Author: marina

A bike tour around Shanghai

A bike tour around Shanghai

On Friday, we said good bye to our first visitors. After a 2-week group tour around China, Thorben’s parents stayed with us for a week. Besides celebrating my birthday we also did some other funΒ  activities, one of them was a bike tour through Shanghai at night.

Our guide had to cancel the day before but we still wanted to go, so they sent one of their technicians. Our new guide didn’t speak English but he knew the route and played recordings at some of the stops for some background info. We started at Hengshan Road and biked through the French Concession, passing big villas, embassies and Fuxing park. In Xintiandi, we went into one of the alleyways and learned about community life there. Our next stop was the Yuyuan Garden/Old Street area which is the old center of Shanghai. Now it’s really touristy with lots of shops but lit up nicely at night. We have yet to visit Yuyuan Garden, I think Thorben’s parents have seen more of Shanghai’s sights then us πŸ™‚

After biking through some small dark alleys in the old town, we went to the bund. It was really visible again that Shanghai is a city of huge contrasts: Some people share tiny, old lane house apartments with their extended family, have communal kitchens and bathrooms and sit outside around plastic tables with their neighbors playing Mahjong. A few meters away there are fancy hotels, glitzy, modern high-rise buildings and the Pudong skyline.

On our way back we passed Nanjing East Road, Shanghai’s major shopping street and People’s Square. You can really see a lot of Shanghai in 3 hours on bikes πŸ™‚

Birthday celebrations

Birthday celebrations

Saturday was the most important day of the year – my birthday – and it was the first one we celebrated in Shanghai. The day was mostly about food, surprise, surprise πŸ˜‰

Presents and Brunch

My family sent a huge box of goodies for my birthday, including 4.5 kilos of chocolate – or that’s what the customs note said. Somehow Thorben managed to hide it from me for 2 weeks so it was quite the surprise. I also got 2 awesome paintings, which I’d been admiring at a gallery on our street. After presents we had brunch at Bull & Claw, my favorite brunch place. Or one of my favorites, it’s hard to pick in Shanghai. We brunched so much I had to take a nap after we got back πŸ™‚

A Shanghainese Dinner

In the evening, we had a little dinner party with Shane, Morgane, Leyfa and Thorben’s parents, who arrived on Friday. Thorben hired a Chinese Chef through the app “ε₯½εŽ¨εΈˆ” (good chef). He came to our house with all the ingredients and didn’t stop cooking for over 4 hours. Most of the food was Shanghainese, so it was good Shane was there to explain them to us. It was quite a feast, I think we had 16 different dishes, I didn’t manage to take pictures of each one. But no matter how much you eat, at the end there’s always room for a slice of cake. Or two πŸ™‚

Thanks for all the birthday messages, calls, presents and of course thank you to my party guests for celebrating with me! Turning 28 wasn’t so bad I guess πŸ™‚

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Nanjing or why not to travel in China during National Holidays

Today is Labor Day in China. As May 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, the office was closed Monday which meant that Saturday was an official working day. I have to say I’m not a fan of the 6 day work week … but definitely a fan of the 3 day weekend πŸ™‚

To take advantage of the extra day we’d planned to spend 2 days in Nanjing and then relax at home (read: do laundry) on the holiday. The fastest train was sold out but we managed to get there in less than 1 1/2 hours. Gotta love train travel in China.

We didn’t do as much as I had wanted to because it was a little too hot, too crowded and the air was quite polluted. This is what we managed:

Nanjing Massacre Museum

Sunday morning we headed to the Nanjing Massacre Museum, or the “Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders” as it is officially called. Just walking inside and seeing the sculptures is really depressing but I’d still recommend going. The exhibition inside is very well done, with lots of pictures, artifacts, information and videos.

Fuzimiao or Confucius Temple area

Next, we headed to Fuzimiao, the pretty area around the Confucius Temple. There are lots of shops, mostly tourist traps, and because of the holiday it was really busy. From the pictures I saw it looks beautiful at night all lit up but we didn’t manage to go back when it was dark.

1912

For dinner we headed to 1912, a little walking district with lots and lots of bars and restaurants. There are many western places but we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and tried a local specialty: Nanjing Salted Duck.

Purple Mountains

Trying to avoid the crowds a little we got up early on Monday and went straight to the Purple Mountains. Looks like everyone else had the same idea and when we got to the Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum a little after 9 it was already very very busy.

Thorben said that when he went to the Purple Mountains during a business trip a few years ago it was a really nice peaceful place. To get some room to breathe and escape the picture taking (not many foreigners in Nanjing), we decided to skip the main sights and exlore the smaller walking trails. This worked pretty well and we didn’t see too many people after that.

After a quick shower at the hotel we decided not to head back into town for the afternoon but take an earlier train home. The heat and bad air quality combined with the huge crowds and long queues everywhere kind of killed our sightseeing mood. And our air conditioned and air filtered apartment just sounded way better πŸ™‚

Overall, Nanjing is a nice place with lots of great things to see – but like many people said, it’s best to avoid public holidays. From now on I’ll just keep doing what we did before – leave China when there’s a public holiday (or hide at home).

Screen Printing at Craft’d

Screen Printing at Craft’d

Last Friday I went to a Screen Printing Workshop at Craft’d. It’s a very cute little space in walking distance to our apartment and they offer lots of cool classes like sewing, making your own soap or cosmetics, calligraphy, designing bags …

The Screen Printing class was taught by Sarah from Pinyin Press. She showed us the different steps of screen printing: cutting out the stencil with a knife, sticking it onto the screen and finally printing onto paper and tote bags with different colors.

It was really fun to see the final results, there we so many cool designs. Also, I got to take home a few prints and a tote bag. To do screen printing at home you just need some sticky paper, a screen, acrylic paint and the thing to pull the paint over the screen. Next time I’m felling artsy (and once the feeling comes back to my index finger), I know what to do πŸ™‚

The class was organized by GGI (Girl Gone International), an amazing global women community with a big chapter in Shanghai. They have different groups here like Foodies, Book Club, Health & Fitness or Fashion & Beauty. This event was hosted by the Arts & Culture Group. Through GGI I’ve already gone to a Cheese Fondue Dinner, an event called “Shoes & Champagne” where we drank and shopped, a Pilates class and I also joined the book club, where we read a book every month and meet up to talk about it.

Shanghai Restaurant Week: We came, saw and ate

Shanghai Restaurant Week: We came, saw and ate

The last 10 days were all about food. Not that that’s so unusual for us but this time it was because of my new favorite event: It was Restaurant Week in Shanghai! Restaurant Week is a worldwide event that happens twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. For China Restaurant Week, hosted by DiningCity, Shanghai is 1 of 5 cities that participates. When it happened in the fall we were traveling, so I decided to fully take advantage this time.

For the 12th China Restaurant Week there were hundreds of restaurants all over Shanghai to choose from. They each offer special lunch and dinner menus, usually with 3 courses, at discounted prices:

  • Category C: Lunch for 68 RMB / Dinner for 108 RMB
  • Category B: Lunch for 108 RMB / Dinner for 188 RMB
  • Category A: Lunch for 138 RMB / Dinner for 278 RMB

It was a really good excuse to try out a bunch of new places. I was pretty ambitious and went to 9 restaurants, so I only missed 2 days where I had other plans. Here is a little picture review, sometimes I was too preoccupied eating that I only managed to take pictures of an appetizer and dessert πŸ™‚

Those are the places with my rating, or a combined rating with Thorben, of the dinners (and lunch at Wolfgang Puck).

  • Maya – Mexican: 3/5
  • Garlic – Turkish: 4.5/5
  • Wolfgang Puck – Bar & Grill: 3.5/5
  • Lychee – Asian Fusion: 3.5/5
  • The Beach House – Seafood: 4/5
  • Tomatito – Spanish: 3.75/5
  • Pasha – Turkish: 4/5
  • Tiacassia – European/Cheese: 4.5/5

Yesterday, for the last night of restaurant week, Shane and I went to “The Fellas”, an Italian restaurant at the Bund. The food was really good, I’d give it a 4.5, but the view was even better.

The next Foodie event done by DiningCity will be the China Brunch Weekend from June 29 – July 8. I can’t wait! πŸ™‚

Tailored clothes in Shanghai: Shopping at the Fabric Market

Tailored clothes in Shanghai: Shopping at the Fabric Market

I’ve been meaning to finish this blog post about the Fabric Market since last year and our last trip there was quite some time ago. I finally pulled together the pictures and took some of missing items, so here we go: better late then never πŸ™‚

The South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market

Ever since we first went, we have developed a little addiction to the Fabric Market, officially called the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market. It is probably the best known market in Shanghai for getting tailor-made clothes, so there are many tourists here and the vendors speak English. The market has 3 stories with lots and lots of tailors and a few shops which sell scarves, belts and accessories. It’s open 7 days a week from 9 to 6.

The Fabric Market How to

I’d say there are 4 ways to get a piece if clothing made:

  • Bring something to copy
  • Bring a picture
  • Pick something there: either from the things on display or their catalogue
  • Describe what you want

I’ve had good results with all 4 strategies, but I think copying or picking something they have on display is the surest way to get the exact thing you want. For the other options it’s important to be as detailed and specific as possible.

The tailor usually shows you different fabrics and colors, based on what you want and then takes your measurements. If you get something copied they’ll probably skip the measuring unless you want some alterations to the sample.

Then the fun part starts: Haggling. If you go with someone, you can usually just get the price they paid previously. Some stores don’t haggle at all, most do a little, and others a lot. Typically you can get a better price if you buy several things and if you are a repeat customer. The craziest “discount” I’ve seen was Ellie paying 500 for a dress with a starting price of 2200 RMB. So if you are/look like a foreigner make sure you are not getting ripped off too much. I’m assuming we still overpay but hopefully not by a lot.

After you agree on a price you pay a deposit, usually 50-70% of the price. We always use WeChat or Alipay. I’m sure cash is fine, too and some stores take credit cards but probably not all.

They normally take a week to make the clothes and then you go back to try them on and discuss alterations if necessary. Once you’re satisfied you pay the balance and that’s it πŸ™‚

It was a little overwhelming going there the first time – how do you choose? – but now we have a few stalls we like and keep going back to. Here is a little overview of “our” tailors.

Faye Design – Booth 127

During our first trip to the fabric market we accompanied someone we met at an InterNations brunch and she took us to Faye Design on the first floor. We have been back many times since and kept bringing friends, so the prices have slowly decreased further and further. This is what we’ve bought so far:

Pants: 190 RMB (25 Euro).Β I brought my favorite pair of pants I wear to work all the time and had them copied a total of 4 times now in different colors. I made one bad fabric choice (sometimes it’s hard to tell how it will come out when you just have a small sample) but all the other ones are great. We started out here at 210 RMB but last time Ellie and I went and got a better price because we ordered 5 pairs together.

Dresses: 360 – 400 RMB (46 – 52 Euro): I picked a work dress out of their catalogue and got another summer dress based on a picture I brought with me. After that turned out great I ordered it again in pink and also in black with long sleeves. I paid 400 for the first 2 dresses but after coming again and again (and bringing them new customers), I got the price down to 360.

T-Shirts: Thorben wanted a few T-Shirts in a heavy fabric in the perfect length. They sketched it based on his description and after altering once he’s very happy with them.

Stitch & Co – Booth 2XX

Linda from Stitch & Co caught our attention by talking to us in German as we walked by. She knows all the important words like “massgeschneidert”, “Anzug” and “Hemd” (tailor-made, suit, shirt) and pronounces them like a pro. She really knows how to sell to you but was disappointed every time Thorben turned down getting an “Anzug” made.

Shirts: 130 RMB (17 Euro): Thorben got basic white button down shirt from her which fits nicely. However, another booth is a bit cheaper (see below) and we couldn’t tell a difference in quality, so we go there now.

Chinos: 220 RMB (29 Euro): Another pretty good buy. We didn’t have a picture or sample but they turned out nice.

Trench Coats: 500 RMB (65 Euro): I’ve been wanting a classic beige trench coat and Linda had one on display I really liked, so I ordered one. Ellie got a slightly longer one in green and a few weeks after me and I’m thinking I also might need another one πŸ™‚

Booth 146

Winter coat: 800 RMB (104 Euro):Β  Thorben saw a nice coat in this booth and got it in a different color.

Shirts: 110 RMB (14 Euro): Shirts are the main attraction at this booth and and Thorben has bought 5 so far. You can pick the fit, the cuffs and color and of course the fabric. They fit perfectly on the first try, so we had the second order delivered for just 10 RMB. The only downside to the shirts is that the fabric is not non-iron.

Booth 272

Skirt: 350 RMB: Ellie got a shirt here, I don’t have a picture but its the same style as the dresses you can see in the back of the store and the one she bought.

Dress: 500 RMB (65 Euros): This was the crazy haggling I mentioned. Ellie got them down from 2200. Having already bought a skirt there for 350 I have no idea how they thought she’d pay 2200.

Ling – Booth 217

Jeans: 190 RMB (25 Euro): Thorben had a pair of jeans copied which was a bit of a pain because they had to alter them twice so they would fit. He also didn’t pick a good fabric, so I think his won’t be worn much. Ellie also got some copied and she was really happy with the result so I decided to give it a go. I didn’t bring anything to copy and just said i wanted skinny jeans. They turned out great and are in a super comfy, stretchy fabric. I wear them to travel because they feel like sweatpants, to the office on Fridays and also anywhere else. They’re my favorite “jeans” by far, I need another pair.

Tom’s Leather Shop – Booth 270

Leather Jacket (male) cow leather: 1350 RMB (175 Euro):Β Thorben has been looking for a brown leather jacket for a while but hasn’t found one he likes so he decided to get his black one copied. He picked a very heavy cow leather. They did an excellent job, every little detail is the same, except the lining is not cotton as it is in the original one.

Leather jacket (female) sheep leather: 960 RMB (125 Euro):Β Ellie also bought a leather jacket at the same store and picked one they had on display to be made in her size. I don’t know if the price difference is because of the different leather, different cut (requiring less material) or her superior haggling skills. Maybe a bit of each.