Month: January 2018

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

The main reason to travel to Harbin is of course the Ice and Snow Festival. It opens every year from the end of December to the end of February. There is no way I would voluntarily go somewhere so cold if there wasn’t something really impressive to see and we were not disappointed. While my phone stayed in my pocket the entire trip Thorben sacrificed the warmth of his fingers to take some amazing pictures.

Snow Sculptures at Sun Island

During the day we headed to Sun Island to see the huge snow sculptures. Those black dots in the pictures are people, that’s how big the sculptures are 🙂

Ice sculptures at the Ice and Snow World

The highlight of the trip were the massive, lit up ice sculptures. We got to the Ice and Snow world just as the sun set and the lights went on. I didn’t expect them to be so big, you could even walk up many of them. The sculptures were so impressive, I almost forgot it was -25 degrees 🙂 Words don’t really do it justice, so see for yourself:

Harbin preparation

Harbin preparation

Yesterday we got back from a weekend in Harbin to see the Ice and Snow Festival. The pictures I had seen made it look like a really cool experience, so it was another to do on our long travel list. We booked a group tour through a German travel agency in Shanghai. My thinking was: A bit of German efficiency and having a warm bus waiting really can’t hurt in the winter.

After watching the weather forecast I was a bit terrified:

The average temperature we had was around -25 degrees. The high during the day was -20 and the lowest -30 at night. That’s definitely be the coldest I’ve ever experienced.

Of course I am a well prepared German and used Christmas to stock up on stuff to keep me warm. Here is what I packed for 2 days:

  • 2 sets of long ski underwear
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 fleeces (with hood)
  • 1 light down jacket (with hood)
  • 1 winter coat (with hood)
  • 1 pair fleece pants
  • 1 pair of insulated snow/ski pants
  • 1 pair of liner gloves
  • 1 pair of thick snow gloves
  • 1 hat
  • 1 scarf
  • 2 pairs of knee high ski socks
  • 2 pairs of thick wool socks
  • 1 pair of snow/winter boots
  • 2 pollution face masks
  • 1 full face mask
  • Warming insoles to stick onto socks
  • Portable hand warmers

With all of that I wore 5 layers on top (undershirt, sweater, fleece, light down jacket, winter jacket) and 3 on the bottom (long underwear, fleece pants, snow pants). Thorben had similar layers, so we looked like this the whole time:

The MVP of the trip were definitely the self warming insoles you can stick onto your socks. I had them on each day for over 9 hours and they were still warm when I removed them. My feet were always the warmest part and never got cold. Same with my head, but that was probably due to the 4-5 layers I had on 🙂 Overall we didn’t get too cold and also no frostbites, so if I ever go back to temperatures like this- same packing list.

Pictures of the trip will follow as soon as Thorben uploads and sorts through them. It was just too cold to take off the gloves and take pictures with our phones.

 

Crochet charity

Crochet charity

I learned about a crochet charity here in Shanghai through a WeChat group. Clara, the founder, is organizing events where volunteers crochet hats or other items from recycled (sorry: upcycled) wool. They then sell the results and donate the profit to an organization that supports orphans.

Since I have been traumatized in elementary school when I was forced to crochet (and I have two left hands), I am no help when it comes to making the hats. Luckily, Clara is also building a platform to sell the hats and needed some pictures.

I volunteered to be one of the photographers and also did my best to smile with different hats on my head. It was a fun Sunday!

Fun Fact: No Chinese man would ever wear a green hat, since that is the sign that his wife cheated on him.

Shanghai winter

Shanghai winter

Even though it’s strawberry season it’s also winter in Shanghai. Here is what my weather app shows at the moment and judging by the comments from my coworkers this is as cold as it gets. Next week will be the second time we’ll have sub-zero temperatures at night. But whenever that happens, or really whenever it’s below 10, everyone complains about how freezing it is.

Last night and this morning it even snowed a bit, which is pretty rare for Shanghai. Here are some pictures of the “Winter Wonderland” taken from our apartment and the office window.

Though the temperatures make it look like Shanghai has mild winters it actually does feel really cold. One thing is the humidity which makes it seem much colder than it. Also, Shanghai is south of the north-south divide for central heating. Apparently, the heating line runs along the Huai River and Qin Mountains, so Shanghai doesn’t make the cut. We are lucky that floor heating was installed in our apartment before we moved in so at least at home it’s pretty comfortable. However, most places in Shanghai don’t have heating and the only way to make it warm is using the air conditioner. That includes our office. Hello, cold toes.

At least I have an excuse for my favorite winter activities: Staying home, cuddling up with my heated blanket and watching Grey’s Anatomy while eating all the Christmas candy 🙂

Update by Thorben:

Everyone was very excited about the snow. Our colleagues from corporate research tried to build a snowman this morning. This afternoon we showed them how it is done.

Eating out in Shanghai – Dessert Edition

Eating out in Shanghai – Dessert Edition

Since I got back from Germany I’ve mostly been hibernating in our apartment and eating chocolate while watching Grey’s Anatomy. This post has just been sitting there as a draft for a while , so I thought it might be time to post it while I dream of sunnier days when I went out for ice cream a lot 🙂 Also, I’m still trying to convince some people to visit here, maybe these pictures will help?

Disclaimer: Of course you can get dessert at most restaurants but this post is dedicated to the little stalls and places that just sell delicious dessert.

Japanese waffle shaped like fish with filling

I went here with Verion before his farewell dinner, because obviously it’s always a great idea to get dessert before dinner. The stand sells waffles which are shaped like fish and have different fillings in them. I learned they are from Japan and are called Taiyaki. I got banana custard and it was really good. Unfortunately I don’t know what the booth was called but it’s inside the Shanghai Metro City mall.

Beard Papa’s

Pearl showed us this place which sells yummy cream puffs. I got a cookie puff filled with custard and it was delicious – not too sweet and with a very rich, vanilla cream.

Gracie’s Ice Cream

The ice cream is pretty expensive (6.50 for 2 scoops or 11.50 for a pint to take home), but it is so so good. They have some interesting flavors like Balsamic Strawberry & Buttermilk, Black Sesame & Honey or London Fog (Earl Grey). My favorites are Half Baked Cookie Dough and Malt, Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate, though Mango Coconut and Passion Fruit are also delicious. We also got a reward card so I can justify going more. And the best thing is that you can also get the pints delivered from Sherpa’s. Guess what’s in our freezer :).

Buco

Buco is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall ice cream place, right next to Gemma’s, an Italian restaurant. It got recommended to us a few times, usually when I raved about how great Gracie’s is. When we finally tried it I was a bit disappointed. My pistachio ice cream was really good and creamy but Thorben’s fig and blueberry were pretty watery. So I will keep telling everyone that Gracie’s is the best.

Pantry’s best

I went here with Ellie after drooling over the cupcakes during a previous visit. They all look so beautiful but I was kind of scared they would just taste like pure sugar. I was very pleasantly surprised. The red velvet one I got was moist with a rich cream cheese frosting and not overly sweet. Success! Ellie also liked her raspberry red velvet one though it didn’t taste like raspberry. We were too busy inhaling them to take close up pictures 🙂

Beesket

This is a juice place so more of a dessert after dessert kind of place (unless your name is Thorben and you count fruit as dessert). I still wanted to include it because I think it’s cool. You take a little container and can choose 3 fruits, stick them in there and then you can watch them make the juice according to your specifications.

Lillian Bakery

I think we talked about their egg tarts before but Lillian definitely deserves to be mentioned again. The only thing I’ve tried from them are the egg tarts and they are delicious: a crispy, flaky, buttery crust combined with a rich cream filling that tastes like crema catalana or creme brûlée. They have a little stand in our metro station and I may or may not have eaten 4 of those for dinner once 🙂

Awfully chocolate

This dessert chain is devoted to chocolate 100%. Cakes, pies, cupcakes, brownies, truffles, white chocolate creme brûlée … Everything was yummy and super rich and just awfully chocolatey 😉 I couldn’t eat all the ganache on my cupcake and had to admit defeat. If you are really in the mood for lots of chocolate this is definitely a good place!

Strawberry season

Strawberry season

Last week one of my coworkers brought strawberries to the office and they were actually sweet and yummy. While it’s maybe not as cold as in Germany here, it was also below 0 at night all last week. The next day someone else brought more strawberries …

When I stopped by our fruit stand on Friday they were selling lots of them as well. And so did the fruit stand a few houses next to it.

Obviously strawberry season here starts in January. I don’t know where they come from but I’m not going to question it. I’ll just keep buying more 🙂