Year Abroad: Hangzhou

杭州
Hangzhou

Shanghai Honqiao – Hangzhou East: 159¥

Sights:
West Lake,
Bai & Su Causeways,
JingCi Temple,
National Silk Museum
Dragon Well Tea Village.

After term ended in January I headed to Hangzhou for a long-weekend. It’s a short two and a half hour high-speed train journey from Shanghai, and if you choose your weekends wisely, a great break from the bustle of the big city.

Lakes, greenery and pedestrian and cycle paths that should be the envy of China, Hangzhou made a crisp New Year’s trip that’s definitely one of my China favourites.

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West Lake Hangzhou

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 MOUTH-WATERING TREATS.

I’m a simple creature, proximity to food is high on my list of priorities.

And Hangzhou’s slightly sweet and flavoursome style of dishes are a solid favourite out of my trips so far. If you’re down south, definitely try out these three dishes mains at the very least, Hangzhou did them perfectly: 红烧肉 Slow Stewed Pork, 家常白菜 Home Style Cabbage, 红烧茄子 Stewed Aubergine.

For speciality snacks, head down to QingHeFang St. on the west side of the lake where stalls selling traditional savoury snacks and sweet cakes line the narrow streets.

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West Side of the Lake

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Red Bean Tea Cakes in Hangzhou

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TRANQUIL SCENERY

If you stay away from the traumatising horror of major national holidays in China, even at the weekends, Hangzhou’s lakes and causeways are some of the loveliest.

Besides the gentle (read: wonderfully flat) walk around the lake, it’s also surrounded by a scattering of temples, pagodas and museums well within a walking radius. We managed to cover them pretty extensively over three days, and I wish I had had more time at the Silk Museum. I was taken rather grudgingly, given my sceptical opinion of how interesting a museum of a single fabric could be, but I (equally grudgingly) had to confess I was wrong.
Good choice, Peter.

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Leifeng Pagoda

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View from Leifeng Pagoda

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Peter at JingCi Temple

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GREAT PUBLIC TRANSPORT

At risk of being called a criminally uncool, I have to say, having travelled a fair bit along the main tourist routes of China by now, it is with no small amount of gravity that I praise the tourist buses in Hangzhou. All hail efficiency.

With managable timetables and English announcements at every stop, it’s an easy town to move about in. (And the fact that I still managed to lead us half an hour in the wrong direction by the bus is testament only to my poor understanding of North vs. South.)

We headed down to the lakeside to rent a cheap tandem and cycle the lake. Things were certainly a lot safer when I wasn’t steering, but that aside, it was a perfect way to enjoy the sunshine.
Su Causeway North to Hubin Rd. takes around 25mins.

Another plus of good transport is that we weren’t afraid to take some late evening strolls around the lake and watch the lights glow from street lamps and tiny wooden stalls.

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Su Causeway Stall Hangzhou

All in all, a great weekend.

再见杭州!

Charlotte xx

See you again, Hangzhou.

Year Abroad: Shanghai Weather

Having reached a rather impressive milestone of six months in Shanghai, I’ve written, not as much as I would have liked, on nightlife, studying, food and art on my Year Abroad. I thought I’d add to this short list with a topic that’s been in the news at home in Britain (floods!): Shanghai Weather!

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SEASONS

Summer Autumn Winter Spring Pollution

If you’re thinking about studying abroad in any country, you might want to take into account the seasonal weather changes as you pack your bags. There’s been an extreme range in temperature while I’ve been in this small coastal area of China, and it really does pay to be prepared.

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SUMMER

 I arrived in Shanghai during one of the hottest summers on record for this modern metropolis, when the temperatures were soaring in the high 30s, stifling the city with trapped heat. In July, it hit 40ºC on a day where news teams astounded people worldwide with footage of raw meat and eggs literally cooking on the concrete pavements of the city.

This unbearable June-July heat lasted right into early September, where our classes were attended in shorts and T-shirts (at least by us baking Brits), Chinese men walked around bearing some impressive pot bellies, and locals kept a little towel at hand to mop up the sweat (gross, but kind of effective?). Water bottles and light clothing are a must – but make sure you take a cardigan or jacket if you’re planning on taking the metro or popping into restaurants or department stores, the air-con tends to be on the strong side. Yay for tan, but, yeah… sweaty.

AUTUMN

“What autumn?” is probably the right question here. Apart from the slow, slow decent of the temperatures from summer months, it’s common to hear from the locals that there is no Autumn in Shanghai. In reality, what arrived was a sudden downpour of rain and a sudden drop in temperature of about 10ºC, I was hoping that these days of chilly, brisk temperatures would last to be Shanghai’s winter, but boy was I wrong… Winter was coming.

TOP TIP: As the cold sets in, invest in one of these tea-flasks that you’ll see the locals walking around clutching. A plastic one can be as cheap as 10¥, and of course, glass versions can reach right up to 150¥. Traditionally, locals drink a lot of hot beverages, including plain hot water and tea, and with the temperature dropping rapidly it’s not hard to see why. Hot water dispensers are something you’ll see around school buildings, cafeterias and even on public trains – and don’t be surprised in restaurants when people ask if you want warm or cold water, they even offer ‘room temperature’ beer… An acquired taste, I think.

WINTER

 Cold. It is cold. Big winter jackets, accessories to cover ever extremity, and yes long-johns, will be things you’ll be wanting for the Shanghai winter. Perhaps hard to pin down exactly what it is about Shanghai’s winters that seem so bitter, but contributing factors definitely include a blistering cold wind, and frequent heavy downpours that last days on end.

Winters are far from mild, and this year even saw a brief flurry of snow in late January. In addition, living below the line drawn in the country which defines which houses get proper indoor heating (radiators, rather than air conditioners that double as heaters) means that inside concrete apartment blocks can be difficult to keep warm. Get your thick duvets and Chinese-style padded PJs on for warmth!

TOP TIP: If your looking to jazz up your bed with something 100% authentic Chinese-style, try buying a 拉舍尔毛毯 – it’s a thick, heavy bed throw that will cost you about 100¥ for a single bed sized cover – and boy are they warm! Only downside is, they come in particularly bold prints… You certainly won’t miss them in store anyway.

SPRING

Up-date to come, if spring ever arrives that is…. but for now, it’s late February and when it’s not cold and raining, things are looking up with the daily temperature  highs creeping slowly towards double digits. According to hearsay, the temperature won’t really start picking up until late April or May, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for earlier.

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SPECIAL FEATURE

Shanghai Pollution Cartoon: Pollution Cloud

In December 2013, news of Shanghai weather hit the international news scene again, but this time it wasn’t for record-breaking heat and the novelty of BBQs on the city street, it was for the record-breaking levels of pollution in the city. The 6th of December saw the levels of pollution in the city soaring above the marks of unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous, right off the scale itself to what was guessed to be around the high 600s in the AQI (or Air Quality Index). What does this mean?

Well, to put it into context, my hometown of Belfast rarely rises above 30AQI, let alone above 50AQI (which marks the border from ‘Good’ into ‘Moderate’).  For those of you in London, you’re looking at between 30s-120s, on a bad day –  that’s touching into what’s marked as ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.’  Paris similarily stays below 100, while New York varies between 30s-150s.

As for the numbers, hold your breath, but from what I understand, they grade the concentration of pollutants in the air made up of readings of PM2.5, PM10,  SO2, NO2, O3, and CO particles. For those of you with a better grasp of maths, check out Wiki’s page on Air Quality Index for a breakdown of how readings are taken and final AQI numbers calculated. And for everyone, below is a more simple demonstration of what the difference between around 60AQI and top-of-the-scale 500AQI looks like in real life.

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Shanghai Pollution demonstrated by my classmate. These photos, taken less than four months apart, show the change in visibility from the top of our 23 floor dormitory.
Shanghai Pollution demonstrated by my classmate. These photos, taken less than four months apart, show the change in visibility from the top of our 23 floor dormitory.

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It’s a pretty shocking wake-up call for anyone who’s thinking about what their quality of life will be if they move into a modern city with air quality problems, and it’s not just Shanghai that you should think about. Many cities across China, and the rest of the world (India, Egypt, Middle East, Mexico, to name names outright),  are also suffering from industrial levels of pollution, booming population and lack of air quality control. It may not be the first thing you think of when you’re researching places to live, but from here on in, it’s going to be something I do – check the daily pollution where you are →  http://aqicn.org/city/shanghai/

TOP TIPS

 There are some precautionary measures you can take if you’re thinking of studying in China in the near future.

1. At the very least, get a  PM2.5 Protection Mask  口罩 (Kǒuzhào)as soon as you arrive in China. Don’t wait for government pollution warnings, don’t wait for everyone else to tell you to get one, by that time masks are really hard to buy as they sell out fast. They cost around 40-50¥ in your local convenience store, and come with three disposable filters which can help filter the smallest PM2.5 particles. For more industrial masks, try Taobao (China’s answer to Amazon.com).

2. Download the aqicn.org Air Pollution Index App for your smart phone. It’s free, and means that you’re always able to get an accurate reading for what you’re breathing in so you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s worth going running today…

Short term effects: I’ve noticed are a particular smell when the pollution is bad that seeps into your clothes, and at its worst a sore throat, and sorry for the gross detail, but blow your nose and the snot comes out a particularly strange grey (I did actually end up asking friends about this, and we had laughed about it with a bit of dark humour… no pun intended).  Long term effects are fairly detailed, so I’d direct you to Google for those.

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That’s all I have to say so far about weather here in Shanghai, but hopefully there’s some detail there that’ll help you prepare for your trip, be it a holiday or long term stay. Feel free to ask questions below, me and the rest of the internet world will do our best to answer them!

Until next time,

Charlotte xx

Year Abroad: Thoughts on Being Squashed

TOP MUSEUMS 

China Art Museum: Free ✌️

ROCKBUND, Misdemeanours Exhibition: 25¥

MOMA, Dior Exhibition: 50¥ (Student 25¥) FINISHED

Shanghai Propaganda Museum: 20¥

Urban Planning Museum: 50¥ (Student 15¥)

MOMA, Yayoi Kusama Exhibition: 50¥ (Student 25¥) FINISHED

“WHY ARE THERE SO. MANY.  PEOPLE.”

This startlingly familiar, and inevitably rhetorical, question is one that often drifts into mind when I find myself splayed and squashed, chest-to-back, in a confused cross between queuing and crowd-mobbing in China. National Holidays, rush hours, and anything Public Transport – the sheer mass of people is terrifying.

I’M IN A MUSEUM

 Now I don’t know what comes to mind when you think about heading to a museum, but a small scale battle is probably not the first image, what with with the elbow-vying for the perfect shot, the walking-speed race to reach the exhibit, and the split-second warning of a frantically wiggling flag that leads the dreaded tour guide of locals to descend upon your moment with Picasso.

In a brash, flap of tangled camera straps, and hot jackets, knees and elbows, the Chinese tour descends suddenly with its 120 decibel, robot-like tour guide, and sweeps itself off just as suddenly.

Reminiscent of a drilled march, the pit-stops allow tour groups to furiously snap photos at head-height (and by that, I mean my 5″8 head), with barely a glimpse of the attraction that isn’t through a small 3×4, pixellated viewer screen.

It’s not quite the quiet afternoon I usually have in mind when I leave my room for an exhibition.

THE MUSEUM

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Trip to the Museum

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YOU THINK IT’S JUST CHINA?

Well, obviously, it’s not.
From concerts, to the barely civilised mob before the rather smug-looking Mona Lisa
Louvre, you gotta love crowds.

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Signature

Year Abroad: Tianjin Travels

TO TIANJIN!

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Off the HSR at Tianjin Railway Station

Off the High Speed Rail and into the bustle at Tianjin Railway Station.
Beijing – Tianjin: 54.50¥
Shanghai  – Beijing: 550¥

It’s autumn in China, and I recently made a trip out of the bustle of Shanghai up to Tianjin, where over the course of four days I managed to amass a large amount of photos of the journey, the city, and very few of myself and my friend Peter.
(Sorry, Pete.)

In comparison with Big Ol’ Shanghai, Tianjin is pretty chilled and quiet city, and I’ve spent a lovely four days wandering some of it’s least tourist-trekked streets, thanks to my trusty guide, as well as some of it’s Lonely Planet-style tourist attractions. Despite the fact that Tianjin covers an area some six times larger than Shanghai, it’s population is only half that of the shiny southern city – and it shows. The streets are chilled, the metros are only quietly bustling, and the people are friendly (what a shock to the system).

Take note Shanghai.

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REAL CHINA

We start off the trip with an excellent 6¥ bowl of noodles at what Pete has dubbed ‘Man and Wife Pull Noodles’, a tiny, tiny, tiny restaurant that sits in a rickety road alley just by Tianjin Experimental High School. If you haven’t tried eating where the locals eat, you’re missing out on a real and genuine experience of China. This street is lined with lots of similarly miniature restaurants, all of which have been dubbed with fabulous English names by the local, non-Chinese speaking foreigners, and are flocked with tracksuited schoolkids at lunch (beware).

I keep accidentally calling the restaurant ‘Man on Wife Pull Noodles’, much to everyone’s delight.
Well, it is a bit of a mouthful.

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By Necessity, Alley Restaurant, Tianjin

These pretty bottles are filled with Chinese vinegar, and are perfectly lined up on our table (one of only three, in a space smaller than my tiny dormitory bedroom at Fudan University). The decor has definitely happened by necessity, and not because they’ve popped down to the local Ikea.

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Cat in Basket, Waiting

Oh, and here’s a Cat in Basket outside the shop.
Why are you so grumpy, kitty!

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I’M A TOURIST!

Next, I get the grand tour! Try the Tianjin Radio Tower, 1 Weijin South Rd, Hexi, Tianjin in summer for a great view of the surrounding city. On a smog-free day take the cheeky elevator up with a 50¥ Adult ticket (20¥ Consession/Student), and check out the span of the sprawling city. Afterwards, the nearby Lake Park 水上公园  is perfect for a relaxed stroll and watermelon on a stick! The attractions themselves are all a little worn out and dusty, with lots of attendants that seem to be there mostly for show – but worth visiting for the strangeness of it all. Other tourist spots worth a visit are the shiny, new Museum District, the Italian Quarter, the Old Town and the Tianjin Eye.

Radio Tower in winter  is an absolutely amazing sight.
Tianjin is b-e-a-utiful in winter, if not horrifically cold.

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 Tianijn Radio Tower

Tianijn Radio Tower.

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If you get a chance, go for a stroll around the local areas (or a bike ride if you can find one and are savvy enough not to get killed on raod that have a fairly relaxed attitude to general traffic laws). Out by Wujiaoyao the two story houses and residential streets are slow paced, and filled with wandering elderly people in faded floral packs; the wide, dry streets are sparsely tree-lined and seemingly under constant renovation, with building dust churning now and then under our shoes. Card playing old men in dark jackets shout in tense, tight circles around makeshift tables.

We were very alternative, and took a stroll in the dark.

A NIGHTTIME STROLL IN TIANJIN

One lovely evening after a long day at the nearby Italian Quarter and Old Town, we take a stroll down along the HaiHe 海河 Riverside to soak up some more of Tianjin’s relaxed atmosphere, take some photos, and a look at night-time life.

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Tianjin Father and Daughter, Nighttime Radisson Building

A man and his daughter sitting in the glow of the Radisson Building.

Tianjin, Nightshift Nap

This man is taking the night shift on Tianjin Old Street very seriously.

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Over the Bridge, Tianjin

Over the Bridge.

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Three Men Fishing, Tianjin China

Three men fishing under an over pass; the man on the very left is wearing what’s left of his daytime, smart suit, while the older gentleman in the middle has the look of an old-timer to the trade.

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Tianjin Little Eats Street 天津小吃街

Little Eats Street, Tianjin is busy and bustling.

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Last Man Working, Nightshift Tianjin

Last man working the nightshift.

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The Clock, Tianjin

Tianjin Clock in some pretty cool looking light pollution.

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HEADING BACK


 “Home, James!” My family say this when we’re going home after a day out, but I don’t know why, or who this mysterious ‘James’ is. Peter made a face and sounded fairly insulted that I was calling him James… Does anyone else say this? Support would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, after a long day out, we nip on the last metro of the evening on line three and head home!
Tianjin’s metro is wonderfully efficient, and much less overcrowded that Shanghai’s rush hour. English everywhere and friendly staff makes it a super easy tourist city.

Wujiaoyao Metro

I love how symmetrical everything is in the station, and as a treat, they’ve opened the backs of all the metro coin machines –  pretty neat.

From the White Lights, Lamps in the Dark, Tianjin

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AWAY I GO

View from the Window, China High Speed Train

At on my window seat back down to Shanghai as the High Speed Train hits 400km/h!

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It’s a long journey home when you’re leaving an old friend and heading back to a city that you can barely call home yet. It’s a seven hours door to door, and I do nothing more than doze, read and listen to music.

It’s been great to take a step back from Shanghai and chill out for four days from the stress of university level Chinese and watch Pete make all our transactions, translate, tour guide and generally be an excellent host. On the creative side of things, one of the great joys of touristing with a friend is you don’t have to feel nearly so ashamed of spending five minutes trying to get the shot that you want. So cheers to the large album dedicated to one of China’s five national central cities.

Hope I can come back soon,PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

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.Charlotte xx

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PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

Oh, hey there Vogue, this is the Tianjin Railway station.

😝

Year Abroad: Shanghai Night Life

Shanghai Night Skyline Pudong PuXi The Bund

Ladies, forget pre-drinks,

WELCOME TO SHANGHAI.

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It’s not all about the studying out here in Fudan University, Shanghai. For the first week, us newbies have been  sampling some of the famous nightlife that the big city has to offer.

Apart from the fairly long metro journey from where we are in Yangpu District out in the evenings (where the last train is at 1030) and the dubious fare negotiation with taxis from the French Concession area back, there is actually very little money that leaves the pocket – especially if you’re a girl. Sorry boys, but Shanghai is infamous for ‘Ladies Nights’. In a very desperate attempt to lure women into bars and clubs there are deals such as free entry, free drinks all night, free mojitos all night, and even, free champagne. Mum and Dad, I swear I’m being sensible…

Boy, we have not been disappointed by Shanghai. Here’s a quick spin through the fab range of nightlife that Shanghai has to offer whether you’re on the hunt for something classy or downright dirty.

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Arkham Club Shanghai Bunker Nightlife

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In September, I set foot in the fluoro-splashed tunnel that leads to the Arkham bunker: a high-roofed chamber with raised platform stage and meshed off viewing gallery in which heavy beats from TICT Creative’s Nat Self pounded for the Zombie Disco Squad – unfortunately, rather literally interpreted by several glassy eyed clubbers with sweaty face-paint.

If you’ve been in Bristol, this is the Shanghai equivalent. It’s smoky, it’s grimy, and it’s most definitely sweaty at this lock-down venue, and the classic house/disco/hip-hop mix is heady and heart-pounding. There’s not much to say for the bunker itself: it does what it says on the tin. But stick a few hundred zonked out, limb-flailing, drunk uber-hipsters in one little space and things are bound to get messy. Although I’m surprisingly sad there are less Batman gimmicks, it’s all very cool down at Arkham.

Arkham
Phone: +86-13701972878
Address: No.1 South WuLuMuQi Road, Shanghai

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20131014-133628.jpg

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Last Saturday night at The Shelter was a heady mix of soul and beats as Soul Brothers ’72 took over the low-ceilinged basement on YongFu Road, and I barely noticed the bouncers as we paid out 40RMB cover, though word on the net of gives them some unconfirmed but unsavoury press. Still that may have something to do with my blood alcohol levels at that time. The bar/club is a tightly enclosed underground with a red-lit, neon, dystopian dance-floor playing havoc in the dark against a blue-lit, exposed brick set of seated alcoves towards the back of the club which have a deep-freeze meets French wine-cellar feel.

There’s an eclectic range of music on offer every day of the week at Shelter, so it’s worth taking the three minutes to prepare yourself for the evening’s flavour, be it hardcore electro, hip-hop, funk or house. But if you’re up for reasonably priced drinks, some body flailing, or a plushly hip sit-down booze, The Shelter’s a good night for a big group of friends to do a take-over of a fairly moderately filled club.

The Shelter
Address: 5 Yongfu Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai

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PHEBE Club Shanghai Nightlife

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Phebe, located in none other than the French Concession area of Shanghai is on a Wednesday night, overflowing with ladies of all dressed to the nines –  and some not too shabby-looking lads who are apparently willing to pay the 100RMB cover in (+ 1 free drink). Ladies get MONDAY and WEDNESDAY free cover before midnight in exchange for supplying a working mobile number  (they check) with an open bar 0900-0400. Worrying.

If you’ve the honour of being a lady, you’ve no excuse not to pop in. From the hundreds of glowing red lanterns suspended from the ceiling and dark lacquer wood seating giving a wonderful faux-Chinese cultural decor, to the white and sketchily tuned grand piano centrepiece in the bathroom the club really is swish. If you’re there to appreciate the interior design that is.

Packed out across the numerous enclosed table areas, walkways and raised catwalk-esque dance floor, there’s barely space to take a breath on a ladies night where the writhing bodies in a healthy ratio of foreign to locals are always vying for a cheeky dance, drink or a swift exit to the bathroom for a tactical vom.

PHEBE: 3D Club
Tel: 021 6555 9998
Address: No. 10 Hengshan Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai

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Helens Shanghai Nightlife

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This famous expat and student bar is a chain that runs throughout China. I’ve been to Helens Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin to date, and I can say with certainty, that there must exist a ‘Helens-in-a-Box’ starter kit, because the decor, from the international flags to the wooden beams and strange faux stone-work walls are Exactly The Same wherever you go.

At 10RMB for a big bottle of Tsingdao as a standard across the board, it’s a nice, quiet hubbub and raucousness bar for students to have a couple of pints at the end of the day. If you want a serving traditional American-style bar food, I suggest you go early to get a seat. Certainly on ladies night Wednesday (with free drinks all night for 50RMB) be prepared to fight for a space just to stand.

On a less crowded Monday afternoon, a friend in Tianjin taught me a great trick of ordering a Helens ice cream (3RMB) and taking advantage of their Free Coffee Mondays.

Bliss.

Helens
Address: 49 Wuchuan Rd, Yangpu, Shanghai, China
Opening Hours: 1600-0200

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SOHO Club French Concession Shanghai Nightlife

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Soho isn’t the club on everybody’s “Go To” list, but it’s one that we’ve been to perhaps a few too many times. It’s a pecularity of Chinese clubs that a) smoking is allowed and b) the effects of excessive drinking will be tolerated. As a result of this, I always return home smelling like I’ve been cheerfully capering about in an ashtray, and I spend most of the (later) early hours in a club practising the time-earned art of narrowly dodging the drunken lurching of overly inebriated, and inevitably expat, assholes who seem to think I’ll react to inappropriate groping like the unfortunate female staff.

But don’t let that put you off.

 The music is loud enough to rupture several internal organs, and by the end of the night the ringing in my ears lasts well into my sleep. Pleasurable. There are Chinese dice-and-cup games (which I still haven’t been able to hear the name of; I’ve asked several times) on each table, us foreigners have been negotiating free entry, and us ladies a free drink.

On top of that, the 90% local Chinese capacity of the club are fairly subdued, sitting on the provided couches, engaging in dice with us when we pass and offering small tumblers of whiskey and ice; pleasant interactions galore. And to top it all off, the inside of the club is filled with massive white umbrella and globe-like structures that make it look like you’re suspended in a large plastic cloud.

What’s not to like about that?

SOHO
Address: 4 Hengshan Rd, Xuhui, Shanghai, China
Phone:+86 21 5469 9898

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Royal Meridien 789 Nanjing Lu Shanghai Nightlife

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Hel-lo to one of the classiest ladies night on the town, free Champagne flows on FRIDAY nights 2130-2330PM at the high flying 67th floor bar of the Royal Meridien Hotel on the PuXi side of the Bund. The dim, warm glowed setting, the floor-to-ceiling reinforced glass windows overlooking Shanghai’s commercial quarter, the gold-lit bar, intensely polite waiters and high-top chairs all give this location a distinct air of class…

Well, that is until the hoards of girls, Western and Chinese alike, arrive to shoulder, at any cost, their fair share of the various flutes of bubbly on offer. Grenadine bubbly, orange bubbly, and even mint bubbly is doled out into the vying flutes at the bar – and God forbid you put your glass down anywhere, as the one glass you get per evening is your only ticket to intoxication.

Royal Meridien: 789 Nanjing Lu
Phone: +86 21 3318 9999
Address: 789 Nanjing Road Pedestrian St, Huangpu, Shanghai, China

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Park Hyatt 100 Century Bar Shanghai Nightlife

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This particular venue is not for the faint-hearted. The beautiful Park Hyatt hotel is not just a towering landmark on the Pudong riverside of the Chinese Bund, it’s grandiose, high-ceilinged building houses the luxurious 100 Century Avenue bar and restaurant on its 97th floor. With a plush, dim-lit interior, hushed jazz music, and waiters so freakin’ attentive there’s almost definitely some sore of homing beacon involved in their training, there’s no beating about the bush as to the type of clientèle expected.

Yet, for those of us still fairly fortunate, it’s not entirely unreasonable to pop in on the 97th floor for a pot of tea (40RMB) or a house cocktail (80RMB) for a glimpse of the spectacular view. With a bit of persuasion, and a little patient waiting, one can even nab a splendid table right by the thick glass windows for the evening and look out over the third tallest building in China – the Jin Mao Tower.

P.S I hear the toilets are particularly swish.

Park Hyatt: 100 Century Avenue
Tel: +86 21 6888 1234
Address: 100 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai, China, 200120

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There are certainly more excellent venues to add to this list of Shanghai Night Life, and even as I type this, Wechat is pinging about a certain Ladies Night at GloLondon… Looks like you might be seeing Post #2 sometime soon!

Till then

Charlotte xx

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Chinese Learning Study Skills

Year Abroad: Chinese Language Study Skills

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Seeing as what I’m doing out here is studying a year of intensive undergraduate Chinese, I thought I’d give you a little peek into how I manage to work through four ridiculous 8AM starts (and one lovely 10AM) of  20hr week immersive language classes. Boy, did I have it easier back in the UK…

Mandarin is a fairly tricky language to master. We’ve not had the pleasure of taking any tests – yet anyway #midtermsimminent – so I can’t guarantee this the best way to work it. But, hopefully if you decide to take the plunge to head to Fudan University, or indeed studying Mandarin anywhere, it’ll give you the heads up that taken me a slow month to work out. All with a fairly sickeningly cute App that I’ve just found to edit my pictures with.

Sorry, guys… It’s just the hearts.
They’re so darn cute.

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Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University

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Eh-hem. So to start, classes in Fudan are broken up into five different classes: Comprehension (泛读)。Speaking (口语)。Writing (写作)。Listening (听力) 。 Intensive Reading (精读)。 Working from the ‘Beijing Language and Culture University Press‘ 10 Level Chinese series, in which the Intensive Reading textbook which, taking up eight of the twenty prescribed contact hours per week here at Fudan, leads the topic, discussion and vocabulary of the weekly chapters. The Level 6 textbooks (F3 in Fudan) work off real cited articles in Chinese, on the basis of which we learn vocabulary and grammar, and bulk out with extracts from the four supporting classes.

Eight weeks, Eight Chapters.
Pace is quick.

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What’s useful for learning Chinese in this way?

1. WORKBOOKS
OK, so it may seem silly when you’re already carrying around six textbooks and copious amounts of sugary snacks to class, for me to tell you to go out any buy more, but that’s exactly what I’ve done. With so many Chinese characters pottering about the place and grammatical patterns wrecking havoc, it’s been useful both in class and outside for me to pin them down in separate workbooks. I’ve got…

  • A. Vocabulary Book (below: front for class, back for extra reading; cover is a shamelessly cute Japanese illustration),
  • B. Grammar and Cultural book (above: grammatical patterns, notes and cultural tidbits that need in depth notes; grey with flowers and birds),
  • C. Character Practice Workbook (below: with Chinese style squares for writing in and thin rows for pinyin),
  • D. Homework Diary (above: pink with raindrops),and
  • E. On-the-Go Notebook (above: lives in my handbag to jot down phrases and vocabulary in when out; a black A6 moleskin).

Get the books, and use them. It’s great character practice, and if your brain seems to be constructed like a sieve (as mine is), it goes a long way in helping memorise phrases when instead of just repeating them after people: you can write them down, and perhaps even come back to them later!

Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University Workbooks

Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University Workbooks

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2. SWOT UP YOUR DICTIONARIES
There used to be a time where studying Chinese involved constantly carting 10kg dictonaries around classrooms, and being trapped at the pace in which you could search for characters in their endless, rice-paper depths. Nowadays, every student is hooked to some electronic contraption on their desks with more desperation than the waft of 8AM coffee.

  • PLECO. If you have an andriod/app-ready phone and your learning Chinese, get this app. Hand writing and pinyin ready, PLECO software lets you search their extensive dictionary for instant results – without the need for internet – which means if you’re stuck in class it’s a Godsend. At the point of writing, PLECO is free both from the iTunes store and for Android.
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, take a leaf out of my Japanese Classmates books and get an Electronic English-Chinese dictionary. At anywhere from £40-£200 there’s certainly a range on sale but unfortunately few reaching Japanese quality. A little online research suggests Besta, Instant and Casio for a starters, and if possible, try finding them in-store to test their search capabilities.
  • Of course, nothing beats the 17kgs of my luggage that I devoted to two humongous, old fashioned Chinese-English Dictionaries; you can’t beat the classics. Although I would really have like to have brought more clothes out here…

English Chinese Dictionary Chinese English Translation Oxford .

3. READ, LISTEN AND BE…LEISURELY
I may have some strange suggestions, and I can appreciate that this one seems a little specific, but hear me out. The problem I have with learning Chinese solidly every day, under pressure, in a fast-paced environment, is that can it become both a stressful activity, and a chore. So, pick up a bilingual edition of your favourite novel, a fashion magazine, a menu at your favourite cafe and download some smooth Chinese pop, and when you’ve got nothing to do ie. you’re milling about on Facebook – I mean, Weibo – get out your Chinese leisure reading, and kick back with your pleco app for a wee gander. If you can make the habit stick, boy oh boy, you might just make studying… fun?

Well, bearable at least.

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Bilingual Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Classic English Literature Chinese

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4. WATCH CRAZY CHINESE TV
This where all the dreams of watching cartoons even though you’re in your twenties are manifested: Chinese cartoons are a great way of picking up colloquial Chinese, not the mention the tones, accent and phrasing of that you’ll hear on the street.

Try 樱桃小丸子 or Chibi Maruko: it’s a delightfully grainy 1990s Japanese cartoon about the daily life of mischievous primary school girl “小丸子”. She’s utterly adorable in a true-to-life naughty child way, and her wonderfully honest dialogue cracks me up. Brilliant way to hone the listening skills, and reading – if you can keep up with the subtitles. Dubbed in Taiwan, it’s got quite a heavy accent and traditional characters, but worth a listen to even if you’re studying on the mainland. If that’s too hard, the fantastically Japanese Chi’s Sweet Family: a fabulously simplistic animation in the life of little kitten Chi, which although is entirely in Japanese, is a good test on super basic reading for the old noodle… And lastly, if cartoons aren’t your thing, Chinese soap operas are another option, with hundreds listed on sugoideas.com from romantic soaps, to cringe-worthy brilliant chat-shows.

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5. MAKE FRIENDS…
NO,
REALLY.

If you’re learning Chinese, it is not your first language, and chances are, there’s someone out there that wants to learn the language that you speak mindlessly everyday. Language exchanges are a great way to get free conversation practice, experience the culture of the language that you’re learning – and of course, make friends along the way. Whether you go about this through a University Exchange programme, make a flyer advertising your desire for a language exchange or use an online service such as mylanguageexchange.com, take time to sift through exchanges that clearly aren’t going to be beneficial for both of you, and don’t be afraid to say “It was nice to meet you, let’s just keep in touch.” Although it’s borderlining break-up awkwardness, not everyone clicks in these things, so don’t waste your time week after week if it’s not working. 

Just be wary and street-smart as of course, everywhere in the world, not everyone on these sites are looking for the same type of exchange you might be. Stay safe. Learn Chinese.

language exchange illustration

Wish y’all a hearty good luck!

Until next time,

Charlotte xx

 

Year Abroad: Matrimony and Meals

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夫妻店 ”
(fūqīdiàn)

Lunches and dinners here in Shanghai aren’t like anything I’ve had before, and that’s not just because they’re incredibly cheap at anything from 6-16RMB – 60p or £1.60 to us Brits.

DAYTIME

Although the university has supplied us with University E-Cards that allow us to load money and eat from the canteen just three minutes from our dorms or classrooms, the massive queues, lack of English and strangly institutional feel to the metal food trays prove more than little overwhelming, and most days at the start of term we exchange students opt for the street-food stalls that flock around Fudan’s East and North gates. But it’s not just any old type of stall that swoops in on a wooden cart, fully equipt with electric motor and gas cylinder, come eleven twenty sharp on weekdays: it’s 夫妻店 (fūqīdiàn). That’s to say, it’s the swift-cuisine operation that is the Husband Wife Stall. This is real matrimonial harmony. Watch and learn…

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For lunch, it’s quick queues by the blistering heat of the wok, and the blinding sun as we get our fast, flash-fried meals from a travelling stall run by husband and wife tag teams. They work together with intricate movements of plastic-bag tying, vegetable tossing, and terrifying trust as the searing wok passes over the wife’s hands – and it’s fascinating to watch. I have my favourite stalls now at lunch and dinner – ie. those who understand that the wimpy foreigner only wants: “一點ㄦ辣”- and my lunch time topping combinations range across 金针菇 (golden needle mushrooms), 花生 (peanut), 白菜 (cabbage),紅蘿蔔/胡萝卜 (carrot), 香腸 (chinese sausage), 雞/牛/豬 肉 (chicken, beef or pork), with a choice of noodles ranging from 米麵 (rice vermicelli), 河粉 (thick, flat rice noodles), 炒飯 (fried rice) to 麵 (wheat noodles).

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Fudan University Street Food: 夫妻店

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And here’s the result!

We sit under the shade of the entirely decorative front porch to Fudan University’s tall twin-towered Guanghua building, hiding from the blazing heat and making decorative sweat patches on the concrete, as we make a hasty consumption of lunch in our 1135-1235 lunch break. Believe me, by this stage in the day after an 8AM start (which, I’m sorry, but no-ones brain is ever ready for) there are characters bursting out my ears and my stomach’s ravenously hungry.

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NIGHTTIME

At night, the north gate to Fudan University Campus takes on a whole new persona as the stalls that rolled out in the afternoon from around 5PM-6PM return from their hiding place for the moonlight shift. It’s steaming pots, grilled skewers, and deep fried goodness that wafts across the street to the Fudan University International Dormitories and on the tipsy walk home from our local, Helens, and under glaring filaments we pick our poison from the stock on show. Thankfully, I had a rough stint of disagreement with my stomach in Egypt as a child, and since then have been resilient in the face of certain gastronomical disaster, but never say never…

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If the couples make a killing in small change by day, by night its a brother duo that sell Chinese Stewed Pork Pittas that are raking in the students with a delicious, slow-cooked meat sandwich which is assembled with the systematic tekkers of automated art. There’s skill to equal the nosiness of that cleaver, and personally, I think the bread brother is definitely underrated with his doughmanship. I’m not sure if it’s proper Chinese vocabulary, but these days with LOL in the Oxford English Dictionary, who’s to argue with me; it’s 兄弟店 (Xiōngdì diàn) FTW at dinner time. That’s a Brother’s Stall to you and me.

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It’s tough competition at nighttime for the couples, for sisters to friends, brothers to bored looking individuals. This community that springs with forty watt brightness out of the night is a tight group of congee-sellers, barbecuers and flash-friers that work steadily through the wee hours with as much heckling and cajoling as the 10PM Friday pub quiz. It’s a life of day-to-day physical labour of the kind that is seldom seen nowadays in the U.K., but boy, do these folk do it with a sense of aplomb.

That’s how I want my dinners.

Fudan University Street Food: 夫妻店 Shanghai China

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Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: Design Arts Fashion Festival, Shanghai AW 2013

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As a study abroad twenty-something in the big city, it’s not the easiest think to find out where the best events are, the best meets are, or where you’re going to find other people similarily additcted to the creative arts. But thank goodness for The Ice Cream Truck, who tootled along on the 20th of September, bringing one of the biggest and bestest Design/Arts/Fashion collaborative events that Shanghai has to offer in the fall:

DAFF by The Ice Cream Truck.

DAFF Shanghai 2013: Catwalk

From the stunning location on Shanghai’s Puxi Bund, to the perfect weather, there was nothing about this event that wasn’t humming with the atmosphere of an event finely tuned. Looking chic in the cool breeze, the billowing, white tented stalls displayed the exploits of creative business scene here in Shanghai.

As I weaved through shoals of designers, creative-types, fashionestas, and big name brand reps who chilled in the ultra-cool outdoor venue to the unobtrusive house beat background the air was zinging with chatter and euphoria – nothing like this kind of break from city life!

The draughts and sweet snacks a-flowing, a wooded grass-garden rest area and not to mention the free entry with suggested 20RMB donation, blend to give the even a open and welcoming feel so that besides us creative junkies, the riverside event attracted students, shoppers, familys alike – upbeat generational and international mixing abound!

From the dozens of different designers and artists showcasing their wares at DAFF, there are pieces from every spectrum and to cater to bizarre tastes you maybe didn’t know you had. I can guarantee whether cutesy scented candles, eco-art, fresh, home-made organic food, or the wacky acrylic mould-injected necklaces, numerous fixie bikes and live art, there’s something for everyone…

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At 1630 and 1730 sharp, the crowds make a surge towards the psychedelic, colour-mix catwalk at DAFF as FASHION takes the limelight from the bustling tents and chattering strollers.

The Eastern-Western design fusion La Rose de Shanghai kicks of the show with an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese shapes on a black and white base, with splashes of print detail in bold primaries.

While some of the shapes are beautifully dramatic, the blooming trousers with tight calved fit, the floral detail crop waistcoat, some of the more streamlined pieces are a little to flat-fitting for my taste (and possibly my hips). The sharp, slicked bunned models sure did their strut, and I would have loved to see this combo with a softer make-up foundation complimenting the look.

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MORE PHOTOGRAPHY @ The Ice Cream Truck FACEBOOK

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FRONT ROW SHOP

Move over Topshop and Urban Outfitters cut-outs, the Front Row Shop hit the catwalk at 1730 and blew us away. Beautifully clean cuts with an oh-so-now grunge edge stormed the catwalk in platform-chunked, you do not want to mess with shoes. A real London-scene feel takes this collection with a diva-ish edge of “I’m wearing this. And what?”

The wicked shoes, layered pieces and to-die-for accessories are transfusions tapped straight from fashion week runways and given a street-struttable kick – and I’d back them on giving Zara TRF and H&M a run for their money any day. Set up in 2012 by the TaoBao designer Ying Wu, the wealth of people that have built behind the label give it a cutting-edge feel that I would die to walk off the catwalk with.

While they don’t have a physical store operating, their online website delivers world-wide and in this day and age, what can’t you do over the internet. Seriously, hit them up online…

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Front Row Shop Homepage 2013

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NIGHTFALL

As the walkers are wearying, night falls on DAFF and the event kicks up a notch as the bustle of light fixing and flicker of bulbs bringing a pretty, sultry glow on the events along the waterside. Keflione is finishing provocative artwork, with my appetite is perking up with the smell of food is hitting its peak; Pommery Champagne Happy Hour is over, but the DAFFTER PARTY is on its way.

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ONTO BUSINESS 

Before the night ends I bump into two brilliant creative women under the electric glow, Steffie Wu and Monkia Mogi (who you’ll be seeing more about soon in the ARTS and FASHION section of loseandfind.com). DAFF is a great way to meet with and connect to other all-things-creative types here in Shanghai, be it arts communities, marketing and design houses or even musicians and chefs. I even manage to make use of a few of my handmade business cards, and of course, get a few in return…

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As they say out here “You’re nobody in China if you don’t have a name-card”.
If you’re DESIGN/ARTS/FASHION is your thing, make sure I see you at the spring DAFF!

Thank you @TICTCREATIVE! You can check out more of their events on their WEBSITE, or FACEBOOK and as always, keep an eye out on SmartShanghai.com for everything that’s happening in this big ol’ city.

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Charlotte xx

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