Category: That’s Shangai(China)



A Hedonist’s Guide to South East Asia

 

The infamous bucket cocktails

 Whether you’re ‘soul searching’ on a year off, cultivating a plume of dreadlocks, or an accountant-gone-wild, South-East Asia holds an endless banquet of hedonism, stuffed with marathon happy-hours and non-existent safety regulations. Here are some highlights.

Beach life. Nha Trang, Vietnam

Sailing club by day

If Shanghai is deemed the Paris of the East then surely the Vietnamese beach town of Nha Trang’s spangled high-rise hotels and riotous nightlife render it the Magaluf of the East? Nha Trang earned its debauched stripes during the Vietnam War where it was a stop-off for American soldiers on leave. It has since evolved and the Sailing Club, situated on the town’s prized 4km beach, is a launching pad for banana boating, paragliding and more.

By day an innocent sailing establishment, but come night the stabilizers are removed and Sailing Club becomes a popular nightspot with beach parties every Saturday. Elsewhere the backpacker hub Red Apple Bar serves up an imperial sized cocktail simply titled ‘the Bucket’, a multi-litre shrine to spirits. Pending a recovery, you can visit the nearby Vinpearl amusement park which, like Dr.Evil’s volcano lair, has its own island.

If you ever need to resurge from  the swirls of hedonism and add some culture to your diet, rent a motorcycle and head inland to experience the rugged Ho Chi Minh Highway, made famous by James ‘I wanna be forever young’ May and assorted Top Gear cronies. Alternatively, get your grill on at local hot-spot Lac Canh Restaurant which serves raw meat and fish marinated in traditional spices to be tossed onto your table-top bbq.

Hedonist rating: ***

In the tube. Vang Vieng, Laos

In the Tube

The four hour bus ride from Lao’s capital, Vientiane, to the hedonistic outpost of Vang Vieng is treacherous; the road winds tipsily through mountains while branches scrape against the bus like the gnarled limbs of the undead. Why is it then that I count myself more fortunate to have survived the tubing itself than this near-suicidal crusade?

For those not acquainted, tubing constitutes perching on an inflatable ring and offering yourself to the mercy of the river. As you float downstream clusters of flimsy wooden bars jut out, seemingly constructed by Ewoks because of the rope swings and zip-wires hanging menacingly from their skeletal rafters. Each ready to ensnare the drunken traveller.

Besides the $1 cocktail buckets and free shots of local whiskey, every bar has a unique feature, from beer pong to mud wrestling, to attract people. Sceptical? Then you can look forward to being roped in by the bartenders’ homemade lassos.

Staggeringly, this marathon bender is merely the warm up and night time sees the unveiling of bingeing establishments like the Bucket Bar. Where, with such slogans as “Get Bucked at the Fucket Bar,’ you know it’s not going to be an evening aperitif at the Grand Hyatt.

Hedonist rating: *****

Rambo Returns. Phonm Penh, Cambodia

Menus have a funny knack of legitimising things. In Cambodia’s capital, Phonm Penh, when you are confronted by a laminated sheet of paper in a cafe, offering opium tea, magic mushroom milkshakes and marijuana pizzas you feel like Pablo Escobar quantifying amounts for a drug run. Similarly, the nearby Air Borne shooting range has a menu wrought with guns ranging from Ak47s ($40 for 30 bullets) to the bone-shaking RPG Rocket Launcher($200 for 1 RPG), all available to shoot. Suddenly you become Rambo, equipping yourself for a solo mission to depose a sinister Asian dictator.

 A claustrophobic half-hour tuk-tuk drive from the city centre, the firing range is owned by the Cambodian military, meaning your gratuitous pumping of a 12-gauge shotgun is occasionally interrupted by camouflaged regiments marching past. Although you shoot at paper targets, off-menu requests can see the targets being replaced by livestock such as geese($10), cows($100) and even alligators. Well, it is one alternative to the zoo.

Back in the city, you can drown such memories in Sharky’s Bar, the expat den of decadence has a long-standing drinking challenge to sink your teeth into. To finish three hollowed-out mortar rounds, each containing 12 separate shots, in one night. Side-effects may vary.

Hedonist rating: ****

 

Lunar gathering .Koh Phangan, Thailand

Worshipped by witches, a friend of the werewolves and, in the case of Koh Phangan, the full moon is an excuse to get biblically drunk. Its imminent arrival heralds the trafficking of face-pounding sound systems and an exodus of 20,000 intrepid travellers to the small Thai island. With local hotels capacity touching 5,000 book months ahead for accommodation, the ever-fashionable Cocohut is a good starting bet. Otherwise be prepared for a night on the sand, where the morning aftermath is the stuff of Omaha Landing, Dunkirk.

On the hallowed ground of Haad Rin beach, professional partiers gather around the paint stations to get kitted out before entering the melee, money strapped to their chests like grenades. Besides the mandatory team of international DJs, you can expect some blazing entertainment in the form of professional fire-twirlers, jugglers and a barrage from an old acquaintance, the cheap cocktail bucket.  Anyone looking to dabble in the realm of narcotics be wary, all is not as it seems and the ‘happy pill’ you’re taking could be bovine steroids or, even worse, the red pill from the Matrix- then you’d be in all kinds of shit.

Hedonist rating: ****

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With cap in hand and trousers tucked firmly into pearly white  socks, we arrived at the gates of classic men’s tailor W.W. Chan seeking the err in our fashion ways. Here is their advice.

  Never do up the bottom button on a suit jacket    

Correct

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Incorrect

 
 
 
 
   

 
 

   

 
 
 
 
    
 

If your fashion sense treads gingerely in the wake of Shanghai’s metro staff, who do up all three buttons, then heed these words. During informal occasions you may leave the jacket open, in formal occasions, if you are wearing a three-button suit, button the top two buttons or the middle button. If it is a two-button suit, do up the top bottom. The reason? The bottom button was designed never to be done up and there should always be a parting at the bottom of the jacket. 

Keep your trousers at the natural waist level 

Correct

 
 
 
   

Incorrect

 A strong relationship with the local watering hole may have rendered your waistline somewhat unsustainable but be wary of wearing your trousers too high. The moment your belt wanders into the stratospheric heights of Simon Cowell’s waistline, help is required. Find the smallest part of your waist where the trousers cannot drop any further, this is the natural waist. Wear your trousers here unless you have a strong affiliation to rap music. If such is the case, have the waste cut wider and the crotch of the trousers correctly fittted, creating low waist trousers.
   

 Never wear a jacket with too long sleeves     

Correct

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

Incorrect

Leaving any pocket rulers aside, try to show at least 10cm of shirt cuff. Some may want to be slightly ranchier and show off more of their shirt cuff. If this is you, purchase a longer sleeved shirt with a wider cuff. But be wary of going too far, the full cuff of the shirt should not stick out of the sleeve when the wearer raises his arm. Such risks swing both ways, those who wear their jacket sleeves too long risk the sleeves rubbing against their skin. 

 Avoid brass buttons on a suit     
    

Correct

   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   

Incorrect

 Yes, they can be shined and carry some novelty appeal but wear brass buttons only on a blazer. Blazers worn nowadays are derived from club jackets and British navy jackets, the brass buttons reflect the jacket’s historical background. With this in mind, unless you want to look like the captain of a cruise liner, keep the tradition.     
 
Thou shalt never wear a brown belt and black shoes.     
 

Correct

Incorrect

Avoid this fashion faux-pas like the seven plagues of Egypt, for it will strike down your trousers leaving them with a dull colour clash. Match the colour of the belt and shoes to preserve style. Also, keep the belt’s designer logo subtle. No one wants to draw too much attention to that particular area, at least not in board meetings.
 

Full break or no break, you must choose     

Full Break

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     
 
 

No Break

 Two paths lie before you when choosing the length of the trousers. By wearing slightly longer trousers, the bottom of the trousers will brush the shoe’s heel and it will crease at the front, creating a full break. A style preferred by continental wearers, but also one which can look messy if the trousers are too long. On the other hand, shorter trousers have no break and present a youthful look, making the wearer’s legs appear longer.     
 
Observe the formula of the stripes 

Correct

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Incorrect


Take into account the wideness of the stripes when picking striped garments. If you wear a narrow striped jacket, a narrow striped shirt and a narrow striped tie together, then your outfit risks looking too busy. To become a friend of the stripe, you must follow the sacred formula; a wide striped jacket, a narrow striped shirt and a wide striped tie.


Once the arteries of imperialism, the Indian railway exudes a raw charm, derived from its imperfections. From its open doorways to six hour delays, nothing beats a ride on the Indian express. Set off with an open mind, and prepare for a few diversions. 

Delhi- The journey’s starting point and a baptism of fire for the newly-initiated tourist. In order to tackle Delhi’s plethora of sights, hire an all-day cab driver from your hotel. Bask in the meditative aura of the Lotus temple and accustom yourself with the Hindi gods in Lakshmi temple. Be prepared to wrestle against some of India’s most persistent hawkers, silence is the best option. 

AgraThe home of the Taj Mahal and its voluptuous curves. Wake up at 6am to view this milky-white wonder with the sun on her back, and get the perfect desktop photo. A half-hour cab ride away is the hauntingly deserted Fatehpur Sikri. The sandstone city was abandoned in 1599, after only 14 years of habitation, due to the lack of a water supply. 

 

Jaipur- A vibrant and chaotic city, Jaipur is coined the ‘pink city’ because it decorated its buildings in pink to welcome Queen Elizabeth II in 1876. Nowadays, such sights are rare but the pyramid-shaped palace of Hawa Mahal is an architectural feat to marvel. Sample Rajasthan’s distinctive dishes such as Gatte Ki Sabji, a rolled paste of chickpea flour and curry. 

the palace of the winds

Ajmer– Ajmer is a comparatively serene city, religiously significant because it houses a shrine to the Muslim prophet Mu’īnuddīn Chishtī. 11km away is the lakeside town of Pushkar, with 500 temples to accommodate the Hindi pilgrims who come to bathe in its lake and cleanse their sins. Unfortunately, the lake is now dried-up, after the local government dug up the lake bed, but its beauty remains. 

Pushker's dry lake

Jodpur– Jodpur holds the title of ‘blue city’, thanks to a sea of painted blue houses around the Mehrangarh Fort, a hill-top fort that is one of the largest in India. Get lost in the labyrinth of Jodpur’s markets, where you can browse the colorful array of hand-dyed fabrics. To escape the city, venture into the desert by camel and camp overnight in the dunes to catch a desert sunrise.

Udaipur-Udaipur has earned its title of Venice of the East because it is situated on a cluster of lakes. The city’s previous role as capital of the Merwar kingdom has yielded a number of majestic palaces. The most prominent of which, the Lake Palace hotel, is a five star hotel on its own island. The carvings adorning Jagdish Temple are a wondrous spectacle and the entrance is guarded by two stone elephants.

The city of lakes

Mumbai– Be wary of arriving into Mumbai too early, otherwise you’ll catch the city with its pants down, literally. The railway tracks are a communal toilet for local’s early-morning bowel movements. Dhobi Ghaut, where the city’s laundry is washed by hand, is a uniquely Indian spectacle. At night, take a taxi across the Bandra Worli Sea Link to look back on the city from the sea. Colaba’s art stores are a chance to pick up unique pictures, some of which have been painted with a single squirrel hair.

Dhobi Ghaut, Mumbai's laundromat


What’s happening around Asia this May.

Creamfields(Austrailia)

For the first time, electronic music festival Creamfields is going down-under. From 1-8 May, artists such as mixing maestro Steve Angello will be rousing crowds in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sidney.

Guangzhou Arts Festival (China)

Starting May 10, Guangzhou will host over 100 shows- including an Italian opera -in the ninth China Arts Festival. Chinese culture will be on display in the National Exhibition of Outstanding Fine Art Works.

Pulilan Carabao Festival (Phillipines)

Watch as villagers parade their Carabao through the streets in a sea of flowers, fruits and vegetables. The water buffalos are shaved and massaged with scented oil for the occasion.

Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan (Thailand)

Join 20,000 party-goers for the most notorious beach bash in the world. Visitors bask in a full moon before things heat up with fire-eaters and thumping dance beats.

Boun Bang Fai (Laos)

It may sound like the remix for a  Black Eyed Peas’ song, but this rocket festival is smoking. In a prayer for rain, locals compete for prizes such as the highest-flying rocket.

The Hijiras Eunuch Festival (India)

Starting May 3rd, this 15-day festival sees transsexuals from over India reenact the religious epic of Mahabharata. A tale about a Lord who dressed as a female to marry the eunuch, Rajakumaran.


Micro-loan experts Wokai launch in Shanghai

It started in 2006 with a US$300 loan to an impoverished woman in Sichuan. Two young Americans studying in Tsinghua observed first-hand how such a small sum of money allowed Mrs. Wei to open a food stall and how she soon started earning a stable income with which she could pay for her child’s education and healthcare. Having seen the relative ease with which the loan was paid back and its life-changing capabilities, Courtney McColgan and Casey Wilson made it their calling to provide similar opportunities to others in some of China’s most poverty-stricken areas. Wokai was born.
In the number-crunching world of banking, people with few possessions offer little insurance should they fail to pay back a loan. Throw in a rural location, lack of financial training and the modest amount of money a bank will recoup from small loans, and you’re left with the bottom line that lending to the impoverished is deemed a risk not worth taking. This leaves a sizeable chunk of the Chinese population with no chance to borrow money to improve their living standards.
Opening a branch in Shanghai this month, Wokai utilizes the practice of microfinance. Pioneered by Muhammed Yunus in 1980s Bangladesh and India (work for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize) it is the awarding of micro-sized loans to people who would otherwise have no access to capital, so that they can start their own businesses.
Wokai raise money via their accessible website (www.wokai.org) where they put people from around the world in touch with rural dwellers from Yilong County in Sichuan Province and Chifeng County in Inner Mongolia. Aspiring recipients can post profiles of themselves which include information like name, background, how much money they need and what they will spend it on.
Money donated then goes through Wokai’s field partners, experienced microfinancing institutions that use the benefit of local knowledge to determine the most viable options for a loan. As well as helping recipients post their profile, they also train them in running a small business and money management.
So far 297 people worldwide have benefited from this process. The typical recipient is a woman earning less than US$1.25 a day and the most popular use is for agricultural projects. But there are no limits – one entrepreneur bought a phone and charged her village to use it. They are also remarkably successful; to date 98.4 percent of loans have been paid back on time. Lehman Brothers, eat your heart out.
Only around 10 profiles are on the website at any one time, to ensure that each of the candidates is worthwhile and that they receive sufficient exposure to raise the full amount. Regulations in place in China prevent money that has entered the country from leaving it, which is why money is donated by individuals rather than loaned. Once it is repaid by the initial borrower, the donator decides who the loan should help next. In this way each donation keeps giving, assisting an unlimited number of people over time.
The Shanghai chapter is their sixth, following on from Beijing, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Seattle and New York, all of which raise awareness and funds for their two microfinance projects. Erica Chain, one of the founding members of the Shanghai branch, credits the website’s success to its ease of use. “You can pick your applicant, sit back and watch as your loan gets repaid.” The success has translated into 896 worldwide contributors and over US$150,000 raised in loans.
Wokai’s appeal lies in the personal experience it offers donors and the fact it makes economic sense. The loans are providing jobs, skills and opportunities to people in China’s poorest regions. Wokai is hoping to raise US$1 million by 2011 and to have helped 2,000 borrowers, and is setting its sights on more of China’s rural regions this year. The chance to change someone’s life is just a click away.

 Wokai are celebrating the launch of the Shanghai Chapter and their new 2.0 website (www.wokai.org) with a party at Maya at 6pm on Wednesday, April 7. Admission is RMB120 which gets you a drink and canapes (Maya donate RMB100 of it to Wokai)


This new Lebanese eatery makes the audacious claim of serving Shanghai’s best mint tea. Okay, perhaps tea-brewing isn’t the surest reflection of a restaurant’s quality, but it’s a mark of authenticity, something that is backed up by most of the food. The menu is loaded with all the standards one would expect. For starters, a fresh tabbouleh salad of chopped parsley, mint and cracked bulghur wheat comes highly recommended. Likewise, classics like hummus and baba ganoush have that perfect balance of texture and taste and that customary companion, pita bread, is pillowy and toasty hot. For mains, standards like shawarma and charcoal grilled lamb chops are both standouts. All in all a solid experience, but to complete the scene they need to get some real belly dancers on the floor, rather than the ones on the giant projector screens. Nothing beats the real deal. Sun-Thu 11.30am-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 11.30am-1am. All cards. G107, 2066 Nanjing Xi Lu, by Yan’an Zhong Lu (6249 0117) 南京西路2066号, 协和城G107(1), 近永源路


With the World Cup on the horizon we’re expecting a lot of Shanghai watering holes to convert into ‘sports bars’ over night, only to revert straight back after the final match. The Camel, however, is no mirage; this place is purpose-built for fans of just about every sport. The walls are festooned in the requisite clutter of sports memorabilia, there’s free foosball, billiards and darts and no vantage point is without a TV screen boasting every channel conceivable (they’ve even put one in the gents so you don’t miss a single play). And if your team gets trounced, you can retire to the back room and meditate on your dashed hopes on one of their comfy leather couches. The only hump we can’t get over is their drink prices. Offerings are a touch steep – prices hover around the RMB50 mark. But you can get around this by getting trolleyed during their half-priced happy hours from 4-8pm. Check websitefor events. Daily 11am-2am. All cards. 1 Fenyang Lu, 
by Yueyang Lu (6437 9446) 岳阳路1号, 近汾阳路


You clamber tipsily up the stairs, clutching a pair of extravagantly decorated underwear and slap them triumphantly on the bar. No, this isn’t the finale of a notorious pervert’s party, it’s one of the ridiculous communal drinking games the Aussie and Kiwi proprietors of OZNZ (the name’s a giveaway) will rope you into, and after all of those dirt cheap beers, believe us, resistance will be futile. This joint venture by the owners of Dada, Half Bar and C’s is another much-needed middle finger in the face of the violent pretension that overwhelms so much of Shanghai’s nightlife. No cover charge, no dress code, no suits stalking around looking like secret servicemen with their tiny earphones. OZNZ is all laidback, anything goes, rowdy drunkenness – three whole floors of it. Toss back a 15 kuai beer or six and chill out with one of their many distractions like Jenga or Monopoly. Or if that’s too old school for you, they have a couple of Nintendo Wiis available. Check your ego in at the door and get ready for some fun. Sun 12pm-2am, Mon-Wed 5pm-2am, Thu 5pm-3am, Fri 5pm-5am, Sat 12pm-5am. All cards. 1153 Kaixuan Lu, by Yan’an Xi Lu凯旋路1153号, 近延安西路


With the world at their feet, what do the globe’s richest splash their cash on?


Elvis once bought a ranch and then horses, saddles, leather chaps and hats for himself and all his entourage just so that he could play at being a cowboy for a bit, while the bar stools on Aristotle Onassis’ yacht were covered in whale foreskin. Yup, life on planet fame can lead to some pretty peculiar purchases. So what of the latest generation and their most outlandish acts of ostentation? Read on.

Sheikh this! (Sultan of Brunei)

What kind of man pays RMB12.6 million to his badminton coach? The Sultan of Brunei, of course, he of a 1,788 room mansion, RMB137 billion Boeing 747 replete with gold plated furniture and a fleet of 5,000 luxury cars, including 500 Rolls-Royces (during the 1990s, his family accounted for half of all Rolls-Royce purchases) and a racing car driven by every Formula 1 World Drivers Champion since the 1980 Formula One season. With the riches of a 600-year-old Muslim dynasty behind him, his notorious spending sprees dwarf those of anybody else on Earth – he once blew RMB20 billion in a month. And all this from the ruler of an area smaller than the municipality of Shanghai.

Transatlantic takeaway (Beyonce Knowles)

We’re all partial to a cheeky donor kebab after a night out, but judging from the lengths she took to get a takeaway, pop diva Beyonce Knowles’ curry cravings know no bounds. At a New York party in 2004 she ordered a meal from an Indian restaurant in rural Surrey, England. The meal was then flown 4,820 km by helicopter and plane, before reaching its destination. And all for the princely sum of RMB40,000.

Konvict diamonds (Akon)

In the battle of the bling that dominates the world of hip-hop, R&B crooner Akon dazzled the competition in 2007 when he bought a diamond mine in South Africa. But the purchase coincided with the release of Blood Diamond, the Oscar-nominated film portraying the diamond trade as brutal and deadly, leaving Akon in a spot of bother.

The dog house (Paris Hilton)

It’s no secret the Hilton-heiress likes slobbering on a meaty bone, but showering her canine entourage with imitation brands like ‘Chewy Vuitton’? Clearly somebody needs to be put on a leash… In 2009 she even built a RMB2.2 million, two-floor, 300 square foot property to house her nine-strong pack of pooches who, with names such as Tinkerbelle and Prince Baby Bear, get to enjoy crystal chandeliers and fully-furnished wardrobes. We all know she’s into doggy-style, but that takes the biscuit.

Rich bitch (Leona Helmsley)

While we’re on the subject of filthy rich fleabags, when billionaire real estate mogul and hotelier Leona ‘Queen of Mean’ Helmsley conked it she left two of her grandkids absolutely nothing, but her Maltese mutt, oh… US$12 million. Nine-year-old Trouble now lives in Florida with an annual fee of US$100,000 for full-time security, US$8,000 for grooming and US$1,200 for food, while her guardian gets US$60,000. World’s wealthiest dog? Nope – in 1991, a German countess left the entirety of her $80 million estate to her German Shepherd. Barking mad.

Eclipsing the rest (Roman Abramovich)

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich now has a new floating fortress. With an alleged RMB7.3 billion price tag, his 540 ft long über-yacht ‘Eclipse’ boasts two helipads, two swimming pools and a disco. It’s also armor plated and fitted with bullet-proof glass, a missile defense system and an anti-paparazzi shield in the form of lasers that sweep the surroundings and fire a bolt of light right at any camera they detect to obliterate any photograph taken of it.

Water of Life (Madonna) 

As Mel Gibson and the Hoff will gladly tell you, there’s nothing wrong with splashing some cash on a drink or 22. Questions arise, however, when the drink is bottled water and the amount splashed is RMB70,000 a month. In 2008 the world learned of pop queen Madonna’s drinking problem, where she insists on shipping crates of ‘specially-blessed’ Kabbalah water to wherever she is staying on the globe. The holy H2O is being touted as her age-defying secret; we still think it’s the bone marrow of African babies.

Ghetto Bond (Puff Daddy)

“The name’s Bond, James Bond muthaf***a!” Nope, we can’t hear it working either, but professional plonker P-Diddy thought it had a ring to it. Spurred on by his cameo role in CSI Miami, he flew out to the south of France in 2008 and spent RMB5 million making an audition tape to become the first ‘black Bond’? So much for his self-proclaimed title of ‘Bad Boy for Life.’ Can’t argue with his choice of Bond girls, mind…


On April 4, as part of the jazz concert series- JZ in the Orient -the Shanghai Orient Art Centre welcomed jazz pianist David Braid for a Sunday afternoon concert. In the minimalist setting of a circular wooden stage, Braid, 35, strolled on with a familiarity born out of playing in Shanghai since 2004. Performing a concert entitled ‘Solo journey into the heart,’ Braid’s preparation ritual involved a meditative bowing of the head and meticulous hand-rubbing.

Perhaps he was avoiding a repeat of an earlier concert in Copenhagen. “I had to return to my hotel room just before the concert and all I could find was a bicycle. So I rode back just in time and had to start playing with really cold hands, that was hard.” Braid recalled.

The Canadian is more used to performing with a band- playing solo is relatively new -but Braid’s raw talent as a pianist was exhibited when his performances were roused into a faster pace. His fingers played with such measured ferocity that it seemed as if they were on fast-forward. Both hands, benefiting from 32 years of musical experience, enjoyed a prodigious familiarity. Braid’s left hand kept rhythm, whilst his right wandered around the keyboard, occasionally punching an atmospheric chord.

With a repertoire compromised largely of high-tempo numbers, Braid stirred his audience into a frenzy of sporadic toe-tapping. At one point, a younger member was inspired into rhythmically clapping his hands, before being swiftly rebuked by his parents. With a number of awards to his name, including the prestigious Juno award, Braid’s recital cannot be so easily profiled and the concert ranged from emotive twangs to delicate key-strokes, weaving a moody and serene ambience.

We caught up with Braid during the interval, where he was remarkably laid-back and came across as a well-spoken and modest musician. Braid felt privileged to be in different places like Shanghai and saw his role as an ambassador. “I feel an obligation to absorb the culture and mingle with the common person.” He even had a go at speaking Chinese to the audience, which was received with good humour.

Braid composes his own music and is responsible for over seventy songs, so where does he get the inspiration for this? “Inspiration is never direct as people assume, it’s so abstract and so many factors that come into play. Life is the main factor, but it’s all accumulative from different experiences.” One of Braid’s songs, Resolute bay, was inspired by the snow and cold of his homeland in Northern Canada.

Having collaborated with such diverse artists as Indian sitar exponent Vineet Vyas and Guzheng musician Chang Jing, Braid maintains that he cannot name his ideal partner. “It’s all based on the moment. They might not be a skilled player, but if you have the right connection then it will work.”

Playing since he was three years old, Braid has developed an intimate understanding with the music and sharing it with the audience. “The arts are a special, ancient thing, the exchange between the audience and musician is everything. That is my tireless endeavour.”

Currently in the beginning of a five week tour of China, Guangzhou and Beijing next, Braid will be returning to Shanghai on April 13 to collaborate with Chinese guitarist Lawrence Ku at the JZ Club.


Tonight Shanghai will be treated to some Baltic beats, as Estonian DJ Andreas Widenski is bringing his funky house music to Lotus nightclub.

 

Now on the back end of his world tour, which will see him spinning tracks in Thailand and Hong Kong next week, Widenski promised a good show.

“You can expect the freshest in house music, a lot of the tracks I’m playing haven’t been released yet and some never will be released.”

After 14 years in the game, and still sporting the token multi-colored pattern on his long-sleeved shirt, Widenski, 29, is an old hand on the DJ scene. His CV includes the likes of Ibiza’s multi-award winning club Pacha and uber-club Vertigo in Hong Kong. However Widenski now has a young son, and his busy schedule of one hundred gigs a year is taking its toll.

“The older you get, the more you think of your health. I recently had a gig where I was on from 5am-8am, it was hard to stay awake.”

Having played to sets to baying crowds from 17 different countries, Widenski has grown to appreciate the cultural value of his tours and he now plays with CDs because they are easier to travel with.

“I want to see the world as much as possible, and music is the way to do it. I don’t just come here for the gig, I like to enjoy the local food and culture.” This included a quick trip on Tuesday night to pick up some Tsingtao beer to enjoy in his hotel room.

Widenski span onto the scene in 1996, where he started by playing sets at underground house parties and over the local radio of his high school in Estonia. He has since branched out, and his musical escapades include promoting club nights in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and managing his international DJ agency Macadam Music.

Widenski is relishing another opportunity to play to an Asian crowd, whom he says are the most open-minded and claims they are more interested in the music, and not showing off. He is, however hoping they are not as open-minded as the crowd he played to in Copenhagen two years ago.

“One guy suddenly took his pants and underwear off and continued dancing naked in front of the DJ booth, he probably enjoyed the track I was playing!”

You can catch DJ Widenski tonight at Lotus nightclub, Lane 66, Danshui Lu, People’s Square.

Ladies night: Girls get free drinks from 9-12pm.


He’s traversed the Great Wall of China, scaled the hills of Hong Kong and now marathon runner Jerome Colson is setting his sights on the Sahara desert.

 “Every marathon I have done before has been building up to this ultra-adventure.”Colson said.

With the rest of Accroteam- a six-man group of prolific marathoners- at his flanks, Colson is looking to add to his running repertoire by competing in the Marathon Des Sables, widely considered the hardest foot race in the world. Spanning six days across Southern Morocco, the race saps every ounce of energy from its 900 participants as they run across gravel, through palm groves and up sand dunes.

For a food and beverage director at the Ritz-Carlton who runs through the streets of Shanghai every Saturday morning, the desert constitutes terra incognita for this relatively inexperienced runner. After all, it was only three years ago when he donned the running shoes after being hit by a big realization that he was becoming, in his words, a little bit fat.

This was the point of no return, and his feet have since carried him across the world to marathons in Germany, Norway and Hong Kong. These, however, pale in comparison to his latest 250km challenge, which he has been building up to with his previous marathons and weekly runs.

Now in its 25th year The Marathon Des Sables, which runs from 2-12 April, has earned a fearsome reputation largely because of its relentless nature. Participants run an average of 40-80km each day, that’s six marathons in a row… in the desert! The mother of legs is an 80km beast, which equates to 20 hours of running in one day. No wonder there is a medical team shadowing the runners.

With this barrage of gruesome facts, it is interesting to discover that the one of the most difficult parts of the race is packing for it. “It’s a compromise, do you want comfort during the race or when you’re resting,” Colson says.  

Competitors have to carry 6.5 kg of food to stay alive but, beyond that, the contents are at their discretion. In an effort to limit his bag’s weight, Colson has adopted innovative methods such as tailoring his sleeping bag to his body shape and carrying only the exact amount of toothpaste he will need.

For a man used to sampling hors d’oeuvres in his job, the bland food- such as bread -participants carry with them may be a slight shock to the system. Colson has, however, afforded himself some comforts, a solar charger for his IPod nano and a few candy bars.

Not surprisingly, Colson isn’t just running for fun. Accroteam collects money each year for a charitable cause to help someone who is close to one of the runners. Named ‘Project Eleonore,’ this year’s cause is to provide equipment rooms in the French hospitals of Saint Luc and Marie Avaux for people suffering from polyarthritis rheumatica. The disease limits physical movement and the half-sister of one of the racers is suffering from it.

After six months of solid training, as the race approaches, Colson conceded he is nervous, but that’s a good thing. “If the stress doesn’t build up then I take it too easy and the race becomes much harder.”

Surpassing this is his difficulty of balancing family life. “It’s not just a commitment for me, it affects my wife and two little girls too. Every weekend I go out running so the balance with family life is not easy for me.”

 On Tuesday March 23, from 7-9pm, Jerome will be holding a fundraiser for Project Eleonore at the Cantina Agave, 291 Fumin Lu. The entrance fee is RMB250 and tacos, nachos, quesadillas, empanadas will be on offer, along with two drinks tokens (including beer, soft drinks and Margarita).

Information on Accroteam- http://www.accrorun.be

Information on Marathon Des Sables-www.saharamarathon.co.uk


Mellow lighting, sinking armchairs, chill-out vibes playing seductively across the background; 498 is a relaxed affair. Located off Yongjia Lu, the bar houses a Mediterranean vibe, thanks to its arched doorways and dash of Modern Art. Just avoid the winding staircase at the back, lest you require a tramp stamp from the in-house tattoo artist, Scorpion.

A prospect for the summer months, there is a spacious patio which, despite being encased in glass, is al fresco at heart and trees burst through the wooden floorboards around you. It’s all very civilized and possesses the charm of a well-kept secret. A status that has been preserved a little too well, it was deserted on a Saturday night. 


As for the drinks, beers linger around the RMB35 mark and half-price happy hour from 5-8pm brings the appeal of RMB25 cocktails. Unfortunately, the bar’s laid-back attitude extends to its cocktail-making. Despite their generous helpings, the signature 498 Cassis cocktail (RMB 50) tastes like a dressed-up Vimto and the Long Island Ice Tea (RMB 50) is suffering from an overdose of alcohol.

498’s peaceful surroundings offers a lazy evening drink away from buzz of the city but if you’re looking for more, go elsewhere.// Daily 11am-1am.No cards.498 Yongjia Lu, French Concession, near Yueyang Lu, (6431-08070) 永嘉路498号 近岳阳路.


In a jungle of pseudo-lounges and pretentious, perfumed lairs, it’s refreshing to see a bar that does what it says on the tin. Spanning two floors, The Office is cut with a simple, wooden finish. There are sports screens everywhere you look, including a circular hub lowered from the ceiling, and pool tables inhabit the second floor. Courtesy of its third-floor restaurant, Canteen, mountains of greasy, Western food are at hand.

At 9.30pm, everyday except Mondays, a live band replaces the drones of commercial music with vintage numbers from the likes of Eric Clapton and Aerosmith.

 Similar to its television counterpart featuring David Brent, no one in The Office is below 30, except the bar staff. The drink’s menu is as expected, awash with various strands of the businessman’s favorites; Scotch, Whiskey, Cognac. The beers are a tad expensive (RMB40), but the martini (RMB50) we had is well-made and hits all the right notes.

 Rather than being a trailblazer amongst bars, The Office is a wizened veteran electing for old, reliable methods to draw in crowds. This is done in a modest and tasteful manner and the result is a shameless watering hole with nothing to hide.

All cards. 968 Pudong Avenue, Lujiazui, Near Yuanshen Road (5028-0029) 浦东大道968