Monthly Archives: September 2012

Train to Hangzhou

On Wednesday night I travelled by train from Shanghai to Hangzhou.  I was very nervous I was going by myself and was not even sure on the pronunciation of Hangzhou to ensure that I ended up on a train going to the right place!!
Driver Fu dropped me off outside the station, which is clean (smoke free – amazing in China, where you can still smoke almost everywhere), modern, easy to navigate and super efficient.   Once through the security (x-ray for me and luggage, but not as rigorous as at the airport) it was off to find somewhere to buy a ticket.  I had looked up train times online – here is the best timetable and related information!  www.chinatrainguide.com. For all it’s efficiency, I was frustrated to find that tickets can only be bought online 3 days in advance.
Everyone had warned me that the station would be busy as it is just a few days before a National Holiday (Golden Week) and that everyone would be travelling.  But, I only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes and the station is so open that I was surprised by the lack of people.
About 5 minutes before departure, the gates opened and everyone was allowed down to the platform. Watching the train come into the station was quite the experience as it seemed to go on for ever! I think it was the longest train I had ever seen before. I did not realise on the outward journey that I actually had an assigned seat in a carriage (I could not read the ticket!!) I just got on and sat in an open seat – and the carriage was quite empty. Watching the train come in, I could see that there were several buffet carriages, and a couple of different classes – I had booked the cheapest ticket. Even the cheap seats were spacious and comfortable. (The UK could learn a lot from this train service!!). And, one of the coolest things was a special foot pedal that turned the row around 180 degrees, so if you were travelling as a family, you could face each other!
The station at Hangzhou was not as modern or clean as Shanghai, but still easy to navigate around. Straight into the taxi queue to make my way to my hotel and here was my first issue of the night….. the taxi driver did not understand “Dragon hotel”! It was a good job I had a local contact on speed dial so she could explain to the taxi driver where I needed to go!
This trip was for me to present at a conference – another first for me in China. It was strange to be presenting in a room full of people listening to me talk through headphones! My presentation was simultaneously translated into Chinese so all reactions were slightly delayed. My colleague said that I had great praise after I had finished (but I guess I will never know for sure!!)
The train ride back to Shanghai was a different experience again. It was VERY busy and now I had to take my assigned seat! Lots of people travelling to be with family for Mid Autumn Festival and National Holiday. It was a little bit confusing trying to connect with driver Fu as the station in Shanghai is huge with 4 different exits. Eventually I found him and made it back home.
The train experience was so good, that Owen and I are now thinking about this for our trip to Chengdu in November.

An Expat Show

On Sunday September 16th, we visited the Ex-Pat Show in Shanghai.  We went with Emma and her 2 children, Ava and Ethan, who have become very good friends with our 2!  It was a great place to get so much information on different services available to the Ex-pat community in Shanghai.  We even bumped into the Headmaster of BISS who was manning a demo booth to promote the school!  There were lots of giveaways for the kids and they all came away with goody bags full of useless things!!  They also all had their faces painted:

Face painting on the boys, Ethan and Oliver

Face painting on the boys, Ethan and Oliver

Face Painting on the girls - Ava and Isabelle

Face Painting on the girls – Ava and Isabelle

There were obviously a lot of demo pods promoting Chinese language lessons, chinese cooking and other Chinese cultural services.  One of the pods had a man painting Chinese names on a fan in beautiful calligraphy.  Both of the kids had their names done:

Oliver (left) and Isabelle (right) in Chinese

Oliver (left) and Isabelle (right) in Chinese. Beautifully painted…..

All 4 kids were squashed into the back row of our mini-van on the way home.  Yes – they all wore seat belts!!

The ride back home!

The ride back home!

Emerald Masquerade Ball

Tonight was the Emerald “Welcome Back” party.  The welcome back is to all the Ex-pats who left over the summer and to welcome all the new arrivals who came in over the summer.  The Ex-pat life is very transient and there are always people moving in and out of our neighborhood.

"Welcome Back to Emerald 2012" Party

“Welcome Back to Emerald 2012” Party

The party was held at our Clubhouse Function room.  It started at 6.30pm so I rushed home from work so I could be there early!  Isabelle was all dressed up in her party dress while Oliver couldn’t care less about his outfit!  The set up was wonderful with face painting and mask painting for the kids (it was a masquerade party, after all!) singers on stage and a dance performance.

A wonderful dance performance

A wonderful dance performance

The food selection was wonderful with Western and Chinese options – I tried a little of everything.  The company was also wonderful – lots of neighbors who I had not met, lots of neighbors that I already knew and everybody socialising over a few alcoholic drinks!!  The kids were in heaven – all their friends were there, they were upstaging the singers on the stage, getting faces painted, creating masks and generally running around freely.

Oliver creating his masterpiece mask

Oliver creating his masterpiece mask

Isabelle & Ava upstaging the professional Singer!

Isabelle & Ava upstaging the professional Singer! (Behind them with the microphone!)

We were home before 10.00pm as both our children had hit the wall and needed their beds!  But, it was lovely to be at a party, outside in the cool Autumn evening, with people thrown together by circumstances and still getting along!

Emerald outside Clubhouse

Emerald, outside Clubhouse. Yes, a lot of the kids ended up in the pool!!

Jenny and John with their Masks at the Masquerade Ball!

Jenny and John with their Masks at the Masquerade Ball!

Our good friends - Matthew and Emma

Our good friends – Matthew and Emma

 

Lazy weekends at the Pool

We are very fortunate at The Emerald compound to have several swimming pools to choose from.  The outdoor pool is open from beginning of June to mid September.  If you ask the kids what they want to do at the weekend, they will always say “Pool please!”  They both love swimming and the pool is the place to be at the weekend – lots of friends to play with, lots of adults to socialize with!  We ride our bikes from our house to the pool, laden down with water toys, drinks and snacks! 

Isabelle: "Lets jump together"

Isabelle: “Lets jump together”

Oliver: "No, I will just push you" !!

Oliver: “No, I will just push you” !!

"Look Mum, I can fall backwards and make a big splash"

“Look Mum, I can fall backwards and make a big splash”

Going, going, going.......

Going, going, going…….

Gone!

Gone!

The Tooth Fairy (visit number 4)

The Tooth Fairy visited our house again last night.  It is visit number 4 for Isabelle who has now lost all of her front teeth!!  Last night at dinner, the very wobbly one on the bottom came out when she was eating.  It has been threatening to come out for days and Owen has had great fun in getting the pliers out and pretending to pull it out for her – much to her disgust! 

There is a perfect gap for her tongue to peek through, which it often does now, especially when she is smiling.  The School Photographer nick-named her Lizabelle because she kept poking her tongue out!  Thankfully, the first bottom to fall out now has 1/2 a big one grown and the top 2 have started to grow too.

Toothless with Fairy Money!

Toothless with Fairy Money!

Reservation for 70 – Sunday Brunch at Intercontinental, Shanghai

Our Ex-pat Community, The Emerald, is a fun, close-knit environment of Westerners in Shanghai.  Newcomers are welcomed with open arms and everyone is so friendly – a real community setting.  This atmosphere and attitude has greatly helped Owen and I to settle in to life in China.

There are several members of our community celebrating their birthday in early September so one of our neighbours had sent an invite for Sunday brunch to join them in this occasion.  We had Driver Fu take Matthew, Emma, Ava, Ethan and us to the hotel Intercontinental for a 12 noon reservation.  When we arrived and said the name of the person organizing this get together, the response was “Ah yes, reservation for 70”!!!!!

Matthew, Emma, Sara, Owen (and Oliver who sneaked in).  Isabelle took the photo!

Matthew, Emma, Sara, Owen (and Oliver who sneaked into the photo). Isabelle took the photo!

What a terrific gathering of people.  All the children were spread across 3 tables, while the adults all grouped in tables of 6 -10.  The Intercontinental Hotel also has a fabulous kids club, so after the kids had eaten they all disappeared to a separate room for arts and crafts activities, bouncy slides and reading – all supervised so the adults could really relax!

Wow – what another lovely selection of food!  This was definitely the best selection of desserts and I especially loved the eclairs – passion fruit, raspberry and chocolate flavours.  Owen liked the passion fruit tart the best.  They also had some delightful chocolate lollies, which I had to try many times to ensure that they were all just as good as the first!  

Owen really liked the Thai selection – he enjoyed some spicy crab, black pepper beef and chili chicken.  I loved the Indian dishes – butter chicken and lamb rogan rosh were excellent (they have a real Indian chef which explains the quality of these!)  There was a wonderful selection of sushi, seafood, salad, pasta station and crispy duck pancakes.

The Thai Selection

The Thai Selection

The Indian Selection

The Indian Selection

Crispy Duck Pancakes!

Crispy Duck Pancakes!

The Seafood Selection

The Seafood Selection

Pasta - anyway you want it......

Salad and Shooters

Salad and Shooters

Sushi and Tempura

Sushi and Tempura

These chocolate lollipops are filled with little explosions of heaven

These chocolate lollipops are filled with little explosions of heaven

Chocolate Fountain

This was the kids favourite – chocolate fountain (marshmallows and fruit to dip), plus sweetie jars! This area got multiple visits from all the kids…..

Wonderful flavours in these eclairs :-)

Wonderful flavours in these eclairs 🙂

Passion fruit tarts - Owen's favourite

Passion fruit tarts (bottomm right) – Owen’s favourite.

It was funny to watch the older kids with their heads down into their video games/cellphones etc.  All the little kids were busy in the Kids Club making felt slippers, notebooks, reading books or playing group games with the supervisors.

"Don't interrupt our games!"

“Don’t interrupt our games!”

"Ok, we'll smile for a picture......"

“Ok, we’ll smile for a picture……”

Jenny, Sara, Owen, Matthew, Emma & John

Jenny, Sara, Owen, Matthew, Emma & John

Oliver's favourite - the marshmallow covered in chocolate

Oliver’s favourite – the marshmallow covered in chocolate

Isabelle loved the fruit juice shooters

Isabelle loved the fruit juice shooters

Lovely neighbors!

Lovely neighbors!

More lovely neighbors...

More lovely neighbors…

Even more lovely neighbors

Even more lovely neighbors

And, even MORE lovely neighbors.....

And, even MORE lovely neighbors…..

We had a complete section of the restaurant for our group