Since I got 3 emails in the past month asking about reasonable (about 100USD/night) hotels in Hong Kong, I figured it warranted a post. Unless I’m staying with friends or there for work, I always stay at the Cosmo hotel (www.cosmohotel.com.hk) in Causeway Bay. It’s a 2 minute walk from Times Square, design-oriented, clean and nice and convenient. Rooms aren’t huge, but unless you decide to go 4-5* there’s really no point in spending more money. The Cosmopolitan Hotel is literally next door and I haven’t really worked out any real differences: same owners, same price range, same location and nearly the same name. I guess “Cosmo” is for the younger, hipper people? www.cosmopolitanhotel.com.hk When my friends splurge they usually stay at Upper House in Central: www.upperhouse.com

I finally found a halfway decent website that answers the time old question of “where is nice this time of year”? Of course, weather isn’t an exact science but this website let’s you fill in criteria about temperature, humidity, region and rates countries against your preferences. Ideally they would go down one more level to region so that a country wouldn’t get a bad rating because only part of it has rainy season where other areas may be very nice that time of year. Weather2Travel

These notes are from my trip last winter, but Ho Chi Minh City doesn’t change quite as fast as Shanghai:

Food
SH garden – 143 hai ba trung
Seafood with live entertainment: Ngoc suong marina – 19C le quy don Q3
Best Pho IN THE WORLD: Pho hoa pasteur 260 pasteur
Soft crab: 94 Thuy Restaurant 84 Dinh tien Hoang dist 1
Cafe Terrace @ the Saigon Center: great for a snack if you’re in the area

Bars
Temple club – 29 Ton That Thiep St, District 1
Cage – 3A Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1
Lush Bar – 2 Ly Tu Trong Street District 1
The Refinery – an old Opium refinery that’s been converted into a bar on the second floor with a (french?) restaurant on the ground floor. 74 Hai Ba Trung, District 1
Q bar (in the bottom of the opera house) – 7 Cong Truong Lam Son, District 1

Another ultra successful holiday! Despite some tricky logisitics (coordinating people from Sydney, Chicago, Shanghai) we pulled it off. It was my first time in Phuket and it was nice, but I prefer less developed and a bit quieter.

HOWEVER, it can’t get much quieter than sailing around the Andaman for 4 days. We booked the Seraph through Latitude 8 Yachts for 3 nights/4 days  – we started in Chalon and went down to Racha Yai and Racha Noi, then headed up to Kai Nok and Rang Yai  and then back to Chalon. We decided to spring for the crew and a cook – Ooi did an PHENOMINAL job of catering for us – every meal was amazing: seafood, curries, veggies, papaya salad.. any dish that was put down disappeared pretty much immeadiately. It was a splurge, but well well worth it.

While in Phuket we stayed at a new Boutique Hotel that is still in soft opening, but clearly will be one of the most interesting places to stay in the near future: B-Laytong. It’s at the very end of Patong beach (well away from the heart of it) with a gorgeous pool and beautiful rooms. Geared more towards the party crowd (club to open downstairs), this is not really a hotel for families. All the rooms have double-glazed windows so despite being on a busy road, the rooms are very very quiet. And the hotel restaurant is also impressive – we had a fabulous last lunch there and one of the best hotel breakfasts on offer each morning.

On recommendation from our boat capitain some of us went up to Rang Yai for the last 2 nights – we stayed in clean but very basic bungalows that were more like camping than a hotel (which is what we wanted). We had some “visitors” (nothing poisonous, but big enough to unsettle more than 1 member of our entourage). Not for everyone, but we loved hearing the waves at night and the beaches were beautiful and empty. Cost of a bungalow (1000THB) includes free use of sea kayaks, snorkel gear and breakfast. The restaurant isn’t cheap (about 400THB/pp for dinner), but the food is decent enough.

I was asked to put this together for an HR on-boarding, but I figured I would post here. These are not in any order of importance:

1.      Avocado lady

Cheap avocados, fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme) cheap smoked salmon and (domestic) mozzarella. She also knows all the names for veggies in fruits in English. WAY cheaper than any grocery store and overall better quality.

Address: 274 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Wuyuan Lu
Chinese Address: 乌鲁木齐中路274号, 近五原路

2.      Booking CNY trips/online travel booking

If you want options that won’t break the bank, start booking in October. I generally compare ctrip.com and elong.com and if you have someone to help you navigate Chinese travel sites qunar.com compares all the online travel agencies for the lowest price.

www.ctrip.com

www.elong.com

http://hk.travelzen.com/index.php?type=flightDom

www.qunar.com

http://www.tripww.com/index.php

3.      HiShanghai Iphone App and/or Guanxi SMS service

Comprehensive listings as well as a Yelp-like service to find what’s around you. Leverages Google maps to show you where things are. TOTALLY worth $5. If you don’t have an iPhone you can use the guanxi SMS service to get addresses – text the name of the restaurant/bar/store to 106695882929. Reply to the result that matches what you’re looking for with “C” to get the address in Chinese. Cityfu.com is also a good venue search option for mobile.

4.      12593 cheap international calling service (China Mobile Users)

Call 10086 to activate this service. Add 12593 + 00 + country code to make cheap international calls from your mobile phone – IP cards be gone! Rates vary on the country you are calling but US/Canada rates are RMB .40/minute (USD$0.05).

5.      Online classifieds

I have always bought kitchen stuff, couches, etc from the online classifieds. Shanghai is a transient city – take advantage of people leaving who are trying to ditch their stuff.

http://shanghai.craigslist.com.cn/sss/

http://enjoyshanghai.com/buy-sell/

http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/classifieds/for-sale-wanted/?

http://www.shanghaisecondhand.com/

6.      Street Map

Smartshanghai has the best streetmap – bit hard to find itty bitty side streets but overall very useful (you can also overlay the metro map or the Happy Hour map) – http://www.smartshanghai.com/maps/smsh_map.php

7.      Online grocery shopping

http://www.smartdirect.cn – this is the main grocer I use. Same day delivery if you order before 3:00, except on weekends, you have to order on Friday for Sat or Sun delivery

http://feidan.cn/ – specialize in Italian/European stuff, weekend order/delivery

http://www.cityshop.com.cn  – City Super online groceries, same day delivery if you order early enough

http://www.helekang.com/english – organic veggies

http://www.shorganic.com/delivery_en.html – organic veggies

8.      What’s going on?

These are the best places to check out what’s going on in Shanghai

Smart Shanghai – http://www.smartshanghai.com/

City Weekend – http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/

That’s Shanghai (urbanatomy) – http://urbanatomy.com/

Shanghaiist – http://shanghaiist.com/

CNN GO Shanghai Minisite – http://www.cnngo.com/shanghai/

China “ticketmaster” equivalent – http://www.culture.sh.cn/English/

Second “ticketmaster” option – http://www.mypiao.com/

9.      Books

“Classics” are only 15RMB in any Chinese book store, if that’s your thing. If it’s not you

Non-classics can be found at:

Garden Books – 325 Changle Road, near Shaanxi Nan Road. Tel: 021 5404 8729.

Shanghai Book Mall – 701 Huaihai Zhong Lu

Charter Books

Shop B1-K, Shanghai Times Square, 99 Huaihai Zhong Lu ,
Luwan
near Pu’an Lu, Metro Line 1 Huangpi Nan Lu Station

Shop 104, Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu ,
Nanjing Xi Lu
near Tongren Lu, Metro Line 2 Nanjing Xi Lu Station

10.     “2 for 1” massage

Almost every massage place (excluding the BIG chains like Dragonfly) have 2 for 1 massages if you walk in the door before 6PM. Butterfly massage has 100RMB for 1 hour foot and 1 hour body:

Lane88 Huichuan Lu,
Zhongshan Park
near Changning Lu
匯川路88弄
近长宁路

29 Wuxing Lu,
Xuhui
near Huaihai Lu
吴兴路29号
近淮海路

I was bemoaning the lack of a “yelp”-like iphone app for Shanghai that leverages GPS to make restaurant/shopping/etc recommendations based on my location. Turns out, there is one! HiShanghai has arrived on the scene and it’s pretty good! I compared it against my friend’s much more $$ Shanghai app and it had better features and more thorough listings. Totally worth $4.99. It regularly gets updated with new listings and events.

http://www.smartdirect.cn/default.aspx?Lang=en-us – this is the main grocer I use. Same day delivery if you order before 3:00, except on weekends, you have to order on Friday for Sat or Sun delivery

http://feidan.cn/ – specialize in Italian/European stuff, weekend order/delivery

http://www.cityshop.com.cn/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TopCategories1_10601_10551_-1– City Super online groceries, same day delivery if you order early enough

Clubs: I preface this list by saying that I don’t really go to clubs much anymore, but my friends do and this is where they go. Just for context, we are in our early 30’s.:

 Shelter – in an old bomb shelter, mostly electronic music, can get v crowded, but fun

M1NT – big fancy club , long lines on Friday and Saturday after 9

Yuyingtang – live music, mostly chinese bands, younger crowd but fun

JZ – Great  live Jazz venue

Sin – may need to be on a list or reserve a table, depending on the night. Overall a good crowd.

Mao – used to be “the place”, then it fell off the radar and is now making a comeback. Also electronic/house music

Velvet Lounge – this is a bar and a club, gets packed from about 11 onwards. Can be a little seedy at times, but fun.

C’s – if seedy is your thing, this is as divvy as they come in Shanghai.

(all addresses can be found on http://www.smartshanghai.com)

Mr. & Mrs Bund – Contenental (and on the Bund of course.. v new)
Coconut Grove – gorgeous colonial house with great garden for eating outside. Best Thai food in Shanghai
Fu 1088 – Shanghainese food in an old villa VERY good (English menu) http://shmag.cn/place/fu_1088
Lost Heaven – Yunnan (chinese) food in lovely atmostphere
Haiku by Hatsume – creative sushi
Pinchuan – sichuan
F.C.C – Vietnamese
M1NT – fusion, high-end
Issimo – Italian
Sichuan Citizen – casual Sichuan (and next door to Dragonfly Massage so you can combine the 2)
Sun with Aqua – Japanese
Mr.Willis – feels like you’re in SF, if you’re veggie you won’t like it, but it’s one of my favorites. Have to make a reservation. They also have a great brunch.
El Willy – great tapas (need to have a reservation)
Di Shui Dong (2 locations) – cheap and cheerful Hunan food, famous for their ribs
Tian Jia – specialize in Toro (fatty tuna)
City Deli – http://www.citydeli.cn/ great sandwhichs for delivery
Pho Real – nice little vietnamese place, v casual

(all addresses can be found on http://www.smartshanghai.com)
El coctel – where the expats go who have been here a while, lively
Abbey Road – neighborhood pub, good happy hour, packed after work
Cotton’s on Anting lu – old houe converted into bar with snacks. Fireplaces, etc. Even nice to go on weekend afternoon and read.
Ci5 – tiny Japanese cocktail bar
Constellation 2 – whiskey bar, v chill
Enoteca (2 locations) – fun wine bar
Kaiba – Belgian Beer pub
Kiitos – japanese sake bar
hof – cocktail and desert bar, great for after dinner

Flickr Photos