make ourselves.

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Pepper Crab. Expensive, but to me, it’s Singapore’s mic drop for food. We found a good place in Chinatown.

 

And just to show you that we did more than just eat, here are some pictures of us at the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay, Universal Studios Singapore and the Night Safari. This city that is also a country is so amazing. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Too Sexy for Buddha

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So Doran and I decided it would be fun to meet up with my friends in the middle of their vacation in Thailand. Since it was our very first time going to Bangkok we thought we should share some of our experience via topics of interest like any other travel advice sites.

Accommodations

Our hotel Centre Point Silom was fantastic. The location was great: close to public transport (skytrain and ferries), in the centre of the city, close to shops, bars and other tourist attractions. The best was its breakfast buffet. It had a decent variety of hot foods (Asian and Western) and a good selection of exotic fruits; of which I made sure to stuff my face with.

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Centre Point Silom Hotel View

Food

You would think that I would have tried some authentic Thai street food during my stay in Bangkok, but you would be wrong. After witnessing the debilitating effects of eating bad street food on my friends, I was fully convinced to avoid anything bought off the streets.

Turns out that our favourite Japanese curry chain (CoCo Ichibanya) was at our new favourite mall: Siam Paragon. So how was the pad thai? I don’t know, but I can tell you how delicious CoCo Curry is!

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Experiences

This is just a fancy way travel sites call culture shock. I didn’t really have an expectation of what Bangkok would be like, but when I arrived it was certainly not what I was expecting. For such a big city, it looked so run down. The old and new clashed. It was such a stark contrast walking down the block of glass and steel that is Siam Paragon then turning the corner to see old weather worn buildings that looked like it hasn’t been cleaned for 100 years. The only thing that really pulled it all together was the air. The wall of dense, humid air sprinkled with a touch of sewage never really goes away.

Things to do

One of the top things to do for any tourist going anywhere is to encroach on sacred spaces and pretend to do so purely out of respect and curiosity. For us, we decided to go to Wat Pho; the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This place is massive. We managed to find our way around the maze of walls and chedis and into the temple that housed the Reclining Buddha, but before we enter we were informed that as a sign of respect, everyone that visits must cover their shoulders and wear pants that go past the knees. Well, as a tourist traveling to a country with an average temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, we packed nothing but the shortest of shorts and the thinnest of tank tops.

 

Lucky for us, there were some robes that are available to sweat in while in the presence of Buddha. As Doran and I go to pick up a pair, the robe lady loudly proclaimed that it was ok for men and that the rule applied only to women. However, as we continued into the temple a random tour guide approached us to inform us that we should be putting on a robe. I obliged and turned around to pick up a robe, but was stopped by the robe lady again. The two began to argue in Thai and after a few awkward moments, I was allowed in robe-less, but was warned that I was too sexy for Buddha.

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Sorry Buddha, it is way too hot to be covering our shoulders.

 

How to fly to Australia and visit a few of your favourite places in the world along the way

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So for the past month, I flew back to Calgary while Doran stayed in Melbourne since my leave of absence was over. Then I received an offer to work in Melbourne, so I resigned and spent the next 3 weeks preparing our condo for rental and packing everything to start a new career back in Australia. This is my step-by-step guide on how you can fly from Calgary to Melbourne and visit a few awesome places in between!

Step 1: To save money, book a standby flight back to Melbourne via two connections: one in Vancouver and another in Sydney. Remember to give yourself a few days just in case you don’t get on (eg. If you are supposed to start work Oct 5th, leave Sept 30).

Step 2: Have heartfelt goodbyes and start your journey to Vancouver.

Step 3: Find out that your flight to Sydney is somehow overbooked and there isn’t another flight until the next day. Show your standby ticket to the gate person and get scolded: “Absolutely not, no staff will fly on this flight.” Thank them without showing how devastated you are and head to the nearest hotel to rest while your boyfriend tries to figure out the answer to the question at hand: “Now what?”

Step 4: Flights from Vancouver to Sydney for the next few days look overbooked as well. New plan: Go from Vancouver to LA to Honolulu, then from Honolulu to Australia. Go to sleep and be happy that there is a plan.

Step 5: Arrive in LA and head over to the connecting flight to Honolulu in the domestic terminal in LAX. Meet a really nice Delta agent who comments on how fun you are by looking at your fun carry-on and bag tags.

Step 6: Don’t get on the Honolulu flight because it’s severely overbooked. You’re 44th on the standby line. That’s last place. Talk to the Delta help desk to see what you can do, only to find out the flight has been overbooked. Your checked luggage, however; somehow has a seat and has already been put on the plane to Honolulu.

Overbooked flights

Step 7: Run to the United Airline terminal to see if you can get on their flights.

Step 8: They are completely full for the day and overbooked too, so run to the American Airlines terminal to check there.

Step 9: Be sweaty and distraught while you go back to Delta to inquire about the extent of how overbooked everything is.

Step 10: Get lucky and find out someone cancelled their flight tomorrow morning to Honolulu. Pay for a confirmed ticket and be satisfied that you have a way to get to Honolulu. Thank the Delta agents for their help and sympathy.

Step 11: Things are looking up so why not get out of the airport (it’s 5pm) and go to Disneyland to lift your spirits?

Step 12: Rent a car and get stuck in LA traffic.

Kill me now.

Step 13: Drive up to a hotel in next to Disneyland so that you can stay as late as possible in the park. Talk to the hotel for rates and find out the park closes at 10pm tonight. It’s 8pm.

Step 14: Die a little inside and head to the only place that has Wi-Fi (McDonald’s) to lament your situation to your boyfriend on the phone and have dinner.

Step 15: Since all your toiletries are all in Honolulu already, head over to Walmart to buy some small travel stuff and an apple because dinner at McDonald’s is not filling.

Step 16: Have your Visa payment be declined at Walmart for the 15 dollar purchase. You’re already dead inside so this is nothing. Just ask to use the phone to call Visa.

Step 17: Visa has office hours? Apparently so, because they are closed. Head back to the Walmart cashier and say you don’t need those items anymore and head back to a Wi-Fi area (McDonald’s) to find a hotel.

Step 18: The cheapest hotel near the car rental place smells like marijuana, but be glad you have a place to sleep and collect call Visa again. Don’t forget about the LA traffic.

Step 19: Find out your card was fine and realise you could have used your Visa debit card. Again, no worries, you’re already dead inside.

Step 20: Wake up and head to Honolulu.

Step 21: Make the best of the situation and utilize the 18 hour layover in Honolulu to have a mini vacation. Reminisce about your last couple of times here. Eat an Acai Bowl, walk along the beach in Waikiki. Eat the best Japanese curry of all time (Coco Curry House) and enjoy your time at the Ala Moana mall.

Ahhhh, it's so nice to be back!

Ahhhh, it’s so nice to be back!

Yummy!!!

Yummy!!! (Acai Bowl)

Step 22: Wake up and head to the airport. Pray you get a seat from Honolulu to Melbourne.

Step 23: You have a seat and you’re on your way home, but just before you land, have the 10 hour flight be meal-less because apparently you have to pay extra for a meal. And be ignored by the flight attendants when the drinks cart rolls by. Watch other people eat.

Step 24: Arrive in Melbourne 16 hours before your first day of work on Oct 4.

Thanks Doran!!!

Thanks Doran!!!

The Flies and the Jam

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So last month Doran, his friend and I spent four days in Uluru (Ayers Rock) and three days in Hobart, Tasmania. Here are some of the things we learned.

Ayers Rock Resort

Uluru

  • It’s hot, like 40 degrees hot
  • Buy a fly net because you will go insane trying to swat them away from your face if you don’t have one. Apparently they think your eyes and nose are pools of water, so since we are in the outback desert, it’s like an oasis for them
  • Although you can just tilt your head up anywhere at night to see stars, the Sounds of Silence evening dinner is the best place to see the stars and the Milky Way (plus the resident astronomer who tells you about the constellations uses a laser pointer which is so strong that he had to register it as a weapon)
  • The flies go away when the sun sets
  • Be prepared to wake up at 4am every day to see the sunrise, because that’s all there really is to do

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  • All tours involve the sunrise, the sunset or both
  • THE FLIES!!!!
  • The camel rides are a super fun way to see the sunrise, some of the camels are really adorable

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  • OH LORD, THE FLIES ARE EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Oh yeah, the Uluru and Kata Tjuta rock formations are cool to see as well

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Hobart (and Bruny Island)

  • It gets cold in the winter! Apparently, it can even snow. Especially on Mount Wellington.
  • Modern art has arrived in Hobart. It comes in the form of 77 porcelain vagina casts and a fat Porsche, which can be seen at the MONA museum (see pictures below).

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  • This new and crazy art has drawn a lot more tourists to Hobart and I’m glad I came
  • If you’re ever here, we highly recommend a Bruny Island food tour.
  • Scones and raspberry jam are to die for. Seriously, that jam was something else.

Hot House Cafe Bruny Island

(Hot House Cafe, you win at life)

  • Tasmania reminds me of the Maritimes. Just look at the views!

Hotel Grand Chancellor View Hobart Cape Bruny

  • The winds at the peak of Mt. Wellington are so strong (up to 200 km/hr), we thought we would have been blown away if it weren’t for the metal railings.
  • The forest smells like the spa because of all the eucalyptus trees.

So, there you have it! Australia, you’re amazing!