A day in Zhujiajiao

In early May, I took a trip to Zhujiajiao with visiting family members. It was a Fong (and Morkels) affair. We drove out to Zhujiajiao, a watertown about an hour outside of Shanghai to watch Tan Dun’s Water Heavens, a music-dance-show held in a renovated old house in the town that overlooks the monestary. To be honest, the show went a bit over my head, too alternative, too artistic.

Zhujiajiao (which to this day I have trouble pronouncing) is pretty if touristy. Apparently it’s not even THAT bad, which kinda scares me regarding the other more “famous” watertowns. But it was a good day out and by private car, not at all a hard trek out.

Anyone heading there should NOT go to the Illy Cafe. It sucked balls both service and coffee-wise.

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I went to Seoul and all I bought was skincare

(surprise surprise)

There wasn’t really much time to shop in Seoul, which made me a bit sad given how well I did about three years ago shopping in Seoul. Doesn’t matter, I plan to go back. Anyway it’s my Year of Poverty so I shouldn’t be overspending anyway.

But there WAS a Duty Free near our hotel and a friend had asked me to get her some skincare. And Korean skincare shopping is FUN. I really wasn’t planning to go that crazy with it but when everything’s in US dollars ($10 for a pack of masks??), the numbers just seem so small!

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I wanted to be practical and just buy what I needed – basically a face scrub and a BB cream. Instead, I ended up with a new scrub, new cleanser, new toner, new BB cream, a BB compact (?) and also a random eye liner. Not to mention the bajillion SAMPLES I picked up a long the way. Seriously, why haven’t other brands outside of Seoul jumped on this “give free stuff to gain customer loyalty” train? 62-6_DSkin Food is always a reliable cheap option for products. Sometimes I find them a little drying but generally they seem to work, smell nice and have pretty packaging. I’ve generally enjoyed their products (a sticky peppermint mask and egg white pore pack come to mind). So far, my new Brown Sugar face scrub and foam cleanser are both working out nicely. The scrub feels a little harsh but I do sometimes think my skin needs a harder cleanse, especailly in smoggy Shanghai. def_image_400_1410_1242013203102Haven’t tried this Royal Honey Toner yet but they recommended it for my dry skin. It awaits me in Shanghai.

Hanskin is my favourite BB cream brand but they don’t sell my simple, lowest of the range anymore. So I had to upgrade to this premium thing. Gotta keep reminding myself to use it sparingly because otherwise you end up looking like a geisha. And it can feel a little thick. It has SPF 30 tho which is definitely a plus and I think once I get used to it it should be fine.

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I also went a little upscale for a friend and bought a bunch of things from Sulwhasoo. This premium Korean brand based on the benefits of Korean ginseng is super nice. I’ve tried their samples before, and their facials, and they’re great – though you have to like the medicinal scent that comes with it. My friend who uses it has ridiculously nice skin, so she’s basically a walking ad for the brand.

amoresulwhasoobasickitThe salesgirl made a mistake the first time I went to make the purchase so when I went to exchange it, as an apology they gave me even MORE samples. I’ll be excited to try these out. Though given this is my Year of Poverty maybe I should consider selling them…any takers? No nevermind. They’re mine.

Whisky daze

Getting sent to Seoul to cover a golf tournament wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing ever. It definitely wasn’t something my golf-loving dad thought I’d ever do but off I went. What have I learned from covering my first golf game? Well, there’s a lot of walking to do. Don’t diss golfers! They have to walk the whole damn course (I think).

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I managed interview last year’s winner without hopefully sounding too stupid and golf-nooby, which was posted here (he was cute). When Bernd Weisberger won last year’s Ballantine’s Championship, he went to Scotland and created his version of the Champion’s Blend, which sounded pretty fun. They only make like 10 bottles of the stuff so we didn’t get to sample that, but I did go on a mini tour of Seoul’s nightlife and spent three evenings downing copious amounts of alcohol, mainly whisky (which you can also read about here! This blog post has become a shameless plug of my “real” articles.)

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We did a sampling of four 17 year old blends of Ballantines’ named for four different regions of Scotland at a bar called Parity Bit (after some computer thing, address is: 7-19 Nonhyun-Dong, Gangnam-gu, no website). The four blends were Original, Glenburgie, Scapa and Miltonduff and each was paired respectively with dark chocolate, white chocolate, vanilla and orange to bring out the flavours. It was an interesting lesson in colour and taste and we proceeded from there to hit up one more bar that night, and another two the night after. Basically by the end of two days I was dunzo.

And then we went back to Blackstones and did this, at 11am in the morning.

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This time we got to sample  a 17 year old, 21 year old., a limited edition and a 30 year old. We also had a lesson in the finer points of tasting whisky (add water so that the aroma comes out more) and learned about the different tasting notes of each. At the end of the day, I have to say that my uncultured palette preferred the 17 year-old (which means the youngest whisky in the blend is 17 years) – obviously this goes towards my preference for youth. The taste of Ballantine’s 17 year-old is more subtle and sweat, with the spice coming from the highlands and the floral coming from the lowlands (so say my notes). The 30-year-old was probably the most impressive, with a lingering taste which was very rich and oak-influenced.

I wouldn’t say I’m a whisky expert by far after this trip but I’ve definitely learned to appreciate it more.. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve learned to appreciate golf more too! At least I know a bit more about how it works and a little more about the personalities of the game (this was largely in thanks to Alex, editor for HK Golfer who had to put up with me on most of the trip, http://www.hkgolfer.com). All things considered though, it will probably will be awhile before anyone asks me to write about golf again, but hey we can always hope on the whisky front.

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Fried chicken for the Seoul

So the internet in China hates me…actually I’m pretty sure it hates everybody with an independent thought. For me though it just seems to hate uploading my pictures to my blog, VPN or no. This just means my all of 3(?) readers will get radio-silence every few months when I’m in China. That or a lot of boring text.

Earlier in May I went up to Seoul to cover the Ballantine’s Golf Championship for LifestyleAsia. I figured since I’ve taken some golf lessons in my time, and I do enjoy whisky (in a really, uncultured kind of way unfortunately) I would be relatively qualified.

I also really really like THIS:20130422_234004

The whole bird flu thing here in Shanghai, much like the whole North Korea thing in Seoul, seems to largely leave the local population unperturbed…but the one thing I have tried to do is avoid chicken. Which after pasta is like my favourite food of life. I basically checked into the Grand InterContinental Parnas, waited for my fellow traveller and then told concierge to point us in the direction of the nearest Korean Fried Chicken. He totally seemed more than happy to oblige.

20130423_001945We basically walked down this street till we got to this:

20130423_001937And in we went! And it was wonderful. I felt so chicken deprived I think I literally ate half the chicken. We chose one (in case you can’t tell from the picture) that was drowned in garlic sauce and fried to ultimate crispy goodness. We were there till about midnight and there were still lots of people going strong. If this is eating in Seoul I think I’d fit right in. That’s probably not a good thing….

Yoga at Koh Samui’s Absolute Sanctuary

In February I was in Koh Samui for the wedding of a good friend of mine. Said good friend was obviously concerned about our wellbeing as pre-wedding, she booked us all into a yoga class at Absolute Sanctuary.

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Waking up at 8am is not  my idea of a good time, but after arriving at Absolute Sanctuary, I could see it was going to be worth it. Before the class we had a chance to use their pool (and stare at all the healthy-looking people who were obviously there to really detox), and after a few dubious-looking clouds, we jumped into the pool and relaxed.

The class wasn’t that strenuous, amongst us was one pregnant lady and a bunch of yoga noobs, so my friend had chosen a Gentle Flow class which I, surprisingly, found I could follow quite well. With floor-to-ceiling windows (and no air-conditioning) I found the whole atmosphere very relaxing.

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We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the yoga class (and I don’t think any of the girls would have appreciated it anyway!) but basically it took place in the building in the picture above. Gentle Flow basically included a few short series of asanas (I think) using positions I actually recognised (Warrior 1 and 2…the one where you balance on one leg…uh yeah).

Yoga and I are generally strange bed fellows. I love doing it, but if I do it too often…I tend to get bored. I love the feeling of getting a good stretch and balance, I feel like it helps to focus my mind but I don’t find I can do it very often. This class however felt great. I’d just come off a week of non-stop eating from Chinese New Year (not to mention dumpling heaven in Shanghai) and it was good to be reminded that once upon a time, I had muscles.

http://www.absolutesanctuary.com

Strippers, soup noodles and shopping – a weekend in Bangkok

Clearly I am the worst blogger in the world. Can I blame China?

Between travelling the Asian triangle of Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, trying to find a job, trying to figure out if I even WANT one, I keep forgetting about my blog! The poor thing sits here on the interwebs like some poor abandoned pet, sure it was cute at first, now it requires work? Boo.

I still like writing in it but I just get lazy. So lazy. Then I try and find a billion pictures and attempt to photo blog it all. This one case in point was from my trip to Bangkok end of Jan. It was a weekend of strippers, shopping and spa for a Hen’s Night, but in the end all I have are pictures of food (this is fine because the stripper was a let down anyway).

We started off with dinner at Roof by Muse. Food was great (and we were starving, as evidenced from lack of photos). Loved this cocktail floating in dried ice.

2013-01-25 20.51.16Roof by Muse http://www.musebkk.com

The next day saw us at Hyde and Seek, awesome gastropub where we all fell in love with this:

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http://www.hydeandseek.com

Once the hen night shenanigans were officially over, we stuck to more local fair such as Bangkok’s famous street noodles.

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We also hit up this favourite of mine at Siam station. Seriously I could eat these noodles every day. I think I very nearly did.

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 And finally, a friend took us to this awesome, university hang out which was as adorable as it was good. The music was, as the name suggested, from the sixties and food was tasty Thai.2013-01-29 22.49.27

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http://dishfinders.com/places/897143-music-of-the-sixties-bangkok

Chinese New Year preparations

Chinese New Year is in two days and this time I actually prepared a potential blog post to lead up to it (applause please since Christmas and New Year were a big fail). We celebrate the new year in Singapore (mandatory, no questions asked) but we bring half of Hong Kong’s food products back in our suitcases.

Being “self-employed”, I decided to follow my mom on her rounds of Sheung Wan for the best lap cheong (cured sausage?) and other random things.

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Then I got distracted taking random pictures of things…

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Like this.

I like Sheung Wan for its old school charm which still has the feel of a Hong Kong that wasn’t Asia’s biggest finance centre. Before all the IFCs and ICCs and whatever Cs came in. As someone who couldn’t be a foodie if she tried, I can’t even begin to name the stuff in the pics I took (useless I know) but at to be honest I was mainly taking pics for the feel of the place. Most of these places are along Des Veoux and it’s a great area to walk around and take a look at (though don’t actually go before Chinese New Year, it’s hectic!)

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Fish maw…?

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Dried fish…and stuff

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Tea! Right?

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Old jars on display

Wishing everyone a happy year of the water snake. For those of you like me who are Roosters, apparently our luck’s pretty good this year particularly if you’re self-employed. No health issues to worry about BUT if you have female colleagues/bosses, be wary of them. Just something I read in a random horoscope book. Never hurts to prepare!

Shanghai in pictures

I keep finding it hard to leave this city so much so that I’ve managed to extend it for another month…even though it means I’m going to spend a few weeks bouncing around. Before I get back to my smoggy, shovy, pushy, currently-adopted city, I’ll be heading to Bangkok for a hen’s night, Singapore for Chinese New Year and Koh Samui for a wedding. Not that I’m complaining.

I really like being in Shanghai, though the cold has definitely been a challenge. Fake Canadian that I am, I actually  freak out when I see the temperature go below 0. So far I am trying to keep my layering to about 2 to 3 layers, just in case it ever gets colder and I need to wear more. These are pics I’ve snapped on my little Samsung were mainly taken before it got too cold to work a touch screen without gloves (and that’s the only way to work one…need special gloves).

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Jing An temple is just memorable for me because for the first two months I lived practically next door. I finally took a peek inside on a free pray-day. It was a lot more chaotic than this picture suggests. People running around trying to burn joss sticks on open fire is a little scary.

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Made an important visit to People’s Square to find a husband. In the past parents used to congregate there and really share info about their kids to help them find a mate (much to their children’s embarrassment, according to my Chinese teacher. Nowadays, there are just as many matchmakers as parents, and probably even more tourists. If my crappy Mandarin is correct, I believe the sign above says something like “Mom! Here is where I’ll find my true love.”

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I like spending time in Tianzifang. An old Shikumen style sort-of tourist trap where there are lots of interesting stores. I’ve been about four times and still can’t find my way around. It’s like an ever-changing maze. But lately I’ve learned to just wander and somehow I end up where I need to be. Ridiculous I know.

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A friend took me to this lovely furniture/cafe (popular in Shanghai) that my crappy photo does not do justice to. This is the address is anyone ever wants to pop in for a cuppa or a couch. The surrounding areas are also great for a walk. 145 Nanchang Lu, 南昌路145号

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Of course I can’t post about Shanghai without a requisite food picture. On Beijing Road behind the Portman Ritz-Carlton there’s a local dumpling restaurant that does these great steamed jiao zi. They were delicious, and gone in about 20 minutes which is what happens when you eat with your 21 year old male classmates.

I think there’s a real possibility that I could live here (if I don’t get run over by a cab, or a bicycle first). It’s still more affordable than HK though that’s probably changing soon. And somehow there doesn’t seem to be that many bankers here (which is a nice change). Beyond the pollution, the language (which I’m still struggling with) and the occasional food poisoning, I still think there’s a lot f possibility. It could be worth it, especially for views like the ones below.

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Hot happy holidays in Singapore

Hello blog, it’s been awhile! I’ve been meaning to blog since Christmas but I was sick before it and then sicker after and then I came back to Shanghai where the internet hates me. Anyway here’s a picture post of my time back in Singapore. Warm Christmases are the norm for me but it was good to check out some new places. 2012-12-23 13.39.40

Visited a cozy brunch place in Katong called Rabbit, Carrot, Gun. The place as far as I could tell only had carrots, no rabbits and no (illegal) guns, but the lunch was great. So great that I of course did not take any pics (not a food blogger).

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Anyone who references my favourite childhood half-cartoon gets my vote for a fun place to visit.

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Evening strolls and snacks are always fun in Singapore (yes they usually take place post-clubbing) but Marina Bay Sands is really way nicer at 3am when no one is there. Below is late night garlic naan from an prata place near my home. As you all know, I never say no to carbs no matter what time it is.

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Christmas in my family is a big affair. Six aunts and uncles and their spouses, 23 cousins and second cousins and their spouses and kids. Basically it adds up to a big Christmas feast…but because we spent so much time demolishing it, all I have left is a photo of the Christmas pasta.

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And yeah these are all my instagram photos, you can follow me there @karentanfong too. At least that gets updated a little more often!

Shanghai sightings

Hello internet world I’m back! Getting on to wordpress was a bit difficult here in Shanghai but I’ve finally managed to get my act together and write a post, ironically just two weeks before I’m supposed to head back to HK haha.

I’ve been in Shanghai for just over a month now and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the city. I came here to study Mandarin and I alternate between feeling successful and slightly more fluent, and useless unable to get by except for a few choice phrases.

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Cute old school mailboxes in an old laneway

But besides that, if I’m going to be honest, I came for a change of pace. I wanted to see what it would be like living somewhere else without having to invest in the whole moving countries thing right away. At least this way I could say I was doing something productive while having a good time.

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pretty fences

At the same time, this IS China. I was reveling in being able to eat doritoes on my bed as I blogged, but now I’m throwing an internal tantrum because one of my neighbours is definitely smoking and the smell is making its way into my room. But I’ve generally found that the things that annoy people about China (the spitting, the shoving, the near-maniacal driving by anything with wheels) don’t faze me, I tend to find it more amusing than aggravating (except for the smoking in the apartment. that drives me crazy). The only thing I find hard to get used to is having my friends so far away (technically a phone call I guess, but I don’t have a long distance calling plan), and also the lack of easy access to my magic skincare drawer back at home. When I ran out of serum earlier this month I felt like I had dry raisin face till I made it back to HK and restocked.

Of course nothing would make a proper Shanghai post without some pics of food, so here are pics of some of my favourites so far.

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Juicy soupy oily sheng jian. Delicious and oh-so-bad for the skin hah.

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Rice cakes drowning in crab sauce

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my RMB 1.50 lunch