Archive for April, 2011

Shanghai to Disney up it’s Pudong

April 12, 2011

In what has to be the world capital for humans (both male and female) wearing articles of clothing featuring Disney characters, China has finally announced that work on its very first Disneyland has commenced. While there is an existing Disneyland in Hong Kong – which I guess is China, exorbitant travel and document costs for actually leaving the country prevent most Mainland Chinese from actually visiting it.

The new 24.4 billion Yuan ($3.7 billion) Disney will be situated in Shanghai’s Pudong district, with over five thousand residents being forcibly relocated elsewhere to make room. This makes me wonder exactly where in Pudong it’s being placed, as Pudong in itself is largely a newly developed area (well within years as opposed to decades etc). Many of the buildings here are high rise business offices and many new communities – including expat oasis’s. It makes me wonder whether these relocated people are existing residents, or those who felt largely secure being established in a new area, and have been given the marching orders again!

While the Hong Kong Disney has been criticized for underwhelming attendance figures, its own interest-building expansion also currently underway, you can basically guarantee that once the doors open to this new Shanghai Disney….well I think we might be seeing some record breaking queues on the horizon. This place is going to get _swamped_ by Chinese tourists. If you’re of western descent and really wish to visit a Disneyland…I think you’ll be better off going to effectively any other Disney J

Kappaya, Japanese Soul Food

April 10, 2011

We didn’t have any specific plans on Saturday afternoon so spontaneously decided to head out to Abbotsford Convent. Friends had previously recommended a tiny Japanese restaurant called Kappaya so it was time to check it out!

Abbotsford Convent is a beautiful old collection of buildings, inhabited by largely bohemian style eateries. I have been there on several occasions as on our return home from China, Courtney actually started working there, kick-starting her foray into conference management.

Anyhow, it’s a big old Convent with a long and interesting history. While once upon a time it was home to those naughty women who had sex out of wedlock, then forced into Nundom (is that a word?), it’s now a super popular venue for weddings, markets and people wanting some cruisy weekend food. Most of the eateries are primarily based around outdoor seating, so it’s atmospheric with the odd musician on hand, amusing the dining crews.

Beneath the leafy green fronds of a beautiful tree, Kappaya bills itself as Japanese Soul Food. I can’t say I entirely know what Japanese Soul Food is supposed to be, but if it’s trying to channel a tiny piece of Japan onto your plate(s), well I can tell you it definitely succeeds on that front.

I always find a restaurant a little more convincing when its operated by people of the same nationality. Japanese food is so much more than just the beautifully prepared items are placed before you. It’s imperative that in order to have the real Japanese experience, it is provided by actual Japanese people. Sure, other people can cook the same food, possibly close to the real deal, but nothing beats real Japanese provided cuisine. There are a number of Chinese run Japanese restaurants around town, and I swear, they just don’t have the same heart.

We were guided to our seats by a friendly Japanese girl who provided us with two hand-written menus. She was infectiously polite, warm and friendly – reminding us both of the amazing people we met whilst in Japan. I had gone to Japan with a cultural stereotype in mind. I expected the Japanese to be shy and demure, never making eye-contact and being generally awkward to deal with. The opposite could not have been more true. Where the Chinese were shy to the point of going vague, the Japanese were always so wonderfully friendly, always so intuitive as to our needs. There was never a language barrier as even when their English was almost non-existent, they still knew what we wanted. This waitress reminded me of those people, and immediately I knew it was going to be a great lunch.

The menu was a little light on choices which I guess means the restaurant only focused on lunches. The choice was basically between Bento boxes, or seperate Onigiri (Hand-made rice balls). The Bento’s were $12.00 a pop, allowing you to choose two Onigiri from a short list, then choosing another two dishes from a short list of three. I have been absolutely hankering for Onigiri since getting home from Japan – having totally missed the little gems you would find in Seven Elevens of all places.

I went with Tofu & Miso, and Sour and Spicy vegetable Onigiri, combined with Crispy vegetable chips and some form of boiled chicken. This came accompanied by a delightful Japanese pickled salad. The whole meal was absolutely delicious, not coming in a traditional Bento box, but an assortment of dainty dishes. Id have to say the highlight was the thinly sliced pickled red onion that came with the Vege chips – oh yeah!

Seriously, this place was a magnificent little find. While it cost us $48.00 total (thanks to 3 Yebisu beers $7 per pop, ouch!), the two Bento’s at only $12.00 each was a steal. While it might not look as Japanesey as some of the other places around, it was most definitely a little slice of Japan. Completing the meal with a slice of Green Tea cake – one of our favourite finds in China, was just the proverbial icing.

Kappaya

(03) 9419 6350

233 Johnston St

Abbotsford, 3067

Translate this! Fānyì zhège!

April 6, 2011

I was poking around last and found myself using Google’s translator. Once upon a time I used to use Babelfish, but in recent years, Google translator has seemingly become more convenient. I’d normally only use it to translate the odd Chinese character, or sometimes to translate entire articles on the Tian Yi Middle School’s website, just keeping up to date with the goings on at the school since our departure.

The translators themselves have always been pretty average. It’s near on impossible to convert entire sentences as there are simply too many structural and grammatical differences between English and Chinese. While translating individual words is mostly fine, sentences come out as absolute garble. It is better than nothing though, and you can usually get the general gist of a sentence.

Last night however I noticed that the Google translator must have received a recent Chinese overhaul. It used to only give you the English-> Character translation, either Simplified or Traditional. It now actually gives you the English-> Pinyin translation, along with an actual audio version you can listen to. I have to say, this little addition is freakin awesome!

I know a lot of Chinese words and am constantly looking for ways to expand my overall knowledge. This translator lets me not only reaffirm things I already know, but add to them. In a way it answers questions I have without needing to specifically bring up a dictionary – and/or ask a Chinese person.

While it’s still not flawless, if you break down sentences so that they are quite simplistic, the results so far have been quite accurate. For example – I already know that bored is wu liao. Plugging in I am bored gives me the correct Wǒ wúliáo, giving me the tones and letting me hear it. Very very cool.

Hi my name is Marcus – Nǐ hǎo wǒ de míngzì shì mǎ kù sī. Not that I have a Chinese name(yet!) but that looks pretty damned accurate to me. Colour me impressed 🙂

True Legend

April 3, 2011

The other night I watched a movie called True Legend (simplified Chinese: 苏乞儿; traditional Chinese: 蘇乞兒; pinyin: Sū qǐ ér). While I am not a massive fan of martial arts movies, I have a definite soft spot for those set in Period China. Not just Period China, but those that deliver on the, I suppose you would call it Chinese mythology. Larger than life martial arts heroes…you know, the kind that dance across rooftops, bound over water etc. True Legend was definitely a movie in that spirit and on that level, I have to say it really did deliver.

If you liked movies such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Red Cliff or even Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (which I also saw recently and really enjoyed!), then chances are you’ll like this movie. While the plot was nothing amazing, and it had an entire 40-50ish minute ending scene which was a bit…um why is this even in the movie, but beyond that, it had some of the best fight choreography that I have seen in any movie of its kind in recent times.

The fighting in movies like this becomes a feature unto itself. When its pulled off properly, when it looks natural, it can be a really, really enjoyable thing. True Legend was definitely about the combat. On top of that it also had some really interesting locations.

It was also refreshing to watch a movie that was in Mandarin, not Cantonese. I really do not like Cantonese. Mandarin has a much nicer sound to it, Cantonese sounds too plucky too me, too Vietnamese. The lah’s on the end of everything….I just do not like the sound of it. I was able to make out a large number of different things from the Mandarin dialogue which was really satisfying. Though for every one thing i knew, there was twenty I didnt.

Anyway, tangent aside, check this movie out. Ignore the last 40-50 minutes, ignore the fact the main character, Su Can, is played by an actor with a bit of a pansy look/voice, (Man Cheuk Chiu who I am actually not overly familiar with), and actually, ignore everything in that last part. It had poor dialogue, poor acting, and even the combat was nothing to write home about. I’m not really selling this am I?


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