Jan 26-30: Shanghai

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 | adventures, food, photography, world2009 | 3 Comments

Oh, Shanghai. What a weird place.

across the river

We stayed at my cousin’s place in Shanghai, which is on the east side of the river in an area called Pudong. He wasn’t even in town, so we had it all to ourselves! Big, lovely apartment (with kitchen! and washing machine/dryer!) which made us feel really at home. And there was a great supermarket just down the street. The downside was that it was a little bit harder to get to the other side of town - we had to take a taxi to the metro station, then the metro. And to get back, obviously the reverse! We took a heck a lot of taxis. But they’re really cheap!

year of the ox

Our flight from Japan was extremely un-full - probably only about 50 people on a whole 777! It was a really pleasant flight. I really recommend Japan Airlines, the service is great! We landed on Chinese New Year’s day and were bit afraid of crowds travelling and such, but it was actually eerily quiet. I think everyone who was going to travel home for the holiday already did!

There was a lot of fun stuff going on in China for CNY - lots of decorations, lanterns and such, festivals, and fireworks! The only bad thing was that lots of places were closed or had odd hours over the holiday - I don’t think we had any trouble though. Oh, and there were lots of crowds at stuff because people were off work.

fountain outside Shanghai museum

The first full day we walked along East Nanjing Road, which is a big shopping/tourist street, then the Bund on the river along to People’s Square. (The Bund is pretty gross. Very dirty, crowded, full of hawkers and not a great view either.) We found a vegetarian restaurant on the first try, which was a good find, but the food was only okay. It turned out that we had a little bit of an easier time finding veggie food in China than Japan because of the strong Buddhist tradition. Walked around a bit afterwards around Renmin Park, then we headed home to cook and do laundry! Hooray!

Yu Bazaar

The next day we went to Yu Bazaar and walked around lots of little streets with junk shops and tourist wares lining the roads. Walking off in a different direction though towards the French Concession, the atmosphere quickly changes and you emerge in a reconstructed traditional area which has become super trendy shops and restaurants.

Anyway. The last day was rainy, so we went to the Urban Planning Museum and the Shanghai Museum. And did more laundry! We also made a return visit to an AWESOME vegetarian restaurant we found the day before, near West Nanjing Road metro station, called Vegetarian Life Style.

vegetarian life style, take II

It was really good food. Lots of mock meat, but the mock meat was actually really tasty! We had a mock roast pork which was extremely tasty (and we have been talking about it ever since) - very similar to the real thing, sweet and crispy on the outside and eerily close on the inside. (I’m not opposed to mock meat, I’m not vegetarian because I don’t like meat! I don’t eat it often, but I do miss eating meat sometimes - this was a good compromise!)

They don’t use any MSG or much oil - which can be a big hazard in Chinese cooking - and emphasize local and organic ingredients. The picture menu is extensive and easy to order off of! The second time we had some green veg with mushrooms, sweet and sour “pork” and dumplings. Yum yum. Seriously, highly recommended.


Conclusions? Shanghai is a weird place. It’s trying to expand and grow and modernize, but it’s trying to do too much, too fast! The entire city is pretty much a construction zone. It’s a very grimy, polluted city as well. First impressions in the taxi from the airport weren’t very good - the buildings look really worn and gross. The pollution has a lot to do with it, finishes on the buildings break down fast and they don’t seem to have been appropriately chosen in the first place.

new and old

In the city, traditional housing (which hasn’t been kept in shape and was really slums) is being razed and replaced with trendy, expensive condos and office buildings which the inhabitants are shipped out of the area to cookie-cutter government built low income housing.

Overall we had an okay experience, Shanghai isn’t my favourite city but it does have some fun…staying in the apartment really elevated the experience since we had somewhere nice to call home! Food was good, the transportation was okay (so many taxis though, we used maps to show the drivers where we wanted to go) but a couple of days of the pollution was more than enough!

(P.S. If you’re interested, there’s lots more photos of all my travels at Flickr!)

Jan 25: Tokyo, again

Saturday, February 14th, 2009 | adventures, world2009 | 8 Comments

(I can’t believe I’m so far behind on the blog posts! Arghhh.)

On the 25th we got up at a reasonable hour and headed out to Kyoto station to head back to Tokyo - we took a different entrance so we stumbled upon a great food stall in the basement somewhere that had lots of onigiri (triangle-shaped rice with filling, wrapped in seaweed) and inari sushi (sweetened tofu sheet with rice inside). Yum yum. I wish I’d learned a little earlier in the trip to ask for konbu (kelp) onigiri!

mmmm, inari zushi

(Vig enjoying an inari sushi.)

We took the shinkansen back to Tokyo, and even got to see Mt. Fuji from the window! We checked back into the same hotel we stayed in the first time - it was like coming home. Man, Tokyo was so awesome. After a little rest we decided to do one last sightseeing push for Tokyo - first up was Roppongi Hills, a pretty fancypantsy condo-entertainment complex with a movie theatre, a huge fancy mall, lots of restaurants and such.

And a huge spider sculpture.

spider at Roppongi Hills

To complete our upscale Roppongi experience we had a snack in a local coffee shop, Koots. They had great green tea, slightly weird vegetable-soy soup, and an even weirder cheese-and-olive onigiri!

Then it got a little darker and we headed to check out Harajuku - didn’t see too many dressed up people, but there was some good walking around and looking. Lots of crepe shops and clothing shops!


From Harajuku we walked along Omotesando street, which has all the designer stores. More fancy stuff! We looked for a restaurant listed online, but didn’t find it. Sort of desperate and hungry, we finally stumbled upon a treasure trove of vegetarian food - a Japanese health food store! I think it was called something like Nature House or something like that. They had a fair amount of prepared veggie Japanese foods in the store, and we picked up some nice oranges to snack on too. I think for food we got some stirfried veggies (beans! glorious green beans!), some salad, rice, and a tofu dish.

One more stop on our way back to the hotel to eat was the intersection at Shibuya station, which is a HUGE scramble intersection. Fun for photos, although a bit tough at night!

shibuya at night

Back in our hotel we ate up our health food store dinner and packed up for the trip to Shanghai!

website woes

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 | adventures, site admin, world2009 | 4 Comments

Sigh, my site is so up and down! Dreamhost is apparently working on some problems with my server cluster but doesn’t seem to be really fixing the problem, so I need to decide whether to change to a new server cluster. Not stuff I particularly want to deal with right now!

I’m in Chennai right now - it’s rather warm (although not as warm as Kuala Lumpur was) but relaxing since we’re staying with family. And I actually get to knit! I started a Peacock Feathers shawl with some yummy teal laceweight cashmere that I got at Rhinebeck. Sitting and knitting is just what I need right now.

I’m still working on catching up the blog on adventures in Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and here - but now we’re taking another side trip starting tomorrow so I’m not sure when things will be done!

If the site goes down again don’t worry - I’ll be back! And I probably should’ve said this earlier but - since internet access is a bit in and out replies to emails might be a bit delayed! I’ll be back home at the beginning of March.

Jan 22-24: kyoto wanderings

Monday, February 9th, 2009 | adventures, photography, world2009 | 4 Comments

Whew! I didn’t realize the blog was down until just yesterday! I didn’t have internet access for a few days so I had no idea. Sorry!

Here’s my attempt at trying to catch up some more - I have steady internet now so I’m going to try and write up a bunch of posts and spread out the publishing. Everything’s kind of a blur but I’ll try my best to remember!

January 22nd (Thursday) we took the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto, about a 2.5 hour trip. It was a little rough on me, so I basically slept a bit and didn’t do much else. We checked into our hostel (K’s House) which was clean and fine, but the shared bathroom situation kinda sucked. The room was a pretty teeny box, not much room for our packs really! But the bed was comfortable, it was quite cheap, and they had a decent breakfast buffet.

Armed with a Lonely Planet guide rented from the hostel, we managed to find a really awesome vegetarian restaurant close by, Machapuchare. It’s a Nepalese-Japanese restaurant, basically in a family home. Excellent food - we had the obanzai set, which is basically a set meal of various vegetablely goodness, soup, and rice.

vegetarian restaurant, kyoto

It was raining, but after dinner we wandered around some laneways and pedestrian streets. Very pretty with lots of lanterns and things, and as we later discovered, walking around them is one of the only things to do in Kyoto at night!

kyoto at night

The next morning we headed out sort of along a walking tour from Lonely Planet, along some pretty winding streets heading upwards to a bunch of different temples. Pretty little shops, but pretty touristy of course.

teacup/pot store

We visited a lot of temples in Kyoto (there are so many to see!) so they all kind of blend together, but this one is the highest one in Kyoto (I think!).

Kiyomizudera temple

This is a pedestrian-only laneway which is so pretty. Of course I can’t remember what it’s called or anything, but it’s in Lonely Planet!

pretty laneway

For food we ended up at the Nishiki food market, which is a covered arcade of stalls selling fresh fish, meat, produce, and other various wet and dry goods. Took us awhile to find something, but we did end up with some decent udon and tofu. Thank goodness for plastic food so we could tell if they had anything vegetarian!

Saturday was our last day in Kyoto, and we started out by taking the subway down to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, which is a huge shrine. The grounds are famously known for the thousands of torii, big orange-red gates which line the various trails up the mountain. The trails go on for about 4km, but we just walked maybe 1 before turning back.

fushimi-inari gates

The gates are plain on one side and have writing carved on the other. And the colour is super tough to photograph!

fushimi-inari gates

Next on our last push of sightseeing in Kyoto was Chion-in Temple, which in my mind is characterized by a steep staircase to get to the temple building! It was really cool because we got to go into the temple where the monks were praying.

Chion-in Temple

That last night we moved from the hostel to a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.

ryokan kyoraku

It was super cute, spotless and comfy! Who knew sleeping on the floor could be so comfortable? Clearly, the Japanese.

Whew. The next day we traveled back to Tokyo and had a crazy packed day there, which I’ll save for the next post!

Days 1-4: Travel and Tokyo

Saturday, January 31st, 2009 | adventures, world2009 | 18 Comments

Hello from China!

Well, I’ve been in Beijing for a day after a week in Japan and another couple days in Shanghai, but if I don’t start blogging now I might never catch up. So, a brief bit about our trip to Tokyo! I’ve got to write fast because we really need to get to bed, so here I go…we’ll see how far I get, but I’ll try my best to catch you all up.

We left Toronto on Sunday January 18th early, and despite a bunch of delays in leaving Pearson, we were able to make our connection in Chicago to get on our Japan Airlines flight. The plane was pretty underbooked, so we had three seats for the two of us, which was nice - but 13 hours is still way too long to be sitting on a plane! I think I watched bits of Mamma Mia and Wall-e a bunch of times.

We landed (thanks to the time change) in Tokyo on Monday in the afternoon and took the train from Narita to Tokyo, then the subway to what would be our home-base train station, Ikebukuro. I had a bit of a freakout in Shinjuku station when we needed to change onto a very crowded train in rush hour.


First impressions? Well, definitely disbelief that we were in Japan! There were lots of lights and lots to look at. The first night we just went to the hotel, then took a bit of a walk around the area, and tried to find vegetarian food (a theme for our trip, really).

The next morning we headed out and took another walk around, checked out the Ueno area, had soba for lunch (turning a blind eye to whatever was in the broth, probably fish) and walked around Akihabara. Akihabara (Electric City) is an area with a ton of shops selling all sorts of electronics and such.


Wednesday we were able to meet up with an awesome reader, Rhonda, who offered to take us (okay, me) yarn and crafty shopping. We went out to a cool neighbourhood whose name escapes me at the moment - at any rate, it was a really cute, interesting neigbourhood that we wouldn’t have ventured out to on our own. First stop? Avril - aka Habu!

at avril

My photos kind of suck, but I did end up with some yummy yarn - photos of that will have to wait though. Rhonda was awesome enough to look up a nearby vegetarian restaurant, which was probably the first really satisfying veggie meal of our trip. After lunch, we headed to Yuzawaya, a crazy huge department store which was all crafty stuff! They really have everything - yarn, fabric, beads, everything.

yuzawaya craziness!

No yarn for me here, but I did pick up a bunch of Japanese books.

When we split from Rhonda, we headed out to Tokyo station to walk by the Imperial Palace and out to Ginza to check out some shops.

Tokyo station

(Tokyo station’s under rather major renovation/restoration.)

Whew. Long post! Up next, an excursion on the bullet train!

top-down shoulder warmer

Friday, January 16th, 2009 | adventures, design, knitting, patterns, sweaters, world2009 | 23 Comments

It’s been busy around here, trying to get everything ready and organized for the trip - getting together everything we need, preparing to leave for a goodly amount of time, and of course, deciding on knitting! I *think* I finally know what I’m going to take, but I’m still second guessing myself. Well, more on that later.

The big excitement/panic for the week was the disappearance of my passport! That was a little too exciting, actually - Vig (my travel partner and best friend) got his from the Indian Consulate with his Indian visa on Tuesday, while mine….didn’t show up. Not on Wednesday either. And the Canada Post website was showing it as successfully delivered on Tuesday at 11am. Uh oh! Since we needed a day for the rush passport, and a day each for 2 rush visas, we had to start the process for getting me a new passport on Thursday - but as soon as I started that process, if my old one showed up it would be invalid!

Wednesday night, freaking out quite a lot, I went and got new passport photos and filled out a new passport application and the declaration of a lost passport form. Thursday morning we went to the passport office and also called Canada Post a heck of a lot of times, and called my sister at home a bunch of times (to check the mail).

To keep this long story from getting any longer, the passport arrived in my mailbox on Thursday just before noon, at the Last Possible Second - I was at the booth at the passport office, asking the nice man how long the rush would take while he was looking over my application, when Vig ran up, grabbed me, and said “DON’T DO IT!”. He was on the phone with my sister, and the passport had just arrived at my house.

I bought my sister a treat - she was home sick from school and put up with us calling every 10 minutes to ask if the mail was there!

Anyway, hopefully that’s the most exciting (in a negative way) thing that happens re: this trip. We leave on Sunday morning early, heading out to the airport at about 5:30am, and we land in Tokyo on Monday at 1400 local time. There’s still a ton of stuff to do tonight and tomorrow, so I’d better get to the main event of this long and rambly post!

shoulder warmer

I’ve re-photographed, re-formatted, and re-sized this little shrug that I worked up for the store - and you can buy a copy for yourself!

Top-Down Shoulder Warmer
[Rav Link]

Whether you’re new to knitting garments or just looking for a little instant gratification, this top- down shrug is the place to start! Versatile, easy to adapt and quick to knit up in worsted weight yarn. Dress it up in something slinky over a fab outfit, or throw it on over a t-shirt with your favourite jeans. This Shoulder Warmer goes with anything, anytime!

XS (S, M, L, XL, 2X, 3X)
Back Size: 13 (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20) inches, measured across the back from armpit to armpit.
To fit bust: 28 (32, 36, 40, 44, 48, 52) inches

Worsted weight yarn: 340 (400, 430, 475, 550, 620, 750) yards
Shown in Berroco Ultra Alpaca, size M, 2 skeins.

5mm circular needles, 24 inches or longer
5.5 m circular needles, 24 inches or longer
stitch markers
tapestry needle
waste yarn

20 sts and 28 rows = 4” in stockinette stitch on 5mm needles.

shoulder warmer, back


Download by Ravelry and payment by Paypal (registrations for both sites is not necessary).

$5.00 USD




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