Sunday, 18 December 2011

impressions of shanghai

the first thing that struck me when i got off the plane in shanghai was the light. it was just so bright, despite the haze. i've noticed that in more northern countries, the light is kind of white and cold (and i don't mean the temperature), whereas in singapore for example, it's more yellow and warm. this, together with the cold (this time yes, the temperature), made me feel a bit like at home.

it was cold and sunny when i landed. or as sunny as it can get with the extremely polluted air and heavy haze. the gorgeous day reminded me of all the things i really love about being in a cold country - scarves, tights, boots, hats.. and the amazing feeling of having a cup of warm tea when you're absolutely freezing, lighting candles, being able to go for a walk without melting away, actually enjoying the rare sunshine instead of trying to escape it, the christmas feeling spreading when hearing a familiar christmas carol on the radio and smelling the glögg. the list is long.

i guess the simple truth is that i am a nordic person. i enjoy differences between the seasons (and i am not just talking about more or less rain). there is nothing like that first day of spring after a long winter, the first swim in the freezing sea, the leaves changing colours and even the first snow.

but.. after a few days in shanghai it started to rain and i also got reminded of all the things i hate about the cold, rainy, windy autumn/winter - cold and wet feet, hands and ears so cold it actually hurts, feeling reluctant to even go out, the fact that some days the sun doesn't even seem to rise. this list is long as well. after some time on my little nordic bliss cloud, i realised there are pros and cons of everything and the most important is to look at things from the bright side and enjoy the pros of where you happen to be at the moment. perhaps easier said than done though, i have an ability to think the grass is always a bit greener on the other side..

of course shanghai was not all about the climate. the weather was just about the only thing shanghai and sweden had in common. here are some of the differences.

traffic - the traffic in shanghai was absolutely mad! no one seemed to care about red lights or green lights or yellow lights for that matter. they were just driving. and honking the horn. all the time. if someone wanted to change lanes, he wasn't let in. if not stuck, the taxi drivers were just zigzagging between the five or six lanes on the motorway. you couldn't use a seatbelt because they were all stuck under the seats.

the worst thing i saw was a man on a motorbike, holding a small baby with one arm and a phone in the other hand, just driving through a red light.

language - it's really weird being in a country where you don't understand anything at all. i couldn't even take a taxi without a note in chinese with the address i was going to. when i went to the pharmacy to get some pain killers, i communicated using one of my two words (hello) and a post-it note. they even translate brand names, which is normally a big no-no for other languages.

openness and transparency - facebook, twitter, blogspot and god knows which other sites are blocked in china. to me it's strange (and upsetting) that they are trying to and most likely succeed to control the flow of information and oppress the freedom of speech through blocking this kind of sites.

Monday, 12 December 2011

useful phrases in chinese

before leaving, i thought it would be a good idea to buy a phrasebook to learn some useful phrases. here's what's considered useful in the book i found:

singapore meets shanghai

back from shanghai. it was really nice to meet my colleague echo that i have never met before. while i was there, the london office had an update meeting and they wanted us to make a video to play during the meeting. so we made this one:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

it's raining... halleluja, it's raining...

for the ones who realise which song i refer to in the title, i can tell you that it's not raining men. just a lot of water. all the time. we had such a nice plan for today - to chill out by the pool in clara’s condo. judging from the amount of rain over the last few months, it might have been a somewhat over optimistic plan.

it looked bright for a bit though. didn't even start to rain until about five minutes after we got there. so after wasting the part of the day when it was not raining shopping for a winter jacket (which feels like a very odd thing to do when it’s 32 degrees outside, but just realised it's like 7 degrees in shanghai and a cardigan may not be sufficient to keep me warm), we spent some time by the pool, in the rain - watching the lightning and listening to the remarkably loud thunder.

i realise that my perception of singapore as a sunny place might have been so strong that even when i read the climate section in my guidebook, i just blanked out that 'rainfall is highest' could actually mean it would rain all the time. only now when i had a look in the guidebook again, just to (hysterically) laugh at and condemn its unreliability, it became clear to me it actually did mention it would rain. i hereby quote the guidebook:

"Singapore's temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year, with an average high of 88° F (31° C) and relative humidity of 85%, Rainfall is highest from November to January and lowest in June and July."

looking back now, i think i was fooled by the mention of constant temperature and humidity. probably a normal beginner's mistake for someone who's from sweden and has lived in the uk for a couple of years. in both countries rain normally equals cold. at least i have now learned to never leave the house without an umbrella wearing other shoes than flip flops.


despite the chinese characters in the title, i have of course not learned any chinese while being here. the only things i can say so far are 'hello' and 'thank you'. i use it quite frequently though. like every time i go buy my fruit juice from the nice little chinese man at the hawker centre. considering that everyone here speaks english (or at least singlish, which i am gradually starting to understand), i haven't had that much use of it though.

buuuuuuuuut.. next week on the other hand, it will be much more useful as i am going to shanghai!
it's my first time in china and also my first real business trip so i am of course very excited. not only about going on a business trip, but about the whole going to china thing. i hope i will have time for some other things than just work too. will stay from sunday to sunday so should be alright.

main things planned are to see my colleague as well as some of our clients.
won't be able to fill a whole week with meetings so will also work a bit from the shanghai office. after spending all this time as the only freedman person in the office here, i am really looking forward to sitting in the same office as someone else, just being able to shitchat about simple things like work or rant about someone that we both know (i.e. hate).

i also meant to do some research about things to do in shanghai, but the last couple of weeks have been hectic and i haven't really had the energy when i had the time and vice versa. now when i do have both time and energy, i'm spending it writing a blog post. sometimes i wonder how i prioritise. well, i have all day tomorrow too..

anyway, all tips on things i shouln't miss out on while in shanghai are most welcome.

i'll finish off with a funny photo from
starbucks in australia. apparently, they are not very used to people called elin (like every other country besides the scandinavian countries..).

Monday, 24 October 2011

phillip island

i'd like to start this blog post by bragging about my new little niece indra, who was born on the 19th october. from what i hear and see on the pictures, she's such a lovely little baby and i can't wait to meet her. i am now the proud aunt of five absolutely adorable children!

over to the adventures down under.. after a week in melbourne, it was time for us to leave the city and go for a little road trip. we decided to go to phillip island to watch the penguin parade, which is one of the world's largest colonies for this particular penguin species. the penguins who live there are the smallest species, imaginatively enough called 'little penguins'.

arnold and amie are getting the van ready for the trip

amie was driving, while arnold and i had a few beers

the nature around the island is beautiful and here we are in front of the seal rocks at sunset

unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos of the penguins, but this is what they looked like when they emerged from the sea and waddled across the beach

we stayed in a hostel (that arnold referred to as a prison, but that was actually quite nice)

outside the hostel, there was a big wave and we tried out the surf
(guessing it might be pretty easy to see which two have actually surfed in real life and who hasn't..)

we took the ferry over from sorrento to queenscliff

and enjoyed an ice-cream in the sun

from queenscliff, we went to torquay - the gateway to the great ocean road. bought a pair of flip flops and a pair of pink, fluffy slippers (a real bargain, had been $24.95 and i got them for $9! don't think i'll need them in singapore, but they will probably come in handy once i'm back in cold europe again.. in a couple of months or so..).

on the way back, we also stopped in geelong to say hello to arnold's cousin and before we knew it (i fell asleep on the way back) we were back in melbourne again after an amazingly nice weekend!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

the beach

it's quite cold in amie's and arnold's apartment and after a night of cuddling up with the hot water bottle, i woke up to the most amazing day. the weather yesterday was absolutely lovely, sun shining from a clear blue sky, 29 degrees and a mild breeze - perfect!

i decided to go to st kilda beach. there are trams in melbourne and i feel like home (as in gothenburg). it's so convenient to just jump on a tram to go to the beach, or wherever you want to go. the water was pretty cold though, hmm.. i guess you could say refreshing (kind of in the same way you say someone who's stingy is economical).

after spending the day on the beach, i met up with a x 2 and we bought some take out and had dinner on the beach, watching the far, i've been quite rubbish with the camera, only arnold takes photos that both amie and i steal - amie for facebook and me for the blog. i promise to get my camera out soon and paparazzi away.

Monday, 17 October 2011

australia so far..

after a hectic week, it was finally time for my australia trip and a two week holiday!! i left late on friday night and landed in melbourne at 10.45am on the saturday. perfect time.

had a really good flight, managed to get a window exit seat - not just an exit row, but no one in front of me so could stretch my legs as much as i wanted and didn't even have to climb over people to get to the toilet. there was only one downside, the other exit seats are often dedicated to families with young children, which means i was surrounded by screaming children. still kind of worth it though.

amie and arnold met me at the airport and we went back to their apartment. after some rest, the lovelies had a surprise for me and arnold's aunt, who was here visiting as well - a tour around melbourne with a colonial tram, perfect activity for the first day in a new city! not only was it a sightseeing tour, it was also a restaurant and we had some really nice food.

afterwards, we went to the casino, where amie and i managed to double our bets on the roulette table. great start of the holiday! unfortunately, our bets weren't that high, but it's still kind of a nice feeling. i normally only stop when i don't have any money left, so quite proud of myself.
yesterday, amie and had a wander around the neighbourhood and then we cooked some food - an amazing spagetti bolognese with salad! the type of food you don't really get (an i am too lazy to cook) in singapore. today, i had a great, chilled out day not doing anything really. slept, met amie and arnold for lunch, went to starbucks for a chai latte, reading my book in the sun. later, i moved to a square to continue reading my book in the sun. aaaaaaah, relaxing holiday!

the weather here is lovely spring weather. a little bit chilly, but it's nice to want to sit in the sun rather than trying to avoid it, which is not really my style - i love the sun. apparently the temperature will reach 28 degrees on wednesday so guess who will be heading to the beach..

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


had completely forgotten that i bought some chewing gums while in indonesia last weekend and what a lovely surprise when i found the illegal little treat in my bag today. just one of those moments.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

part III - singapore grand prix

it all started on a wednesday. well, the grand prix didn't, but my involvment in the grand prix did. on the wednesday three weeks ago, we were sitting at le baroque in chijmes having a beer. tiger beer, to be more precise.
all of a sudden, this woman comes up to us saying that for every two tiger beers, we would get a chance to win a day pass to the grand prix. she had a little bag with ping pong balls - 15 white ones, one green, one blue and one red. if you got one of the coloured ones, that was a win.

sophie, a british girl - with whom i've totally bonded over uk and swedish drinking cultures - was the first one out. she managed to get a blue one, which meant a day pass for the saturday. then it was my turn and.. wait for it.. yes, i got a red one - a pass for the sunday. we tried to swap sophie's blue one for a red one, but there were no more red ones left so we swapped mine for a blue one instead. the woman couldn't believe we both managed to win and told us one guy had tried seven times without succeeding (which might also have meant he had 14 beers..).

and that's not all. then clara and lucía won too! clara on the first try and lucía on the second. the woman's eyes nearly fell out.

the week of the grand prix came and one day i got a text from sophie. she had gotten two tickets for the friday from work. not just any tickets, tickets to the sky suites were you got free food and drinks all night. she said that when she heard there were free drinks, she instantly thought about me. and of course i was up for it!

the friday was amazing! we were just by the pit stop so could see everything. i don't think i've ever had that much champagne in my life. it did get a bit noisy though since we were so close.

when the event closed at midnight, we went to one of the roof top bars, altitude on the 62nd floor - amazing view - with some guys who were in the same sky suite as us. the evening ended with bunch of people going for a swim in the pool at one of the guys' condos. got home at 6.30 in the morning. what a night!
the next day, it was time for all the big entertainment. we went to see rick astley, shakira and shaggy. my absolute favourite was shaggy. he really involved the audience and it was so much fun to see him. we danced and danced and danced and sang along. fantastic boombastic!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

part II - raffles

i've realised that when you stay somewhere for a bit longer than just the odd week, you become lazy and don't do all the things you would normally manage to squeeze in to short trips. mainly because you have so much time! and then all of a sudden all that time is just gone and you've reached the end of your stay. that's (one of the reasons) why it's so good when people come to visit. they are tourists and they want to do all those things that you had planned on doing, but been too lazy to actually do.

so.. when betina was here, we also took the opportunity to go to raffles for a (or maybe two) singapore sling(s). we were of course taking a lot of photos to capture this big moment and a very nice gentleman offered to take a picture of us both.
(the gentleman's friends also posed very gently in the background)

on each table there was a bowl of peanuts and in spite of raffles being a quite posh place, you are supposed to throw the shells on the floor.
there was also a great band playing and before we knew it, they had sweet talked us (with stories about having been to sweden loads of times and what a lovely country it is) into getting up on stage, singing along to 'hey jude'. but if you're a tourist, you're a tourist, right? i did of course manage to find a tambourine as well to accompany (read: drown) our lovely singing. and with my excellent sense of rhythm..
the singapore sling is a very popular (tourist) cocktail here in singapore. raffles has broadened the concept and also created spring sling, summer sling, autumn sling and winter sling. i just had to try the spring sling (would of course never in my life had had a second drink on a school night if it wasn't for the fact that i had to try the spring sling so it turns out to be a quite successful strategy).
(as you can see, this was an evening of crashing photos. one of the band members decided to jump in and to be honest, there is not that much he could have done to make these photos worse)

they also got this russian guy up on stage. i'm not a very good singer, probably one of the worst in the world to be fair. my sister says that if i had been able to find the right tone and melody, then maybe it wouldn't be that bad. don't know what to think about that actually - is it a disguised compliment or just a full on insult?

anyway, this guy was bad. really bad. so bad he didn't even manage to get the words right for 'laalaalaalalalalaaaaaaaa, lalalalaaaaaa, hey jude'. plus his name was igor. don't know why we thought it was so funny, just such a typical russian name.. hmm.. probably one of those things you must experience. it might also have been a trick to get us up on stage as we did of course not feel as intimidated after his performance..

Monday, 26 September 2011

part I - borneo

last week betina came to visit. we decided to go to borneo for a long weekend to see some wildlife and chill on the beach. just in case anyone is interested, borneo is the third largest island in the world and is divided among three countries: brunei, indonesia and malaysia. in the eveing of the friday last weekend, we left for kuching, located in the malaysian part sarawak. kuching means the cat city and there were statues of cats everywhere. not that many real cats though.

when booking the trip, we realised that we could stay in a really nice hotel for almost no money at all. ended up staying in a four star hotel called the grand margherita. i did of course think that would mean they had amazing margaritas, but soon realised it had no connection at all (this is of course a stolen image from some website somewhere).
on the first day we went to damai beach. it was nice to have a really chilled out day and we stayed there (from quite late seeing that we slep until almost noon) until the sun went down. very tasty sipping on a cold tiger beer while watching the sunset.
the following day, it was time for the big adventure! we were going to see the orangutans. had to get up at an uneartly hour to have time to take advantage of the nice breakfast buffet before leaving. and off we went in the rain. first thing we saw when getting out if the mini bus was an orangutan in a tree. wohoo, good sign! our guide lee, told us we were lucky it was raining as the orangutans were more likely to come down to the feeding area when it wasn't as warm as the previous days. unless it started raining a lot. which it of course did. no orangutans at all at the feeding area and th whole group of hopeful people started to slowly walk back in the rain. but.. half way back to the parking, some orangutans appeared, swinging themselves in the trees. and all of a sudden there were orangutans everywhere!

most spectacular was the orangutan they called big mama. she showed up with her little baby and sat there for us to look at her. apparently, she was not a very friendly orangutan having bitten many of the rangers so they were quite cautious to let us get too close. still managed to get some good shots and this film:

after the orangutans, we went to a crocodile farm. not a big hit. the farm was dirty and they didn't seem to take care of the poor animals. we watched the feeding and the guys feeding the crocodiles were really mean, making the crocodiles jump for food just to take it away last minutes. we also saw some monkey and there were litter in their cages and one of the monkeys was alone and his cage and seemed incredibly lonely.

we also managed to time the world cup in wakeboarding, which was quite cool. not that we say much of it, but there was a big hullabaloo with fireworks and a ragatta.
our second day trip was to bako national park, where we saw three types of monkeys, snakes and lovely rain forest and beaches. we managed to get the same guide and he was very knowledgeable, taking us around the peninsula. or not really around, we went for the shortest trekking path they had as the sun was shining and it was boiling hot.
we also saw some incredibly blue crabs.
finishing off the day trip, we went on a little trip with the boat to see one of the other beaches.

but the trip was not only wildlife and nature. we also went to some lovely restaurants - the junk restaurant and bla bla bla. funny names. gladely could have stayed at least another couple of days, if not weeks..

bad blogging.. the sense that there has been no blogging at all. at least i'd like to think that is worse than my actual blogging. in an attempt to make this up to you, my dear readers (hi mum), i've decided to make a trilogy - standalone episodes of course.

part I - borneo

part II - raffles

part III - singapore grand prix

i understand the excitment is unbearable, but before starting, here are a few pictures from the birthday barbeque (as promised).