Wednesday, September 28, 2016

团体行程结束之时


This was neither exactly a full work trip for me, nor a leisure trip. It's somewhere in between. My presence was needed to increase the group luggage allowance and as an extra pair of hands. And in the event that we need to verbally spar with humans, I could probably argue fluently in the language like a local till my face turns purple. :P

I don't have any useful contributions to their music or the intricacies of organizing the shows, or help out with equipment/technical needs. I could make comfortable arrangements to feed the friends, fetch them around via Uber or private hires, and translate/interpret for them, et cetera. You can generically term this job, a 'minder'. Very different from what a band's tour manager does, and said manager would clearly be kept crazy busy on a tour. I might well be the least stressed person on this trip.

The biggest reason why I can travel with this group in these circumstances is because we've all got a job to do. When a trip isn't purely a leisure trip, it's never about us, and it's always about end goals. Mainly because most of the group know how OCD I am, and on trips of this nature, it's perfect because I can be OCD for all I want, freeing them up to pay attention to what's most important- getting their music right. Those who aren't familiar with my OCD-ness and probably got a rude shock. Hahahahah! #SorryNotSorry

For the friends, it's their first proper visit to the country; day trips to Macau, Guangdong, Shenzhen aren't counted. The friends gained so many fresh insights about playing gigs in China and how its crew and backline at the venues might actually be stronger and better than what Singapore venues offer. They definitely had a full introduction to the food and different types of accommodation and learnt what they can deal with and how to go about doing that. We came across rude pricks, the nice humans, the weird ones and the fab ones. I say 'they' because I'm already China-trained. Hahahahah! All in all, it has been a good trip to Shenzhen and Shanghai. No one fell ill or had any injury or horrid experiences. Even as I type out this post, Super Typhoon Megi has hit Taiwan bad and is headed towards Guangdong and Fujian provinces; the third typhoon in two weeks. Thank God for journey mercies.

Here's a gratuitous shot of the accessories that followed me on the trip. Minimal. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

上海人家 :: 浦东


We had the full spectrum of fantastic meals, good ones, average deals, and crap meals chockful of MSG that we rather not remember. But there was this dinner that turned out surprisingly okay becasue the kitchen acceded to our request of 'no MSG' (they put fewer spoonfuls) and 'less oil'. The dishes tasted okay and were pretty edible. Serving up Shanghai dishes, 上海人家 (Shanghai Ren Jia) is a big standalone restaurant (in an odd familiar style of a neoclassical Palladian two-storey bungalow) in Pudong near Waigaoqiao frequented by the locals and virtually no tourists, except us.

Clearly there weren't any non-smoking rules in the restaurant. We were assaulted by a curtain of cigarette smoke upon entering. The restaurant was full that evening with lots of huge family dinners dotting the halls and private rooms. The adults certainly didn't care about the babies and children being passive smokers. While we had a private alcove of sorts, it certainly didn't deter smoke from drifting over. Luckily we went late and many people were done with their dinner and were streaming out. So the amount of carcinogens in the air diminished over the next 30 minutes.

The simple omelette was done well. It really went low on oil and NO MSG. Hurrah!!! The pieces of tofu were impressive- they were blessedly bland. OMG. It's so difficult to find bland Chinese food in this area!!! The two items that had a zillion spoonfuls of MSG that they couldn't do anything about were the mustard greens that sat chicken or pork stock and the scallion noodles. Tsk! I'll never understand this fascination with MSG in commercial Chinese kitchens. Totally must chant the mantra strongly, “不要味精、少油、少盐、不加糖、请别放味精。”

Had fun watching a large family line up at the staircase for a family photo. We were joking about crashing that and photo-bombing them. But we didn't do it. Imagine our howls of laughter when we realized another group of foreigners (dunno if they're tourists too) did it!!! They were leaving the restaurant but the staircase was blocked, so they waited. One dude simply went down the stairs and placed himself in the photo next to the most elderly couple, presumably the patriarch and the matriarch. WIN! And the family didn't object! They graciously posed for a few more shots with the foreigner. Too funny.

Monday, September 26, 2016

滴滴出行 :: Uber China


Uber now seems to only work for me when I'm not using it in Singapore. The irony. My luck with its Singapore drivers is incredibly poor. Imagine three out of six drivers not knowing where the pick-up/drop-off point is at Orchard ION mall with a specific line of 'just before the taxi stand', and not understanding 'Esplanade cab stand in front of Toast Box facing Marina Square'.

When I last visited Beijing and Shanghai, there weren't any Uber-equivalents. The booking system for taxis isn't even reliable. What a difference three years makes. Uber China is now effectively Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行), retaining the Uber logo, app interface and user database. While the entire group initially had issues with their Uber app and verification codes even on their normal Singapore cellphone numbers, I oddly have no problems with mine or the credit card assigned to it. Merrily used Uber from the first day in Shenzhen.

We're usually out gallivanting in a group of six to eight. Wherever and whenever possible, I grab an Uber-XL or Uber-Black to fit us all. Definitely had to do that for Shenzhen because mine was the only working app. And if necessary, I'll take the rest in a cab. In Shanghai, when the friends finally resolved app verification issues, then we were more independent. Uber-XL can be tough to hail because of the distance we're traveling. We can get two cars ('People's Uber', they call it); all I have to do is to type out the addresses in Chinese and send it to the friends to copy and paste. Heh. Hanyu pinyin doesn't quite work.

(Luckily I didn't run into this sort of ghost drivers. What the crap.)

I generally refuse to drop pin for pick-ups. I key-in the addresses, followed by an SMS if necessary, and I do the same in China. I'm on data-roam and the app is locked to my Singapore number; which means the Chinese drivers are less inclined to call to check where I am. So I need to be very specific. There hasn't been an issue with pick-ups, not even in the heavy rain in small alleys. Only one driver canceled on me out of like...10 trips. Not too bad, considering that in Shanghai on trips heading back to the hotel, we're traveling an hour out of town. Most cabs don't want to drive us 'home'. Boo. Luckily Uber has worked fine for us in China. Well, for me, rather. Hahahaha.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

对味精和油的恐惧

酒店的食物有点恐怖。我那盘¥52的干炒牛河是在一滩油里枕着。何况每天早上在酒店吃都腻了。晚餐还是要吃的。还是打车出去了。走了几条街,发现在浦东区近外高桥夏碧路这边没有什么旅客,很local。心想,完了。应该回到昨天浦东另外一边的那间餐厅。

就是一间很普通的菜馆。点了几道熟悉的红烧牛肉面、肉菜云吞、阳春面、葱油面、苏州汤包和扬州炒饭。要求少糖、少油、少盐、别放味精。最后到桌的食物,看起来像样,但统统都含有一摞的味精和盐。汤包的馅更是超咸。哪能吃呀?再饿也吃不下。我们随便扒几口米饭和面条充饥就算了。

说真的,在酒店里煮水泡杯面都比这一餐来得好。至少味精没那么多。再加个燕麦棒或麦片棒,营养充足。我已经这样吃了几餐,挺开心的。再吃多几餐也无所谓。我吃街边摊很少拉肚子,是吃太油腻才会往厕所冲。幸好酒店前有间Lawsons可以买点巧克力饼干之类的零食。这里不是云南,没有淡一点的菜,没有我爱吃的云南佳肴。可能深圳靠海,又近香港,难免餐馆和食客的口味近香港菜肴,也容易找到合口味的食品。但这上海的local口味还真重,又油腻到极点。受不了。😨

Possibly the saddest meal of the trip. Virtually inedible because it was full of salt and MSG.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

自己冲咖啡


I brought granola and muesli bars, cup noodles and instant packs of coffee. Sustenance. And to feed the friends when we don't have time to sit down to breakfast or lunch. Luckily I did so. There're some mornings with only time for a shower, boil a kettle of water, get the coffee ready and it's go-go-go.

The cup noodles are for days I rather have less MSG in the system. Ugh. Every meal we ask for 'NO MSG, LESS SALT, LESS OIL', but it doesn't always work. Wanted to do this Aunty-thing- I briefly considered buying eggs from the supermarkets and convenience stores to boil them in the kettle that every hostel/hotel room provides. It's a clean business and will fill me up instead of getting more MSG. But I didn't. Clearly I'm not desperate enough. 😬

Coffee is a MUST. The instant packs are filter bags in the style of kopi-o-siu-dai. Otherwise I'll be damn grouchy. Good coffee isn't easily accessible on this trip and I'm preferring coffee without milk. There're Starbucks and Costa along the way, but I don't quite want those.

The breakfast buffet spread at the hotel has three coffee machines that seem to spoil all the time because when it blinks 'to empty tray' (in English), the staff enthusiastically fills it up with water. Zzzz. Yup, I watched it happen. In this case, I wasn't about to intervene because the supervisor was so fierce to his staff and insisted he was right. I rather have my kopi-o-siu-dai. Heh.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Tiger Beer on Tap


Rolled my eyes a little in Shenzhen when the gig venue's official beer was Tiger. Didn't come here to drink Tiger. I wanted Tsingtao Chun Sheng (青岛纯生). The cans of Tiger Crystal weren't bad though. They tasted okay chilled, and better than what the average can of Tiger taste like at home.

When we rocked up to Shanghai Brewery and realized they offered Tiger on tap, we promptly ordered a pint to try. IT WAS BLOODY GOOD. Ordered more. I've always known Tiger tasted better overseas, but it seems to taste even better now. Like they tweaked the brewing formula and hops for export, but never quite bothered with the range at home. WHY LIDDAT? WHY AH?

While waiting for our Uber ride back to the hotel, we saw two fights erupt in front of us in two languages- English and Mandarin. WAH> HA! So not getting involved man. We literally stood aside to watch the 'shows' and exchanged meaningful glances with one another. Saved the discussion till later when we were safely out of sight and out of hearing.


The bar had chased after a group to remind them about an outstanding bill. The people in question were openly aggressive right from the start and said they paid their share and it was none of their business. We figured they probably had separate bills and someone didn't pay. It degenerated into a full-blown fight with yelling and punches thrown. In the end, someone from the table threw a bill down on the floor and yelled, "Keep the fucking change!" That outstanding amount was either ¥15 or ¥50. Either way, it was an embarrassing amount for the unhappiness created. Totally the table's fault.

Then a cab dropping off a passenger on the sidewalk clipped a cyclist. Naturally, the cyclist went up to block the cab from driving off, and got down to give the cab driver a piece of mind. Loudly. Luckily the cab driver didn't even bother to get out or wind down the window. The cyclist didn't physically attack the cab. That kinda stopped the argument fast. Whewww.

These are fairly common sights in China lah. Less sensational than what we read online. But pretty dramatic. Before drinks, we already witnessed another heated argument between an errant stubborn driver and a bunch of traffic police over stopping and waiting at a no-waiting zone. Okay, I think the friends' China immersion program is more or less complete. Hahahaha. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Keeping Fit On The Road With Amanda Ling

Screenshots from one morning's video.

Being on the road means we don't have the luxury of a gym, But we can carve out 30 minutes to easily make do with what we have in the room to stretch out. Strength training is easy- there're always gear to carry and stairs to climb. Hahahaha. Plus, we have our very own yoga teacher Amanda Ling dispensing fitness advice daily.

There're instructional videos Amanda sent to our group chat, but I can't be bothered to adjust them to blogspot's specs. Anyway, in one video for the morning (see screenshot above), it's using a face towel, the common sort even hostels provide. Go into plank position, elbows close to the sides of chest to engage triceps, hold, and draw towel into chest with legs using lower abs. Do not cheat. Do not exert quads more than the abs. Repeat 10x. IT WORKS.

Amanda will be hosting a complimentary 'Satori FlowYoga' class on 28 September at 6.30pm at Lululemon Duxton, with instrumental soundscapes from In Each Hand A Cutlass (IEHAC). Wooohooo. I think there're still free slots (as of last night when I took a look). For a preview of the music, here's IEHAC's 'Satori 101' on bandcamp.

Check on Eventbrite to see if this complimentary class is full.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

上海雨天吃火锅

Thanks to Typhoon Meranti, the rain washed down in sheets over Shanghai. Best weather for hotpot. Stared at the name of one recommendation. The address is familiar. Realized it's one of my favorites in Shanghai and I've been there numerous times- 捞王锅物料理. Heeeheeehee. It's the one in Jing An (静安) on Wuding Lu (武定路) right across from one outlet of Enoterra.

On a crowded evening, while the friends waited outside for me to do magic.  I stealthily waltzed in, and grabbed a table for 10 at peak dinner hour. Hahaha. What luck! Didn't have to get a queue number and didn't have to wait long. :P Everyone else was waiting in a long line; this group even tried to snatch my table, but the servers decided to be really awesome to us. We sat down at a table within 10 minutes. WOOHOOO.

I'm not this huge fan of hotpot. But this 捞王锅物料理 hasn't disappointed. I especially love its cloudy stock boiled from chicken and pig stomach. It's beautifully peppery. Although I'm also not a fan of pork or its innards, I do have a soft spot for the bovine's stomach when it's all sliced up thinly. At this restaurant, drink the soup first before cooking the other ingredients, and always cook raw chicken last. Loved how the servers gave us so much attention that evening. We left a nice tip.

Since nobody bothered to read the menu or whatever, yours truly ordered whatever the heck I wanted. Sure, there were the token platters of beef and crab balls, slices of beef, and more chicken, and seafood including squid. But that also meant eight different kinds of mushrooms and loads of spinach and my fav type of baby cabbage, 娃娃菜. LOL. Apparently the friends loved how everything made the soup taste fabulous. Had so much Tsingtao Chun Sheng (青岛纯生) that we couldn't even roll across to the other side for more beer at the bars. The table was completely stuffed. It was bedtime! One fantastic meal in Shanghai.