Saturday, May 20, 2006


Things I didn’t know about Korea :-

  • Girls are prettier than Japan (my myth is now reversed)... in fact prettiest in Asia, imo. Girls spend a bomb in beauty maintenance. Nail pedicure/manicure salons are everywhere and always packed... costing above 20,000 for a session. Luxury goods are very common. According to peers, having pretty girlfriends means a poorer savings due to high maintenance. In fact, being in Gangnam-area (Apgujeong for months), one can see girls driving big cars everywhere. Husbands tend to commute to work in public transportations.... poor guys
  • People dressed better than any asian countries I know... smart and elegant. It's cultural
  • Restaurants are like Japan ie. either hidden, small or smoky…. definitely not family variety (no baby chairs)... unless you go for the western family restaurants or fast foods.
  • Subway is a maze … consisting of above ground and underground lines. One has to figure out from the many lines the best combination to get from point A to B. Knowing the exit no's in advance makes life easier upon getting off the train, 'cos different exist have different stairs/escalators up. The ends of each carriage are for elderly/expectant mother and the disabled... locals really adhere to this. The seats are often left empty for them, despite standing. These sections are indicated on the platform floors near the tracks.
  • Eating food BBQ style requires mixing few condiments and meat on a leaf, wrap and stuffing all in one gulp. Definitely not elegant. With all the smoke and noise, also not romantic. But females don't seem to mind... wonder what's their secret of keeping fresh/nice smelling
  • Dry sauce noodles (Zhar Zhiang Mian) is better than the original (China)… tasty and not pungent (bean-wise).... the staple order of chinese restaurants... sad.
  • Lots of unhappy expats living in korea, judging from the forum threads I’ve seen. Something about culture clash or incompatibility. Expats' stereotype image of koreans are proud, all-knowing, arrogant and demanding.
  • Locals are health conscious.. either eating whole onions or raw ginseng dipped in honey. They drink health drinks eg. yoghurts, milk, etc..
  • Eating instant noodles raw as snacks!
  • Life is tough… car ownerships are rare. People rent out owned apartments while renting smaller/cheaper units for themselves. Apartments are small, studio-like for kitchen and living area…. no dining area….. they eat on the floors on makeshift table. But at the same time, strange… some executives are given hotels/apartments to stay during the week, while they travel hours back to own home for weekends.
  • Grade A and B luxury goods knockoffs are available at secretive alleys and stairwells in Itaewon…. little scary (intimidating) to be locked in with the goons when showing their wares.
  • Locally brewed traditional rice alcohol (markoli) are tasty, best drunk from a bowl for effect …. taste like a mix of soyabean (milky), soda and alcohol. Available in bottle varieties from supermarkets too.
  • Korean actresses are bold and daring… ready to bare all and perform sex scenes… unlike Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.. I would say even bolder than Hollywood.
  • Similar to Japan, korea's mobilephone network is CDMA and requires CDMA phones. So, for most GSM phone users, choices are to rent CDMA phones for about 1usd per day to use with existing sim cards... or to rent both phone and simcard for about 3usd per day. Or next choice (but not necessarily work) is to buy a CDMA or 3G phone (with CDMA) and bring to Korea, hope it works.
  • Goat's milk (premium brands) are used for supplements or substitutes for mother's milk
  • Yakult products for adults are available here targetting liver or stomach health (1000 to 1300 won each). Easily found in supermarkets
  • Korea is super environment friendly, practising recycling and bio-degradable products. It is the norm to clean up your trays/tables in fast food restaurants/food courts by returning trays/cups/trash to designated areas. But not only that, cups are returned to proper places, ice and remaining liquid are poured away prior... everything in rightful place! Those waiters/staff sure have it easy. There are toothpicks which are made of some plasticky material which melts away when wet.... which I think is useless and doesn't help with long term picking. Plastic bags are not free! They charge average of 50 to 100 won each at supermarkets and stores. But one can return the bags to them and get money back! Locals carry canvas-like shopping bags for shopping instead of paying for plastic bags. Also at some fast food stores, foam/plastic cups or plastics are charged during takeout ... average of 100 to 200 won! Again, one can return for money back
  • Black colour cabs are premium cabs. They charge about double the normal cabs. Don't see the reason why, aside from cleaner interior or maybe leather seats. Car-wise... same model and make. Cab meters start at 1900 won.... premium start at 4000 won i think. Receipts are always available (Yong su jehn hei ju sei yo). When giving directions, drivers do not really know street names, it's best to give nearest landmark names.
  • Credit cards and charge cards are very very common use, thanks to the many promotions one can get using them eg. discounts and freebies. Very useful indeed and much better than the boring promotions in Malaysia
  • When paying for restaurants, the very common process is to take the bill on the table and bring it to the front where the cashier is.... practical and save labour time.
  • DVD-bang (room) are common services in shopping areas. Great for relaxing/time-off and for couples (closed door activities in certain private establishments). Average of 10,000 won per movie time.... play time controlled by front desk.
  • Locals hand/mobilephones are always tied to some charm/decorative/chain of sorts, which I never understand. Doesn't it make it even more bulky or heavier? Well, size doesn't seem to be the issue here.... girls' phones are bulky... many tend to go for the flip phones. Many people use phones as cameras despite the low resolution results... one can see many couples or families taking pics with them everywhere... i never know why so when digital cameras are much better.
  • Airport shuttle/transfer is very expensive costing average of 100,000 won per way. The norm is to use the airport bus which averages about 3,000 won which takes you to many major hotel/destinations
  • It's not very baby friendly around town, especially for strollers. There are stairs in subways. However, at subway gates, there are big gates at the sides where one can press a button to attention the attendant, who will release the lock and one will get thru. In new stations, these gates are fitted with ticket slots to go in and out like normal.


NOVICE buyers and battle- hardened bargain-hunters alike will require equal doses of daring, diligence and discipline to successfully navigate their way around the multifarious shopping streets of Seoul. Unlike some of its better-known and more user-friendly counterparts around the world, the South Korean capital is a large, impersonal, sometimes intimidating but always fascinating city of over 10 million people.
This is a place where daily indulgences include dips in public bathhouses, cellphones on subway trains, sleeping on futons and kimchi on everything -- all are de rigueur facets of the cultural landscape. As Korean as kimchi: the ever-popular Hyundai Department Store
Art mart: glass artists showing off their skills in Insa-dong-->
Shopping, though, presents a different set of problems. Quite apart from the attendant obstacles of language, culture and tourist-targeting-touts, just getting from one side of the traffic-choked town to the other represents a formidable, headache-inducing challenge. Enterprising types intent on digging deeper into the heart of Seoul, however, will be suitably rewarded.
Seoul is a 600-year-old city spread along both banks of the historic Han River, the rich lifeline of the Korean peninsula's central region. Thus, the city can logically be divided between Kangnam (south of the river) and Kangbuk (north of the river). The city is further split into some 25 districts, but certain areas stand out when it comes to shopping.
The first step to a successful commercial outing -- being able to distinguish right from won, as it were -- is knowing which of a potentially confusing number of neighbourhoods to head for in search of specific items. Since there is no real equivalent to a convenient one-stop, Orchard Road-like shopping belt, a comprehensive tour of the local merchants will necessitate individual trips to various parts of town. Here (in no particular order) is a basic primer on where to go:


Once the commercial centre of the city, Myong-dong is now known as a mecca for local fashion, the place where the younger generation goes to pick up the beat on the latest trends in clothing, shoes and cosmetics. Together with the neighbouring district of Namdaemun (South Gate), Myong-dong is a mind-boggling shopping destination that attracts a million people each day -- a phenomenal figure by any standard.
Unless you are a savvy return customer or are being chaperoned by a local, it's best to give yourself plenty of time to wander around. Even if you're armed with maps and a list of recommendations, individual stores are difficult to locate, given the lack of English-language signage and detailed numbering system for many of them.
Meanwhile, don't miss the opportunity to visit nearby Myong-dong Cathedral, a neo-gothic vision that's a Seoul landmark and the largest church in Korea.

First-time visitors will find it far from humdrum in the wonderful wholesale market of Namdaemun, which is probably the country's most famous shopping destination. This dense, dizzying warren of side streets in the oldest part of Seoul first started operating in 1414 and is now home to hundreds of open-air storefronts, indoor arcades and high-rise buildings. Here, it's not uncommon for visitors from all corners of the globe to be spotted stocking up on goods to bring home.
Bargaining in time-honoured tradition, feverishly working the hand-held calculators and then carting their purchases away in large expandable suitcases, buyers focus their attentions on everything from locally-manufactured fashion accessories to clothing and exotic knick-knacks, all available in bulk quantities at affordable prices. Although virtually anything can be bought here, the flea-market nature of Namdaemun can be somewhat draining, especially for the uninitiated.

High rollers and heavy hitters are likely to head for Apkujong-dong -- otherwise known as Rodeo Street in deference to its LA cousin -- and the adjacent district of Chongdam-dong, where fashionistas in fancy cars and designer shades troll the uptown stores for something from Calvin, Donna or Giorgio. Here is where high-end boutiques, trendy cafes and cool hip-hop bars jostle for business from black-clad beauties and stylish young turks.
It's all very ooh-la-la, but there's a definite infusion of local flavour as well in this south-central part of the city. Well-heeled visitors might suffer from a distinct sense of deja vu, although there's always the hope of picking up something that isn't available in Milan or Monte Carlo.
In Chongdam-dong, there's also The Galleria, two buildings that constitute the most exclusive department store in town. A branch of the ubiquitous Hyundai department store chain is also located close by in this posh part of Seoul.

This area of narrow streets and pretty pedestrian zones in the north-western quadrant of Seoul is a favoured stop for culturally receptive, arts-loving foreigners in search of unique reminders of their visit to Korea. The streets and alleyways around here abound with craft shops, galleries and tea shops, where objets d'art, local pottery, traditional costumes and specialist calligraphic materials from all periods of Korean history are displayed alongside paintings, furniture and antiques.
On any given weekend, street vendors, musicians and artists appear in full force (and full regalia), turning the area into a fairground and living museum for the arts. There is a certain element of theatre to the whole thing, but the overall effect is a pleasing and enchanting blend of traditional and contemporary Korea.

Tongdaemun (East Gate) is a dream come true for people who are enamoured by clothes of every size, shape and colour. For sheer volume alone, Tongdaemun can't be beat. At this massive market for Made-in-Korea apparel, designer outlet clothing and casualwear are ever-popular, as well as leather and sporting goods.
A street level shopping mall caters to the retail trade while several nondescript highrises (notably Doosan Tower for outlet shopping, and Migliore, home to 2,300 shops) serve as a giant repository for an amazing array of wholesale items. The buildings are always busy and the atmosphere always electrically charged, which isn't too surprising considering Tongdaemun is open all night, until the early hours of the morning.
Live entertainment is even provided on permanent stages in front of Doosan Tower, but it won't be long before you resume your sweep of the stores. Part of the thrill is paying prices that don't do permanent damage to your bank balance, although the temptation is always to buy more than you really need.

Itaewon is noted for its proximity to a large American military base, and also notorious for being home to those dubious yet delightfully naughty designer fakes. Some of these are of an unbelievably high standard, right down to the embossed boxes and branded wrapping tissue.
If you don't see the good stuff on display, it's because much of it is tucked discreetly away. Ask to see it or, better yet, get a local to take you. Brand name watches and Louis Vuitton bags are currently the objects of desire in Itaewon, where imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, but also a thriving industry to boot -- and all for roughly 10 per cent of the real thing.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


This is a much much procrastinated and delayed blog.... about travel and survival tips. I'm starting with Shanghai and will try to work backwards to the other countries of the past.

Now in shanghai for the last 2 months.... average temperature of below 5 celsius. Officially declared winter 1 month ago. Based in Pudong, in Jin Xiao area..... a part industrial, office and residential area.

Ok ..... tips and my favorites to date :-
Pudong Shopping centers - Nextage mall/Yaohan (Dongchang Rd station), Superbrand mall (Lujiazui station), Thumb plaza (not near any station... closest would be Science center)
Puxi Shopping centers - Grand Gateway mall (Xujiahui station), City Plaza (Jingan temple station), Parkson (Shanxi station)
Shopping bazaars/streets - Huahai Rd, Shanxi Rd, Xintiandi and Nanjing East Rd in Puxi.
Restaurants - Shanghai uncle (Times square Pudong), Taishengyuan (XinJiao area in Pudong), HK restaurant 8th floor Nextage mall in Pudong, Portugese restaurant basement of Times Square in Huahai Rd, Puxi, HK restaurant in basement of City Plaza
Nightclubs - Park 97 (Fuxing park)
Sightseeing - The Bund, Nanjing Road East, Yu Garden, Xiangyang market

  1. Always take free english magazines, maps and guides from airports, tourist centers, hotel lobbies, western cafes. They are very good source of local information with index of places of many categories. Examples are City Weekend, That's Shanghai, Shanghai Biz, etc.
  2. Try to take cabs which do not have alphabet X in plate no..... X indicates private cabs which may mean poorer or dodgy service ie. no guarantee. Try to avoid peak hours eg. Friday nights, rainy days or after work-hours for cabs.
  3. To go outstation/interstate, use trains or Shanghai sightseeing bus center (brochure should be available at most major hotel lobbies). For trains, try to book in advance via designated areas around city ... otherwise, you have to join the maddening/uncivilised queues at stations. For train tickets, pay more for the 'soft seats' option or you will be stuck with the peasants/farmers/you-name-it less fortunate..... your choice of comfort or shock treatment. For a taste, the station or the gates should be enough shock treatment. Another option is to ask for seats which have fixed tables for eating food.... these seats layout is 2 facing 2. For waiting of gate opening, look for the comfort/luxury waiting lounge. It may be next to your train gate or somewhere else. You may have to pay RMB10 per person to enter a more civilised lounge ie. sofas, free tea, advanced entry to train tracks.... much much stress free... no rushing or worrying about crowds. Food and drinks are served in trains... prices are not marked up ridiculously, so forget about stocking up prior inconveniently... you are not going to save that much.
  4. For internet access, most hotels provide free broadband. Otherwise, find free wifi areas eg. starbucks and cafes around town.
  5. Receipts ('FA PIAO') are issued upon request from anywhere eg. cabs, restaurants, shops. Receipts from restaurants are from china tax system and looks like a lottery ticket of sorts. The ticket consists of a main portion and a docket (right side). Scratch off the grey area on the docket for a possible prize (which i think is a billion to one odds).
  6. Amounts in text description are not the usual chinese characters. I'm not chinese educated but I did know the basic chinese characters for 1, 2, 3, etc.. At first, I was confused... wondering why I can't see the texts for the amounts... but was told that they are printed in complex characters instead.
  7. For meals, avoid queues by eating later. After 7:30pm or 8pm, should be fine. Otherwise, join in the queues.

Things I didn't know about Shanghai :-

  • Pedestrians are in danger of being knocked over at every crossing. It's not the right-hand driving which I keep forgetting. It's the priority of roads to cars turning-right at any junction regardless of red or green light to walk!
  • Locals talk loud (especially women) and high pitch pronouncing certain words! Can’t tell if anyone is arguing or just casual talking at times.
  • Females are the fiercest I've seen, arguing for anything under the sky that doesn't meet their 'high' standards. I've seen so many outdoor arguments here that's beyond reasoning and at the smallest scale request.
  • There are very few good looking girls. For a population of millions, it’s rare to see few outdoors. Perhaps, they are hidden and being groomed for millionaires.
  • Standard of living here is not as high as Hong Kong. 12" pizza averages at RMB80, dimsum at RMB15 to 20 per serving, fast food value meals from RMB20 to RMB30, nice dinner for 2 ranges from RMB100 to RMB300, food court sets starts at RMB15 above, Starbucks at RMB40, cabfare starts at RMB10 for first 3 km, 4 star hotel rooms at average RMB500 to RMB700.
  • Cover charge at popular clubs range around RMB100 per head! Average price of drinks range around RMB50.
  • Shanghai is boring. Shopping can’t even beat KL… brands and quality lack innovation. Sights are no biggie and not even representative of chinese culture
  • Western influence in consumerism is still new and ripe for any new ventures…. Lack of big english bookshops (eg. Borders, Kinokuniya, Times, etc.), CD/DVD shops (eg. HMV, Tower records, etc.), fastfood, Hard Rock café, consumer products eg. Kelloggs cereals, etc. Imported goods are sold at very high premiums. It’s ridiculous to see maggi noodles at RMB20 (for 6 packets), kelloggs cornflakes at RMB40+, Lurpak butter at RMB10, twisties at RMB10, etc..
  • Lots of bad drivers…. reckless and irresponsible. Drivers use the horns as often as they change gears, but nobody cares, the horns fall on deaf ears
  • For a supposedly modern/metro city, the cabs are in bad shape and small. Cab drivers are examples of low mentality services around. They are supposed to be the experts on the road eg. Know the fastest route, know every major street, etc… but instead they will turn around to ask you back. So arm yourself with a good map and a clear idea of your destination. They want the exact stop…. they don’t condone cruising roads till you find your stop!!
  • Rice is not common in restaurants! People eat dishes only. Ordering rice means getting the rice late… midway through the course after much reminding (do they cook on the spot?). And to think rice was supposed to be the staple food for chinese. Perhaps rice is only for dining at home.
  • Lots of uncivilised people especially in queues. For a preview, check out the train station ticket counter or any check out counter. Don’t even think about taxi queues, especially during peak hours or rainy season….. it’s everyone to their own… pushing and shoving, standing as near to the beginning of the road.
  • For a preview of all levels of society, try taking an inter-state train. Waiting at the departure gate would make anyone cringe or be on high alert. To escape it all, wait at the vip lounge (pay additional RMB10 each)…. Free tea, sofas, priority access to trains, less crowds.
  • Knockoffs are cheap eg. DVD at RMB5 each, hardcover books at RMB40, etc…… especially at infamous Xiangyang market, a haven for foreigners laughing and holding on the cheap garbage black bags full of ’souvenirs’. Great fun having branded goods at your cheap disposal without feeling guilty, great bargains
    In lesser hectic areas eg. Pudong, electric bicycles and motorbikes are common.
  • All restaurants and takeouts provide delivery service.
  • Air quality is bad. Everything is mucky, gloomy and dirty looking. Cars never looked their worst except here.
  • Parks here are not just trees and plants for the romantics and peace-loving. Parks are multi-functional…. a cross between wildlife parks, miniature golf, boat rides, amusement parks/rides, etc..
  • ‘Herd’ mentality is everywhere. Places are packed for no reason. So, don’t follow the crowd, it doesn’t mean that the place is good. Examples are snack/tidbit shops on Nanjing East Road… madness. These shops are available elsewhere and not as packed.
  • It’s not worth travelling when in china…. free and easy. It’s better to arrange a full tour package from home and with english speaking guides… lovely.
  • Lots of touting everywhere … especially in tourist areas eg. Bund, Xiangyang market, etc..
    Inside subway trains are like Paris ie. beggars, performers, vendors, etc..
  • Damn youngsters giving out business cards are a pain… they slip cards into your hands, pockets, bags… even desperately throw them on your lap.
  • Despite the horror stories of locals behaviour, it is a nice surprise that subway passengers are courteous enough to give in their seats to women with babies…. all the time!! Nothing like pretentious developing countries eg. London, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong.
  • Chinese food that didn’t originate from Shanghai much less China (not heard of) eg. Yee sang, arrowhead chips (nga koo), sticky pudding (leen koh)
  • Chinese new year customs are different here. CNY is called Spring festival here. Chap Goh Mei is called
  • Lantern festival here (kids light up lanterns). God of fortune is expected on 5th night (not eve night). Angpow is only for the young and unemployed (average of RMB100 each!). House visiting is not common amongst friends unless invited or have function. Gambling is not common except for mahjong for the elderly.
  • Everything is made in china, but that does not mean it’s available for china and even so, not cheap! The irony.
  • I thought censorship was only in malaysia but even more here…. Internet, news and tv/movies. Even internet traffic is controlled despite having ‘unlimited access’
  • Broadband is everywhere... never have I seen it being offered free so easily at hotels, cafes, etc.
  • Food deliveries are everywhere.... if you see a restaurant/deli near your home, high chance they deliver to your doorstep either free or minimal fee
  • Parks are very entertaining... not just greeneries, but with amusement parks, boat rides, wildlife, games, etc..
  • Trendy and well designed chinese restaurants.... a treat for young couples/families
  • Karaoke concept is totally different… for certain establishments (not all) eg. Haoledi. Drinks, snacks and food are bought from outside. A supermarket of such is set up at front of establishment for such. So, push the trolley, carry the basket… load up and bring to the vip rooms. Fun! No more feeling of being ripped-off with marked up prices.
  • Most japanese restaurants offer choice of alacarte (average of RMB50 - 100 p/p) or all-you-can-eat/drink (average of RMB150 p/p). Based on multiple tries, I find the quality of the food differs in both choices. Latter choice has not so fresh/quality sashimi, depending on establishments. But given the proper establishments, the latter is really worth the yuan for big appetites and wider choices in one seating.
  • Receipts (FA PIOW) are encouraged by government, to be requested by patrons. Incentive is cash prizes by scratch method like quick lottery. I had the luck to win twice RMB5 and claimable immediately from the restaurant … hahaha

You know you have been in China for too long when...

1.The footprints on the toilet seat are your own.
2.You no longer wait in line, but go immediately to the head of the queue.
3.You stop at the top or bottom of an escalator to plan your day.
4.It becomes exciting to see if you can get on the lift before anyone can get off.
5.It is no longer surprising that the only decision made at a meeting is the time and venue for the next meeting.
6.You rank the decision making abilities of your staff by how long it takes them to reply "Up To You".
7.You no longer wonder how someone who earns US$ 400.00 per month can drive a Mercedes.
8.You accept the fact that you have to queue to get a number for the next queue.
9.You accept without question the mechanic's analysis that the car is "Broken" and that it will cost you a lot of money to get it "Fixed".
10.You find that it saves time to stand and retrieve your hand luggage while the plane is on final approach.
11.You can shake your hands almost perfectly dry before wiping them on your trousers, or you have your suits made with terrycloth pockets.
12.A T-Bone steak with rice sounds just fine.
13.You believe everything you read in the local newspaper.
14.You regard traffic signals, stop signs, and copy watch peddlers with equal disdain.
15.You have developed an uncontrollable urge to follow people carrying small flags.
16.When listening to the pilot prove he cannot speak English, you no longer wonder if he can understand the air traffic controller.
17.You regard it as part of the adventure when the waiter correctly repeats your order and the cook makes something completely different.
18.You have more knick-knacks than your grandmother.
19.You are not surprised when three men with a ladder show up to change a light bulb.
20.You blow your nose or spit on the restaurant floor (of course after making a loud hocking noise)
21.You look over people's shoulder to see what they are reading
22.You throw your trash out the window of your house, your car or bus you´are on
23.You would rather SMS someone than actually meet to talk 'face to face'
24.You wear nylons when it is 30 degrees outside
25.You honk your horn at people because they are in your way as you drive down the sidewalk
26.You regularly fumble for five minutes to find 10 jiao despite 10 people waiting in line behind you
27.One of your fingernails is an inch long
28.You ride around on your bicycle ringing a bell for some unknown f***ing reason
29.In a meeting you say everything will be 'wonderful' and give no details.
30.You forget that the other person needs to finish speaking before you can start
31.You burp in any situation and don't care.
32.You see one foreign person eating Pineapple (or whatever) and say "Yes, all foreign people like Pineapple"
33.You start to watch CCTV9 and feel warm and comforted by the ream
48.You take a nap while you are dining in a restaurant with your girlfriend/boyfriend
49.Just everything produced in your home town is "very famous in China"
50.You don't do any favours without wondering what your personal benefit could be
51.You understand all the above listed references
53. You vomit irrespective of where you are
54. You have no problems watching your waitress pick her nose or the cook smoking a cig while preparing your meal.
55. When you chain smoke and carry a little leather man handbag, complete with a matching phone holder.
56. Motorcycles, mopeds no longer bother you on the sidewalk!!!
56. Instead of calmly asking a question, you, oblivious to others shout for no necessary reason at the person right next to you in the office so that everyone can hear you.
58. you are the LAST expat left of the first group of friends you met here
59. You wear your pajamas outside.
60. Your T.V is always on and at full volume.
61. Your pinky nail is 2 inches long, so you can clean the wax from your ears while on the bus
62. You let your two and a half yr old kid set off some bangers/fireworks in the vein hope that the 'money god' will bring you fortune this year
63. the live seafood is flapping on the supermarket floor and you don't flinch when it is picked up and directly put back in the tank. You don't even get out of the way of the one trying to catch it.
64. You can't believe that construction workers in other countries don't wear suits while mixing cement/pushing wheel barrels around or while drilling holes in the middle of busy roads during rush hour.
65. You can perform a cheek lifting fart without embarrassment in any place.

Some informative websites on shanghai...

Extract from frommers.... something I never got down to doing...
[i]Huangpu River Cruise

The Huángpu River (Huángpu Jiang) is the city's shipping artery both to the East China Sea and to the mouth of the Yángzi River, which the Huángpu joins 29km (18 miles) north of downtown Shànghai. It has also become a demarcating line between two Shànghais, east and west, past and future. On its western shore, the colonial landmarks of the Bund serve as a reminder of Shànghai's 19th-century struggle to reclaim a waterfront from the bogs of this river (which originates in nearby Dianshan Hú or Lake Dianshan); on the eastern shore, the steel and glass skyscrapers of the Pudong New Area point to a burgeoning financial empire of the future.

The Huángpu's wharves are the most fascinating in China. The port handles the cargo coming out of the interior from Nánjing, Wuhàn, and other Yángzi River ports, including Chóngqìng, 2,415km (1,500 miles) deep into Sìchuan Province. From Shànghai, which produces plenty of industrial and commercial products in its own right, as much as a third of China's trade with the rest of the world is conducted each year. A boat ride on the Huángpu is highly recommended: not only does it provide unrivalled postcard views of Shànghai past and future, but it'll also afford you a closer look at this dynamic waterway that makes Shànghai flow.

Essentials--There are several ways to tour the Huángpu River. If you have time, a 3 1/2-hour (60km/37-mile) voyage along the Huángpu to the mouth of the Yángzi River and back allows for the most leisurely and complete appreciation of the river. There are also shorter river cruises (1-2 hr.) that ply the main waterfront area between the two suspension bridges, Yángpu Qiáo in the north and Nánpu Qiáo in the south, and an even shorter (30-min.) cruise from Pudong.

Several boat companies offer cruises, but the main one is the Shànghai Huángpu River Cruise Company (Shànghai Pujiang Yóulan), at Zhongshan Dong Èr Lù 219 (tel. 021/6374-4461), located on the southern end of the Bund Promenade; there's another office further north at Zhongshan Dong Èr Lù 153. They have a daily full 3 1/2-hour afternoon cruise (2-5:30pm) with the possibility of a full morning cruise during the summer. Prices for this cruise start at ¥70 ($9) and top out at ¥120 ($15), with the best ticket offering the most comfortable seats on the top deck, the best views, and drinks and snacks. This company also offers a nightly hour-long cruise from the Bund to the Yángpu Bridge (7 and 8:30pm) and another to the Lúpu Bridge in the south (7:30 and 9pm). Prices range from ¥35 to ¥70 ($4.30-$9). As well, there are hour-long cruises (¥25-¥35/$3-$4.50) on weekdays running every 2 to 3 hours between 9:30am and 10pm. Cruise schedules vary depending on the season, and on weekends additional cruises are sometimes added, so check ahead. Tickets can be purchased at the above offices or through your hotel desk.

Cruising the Huángpu--Between the stately colonial edifices along the Bund, the glittering skyscrapers on the eastern shore of Pudong, and the unceasing river traffic, there is plenty to keep your eyes from ever resting. Even on overcast days (the norm in Shànghai), the single greatest piece of eye candy as your boat pulls away is undoubtedly still the granite offices, banks, consulates, and hotels that comprise the Bund. Sadly for purists these days, however, the Peace Hotel with its stunning green pyramid roof and the Customs House with its big clock tower no longer have your undivided attention but have to compete with the towering 21st-century space-age skyscrapers that have sprouted in the background. Up close, though, the grandeur of the Bund is still undeniable.

As the ship heads north, downstream, it passes Huángpu Park across from the Peace Hotel, still considered by many to be the loveliest piece of architecture in Shànghai. Others prefer the architectural perfection of the Jin Mào Tower on the opposite shore; it's certainly hard to take your eyes off the Jin Mào as it tapers majestically upwards. Also on the Pudong shore are the can't-miss Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shànghai International Convention Center with its twin glass globes, and a slew of hotels, offices, and malls of the Lùjiazui Financial Area.

Back on the western shore, north of Huángpu Park is Suzhou Creek (Suzhou Hé), formerly called the Wúsong River. Originating in Tài Hú (Lake Tài), the 120km-long (72-mile) river was once much busier than the Huángpu, but silting in the lower reaches eventually diminished water traffic. The creek is spanned by Wàibáidù Bridge, which once linked the American concession in the north (today's Hóngkou District) and the British concession south of the creek. Eighteen meters (60 ft.) wide, with two 51m-long (171-ft.) spans, this bridge has seen all forms of traffic, from rickshaws to trams to motorcars. Elderly Shanghainese still recall the days of the Japanese occupation when they had to bow to Japanese sentries guarding the bridge and seek special permission to cross.

North of the Suzhou Creek hugging the west shore are the old "go-downs" or warehouses of the many foreign trading firms. This area, known as Hóngkou District, and the district to the east, Yángpu District, have been marked for rapid development after Pudong, though new modern towers (all no more than 3 years old) have already started to stake out the skyline. Less than a mile further on is the International Passenger Terminal, where cruise ships from Japan tie up. The Huángpu River jogs east at this point on its way to the Shànghai shipyards, where cranes and derricks load and unload the daily logjam of freighters from the world's other shipping giants (United States, Japan, Russia, Norway). Eventually, all of this waterfront will be developed into a series of marinas and a combination of industrial and recreational areas.

Before the Huángpu slowly begins to curve northward again, you'll pass the English castle-style Yángshùpu Water Plant originally built by the British in 1882. The Yángpu Cable Bridge, like the Nánpu Cable Bridge to the south, is one of the largest such structures in the world. Boasting the longest span in the world, some 602m (1,975 ft.), the Yángpu Bridge is considered the world's first "slant-stretched" bridge. Its total length is about 7.6km (4 3/4 miles), and 50,000 vehicles pass over its six lanes daily.

What overwhelms river passengers even more than the long industrial shoreline is the traffic slinking up and down the waterway from the flotilla of river barges to the large rusting hulls of cargo ships. The Huángpu is, on the average, just 183m (600 ft.) wide, but more than 2,000 oceangoing ships compete with the 20,000 barges, fishing junks, and rowboats that ply the Huángpu every year. As the river curves north, you'll pass the small island, Fùxing Dao, which is to be developed into an ecological and recreational theme park.

The Huángpu eventually empties into the mighty Yángzi River at Wúsong Kou, where the water during high tide turns three distinct colors, marking the confluence of the Yángzi (yellow), the Huángpu (gray), and the South China Sea (green). Before this, there's an ancient Wúsong Fort, from which the Chinese fought the British in 1842. The passenger terminal (Wúsong Passenger Terminal; tel. 021/5657-5500) for Yángzi River cruises is also here. This marks the end of Shànghai's little river and the beginning of China's largest one. As your tour boat pivots slowly back into the narrowing passageway of the Huángpu, you can look forward to a return trip that should be more relaxed.

Quick Cruise from Pudong--A brief (30-min.) but dramatic cruise along the Huángpu can be picked up on the Pudong side of the river. The cruise won't get you far, only upriver to the old Shíliùpu Wharf and back,15 minutes each way, but the cityscapes on both sides will give you a sweeping perspective of Shànghai old and new.

Tickets for the Pudong cruise can be purchased at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower ticket booth or at a kiosk near the dock (Dongfang Míngzhú Yóulan Matóu; tel. 021/5879-1888) on Fenghé Lù. To reach the dock, walk along the northwest side of the TV Tower grounds on Fenghé Lù, past the Insect Museum and the twin-globed Convention Center, straight on to the right-hand side of the sail-shaped pavilion on the river shore. Departures are 10, 11am, noon, 2, 3, and 4pm (more may be added during peak times); tickets are ¥30 to ¥40 ($4-$5). There are also night cruises (¥50/$6) departing nightly at 7 and 8pm from May to October.[/i]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Things I didn’t know about Paris :-

  • Subway trains are gawdy with peddlers, entertainers, etc. Experienced bomb scares during early 2003, train delays and rioting
  • Not as romantic as depicted in movies
  • Champs Elysees is too short ie. hyped up. I expected more from shopping or sightseeing
  • There are 2 tour bus services. Take the Red tour bus…. more stops and wider coverage.
  • The locals are not as snobbish or difficult as reported, as long as you are decisive and direct

Things I didn’t know about Italy (Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome) :-
  • Milan is the dirtiest and the most gawdy. Careful of rude and provocative peddlers and roadside entertainers.
  • Do not take or touch anything, nothing’s free. Lots of middle-eastern or similar looking of sorts people around…. especially in the square.
  • Fashion city? Err…. Maybe hidden within studios and catwalk arenas… but walking along the branded goods area, nothing to shout about…. sure I did see models going in and out of auditions but they are whisked in and out of cars quickly, just follow the waiting photograpers … blink and you will miss them…. no big deal.
  • Rome has the most sights and true to historical origins environment. Similar to Milan in terms of peddlers and unfriendly middle-eastern lookalike baskers.
  • Venice is the most romantic and unique. Nothing like weaving in and out of small lanes and alleys, with nice surprises (cafes, restaurants, shops, etc.) popping up here and there. Something about the look, smell and lighting that makes it mystical…. walking thru bridges, looking at the canals, riding the taxi boats up and down the canals, serenading gondolas, water here and there, friendly people, etc….. maybe it’s just water. Being around water, always gives me a different ‘lift’.

Things I didn’t know about Germany :-
  • The feeling I get when in germany compared to other cities are ‘in a word’ bright. Not as grimy, not as modern, but just a brighter feeling overall.
  • English is not a strong forte
  • Food is a challenge… not much variety. Worth trying are the ‘pommes’ (Fries in mayo) and … (can’t think of anything else).
  • Pork knuckles are abundant, crispy and delicious in Malaysia…. But not that one time I had it in supposedly famous restaurant in Trier… skin wasn’t crispy and was a challenge to cut (rubbery/sticky). Oh well, I guess some countries do improvise or localise … ending up with better versions.

Things I didn’t know about Amsterdam :-
  • Red light area is like a maze and a major tourist attraction. Girls in window displays put ‘Next top models reality tv’ to shame, with their straight face antics despite being watched all the time. And all this just next to Chinatown.
  • For a free-for-all-no-rules society, the people are tamer and less rowdy than China or Indonesia. Give man everything and they will get sick of it… but starve them, they hunger for more.
  • Pretty much a water city too
  • Bicycles are everywhere…. It’s China of the west.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Summer Island
Speedboat transfer, open sea, islands, sun, sand, coconuts, cocktails, 'nuff said 

Hong Kong

Empire Hotel
Loved shopping at Stanley Market and sightseeing around Repulse Bay and Ocean Park. Food is yummy-licious. The nightspots at Lan Kwai Fong were amazing, crowded shoulder to neck with people on Christmas eve. 

Monday, July 19, 2004



  • Nusa Dua
    Great resort. First class service at VIP deck. World-class spa service in private villas for couples equipped with steam bath, jacuzzi, bathroom, garden and mini-pool. Aside from resort, the town, Kuta is nice. Simple yet bustling with shops, bars, discos, restaurants and life. Great sightseeing eg. volcanos, rice terraces, temples, processions, festivals, cultural, sunsets, etc..


  • Banyan Tree
    Superb experience of Banyan Tree resort. Private, relaxed, tree tops, jacuzzi villas, cocktails, spa overlooking cliff with waves smashing into rocks below, paradise. 
  • Sol-Elite/Nirvana
    Went to the P-29 (Party to-nite) event sponsored by Salem at Sol-Elite, for a disco night package. BBQ dinner, buffet breakfast, a night's board, pool, beach, ...for $70 per person.

  • Sheraton Media Hotel
    Business trip. Great city ....if you have the money (which shouldn't be a problem, considering the not-so-good economy there). Superb food (check out my favorite places in the above country links) and nightscenes. 
  •  Generally, the food here is my type ...mostly fried and with spices...yummy. The common sights are the stalls with the various dishes laid out for customers to pick from, to go with the white rice or flavoured rice. The locals usually add crackers or rice biscuits, to munch with the meal.The common drinks are the local soft drink, cold tea in a bottle (Teh Botol). Desserts are usually various exotic asian fruits, mixed with special dark sauces/salt.The local favorites are the BBQ chicken or the fried batter chicken, which are specialised and sold by some restaurants.
  • Local seafood (fusion with thai)
    Pondok Laguna, Jln.Batu Tulis Raya No.45Jakarta Pusat (359991-95)- this is one of the best restaurants I have visited  in the whole of Asia, no joke.- the ambience and surroundings are set in a outdoor nature and huts for group tables, complete with running streams, mini-waterfalls, fishes, bridges, etc.. Cool atmosphere. Looks much bigger from the inside than the outside- must try's are the fried squid (cumi-cumi), fried gurame fish (this is the best....check out the way they serve this...i won't ruin your surprise), petai prawn (udang), chicken panggang, etc.. The list is endless.- the price is the best ... we (about 6-8 adults) ate and drank till we couldn't anymore ... cost us about RP260,000 which is equivalent to SGD10 each.
  • North Indian
    Haveli (Indian Cuisine & Bar), Graha Irama Building, 2nd Floor, Jln.H.R.Rasuna Said Block X-1 Kav.1&2, Jakarta 12959 (021-5261165, 5279326)
    - Great tastes and ambience ...comfortable cushion and pillow seats.- superb cheap value for money- excellent food eg. naan, curries, sauces, etc..


Kerinchi, Pekan Baru

  • Food here is limited and very different from city food. Complacency is necessary to survive. Strange though .... the indian cuisine... MARTABAK is very popular here .... but in a different variation. Instead of a soft flour texture panfried with fillings dipped into curry, this one here is made like a pastry to be eaten plain, maybe dipped in soy sauce of some sort.


Thai food is quite similar to Vietnamese, due to their liking to sweet and sourish sauces, and mint/spice leaves which tend to be mixed in with soups and food. Don't be surprised if you see people ordering a bowl of noodles, and before they tuck in, they engross in some of their own mixing of sugar (!!!), fish sauce, chilli sauce, leaves and a whole lot of other condiments....whereafter they will start mixing and dig in.
Food are aplenty and of many varieties, catering to the huge tourism statistics which flood the country, almost thruout the year. Even fried insects and worms can be seen on the roadside bicycle/bike stalls....not daring to try them though....URGH!!

Vietnamese (Indochine)
Le Dalat, 14 Sukhumvit 23, Prasarnmitr Bangkok 10110 (Tel/Fax: 661-7967-8)
Magnificient range of vietnamese food I have ever seen before....and I thought I have tasted most of them (in Australia... check out my report there). A huge range of tastes, from sweet to sour to tickles to hot tinglings....all the way right up to dessert. Magnifiq. After the sinful meal, just burn off the calories and inches at the nearby disco, Narcissus around the corner or the take a cab down to the infamous Soi Nana.
Brew House, 4th Floor Terminal 2, Don Muang Airport (Tel: 5356090, 5356860-2)
Was recommended by pals to try this place 'cos of their brewed concoctions .... while waiting for flight, I managed to guzzle down 2 of their popular ones, Mama Bull (malty and very slightly sour) and Twister (honey-ish and sweet). Comes with fresh popcorn ....BURP!!
Now, this is one place which is BIG on entertainment. It is the only country in the world which parties like no other everyday and to the wee hours of the morning, .... I still wonder what these people do in the daytime, if they work or study .... or how they can afford to party like never.
Route 66 at RCA
Nana Disco

Cheap and simple. Put on your best bargaining skills.
Chatuchak weekend market
Pantip Plaza
Floating market
Siam Square
Eastin Lakeside, Muan Thong Thani III Business trip. Stayed in a suburb 30mins speedy taxi ride from city. A very busy city with the hottest disco/club scene I have ever seen in an Asian country, even on weekdays or Sunday nights. Superb choices of food here and there.

Koh Samui
Tongsai Bay
Excellent resort at par if not better than Banyan Tree. Super private balcony decks with bathtubs, lounge sets, showers, sinks, etc., overlooking the sea. 


Due to my frequent travels, I've decided or try to keep a log of places I've been for future references. Hopefully, I manage to capture the names of foreign places and the details involved in each occasion.

According to Asiaweek in year 2000
The Top Ten

1. Tokyo, Japan
2. Fukuoka, Japan
3. Osaka, Japan
4. Singapore
5. Taipei, Taiwan
6. Georgetown (Penang), Malaysia
7. Hong Kong SAR, China
8. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10.Beijing, China

The Complete Rankings

11. Kuching
12. Macau
13. Shanghai
14. Cebu City
15. Kaohsiung
16. Metro Manila
17. Pusan
18. Seoul
19. Davao City
20. Chiang Mai
21. Guangzhou
22. Hanoi
23. Ho Chi Minh
24. Colombo
25. Islamabad
26. Bangkok
27. Bangalore
28. Kathmandu
29. Chongqing
30. Yangon
31. Chittagong
32. Delhi
33. Dhaka
34. Karachi
35. Jakarta
36. Phnom Penh
37. Bombay
38. Bandung
39. Surabaya
40. Vientiane

How we did it

There is no absolute yardstick for livability, but criteria usually include such matters as safe streets. In devising ours, Asiaweek looked at 24 indicators which come under such broad factors as transportation. Each carries a different score according to its weighting in the category. A city may lose points for foul air, for example, but gain marks for inexpensive housing. In a year in which the region has been battered by the Crisis, economic prospects or lack of them has been a decisive factor in how cities fared in relation to each other. The survey polled 40 selected cities in Asia, including all the major capitals. For some larger nations, we also ranked additional major centers. The main factors cover economic opportunity (15 possible points), quality of education (15), environment and sanitation (15), health care (15), transportation (10), personal security (10), housing cost (10), and leisure (10).

The indicators:

* average life expectancy
* hospital beds per 1,000 people
* per-capita state expenditure for education
* average class size in primary school
* university-educated people as a percentage of total population
* sulfur dioxide in the air (ppm)
* dust/suspended particles in the air - micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
* average monthly rental per sq meter
* ratio of housing price to income
* sq meter of parks and fields per capita
* vehicles per km of city road
* existence of a mass transit rail system
* number of movie theaters per 100,000
* unemployment rate
* GDP growth
* annual urban inflation rate
* vacation and public holidays per year
* criminal cases for every 10,000 persons
* number of telephones per 1,000 people
* average time taken to commute to work
* number of TV sets per 1,000 people
* percentage of population with sewerage
* percentage of population with piped water
* average income

But in year 2006, another source reveals differently (

Rank City
1 Zurich
2 Geneva
3 Vancouver
4 Vienna
5 Auckland
6 Düsseldorf
7 Frankfurt
8 Munich
9 Bern
9 Sydney
11 Copenhagen
12 Wellington
13 Amsterdam
14 Brussels
15 Toronto
16 Berlin
17 Melbourne
18 Luxembourg
18 Ottawa
20 Stockholm
21 Perth
22 Montreal
23 Nürnberg
24 Dublin
25 Calgary
26 Hamburg
27 Honolulu
28 San Francisco
29 Adelaide
29 Helsinki
31 Brisbane
31 Oslo
33 Paris
34 Singapore
35 Tokyo
36 Boston
37 Lyon
37 Yokohama
39 London
40 Kobe
41 Washington
41 Chicago
43 Portland
44 Barcelona
45 Madrid
46 New York City
47 Seattle
48 Lexington
49 Winston Salem
51 Osaka
51 Milan
51 Milan
53 Lisbon
53 Tsukuba