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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Photo link Post

For everyone interested in all our pictures from Tokyo and Beijing I just finished uploading everything to my Flickr account. You can check them out here:

Loves and kisses,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tokyo Trip! Part 3 (The final Tokyo Chapter)

After we got up in the middle of the afternoon we hydrated, and showered because we stank of cigarette smoke from the bars.

As I said, we roused ourselves at about 3pm and started our day. We decided to take it really easy that night, and we went out for some food that Bob had been told about called Okonomiyaki. It's like a Japanese Pancake with savory food on the inside, so kind of like a Japanese crepe. We ordered some kimchi fried udon noodles and got they special of the house. The food was okay, there was a lot of squid, and mayo on the main dish. But it was okay because Bob took me for Nachos afterward :P

We then headed to a little bar near the hotel called "Blood," yes ominous, but actually quite nice, even a little swanky. We played Uno and had a beer while the bar showed a movie on the main wall. We were the only customers for most of the evening. We called it an early night, and went to bed, because even rockstars need to sleep.

On Friday the 17th we went to the Tokyo Game Show with Bob's friend Jason. We got to see the booth babes and look at all the fun games. It was much smaller than China Joy. I have a wonderful new messenger bag that Jason bought for me, it's got the logo for TGS this year on it in bright pink. We spent the afternoon doing that because the conference was being held on the outskirts of Tokyo and it took a while to get there and back. After getting back to the city we went to dinner at an italian restaurant. I didn't really take pictures because I feel like everyone knows what pasta looks like. Bob and Jason did find a nifty machine on the street that cleaned their glasses using sonic waves. Weird, but interesting.

On Saturday we went back to Harajuku because I was bound and determined to see those girls in their CosPlay outfits but sadly we didn't see any of them. I think Harajuku Girls are a myth, I've been to Tokyo twice now and have yet to see them. We did some wandering around and just had a nice easy day of snacking and wandering. We did find a great place for dinner. The place didn't even have an english menu but specialized in pork. And the guys running the place were soooo nice. It was a pretty tame day and we went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our departure the next day.

We had our last lunch in Tokyo at Pepper Lunch, which was delish, and then we headed over to the post office to mail off some things for the office. We took a bus from the hotel to the airport and had plenty of time to get ready for our flight, which was good since security decided to be a pain in the butt. For anyone who has not heard the story....

So there I was was going through security. I'd taken off my belt, opened up my bag of liquid, had my laptop out and had taken off my shoes. I walked through the metal detector and got the okay, and then I was asked to step aside. It dawned on me that security probably wanted to look in my bag because I was carrying little packets of laundry detergent in my bag, which probably looked suspicious on the x-ray machine. But then the lady asked, "excuse me ma'am, do you have a gun in your bag.?" be continued in the Beijing write up.

Tokyo Trip! Part 2 (Ramen and Rockstar Fun)

The next day (Monday) we checked out a Ramen place that Jameson and Katie had suggested. We had a creamy miso based ramen with sheets of seaweed and pork slices. The portions were huge! The woman who ran the place was really nice and took excellent care of us. After lunch we were lazy and settled down for tea and matcha in the hotel lobby/lounge area. I had a lot of work to catch up on so we spend most of the afternoon working. Sad I know, but hey, I was working in Japan!

After our working we decided it would be a good idea to walk from Shibuya to Shinjuku. That turned out to take FOREVER. It was much further away than we had anticipated. We stopped in at an arcade for a little while to cool down because it was toasty outside. We were heading up to Shinjuku because after we walked around we were going to meet Bob's friend Ian in Ikeubkuro. We barely made it and had luckily cooled off and didn't look quite as disgusting as we had earlier. For dinner we went to a yakitori place and had lamb, chicken and beef on sticks. It was pretty good, and Ian and his wife are really nice. After dinner they took us to a giant electronics store because Bob needed some new head phones. We made it back to our hotel stuffed with food and with new working headphones.

The next day we puttered about in the morning and did some work and then went out for Katsu in the afternoon. It was so much food, I had a fried shrimp, fried pork cutlet, fried pumpkin wedge and a fried cheesy thing. It was delicious. After lunch I had to do some work because I'd been falling behind with all our wandering around so I caught up on work and then we decided it was time to go to Shinjuku to party like rockstars. We had an amazing night. We went to a tiny little bar called Rock Bar Mother. It was in a little basement room and could only hold about 10 people. It was cool because they had a music list and you picked out what you wanted to listen to and the bartender would hand you a stack of cds. The place only played Metal Rock, and had been recommend by a friend of Bob's, and we had a good time. We stayed for a while and then decided it was time to go somewhere else before our ears started to bleed from how loud the music was.

We ended up at a little Scottish Bar that I can not remember the name of, but was very nice, it looked like an old English pub and we sat at the bar and relaxed for a bit. Surprisingly we were the only white folk there.

We were going to go home after the Scottish Bar, but on our way to the subway station we came across a Cat Cafe! We got to pet kitties! There are these places all over Tokyo. You pay a set fee for an hour of cat petting fun. The cafe we went to had 15 cats out spread out across 2 floors, so there was lots of room. We wanted to pet all of them, but as we all know, cats are fickle and it was midnight, so they weren't very friendly. We still had lots of fun with the kitties.

After the kitty petting we decided we were going to pull an all-nighter in Shinjuku and bar hop until the train started up again at 5am. We went to another tiny little bar down a back ally called Due where we made friends with the bar tender and the two other patrons of the bar, a nice Pilipino girl, and her "boyfriend" a nice Japanese woman. We KARAOKED with them for a couple of hours and had such a good time! It was awesome. And because it was just the four of us we all got to sing a bunch of songs, Bob even sang. He sang some Sinatra and some Weezer for us.

We picked up some rice triangles with salmon in them at the 7-11 around the corner from the bar and nibbled on some treats and then started looking for another place to go.

We ended up at our next bar at around 3:30am, and ended up at another tiny little bar, where we had some squid served to us. The lady who ran the bar looked like she was done for the night so we only stayed for one drink. After that we walked around for a little while and looked at things until we ended up at another Scottish/English bar that was showing a soccer game. We hung out there until the sun started to come up.

We walked our tired bodies towards the train and stopped at a little food place called Yoshinoya for food before we got on the train. We were in bed at 7am. It was a long night. We slept until 3pm.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TOKYO TRIP!!! Part 1

I heart Tokyo. Bob and I just spent a week in Tokyo and we're currently in Beijing. We were in Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show to see what's going on in the world of Gaming, and because we could. We got in on Saturday September 11th, and met up with Bob's friend Jason for dinner. We ate at an Izakaya (it's kind of like a Japanese Tapas place) with his wife and daughter. It was pretty good, there were fried cheese ball things, which were delicious and we had some sushi which of course was also very good. Jason lives on the outskirts of Tokyo in Kawasaki. After dinner we had the most amazing carmel pudding ever. It was sooooo creamy and delicious.

After dinner we headed back to our hotel in Shibuya. We stayed at a very nice hotel called the Cerulean Towers and had a really great view of Shibuya. The hotel was super convenient to the metro so we were able to get everywhere really easily.

On Sunday we took the metro over to Harajuku to see the girls who dress up in their CosPlay outfits and hang around the bridge near Yoyogi Park. It must have been too hot for them to be out because we only saw two girls. We thought perhaps we were in the wrong area so we ended up walking around the entire park, which was beautiful but it was such a sweltering day that we were super gross when we were done. We headed over to the main shopping street after our gross walk and did some shopping. I got an awesome t-shirt that looks like something I'd imagine a re-invisioned Mad Max would wear. I also got a super sweet belt/belt buckle (yes, for those of you who see my facebook updates, the infamous belt that stopped me at airport security) that looks like a revolver and is bejeweled. It goes wonderfully with my Mad Max t-shirt. I won't lie, I look kind of like a badass in the whole ensemble. We both picked up some t-shirts and Bob bought some cool shoes that lace up the sides. After our afternoon shop, we headed back to the hotel to get some work in and relax from the heat.

For dinner we had SUSHI BOAT!!!! We were soooo hungry we ate 18 baby plates of sushi between the two of us. We met up with Jameson and Katie (Jameson's wife) at a place they said was really good. There's a time limit for how long you can sit at the counter because the place is so popular. We had shrimp and eel and tuna and salmon and all kinds of yummy things. It was really good. We did some night wandering around Shibuya after dinner and got to experience all the lights and excitement.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Let's Play Catch Up!

It's been a whirl-wind of fun while Bob and I have been hosting Richard. We've been running around like crazy people and having such a good time that I've barely been in front of my computer other then for work.

Let's start with not yesterday, last Monday (August 30th). We decided to check out a local Belgian Bar called Kaiba. It's only 4 blocks away from the house, so it was nice and easy to get to. We thought we'd just have a couple of beers and then move on to somewhere else to get dinner, but that didn't happen. We ended up ordering a pizza from the bar. It was okay, not bad, but not good either. It was just something to go with our yummy beers. They did have quite a nice selection. We were also able to watch a Muay Thai class while we were enjoying our cool beverages out on the patio area, the people in the class looked miserable and sweaty. We decided that we could never take a class there because after each class we'd want to go to the bar. :P

Tuesday (August 31st) was the day I went to the Expo. Afterward Richard, Bob and I met up with Patrick and Sean from Shanda for dinner at Mesa Manifesto, in the French Concession. It's kind of an italian tapas bar. Patrick and Sean were hosting a guy who is looking to work as a designer for Shanda, he seemed pretty nice and was a snappy dresser. We had yummy little steak sandwiches and an anitpasta platter. Sadly there are no pictures because it was too dark. If you click on the name of the restaurant above, you can see the website for it. I really like Mesa Manifesto though, it's laid back and has a nice balcony patio area.

After dinner Richard, Bob and I went to a little bar around the corner called Goodfellas. Bob and I had stopped there before on another night, and the woman who runs the place is super nice, and it's very laid back so we've now returned a few times. Plus the drinks are cheap, at least I think they're cheap. Again, too dark for pictures, sorry.

Wednesday night was crazy! It was raining so hard there were flood warnings. Richard, Bob, Eric and I ordered in using Sherpa, and got Nepalese food, which is like Indian food with a few other things mixed in. Whenever we eat at home I always forget to take pictures. We all relaxed on the couch and watched Anchorman while it stormed outside. It was a very nice relaxing evening.

Thursday even was AWESOME! We went to a Hot Pot Place called Hai Di Lao. It was truly an amazing experience, I'm going to write all about it on the food blog, so check there for all the awesome pictures and if I can upload the video I took, I think you'll be impressed. It was definitely the best hot pot we've had in Shanghai. Absolutely delicious and the staff was amazing. The place was super clean, and they took wonderful care of us. Eric took care of all the ordering and it was delicious.

To be competely honest I'm starting to forget what we did. I believe it was Friday night that we were going to go on the Tiger Beer Bar Crawl. There's this awesome area in the French Concession called Datong Mill and it's just a big collection of bars and restaurants set up around a fake river going under a mini eiffel tower looking thing. There's lots of neon signs and lights. We ended up not participating in the Bar Crawl because the free beer they gave us was terrible, apparently we're beer snobs now. Anyway, we ended up going to a Bar called Departure. It's shaped like a giant airplane and all the wait staff are dressed like flight attendants. They gave me a flight attendant hat! I was pumped. Sadly it was really dark inside so I don't have a good picture of my hat.

After we gave up there we went to a place called Muse, which is a KTV which is a Karaoke club! It's different than a regular club though because you get a room and there are girls you can "rent" to hang out with you and sing songs. We got a room with Richard, Sean, Patrick, Patrick's girlfriend Yoko and a couple of Yoko's friends. We ordered the traditional going out drink "whiskey and green tea, mixed." It's actually a pretty good combination, I don't really like whisky but it was good. The music selection was kind of blah, and some of the songs didn't even have the right words, which was weird. But we had a good time and rolled home in the wee hours of the morning.

After our night of Karaoke we kind of took it easy the rest of the time Richard was in town. We did some light shopping around the touristy parts of Shanghai but we were on a mission to get something for Richard's sisters so I'll have to go back for more browsing opportunities.

I'm going to go ahead and skip some things so I can catch up on what's been going on.

Loves and kisses,
Margaret and Bob

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shanghai Expo! (1st Trip)

I decided because the weather reports said that it would be overcast all this week that this should be the week to go to the Expo. I chose yesterday, Tuesday August 31st for three reasons. 1- It's a Tuesday, who would be there? 2- It looked like it was going to storm. 3- It was Uzbekistan's National Celebration Day. No really, that third reason was a real reason.

I was a little worried because on Sunday there had been over 390,000 people reported as being at the Expo, but I was confident my Tuesday choice would be great. I took the metro (orange line number 7) to Gate 6. It was literally right off the metro. I walked up to the ticket counter, and only had to wait for one person, and paid 160RMB for an all day ticket. (That's about $25USD) Walking in was pretty amazing and I was so glad that there seemed to be no one there. I walked past at least a football field's length of people corrals that looped back and forth and couldn't even start to think about how miserable it would be to have to wait in a line that long in the humidity and heat with people all around me. I seriously walked right in, I had to go through security, but again only had to wait for one person ahead of me and then I was there, I was in the Shanghai Expo!

For anyone who doesn't know the Expo is the World's Fair. It's like a gigantic display of different countries and what they're all about. Their histories, current stories and future plans are plastered on their pavilion walls along with pictures of the country and people, and if you're lucky a booth to buy something awesome.

In preparation for my Expo day I did some research and decided in advance which pavilions I would visit. I knew that the China Pavilion, Japan Pavilion, Saudi Arabia Pavilion and a few others were super popular so I had made up my mind that I would forgo those and just make sure to enjoy China while I'm here, visit Japan and hopefully go to Saudi one day. I picked a few specific pavilions that I really wanted to see, and decided that on top of those I would go in every pavilion with a short line. This plan worked out amazingly well, especially because only 220,000 people supposedly showed up. (Best news of all is that it only rained for about 10 minutes all day.)

Oh man, I went everywhere! Here's a list of the pavilions I went inside: (in no particular order)
-Democratic People's Republic of Korea
- Cambodia
-New Zealand
-Czech Republic
- Slovakia
-Republic of the Congo
-Democratic Republic of the Congo
-Cote d'Ivoire
-Sierra Leone

That's 79 countries! I saw 79 countries in 7 hours. I know, I'm pretty damn awesome. You'll notice that I skipped things like: Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, US, and other large pavilions. Those all had really long lines and I wanted to get the biggest bang for my buck, which I feel like I did. Now let's talk about my favorites.

1- I loved the little "joint pavilions." What are those you ask. Well, some countries didn't build gigantic buildlings, likely because they don't have a lot of money, so instead they shared very large conference halls and had rooms that had everything in them. I loved them the best because I felt like they put everything they could into those little rooms. Most of the stand alone pavilions were architecturally awesome, but upon entering were rather a let down. (Which was another reason for my skipping Germany, Spain, Italy and such.) I really liked Yemen's room a lot, then again they didn't have anything in their room except a lot of little stalls full of local things you could buy. Necklaces, tea sets, clothes, rugs, shoes, anything you wanted you could get which I thought was awesome.

The many of the countries I saw were in the joint pavilions. Almost all of Africa was in one GIANT pavilion and all the rooms were along the perimeter with booths from each country selling local goods in the middle. I bought a necklace from Gambia. I thought the best rooms in Africa were Kenya and Mauritania. They had the most interesting items and had the most on display, plus Kenya had an interactive area to make replicas of local pottery. Mauritania had a couple of very large stuffed camels and lots of mannequins dressed in local garb.

2- Lithuania - I really like this pavilion because from the outside it didn't look like anything other than a very large building with a picture of Lithuania on the side, but inside was pretty cool. It was designed like you were looking up at a giant hot air balloon and you'd walk up a spiral staircase to stand in the basket and there were screens in a 360 view and it was like you were taking a hot air balloon ride across the tops of major cities in Lithuania. They also had a nice little cafe on the way out where you could try local cuisine.

3- Peru - Peru had something similar to Lithuania. You walked up into a giant rotunda and had a 360 view of the streets of Peru and it was like you were walking down the street in a local market. That rotunda fed into a long hallway in the building that was set up to look like the market in the video and you could buy local goods.

4- New Zealand - I liked the New Zealand pavilion because I felt like it did a really good job of representing the country in picture form rather than with a lot of text. Not only was the outside of the building amazing but the inside was full of fun things to look at and touch.

You'll notice that I didn't go in the Uzbekistan pavilion even though it was listed as part of my reason for going. I got to the pavilion and it was closed! They were doing all the performances at another site in the expo that required ticket purchases and reservations. I was a bit disappointed. It's okay though because I plan on going back to see: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore and a couple others. Plus my camera died about 2 hours before I left so I need to go back for more pictures.

Overall I thought the expo was AMAZING. I can't believe all the buildings that were built just for this event. I mean, Denmark flew out water, and the statue of the Little Mermaid to be part of their pavilion, which was nice, but not as cool as everyone kept saying. I will say that there was one thing about the Expo which I thought was a bit of a pain. Passports. The Expo decided it would be fun, and I'm sure it is, to create fake travel passports and every pavilion has a special stamp to go in the book. Well because some people just want the stamp they push ahead in lines and then create a bottle neck. I don't know how I'd fix this with out getting rid of the passports all together, but it was just something that was obnoxious.

I was also famous at the Expo. I had 7, yes 7 random people ask to have their picture taken with me. I always say yes when that happens and smile and hug them for the picture. They all seemed very delighted. Sadly I do not have a single picture of myself at the Expo, I'm a little wary of letting people hold my camera.

At the end of the day I went home smelling really gross, and was exhausted. I seriously walked around for 7 hours. I plan on going back to the Expo some time next week for an evening pass, which is 5pm to midnight. I've read that it's not as crowded then and the temperature is much more reasonable, plus Bob can go and take my picture in front of all the pavilions.

I haven't uploaded any pictures to this post because I took over 150. I've uploaded them to my flickr account which you can access here. I'll slowly be adding titles to the pictures. I know, I'm lame, and I won't lie, I'm doing it because I'm exhausted today and I just wrote everything here.

Loves and kisses,