Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shanghai Quickie

View from my hotel room - I am quite a big fan of the Renaissance in Shanghai - not super downtown, but close enough.

It also floats above Zhongshan Park, which I had written about before. It's quite a pleasure to drop in on the way to the Shanghai Dell offices, and get a little slice of everyday Chinese life before logging into the old e-mail.

Old dudes together, found everywhere in the world.

Pleasure boats, lined up for a weekend of action.

Practice makes perfect.

As has happened with Hong Kong, it's a little strange to realise that the regular trips I make there are becoming routine. When people ask 'hey, how was the Shanghai trip?' it seems terribly spoiled to say 'oh, normal' ... it just doesn't cut it!

I think much of that is down to losing some great friends from the city (now in Germany and ... well, I am not too sure), and I am building up some new links and all. It will get its mojo back, of this I have no doubt.

Next trip for me though, is of course Miami ... still blows me away that I will be there in a matter of weeks!

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Shanghai Tools

The right tools for the right job (notice the saw, for cutting that huge diameter of pipe). Of course, four people need to watch at all times, in China.

It shouldn't, but I found myself exceedingly amused by seeing a scooter on fire while on the way to a factory visit.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Heart

The longest eclipse of the sun for 300 years, and only my second total eclipse ever ... and it was raining!

Still, lots of fun running outside the China Dell office rattling off a bunch of shots. Thought it was rather amusing to see lights going on in the apartment buildings around the plaza ... how inconvenient an eclipse must be when you have things to do.

Flash. Interesting to see how much video was shot of the sky on cell phones. Those tones of grey and black you will surely be showing your grand children!

Star gazing.

Even quicker than it arrived, the rain disappeared and the light returned.

Time to call your friends and tell them about it!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ye Shanghai

In Shanghai and Hong Kong for a few days of business and pleasure.

I haven't quite found time enough to talk about the amazing number of visitors to Taiwan in the last couple of weeks, and indeed my intrepid parents in New Zealand, but I promise I shall soon!

View in the other direction from my hotel - think I prefer the park-side view!

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Zhongshan Park

Zhongshan Park from my hotel room

I wait six months to travel with Dell, and then I travel twice in three weeks. Can't complain.

High above Zhongshan Park, through my hotel window I looked down each morning to throngs of people doing Taiqi, flying kites and ballroom dancing. It was clear that I had to get down in between the people, and I am glad I did - all the stereotypes I have happily built up are true.

Perfectly synchronised Taiqi

Hot stuff

Some rather stylish ballroom dancing

These guys really spent some time trying to persuade me to have a Taiqi lesson ... very friendly chaps.

It's pretty awesome how active old people are out here - learning new things and obviously enjoying themselves while doing it.

... and some just chill out.

... and some are clearly a little confused.

The guys with the birds remind me of my first trip to Hong Kong bird park - now just round the corner from Tanja and Michael.

I think this is about my fourth or fifth trip to Shanghai, so it is fair to say I have got used to the place and know my way around fairly well. None the less, I am always surprised at the pace of development here, and it makes the already quickly developing Taipei seem like a backwater. It is for this and other reasons that I am really quite excited about the direct flights from Taipei (and the downtown airport no less!) to Shanghai. I lose my convenient excuse to drop in to see Hong Kong, but on the other hand the cost of flights out to HK must be plummeting right now, so maybe it is all good.

Crane city - though I was told by Gerhard that last month in Shanghai, zero properties were sold or exchanged. Hard to believe, but it is clear that the credit crisis is hitting hard.

My trip coincided again with Pecha Kucha, with lots of architects talking earnestly about building things from carrot shavings and recycled Freitag bags. I guess they will all be flying home for Christmas and knocking out any potential savings they had made thus far that year.

Wandering the ever larger reclaimed area around Taikang Rd. Every time I go there are more and more cool places to see, and all the time the Chinese locals continue to stay there, creating a funny combination of washing hanging out and Grafitti.

On the one hand in Shanghai, there are loads of wee little cool design shops and boutiques - especially in the French Quarter. On the other hand, wandering around of an evening looking for some standard noodles or rice is not easy. I'll have to settle for the Gorgonzola Balsamic Salad again. Life is hard.

And I finally got to see Coco - friends with Nelson from his previous life in Shanghai. A real pleasure, and an institution of 'old Shanghai'.

And while I might know my way round better, I was getting frustrated that my taxi trips across the city were completely inefficient, so I geekily have started adding my fave places in a Google Map - you can see it below.

View Larger Map

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Shanghai at Work

It took six months, but I finally navigated the corporate travel application system to jump on a plane (well, two - I missed out on the direct flight) to run over to Shanghai for three days of meetings. A tough few days in the saddle, but I did manage to make some time to meet with fellow designers Gerhard and Klara. But it ain't the same without Anke and Lars!

We jumped in the 'Great Wall' SUV with a view to checking out the new bars and restaurants in the top the new Shanghai World Financial Centre - or, the 'Bottle Opener' - now the tallest building in the world at the roof (other buildings cheat I think with enormous masts and spikes). Although we couldn't get up to the helipad, situated in the middle of the hole, we did get a guided tour of the entire three floors of bars and meeting rooms, since the official opening is actually next week. Pretty bloody impressive, quaffing drinks above the Pearl TV Tower!

Blade of light

A quite remarkable view, floating above The Bund and the Pearl TV Tower.

Team Asia - Shanghai Chapter

... and after, we ran over to the Hyatt to stare down the 44 floor lobby. Completely nuts. If I had dropped the camera someone would surely have died - it felt more like something from Star Wars.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Sitting in my hotel room watching BBC World, sipping Tsingtao and
catching up on e-mail. If only my VPN wasn't working!

3 days in Shanghai off to a decent start. But isn't it cold!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Victory Beer in Shanghai Airport

After all my stress and anxiety and hard work and rushing around Asia and really feeling rather full up and not myself quite for the last few months, I feel like I am sitting on top of a mountain right now with everything happening down below me.

.... I am now in Shanghai Airport having a beer with my boss Corrado, after finishing a large pan-Asian design strategy project - crucially having a good response and teeing up a second phase. The key difference with the second phase is that I will no longer be working for DEM, but instead working as Design Manager for Dell in Taipei from the end of the month. That's worth another post.

So.... what a way to finish my DEM experience - beer in hand and staring down the fresh-out-of-the-shrinkwrap Pudong Terminal 2. One day left in DEM, and then two weeks on beautiful Bali. Bloody well done me!

Reflected in the the immense windows of the even more immense Shanghai Pudong Terminal 2 ... spot Corrado on the phone behind the taxi.

Say "ahhhhh"

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Shanghai Rendez-Vous

In the spirit of big surprises, it was only fair to jet into Shanghai to see Anke & Lars off before they head back to Germany to pop a sprog. So, an entirely self-indulgent choice for an expensive weekend that was worth every penny to see these guys in their natural setting.

Michael & Tanja had flown in from Singapore also for a nice weekend and we had just about managed to persuade A&L that there not going to be any surprises, when I turned up at her door, loaded down with luggage bulging with Taiwanese bullshit that would surely set off multiple airport alarms if only they knew.

Street racing in Shanghai

The weekend was structured as a series of alcohol-fueled toboggan rides around the city, punctuated by extended periods of indulgent massage, good food and generally tuning back into the experiences we all shared in Taiwan together - which took all of 3 seconds.

Taxi rage

Shanghai is not the most walkable city, so taxi rides in all directions are necessary if you hope to actually get anywhere. The drivers in Taiwan and China do share a certain love of attempting to scare their passengers at every opportunity - usually by jumping red lights or feigning swerves towards static objects or oncoming lorries.

Where they diverge is in their respective communication and friendliness towards their clients - Taiwanese cabbies are a friendly bunch, and the diametric opposite of their colleagues across the water who verbally maul their passengers. In our case we can hardly blame them - we told him to 'follow that cab' that contained the lead group and was piloted by the Chinese Fernando Alonso. Particular skills were displayed in lane changing, cornering, and sudden braking. He also had no clue he was being followed, and knew only that he was in a rush to a vague destination. Our driver, on the hand, knew full well that the only person with the address was in the front car, and he desperately tried to keep up, until he exploded with rage, pulling alongside the other car and battering expletives to the bemused driver, all accompanied by a background soundtrack of snorting belly laughter and the flashing of cameras recording the event.

Hangover cure no. 163 - great food at a cute little Italian restaurant

Nice doorways in the area that is being saved, reclaimed and protected by the local design industry - much to the bemusement of the locals who would probably prefer a new shiny apartment building.

Inevitably, with Anke and Lars and a farewell party, a trip to a hot spring was in order for the afternoon. Now, I am usually (and perhaps slightly inexplicably) slightly ambivalent about these places, but I knew we had our heads screwed on when I saw the neon rising above the skyline. Think Club Med for Chinese people, combined with the very worst neo-classic Gothic / Greek / Holiday Inn architecture, and several thousand locals running around in ridiculous day-glo pyjamas. Welcome to Shanghai, traveler.

The boys are back in town (but sadly missing Markus, although we all spent the entire time terrified that he would storm in on us ... especially while sitting butt naked in the sauna!)

"I would like to add one thing"

I can see you!

Happily detoxed, I was happy to see that retoxing services were also available inside the premises.

Luckily, Gerhard and Klara had planned a big house party in his place for the middle of the weekend, and in full Easter theme, they had dressed up as rabbit and chicken. As the alcohol flowed, the costume somehow managed to migrate its way round the party, inevitably ending up with Michaell Lars and I, and predictably howling laughter from the ladies.

The Easter Bunny

Das Rabbit

Abused animals

Luckily, the guys had planned a final Oesterbrucker (or however it is spelled) and this capped off a really great weekend of good food and good people and bad alcohol (I can still taste the Jagermeister, Gerhard). With any luck I should be able to pop in to see the guys again while on business in a week or two, and of course I am sure to see M&T before too long in Singapore. But what a weekend.


View from their apartment down to the boats chugging by below.

Team Taipei (minus Markus) in full effect ... with 'Made in Taiwan shirts that I believe everyone will cherish for eternity.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Hot Crossed Buns

Inexcusable behaviour by 'fake' flat eric and the Easter chicken

Here I am, sitting in Hong Kong airport eating a hot crossed buns
(two, if I am being truthful) for the first time in four years. Part
of the collateral damage of living abroad is losing connections with
the festivals and annual habits from home that help form your own
personal calendar.

I am no religious person, but Easter is one of those times of the year
that helps punctuate the start of the good weaker, and living in a
culture where that does not exist can be quite hard -especially as the
disappointment usually sinks in on November 6th that you just missed
Guy Fawkes night. Again.

And Easter? Well I don't even like chocolate that much, but what I do
love is a toasted hot crossed bun laced with melted butter and served
steamy hot. I didn't get the toasted bit, but I did make up for it
with the butter. Happy Easter everyone!

Destination: Shanghai (Secret) ... photo by the Helds

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Shanghai & Hangzhou

Well, there is a reason they call it a 'kickoff' meeting ... we waited six months to start this project, and now I am spending more time abroad than I am at home. I can't relax as much as I might like, but if you know me well you'll know that I maxed out on the fun, frolicking and food - and most importantly had the chance to meet up with Anke, Lars and Bump (a huge part of the Singapore story that I was not allowed to divulge is that Anke is preggers with a baby - Made in China of course - and she announced it on the beach... hang on, this is too important for brackets...)

So - congratulations guys! You have your own paragraph now... look how spacious it is!

Anyway - I spent the days visiting clients and factories, and the nights heading out with the crew and meeting some new and old friends, and some like Simon that I know through multiple contacts, but never actually saw face to face. Anyway - not too good with words right now, so here are some pics. Ahh.

Shanghai World Financial Centre - not without its fair share of controversy... its original (elegant) shape had a large circle in the top ... but the locals are still rather sensetive about the whole Japan thing, and so dropped that for some kind of melted square hole. And in the process of the delay lost top spot as the world's tallest building.

Not quite the world's tallest building ... on the streets of Shanghai

View from one of the client offices - quite funny to be up above one of the recognisable locations in Shanghai - The Pacific Mall (same name as the one in Taipei!)


Sunset in Shanghai

View from the Galaxy Hotel (translation 'Star River')

Road block

Hangzhou sunset - really rather wonderful

Loch Ness

Shattered mirror (just look at the texture on that one, Michael and Markus!)

Totally ridiculous - the only thing missing was the whiny Chinese music

It's really amazing to be around Taiwanese guys when they come to China... there is all this tension, but at the end of the day their culture is rooted here, and they know all of these stories... quite touching. Here is Alfie contemplating things.

Bikes - Shanghai Style

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