Tuesday, April 30, 2013

24 hours in Shanghai

Our gateway to the rest of China from LA - Shanghai. As we spent some time here last year and got to see most of the big sights and attractions, we decided just to wander and explore some other, less touristy places.
Must say I was a little concerned about our lack of Mandarin coupled with the very little English spoken in China, but we managed to do just fine. The Metro (underground Subway) is Shanghai is excellent - very prompt, clean and frequent, so found ourselves using that quite a bit to get around.

Below are just some random shots from our day.
One of the local parks seemed to have a "dating day" set up.. it was rather amusing actually. Dating services printed out pictures with a short physical description of people and had it printed on big banners and people could wander past and read about all the 'potentials'. It was pretty popular!

Wuang Pu River from the opposite side of the Bund. 

Local children playing on the esplanade at the river

Pearl TV Tower

And people in St. Croix thought that I was crazy with the loads I sometimes carry on the scooter! The Chinese are truly a sight on their scooters - 3 family members, plus a sacks of rice or huge bags of whatever, plus usually a cage with some sort of animal.

Just drying another load of laundry!

Snoozing in the mid-day sun

Fresh greens anyone?! I was drooling with the quality, abundance and price of all the local fruits and veggies. We picked up 3 dragonfruit for 10RMB (approx $1.40US) which seemed to be the going rate...then we found someone selling 5 for the same price. 
We certainly got our fill of local pineapple, apples, nashis, cherries and strawberries - they were all so good! Multiple times did we buy a whole pineapple (if you ask, they'll take the skin off for you at the markets), which they put a skewer up the stalk and would eat the entire pineapple straight off the skewer - around 7RMB!

Fresh green tea anyone? We stocked up big time.

Shanghai farewelled us with a beautiful sunrise.

A local specialty of the Shanghai region - Xia Long Bao's. These are little steamed dumplings, served in a bamboo basket and usually filled with mixture of ground pork and various spices, as well as a gelatin-stock mix which, once heated, turned into soup. 
Eating these little things are quite entertaining and rather difficult. Locals always watch foreigners closely when eating these little dumplings because they usually dont realise how hot they are straight out of the steamer and burn their mouth. We did well though, and usually polished off around 3 dozen between the two of the us. 

Now heres a construction of a breaker box to rival the Crucians!

Leaving Shanghai, we took the famous "Maglev" to the airport - a train on a magnet that runs up to 400km an hour!! If you look closely, you can see that we hit that.  What would usually be an hour Metro ride to the airport takes just 7 minutes in the Maglev.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ringing in the New Year in Hamburg

My cousin and her boyfriend (now fiance!!)  were visiting friends in Hamburg for New Years and since neither of us had seen this city, we decided that we'd kill two birds with one stone and drive up to see them and help celebrate the New Year in a foreign city.

Geoff, me, Tanja (my cousin), Jens (my cousin-to-be), Moni & Till ("Till, as in the cash register Till" he told us :-)

The famous Red Light District...no women allowed! (Did you think that stopped me..?!?)

Gearing up for the festivities German-style!

Birthday Weekend at Gut Hoehne

A little re-routing for something more scenic on my 27th birthday

Sunset at Gut Hoehne!
Gut Hoehne, in Mettman, is former castle, or fortress, which has been restored and turned into a beautiful hotel, offering hot springs, traditional German buffets and beautiful grounds. Celebrating Omi's 80th and my 27th, Mum had booked us in for the weekend with the royal treatment!