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Friday, February 18, 2011

Naked in Gubei

Today I ventured out to Gubei to go back to the New Star bath-house.  I'd previously been to the bath-house with a couple of friends, one an ABC and the other a native to Shanghai.  Between the three of us, one of us spoke and read only Chinese, the other spoke some Chinese but couldn't really read it, and I spoke and read absolutely no Chinese.  It was kind of like playing the game telephone the first time I went to New Star.  This time, I went solo, and it worked out fine.  I do recommend going with someone who speaks Chinese if you can.

Okay, now let's talk about why you should go...because it's awesome!  So you walk in to the building and you're greeted by a friendly person who takes your shoes and gives you a water proof locker key.  The men and the women have separate 'bathing" areas, so for those of you who are afraid you're going to have to go look at a bunch of naked people, you only have to hang out with a bunch of naked people of your own gender.  I personally have no problem hanging out with naked people but this seems to make some people squeamish.  If you are squeamish, I suggest you try really hard to get over this and go to New Star if you have the chance.  You will never feel cleaner than you will when you leave the bath-house.

Today I arrived at the bath-house at about 1pm on a Friday.  (I recommend going during the week and leaving around 4:30pm, because this is when people getting off of work show up and the place starts to get crowded.)  Okay, so I show up, give my shoes to the nice lady at the door and head up to the women's locker room where I put all my things in my little locker, today I was locker 554, unimportant but I thought I'd share.  I strip down and head into the bath area where you're required to shower off before you can enter any of the bathing pools.  There are a bunch of little shower areas with shampoo, conditioner and soap and you can purchase extra fun bath stuff for a price.  Extra stuff like fun smelling soap, scrubby things and what-not.  After you shower off you can play in the bathing pools until you're ready for a scrub down.  There are only 3 bathing pools in the women's area, I don't know how many there are in the men's area, two of the pools are toasty hot, and one is ice cold.  All the different kinds of scrubs and wet massages are listed on the Chinese and Korean.  Lucky for me they have a little booklet with their services listed in English.

I picked out the regular scrub, which is the whole reason I went in the first place.  You know that tingly clean feeling after you've scrubbed your face really good, that's the feeling you have all over your entire body when the scrub session is over.  It's amazing.  All the ladies who do the scrubs and wet massages are wearing cute black underwear sets, because the scrubs and massages are done while the person is completely nekked!  Every part of you is scrub, yes ladies, even your breasts, no gentleman not your other bits and pieces.  You get scrubbed about 4 times in each place total so when you're done your skin is extra smooth and silky.  After my scrub the nice lady asked me if I wanted another kind of massage so I went ahead and thought, why not.  And then I was covered in honey!  It was pretty awesome.  I had a nice relaxing massage covered in honey and then rinsed off with milk!  That's right, I bathed in honey and milk and it was actually pretty awesome.

I rinsed off and the ladies working in the locker room provided me with a set of white pajama like things to wander around in.  It was about 2:30pm by this time so I wandered down to the cafeteria to get some lunch.  They have some pretty good food for a spa/bath-house.  I had bibim-bop and read my book for a while before deciding to have another fun spa treatment.  I decided I'd try a facial.  I've never had a facial before and it seemed like a spa thing to do, and it was quite an experience.

The facial started off the way I thought it might, there were lots of different little lotions and massaging my face.  And it was very relaxing, there was a humidifier and soft face scrubby stuff.  And then the woman asked me if I wanted the hour facial, and again I though, "why not."  So while I'm lying there with my eyes closed the nice lady comes back and says, "this will be very cold."  And then proceeds to put really cold head creamy stuff on my face.  It almost gave me a brain freeze, I'm not kidding.  And the stuff melted and dripped all over the place, it was really weird, but I figured like all the other lotiony things it would only be on for a little bit and then washed off.  I was wrong.  The nice lady disappeared for about 20 minutes.  I about dozed off and then I went to wipe some of the melted stuff off of me and realized it had gel-ified!  I really wish I could have seen what I looked like because I bet it was awesome!  When the nice lady eventually came back she peeled the thing off my face.  I didn't get a chance to look at my mask because I was immediately attacked with more lotion.  I would totally do the whole thing again.  She even made my eye brows look nice at the end.

After my facial it was about 4:30pm and the place was starting to fill up with people who had just gotten off of work.  So I went back to my locker and put all my things back on and headed for the front door.  You pay on the way out by showing them your little locker key, and the people who have taken care of you tally your costs as you go and associate them with your locker key number.  For 3.5 hours of relaxing, massaging and lunch it was 327RMB, that's $50USD, only 50 bucks to be pampered and eat lunch, it was truly awesome.  I'm only sorry I didn't have more time to take advantage of more relaxing.  I guess I'll just have to go again the next time Bob and I come to Shanghai.

For anyone interested in visiting New Star, you can get there using the 10 Metro Line.  Get off at Longbai Xincun station and take exit 2.  When you come up out of the metro station you'll have Hongjing Lu to your left.  If you're facing Hongjing Lu walk two blocks to your left and you'll get to  Wuzong Lu, turn left at Wuzong Lu and walk one block to Jin Hui lu and turn right.  New Star is at that next intersection.  (Be warned that this area is very industrial looking, it's not dangerous it just looks like crap.)  You can take a cab there, just tell the driver " Xiangeng Lu and Jin Hui Lu."  It costs about 30RMB to get to New Star from Jing'an temple.  I'd recommend taking the metro to get to the spa and then taking a cab home when you're done, there are plenty around the area.


You'll know you've reached the right place when you see the above sign.

Love and kisses,


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let's Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit! Shanghai/Suzhou style!

Before I get into the awesomeness of Chinese New Year, here are some photos of the lovely bridge we drive over to get to and from work.



It's a pretty impressive bridge, and I was very pleased to get such an awesome shot, especially while in the car.

Okay, so on to Chinese New Year.  Patrick invited Bob and myself to go to Suzhou where his brother lives.  It's a thirty minute ride, by train, outside of Shanghai.  We took the train with Patrick and his friend Tim.  We did almost have an issue because we got to the train station and we realized that Bob and I didn't have our passports, which are needed to check into hotels anywhere in China.  Crazy, I know, even though we live here we still have to take our passport with us.  Luckily we live really close to the train station so we were able to run home real quick and get back in time.  The train is very nice but it's hard for us to get tickets because of our limited Mandarin speaking abilities.

Patrick's brother is the executive chef at Zapata's, a Mexican restaurant, in Suzhou.  We arrived on Chinese New Years Eve in time for all the fireworks displays at 8pm.  We had delicious pulled beef tacos and some great cocktails while we enjoyed the fireworks.  The restaurant was close enough to the hotel we were staying at so at around midnight Bob and I headed to check-in.  As we approached the front of the hotel there were a bunch of people gathered around a bunch of boxes filled with fireworks, which they set off about an hour later.  There were fireworks all night long, it was like we were being bombed.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza, and it was the nicest Crown Plaza I have ever seen.  It's built right out on the lake and looks like a giant cruise ship departing into the unknown.  The whole interior is nautical and there's an excellent collection of weird knick-knacks through out the entire lobby and lounge areas.  The room itself was pretty swanky as well with a view of the lake and a gigantic bathroom with a HUGE bathtub, the bathtub was so big I could lie back in it because I'd slip under the water, it was crazy!

On the first day of the Year of the Rabbit we met up with Patrick, Tim and Jon around 1:30pm and headed into downtown Suzhou which was over run with people celebrating the new year and wandering about.  I imagine it's like black Friday, there were people everywhere.  We wandered around for a bit just looking around and got lunch at Master Kong's, yes you've heard that name before....we love it and it was really convenient because there were so many people everywhere.  We did some shopping about and took some fun picture of things that didn't make sense, like:


I don't know what "Nuclear" is but this shop sells it, along with silk and jade.

The whole day was pretty relaxing with us just wandering around and enjoying the sites.  As it started to get dark we all split up to go back to our respective hotels/ homes for a little more relaxing and time wasting.  For dinner Bob and I met up with Patrick and Tim at some of the bars over in Suzhou's ex-pat area.  We met up at a bar called Tunnel which was playing some excellent 90's music and had a couple of drinks before grabbing some Korean BBQ for dinner.  We ate at a place that's a 24 hour Korean BBQ, who knew such a thing existed!  Dinner was pretty good and inexpensive and we went back to Tunnel to hang out for the rest of the evening.

The next morning we gorged ourselves at the Crown Plaza lunch buffet and it was pretty good.  Lots of sushi, and a variety of dishes from all over the world.  I was even able to have a baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits.  We ate and ate and ate so much food, and then at 1:30pm it was time to head back to the train station for our return to Shanghai.  Which is when my Chinese New Year started to suck because I ended up with the world's worst sinus infection.

I was laid up and in pain all that weekend.  We ended up going to the doctor that Monday because we thought I might have pneumonia.  Thank goodness it was just a really nasty sinus infection.  I had an awesome smokers cough and kept poor Bob up all the night with my coughing and tossing and turning.  Bob took excellent care of me while I wallowed around in pain and agony.  Now I'm all better though, I got some great meds.

That same Monday night (January 8th) our co-worker from San Francisco, Nick, arrived.  We cooked stir-fry that night and just relaxed and caught up with Nick. We were really lucky, as was Nick, that it was still a holiday on Tuesday so we were able to go on a small adventure about town.  We took Nick over to Taikong Lu and have Kommune for lunch and looked in all the shops and bought more tea and other fun things.  Nick bought some tea too.  Oh and I had a bowl of mocha, which is always delish.

We've been eating, working, sleeping and then repeating that process for the last week and half.   I can't complain, I love to eat.  More on that later.

Love and kisses,

Margaret and Bob




Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Fake Market and ....Chinese Wal-Mart!!!!!


After Staci headed back to SF to prep for her classes and party like a rock star we had Jay for another week of fun and excitement.  I led a pretty boring life during the week cleaning up around the house (sorta) and working.  I had been a little lax with the support queue while we had guests because it's so much more fun to have fun than to work.  It's a problem.  Anyway, Jay and Bob brought me some wonderful schwag from the office that week.  I have a new magnetic Mochi calendar thanks to the Mochi China Marketing team.  It's sitting on the dining room table right now while I ponder how to pack up all my goodies to take home.  (There's a picture of the calendar to the left, all the little square pieces are magnetic and you move them around to show people how you're feeling that day.  If you'd like a calendar let me know and I'll grab one for you.  On a side note, Mary, you already have one on it's way, whether you like it or not.)


We also discovered a wonderful and magical place called....The Fake Market.  Yes, we found the place where dreams are made, well dreams and wonderful knock-off goods.  I went crazy and bought 3 "designer" bags and 2 pairs of "D & G" sunglasses, and yes Tom and David, one pair is white!  Jay picked up an awesome set of the "beats" headphones like Bob and I have.  It was a good thing that Bob and I had our actual headphones with us so we could help Jay get the best quality in comparison to the real thing.  Jay also picked up a very nice brown leather laptop bag for a very reasonable price.  I want to say he paid 230RMB, maybe 250RMB, the point is it's a great laptop bag, made of leather and it only cost $37USD.  Now that's a deal.  My bags cost a total of 550RMB, that's 3 really nice leather purses/bags that are all convertible (over the shoulder/messenger bag) for $80USD.  I was quite pleased.  That's me to the right clutching one of my bags.  This is supposedly a  "chloe" bag, to be honest I'd never heard of that brand before, but I did really like the bag.  I also picked up a Marc Jacobs with the model number "#_ _ _ _ _ _" yes the model number was a bunch of blank dashes.  I think that might be why I really like it.  It's also a massive bag, I could carry a bowling ball in all of my new bags and not think twice about it.  I'm willing to admit I have a problem, a problem with buying things just because I can.  That's one of the reasons I have not been back to the fake market again.  I'm afraid I'll buy more bags that I don't need.


Bob chose not to get anything at the Fake Market and I'm pretty sure just wanted to die the entire time we were there.  He has a hard time looking at the same things over and over and over and over again.  I know I'm looking at the same things but sometimes, just sometimes there's something different and that's when you get an awesome deal.  Bob doesn't like to wait for the awesome deal.  He was very helpful when I wanted some cashmere hoodies though.  (There's a back story to this.  I own two really awesome cashmere hoodies from Old Navy.  Yes, Old Navy put out cashmere hoodies one Christmas and they didn't sell very well because people who shop at Old Navy typically don't expect to pay over $40 for anything in the store.  Anyway, I wear my hoodies all the time and I've always been sad that I didn't get a red one when I had the chance.)  We found a store selling very similar cashmere hoodies to the ones I wear all the time but the woman running the store was a nasty you-know-what and didn't want to haggle the price with me.  She kept trying to tell me that her sweaters were better than the one I was wearing which was simply not true.  Bob was eventually able to get her to sell me two sweaters for the price of one.  Hoorays!  I now have a nice dark red cashmere hoodie and a purple cashmere hoodie.  I'm the luckiest girl ever.  And they're "supposedly" from real mongolian goats.  I don't know that I believe this at all, but the sweaters are comfy!

And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for.....we went to a Chinese Wal-Mart!  Now I've been pretty pumped about going to Wal-Mart in China ever since I read this article: 16 Items They Only Sell At Chinese Wal-Marts.  It was truly an eye-opening and overwhelming experience.  We touched everything, and took pictures of everything.  I tried to find everything on the list, but sadly there were no crocodiles.  I know, I was also disappointed.  But to cheer you up, here's a collection of all the things at Wal-Mart....








Sorry for the pictures being spaced strangely I'm still trying to figure out what the problem is.  I can't seem to get rid of all that extra empty space.  Once day I'll figure this out. Anyway, here you have the entrance sign, an upside down pyramid of Budweiser, and Jay looking mighty happy.









Above you can see that Bob was my sherpa in the store, and Jay is apparently from the horror flick "the ring" based on the look he's pulling.  The can of "great value" is wal-mart brand beer, yes they have their own beer and the last picture up there is of meat.  Just random meat.  I'll go ahead and leave the other picture un-captioned.







It was a very exciting adventure in Wal-Mart.  As you can see we were mostly impressed with the meats and alcohols.  It was an excellent evening excursion.

We were pretty laid back the rest of the time we had Jay, and we made it to Yang's Fried Dumplings once more, the day he left before we said good bye.  Here he is with his dumpling dish:


Bye Jay and Staci!!!!!  We'll be back in SF in less than two weeks!

Loves and kisses-

Margaret and Bob







Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Jay and Staci Adventure...the final chapter!



After our crazy night out of fun and excitement Staci and I slept in and then wandered over to Mr. Pancake for some excellent  breakfast.  The place is pretty close to the apartment so we took a nice lazy walk over and enjoyed some french toast and eggs.  Yes, neither of those are pancakes but it was still very good.  We then headed back downtown to Xintandi where we had gone before and purchased our awesome leg warmers.  We bought more leg warmers because they're awesome, and I got some really pretty earrings.  We did some shopping about, and knew we'd be meeting up with Bob and Jay later for dinner, and I wanted to make sure that Staci got the awesome view of the Bund that we like to share with everyone.  Bob and I like to take everyone who comes to visit to this place called New Heights because it has such an amazing view of the lights at night.  So Staci and I went to New Heights but rather than staying there, we ended up at this cute little wine bar that had just opened up in the same building.  The wine bar is called House of Wine, H.O.W. for short, and the wine list was pretty awesome and had variety of flavors and prices.  We each enjoyed a glass of wine and we shared the cheese platter.  I want to go back with Bob, but we haven't been back yet.  After our fun wine we met up with Bob, Jay, Patrick and Yoko at a local Shanghainese place and had some delicious dinner.  Patrick and Yoko always find the best little places for dinner.


That Sunday Jay, Staci and I went for brunch at Boxing Cat Brewery.  Bob had a bunch of work to do, and had a bad headache so he didn't join us for our adventure out.  We went to Boxing Cat and then headed over to PuDong to go to the Bottle Cap Opener Building, aka the Shanghai World Financial Center.  Jay and I had been to the building before at night but we wanted to take Staci so we went again.  It's a completely different experience going to the building during the middle of the day when the sun is out and going at night.  I had some serious vertigo when we went at night, it's scary.  The building is second tallest building in the word, and hosts the highest hotel in the world.




As much fun as we could possibly have was packed into the last few days Staci was in Shanghai.  We went back to the fabric market to pick up all our new awesome clothes, which are awesome.  Staci loves her new jacket, I'm about positive she's wearing it in SF as I type this.  Our shirts came out great, and her pants looked wonderful as well.  Jay broke down and got fitted for a jacket, which we were delighted about.  Now everyone has new sexy jackets.  We had Coco Curry because you can't not have Coco Curry when it's absolutely delish.  We pretty much just had a wonderful day that last Monday and finished it up with another great Pub Quiz.


For Staci's last full day we went to Taikong Lu, which I've written about before, it's the old factory area that's like a labyrinth and has lots of fun shops and cafes.  It was snowing/raining that day so it was definitely a Shanghai winter experience.  We were freezing our butts off but we had a good time.  We went for lunch at Kommune and then tinkered about in the shops.  We picked up some propaganda posters and tea sets.  We also went to a gigantic mall across the street from the labyrinth and we bought some matching travel bags.  After we had more than enough bags, and were weighed down by our all new goodies we headed home to get ready to go out for our yummy dinner.  I made reservations at House of Roosevelt for dinner.  It's a new restaurant that has opened up on the Bund, and is in the House of Roosevelt Club House that is owned by the Roosevelt family, yes the presidential  Roosevelts.  It was a delicous meal and we shared a nice bottle of wine.  The sommelier was very helpful and we had a bottle of  "Bad Boy."  He also gave us a tour of the amazing wine cellar and treated us to shots at the end of the night in their swanky lounge.  It was a great night, and a grand finish to Staci's stay in Shanghai.

The day Staci was set to leave we all went into the office together and worked in the morning.  And then for lunch we participate in doing a review for Big Macs and Merlot.  It's a fun blog, Staci started, about pairing fast food with affordable wine.  We enjoyed some Chinese fast food and cheap wine.  Jay went with Staci to the airport and returned alone.  I was sad to lose my playmate, but I'm excited to be seeing her again soon!

More is on the way, I'm sure you can't wait to read about all the fake designer bags I bought!

Loves and kisses,

Margaret and Bob


The Jay and Staci Adventure in Shanghai! BAM!

Jay and Staci arrived on January 6th.  They got in at the airport at 5pm, made it to our place at 6:30pm and then we did what any good friends would do, and made them go to an acrobat show!  We  went to the acrobat show at the Portman Ritz and Jay was pulled up on stage to participate in the "knife throwing" segment.  He was a really good sport and we had a good time.  Everyone was exhausted at the end of the night so we crashed early.

And then we made them party hard again the next night when we re-lived New Years and went out for teppanyaki and then KTV!  We sang our faces off and ate delicious teppanyaki at Natural Point.  We went for teppanyaki because Jay and Staci have a New Years tradition of going to Benihana on New Years and last year we went out with them, and we were sad that we weren't able to participate this year.  I know, you don't feel bad for us, we were in Hong Kong after all.  We had a great group of people and had a really great time.


We needed to take it easy the next couple of days because of all the crazy fun and excitement.  While Bob and Jay went to work Staci and I would work from home in the mornings and then go wandering about in the afternoon.  I believe this was the day that Staci and I went to Xintandi and bought the world's most awesome leg warmers ever.  So awesome that we later had to go back and buy more.  That first Monday night we of course all went to the BullDog Pub for the quiz and discovered that our quiz master had made the questions super hard!  We had our butts handed to us by that quiz and we tried our best.  It was still a fun night though and we had a good time.

Tuesday Bob and Jay played hookie and we went to the Fabric Market so Staci could have some fun clothes made like mine.  We took one of my old button up shirts from England as a template and had some kickbutt nice shirts made and Staci had a pair of pants like mine (originally from Express) made.  And then Jay and I convinced her she needed to get a jacket.  Mostly because I love my jacket, it's the best, I seriously wear it all the time.  She reluctatnly agreed to get a jacket, but when we picked it up later she loved it.  I'm so happy because she looks great in the new jacket.  Bob also got fitted for a new coat, it's very nice, a wool kind of military style black/grey jacket.  He looks very good in it, but whines that the pockets aren't right.  I keep telling him we can take it back and have those fixed but he just sighs.  After our trip around the Fabric Market we stopped at the most amazing DVD store.  There was a secret doorway that led up to where all the...."real" dvds were.  It was pretty amazing.  We then went for a foot massage and snacks.  Yes, you read that right, we went and had our little toes rubbed while we had pork buns and drank tea.  It was very relaxing and we were able to watch one of our newly purchased DVDs.  (We watched "Baby Mama," with Tina Fey.)  Over all it was a good day, and we had a wonderful time.


Wednesday was kind of lame, we all went into the office and worked.  Things needed to be done and I had a meeting with our new Chinese game approver who is doing a crappy job approving games.  Okay, he's not doing a crappy job approving them, he's doing a crappy job rating them appropriately.  Eric helped me talk to our approver because, surprise, he doesn't speak English.  I still don't think he's doing a great job, but I was able to get the SF to hire my awesome friend David to also do approvals so at least some of the games are being rated appropriately.  The exciting part of the day was when we went to Master Kong's for lunch.  I love Master Kong's, it's always good.  I always order the same thing- okay,  I did branch out once, but it wasn't nearly as good.  I love the #116, the spicy beef noodles.  There are three spicy peppers next to the picture in the menu and it's delicious.  Wednesday was also the day that I had to write to USAA's customer support because they'd managed to send me a replacement AMEX card that didn't have a validation pin.  I even took a picture of the card so I could send it to them for proof.


Thursday Staci and I worked in the morning and then took the Big Bus Shanghai tour.  We bundled ourselves up real good and headed out for a day of fun.  So the bus tour is a hop on / hop off tour but we mostly sat on, and just looked at everything in the city.  It was really bitter cold that day.  We did a couple of stops for coffee and took pictures from the bus.  The first time around the city in the bus we listened to the audio tape provided, and the second time around we just had a good time looking out the windows and chit-chatting.  The first time around we sat up top on the second floor of the bus which was open air and freezing, the second ride was far more comfortable and inside the bus.  At the end of the tour we did some shopping in the mall area under People's Square and bought fabulous wigs which we wore for the rest of the night.  When Bob and Jay got home I'm pretty sure they thought we were crazy, good thing they love us.  We went to Yakexi for dinner and then met up with some other people at Rhumerie Bounty, the pirate themed rum bar just down the street from out house.  It was a crazy night, we shut down the bar and stumbled home.


Stay tuned for the rest of the adventure in the next post!

Love and kisses,