Shanghai, last day of our journey

We are getting burnt.  It is tough to be gone from home for more than 10 days but being in places halfway across the globe where everything is an experience we are not familiar with can be exhausting.  We cut the trip short by two days and although I promised I wouldn’t, I was wrong.  Lots of observations to come about this journey.

Today, we opted for pure luxury and had a car take us everywhere we wanted to go.  We really got to see Shanghai from a different view as neighborhoods collided into each other.  We started our day on the West Bund, Cultural Corridor.  It is quite amazing.  You can literally go from one culture experience to the next.  Lots of thought has been put into this area of the city.

The Long Museum is the second museum founded by Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei.  There was an Antony Gormley installation that was absolutely incredible particularly in this space.

Architecturally the space is just incredible.

We walked around in awe.  This speaks volumes.

Our next stop was the Yuz Museum which is literally down the street.  This museum was founded by Budi Tek.  They were in the midst of an installation but there was one large room with pieces by Qin Yifeng.  He took photos of furniture from Ming’s dynasty and created these really interesting pieces.

You walk into this glass structure museum with a cafe inside.

To the left, there is a permanent piece by Maurizio Cattelan that was made in 1998 for the Biennale in Venice.

We drove over to the Power Station of Art from there.  The structure is also incredible.  This museum is the first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art in China.  This huge hanging installation when you walk in is from Li Shan.  I liked this quote from Shan.  “What an artist does, in his or her own way of thinking and doing, is really about finding a different mode of interpretation of life.”

Everything was else was about DNA and nature.

Had to do a bit of shopping while we are here.  One of my new favorite designers happens to be from Shanghai and has a few stores here.  We went to her first store and did some damage before heading to lunch.

Din Tai Fung we went to in Hong Kong and also LA but even our driver was giving them praise so we went.  They are just so good.

It happens to be fashion week in Shanghai right now.  This area we were in had some of the new brands out of China.  I had not heard of a few of them.  We hit up a few stores there just to see what people are doing.  Malls rule in Shanghai.

We stopped into Corso Como, my favorite store in Milan, that has grown into other cities.  I believe they just opened up one in NYC which I need to get to.  A fantastic concept store that is similar in vibe to Dover Street Market.

Last stop was a ceramic store called Spin.  Didn’t do much for us.

As we made our way back to the hotel we saw another couple taking wedding photos.  Lots of that on the Bund at night.  I believe these are pre-wedding photos.  Saw a few grooms in these striped suits and the brides in really cutting edges dresses that are not white.   I like it!

Last meal was at Mr and Mrs. Bund.  I’d love to say that it was so amazing but it was not.  The best thing was the two drinks we had at the bar.  Perhaps this restaurant peaked a few years back?  The food was ok and the service was sub-par.  I was not the only one who felt that way.  Alas.  It really is time to go home and roast a chicken.






Revenge of the Females

It looks as if we finally hit a tipping point. I’m going to call this Revenge of the Females and there will be many parts and sequels in every industry.

Some wonder what took so long?  Why did some women turn a blind eye and leave or take a compensation package?  Does that make them complicit?  Was it pure fear?

The majority of women I know have an unfortunate story about the workplace.  Most of us have stories of just being whistled at on the street.  Know men I know have a story.  How come?

There are so many questions that start with why.  Are men that dumb to not understand that behavior in the workplace is different than behavior at a party with friends?  Have so many lines been blurred because of the sheer amount of hours we all work?  Are those boundaries not understood?  Boundaries should even be understood when a guy hoots at a woman on the street being followed with lusting eyes.

It is all about female empowerment and as more women become more powerful in the workplace and our wallets are the same size or even bigger than our male peers, we are saying enough is enough.  It is a rising chorus vs a single voice and perhaps that is what makes it easier.

I am sure over the weeks and months we will see more powerful titans fall.  It couldn’t happen to a better group of misbehaved idiots.


Clearly, there is a language barrier for us in Shanghai.  We flew from Laos to Shanghai with a stop through Changsha.  Except for the fact that we were the only Americans in the place, from the look and feel of the airport, we could have been in Cleveland.  Although the women toilets were a hole in the floor except for the one western toilet I thankfully found.  I applaud the women who can use those holes.  It is not something I am looking to master anytime soon.

First frustration is getting email although VPN solved that although we have not found it easy to do any search whatsoever on the fly.  We have found some similarities to Tokyo where you have an address but the place isn’t there.  It is down the street or up a floor.  We walked about 7 miles just looking and getting a feel for the city.

We walked the Bund this morning.  Above is a photo of the People’s Square.  This bamboo is in a small park en route to the Yu Garden.  I love bamboo but know full well the havoc it can wreak.  Growing up my parents put a handful of bamboo stalks between us and the neighbors thinking it would be a beautiful way to create separation.  Little did they realize that bamboo is unstoppable and its roots get into everything including your foundation.  What a monster!  Note to self, bamboo should always be planted inside metal vessels.

The Yu Garden area is madness.  Tons of people.  It costs money to get in.  We have learned that cash in Asia is king.

The old neighborhoods are definitely on the outs.  I would imagine unless someone seriously championed preservation, this will all be gone sooner than later.

We popped into Blue Shanghai White, a wonderful ceramic store, although the challenge is getting it back.  I am thinking about it.

Were challenged in finding the galleries.  We finally found Shanghai Gallery of Art which is on the 3rd floor of a building.  The art installation was all about the pull between the past and the future.  All connected to Buddhism.

Really loved this one of Buddhist prayer beads and Yak hair.

This is great.

Thrilled with ourselves finding Pearl Lam Gallery where there was a David LaChapelle exhibit.

We hunted down Yangs Fried Dumplings.  It was down the street not on the main street and it was really because of me looking at an exterior photo on Foursquare to find it.  Delicious!

We wandered back to the hotel and saw a show put on by XCommon.  Not sure what it was but we wandered in and I was told I couldn’t buy a thing but could look.  Alas.  I really liked these hot mitts for the oven.

Then we collapsed before dinner.

A drink at the top of the hotel before going out.  That alone was an odd experience.

Then to Lost Heaven for dinner.  Definitely a restaurant where you get people from everywhere coming.  Yunan dishes.  My favorite was the vegetables and noodles.  Maybe I am ready to go home or maybe I am too harsh of a critic but I wasn’t wowed by the food here.  We have been on this side of the globe for a long time.  Glad we experienced as much as we have but it is time to return.

Laos, Luang Prabang

I am really glad that we went to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  Although we did visit Thailand many years ago with the entire family, seeing the entire area of Southeast Asia in one fell swoop gives you some perspective on each country from the people to the food to the Government.
Each has had their share of war and invasions.  The French have left their mark in countless ways.  Communism still reigns but that firm hand allows small gestures of capitalism because that provides capital to people and the Government.
Laos appears to be the most Westernized when it comes to the roads and homes. Luang Prabang has a rustic charm and the city is incredibly clean and walkable.  Could be Charleston SC on the waterfront.
The heat and humidity are pervasive.  Air Con as they call it is a rare treat.  Can’t imagine how anyone functions here during the real hot season.  It is all about the cold towel.
There is one major street in Pruang Labang that we wandered down.  Starting first thing n the morning with their food market that runs twice a day for local wares.
Once in the morning and once in the early evening.
Beautiful greens.
Dried chilis.
I was the only one who had something to eat off the street.  I had some pork belly and they wrap it up in banana leaves to keep it warm to go.  Absolutely delicious!
The old royal palace is worth walking through.  No photos, your knees, and shoulders must be covered in respect and you have to lock your bags up because you can’t take them in.  Although I did capture the monks.
The last of the royal family left in the 70s and now they all reside in France.  Loved seeing their old cars.  There is a white Edsel that I would have loved to capture.   This is a different temple down the street from the Royal Palace.
A variety of stores with local fabrics.  The one store that we really liked had local wood carved into home furnishing.  Not the stuff you see in the street but much nicer.  The woman who owns the shop has seven of them around all of the countries here.  She has a place that employs over 30 people who work on these wares.
Lunch as the best meal we had at a local cafe called Le Café Ban Vat Sene
Light chicken green curry with sticky rice.  Excellent flavors with a nice kick of heat.
Pedicure anyone?
Our evening activity was taking a long boat down the Mekong River for a few hours to watch the sunset.
Saw some impressive homes from the water.  Not sure you would see homes like this in Vietnam or Cambodia.
We hit up the night market before going to dinner.
Kids are the same everywhere.
We ventured out to Le Elephant for a meal.
Woke up the next morning early for the last leg of our trip to Shanghai

Ellen Pao, Reset

The message that many girls get when they are growing up is if they work really hard, work on what they do best (aka what they are innately good at), follow the rules and you will be rewarded.  Boys are told to double down on everything because they will figure it out and should just continue to strive at anything they want.

Over the years I have met with insanely smart women who are overachievers who follow the rules and believe that their smarts will be rewarded and become frustrated and baffled when it doesn’t work that way yet keep trying.

I finished Ellen Pao’s book Reset this week.  The book is honest, authentic and I give her huge applauds for putting everything out there without portraying herself as a victim.  She has become a role model for all women not only by letting all walls down in her book, suing Kleiner Perkins and sharing this story but also for not taking the buy out to stay quiet and giving us the insight into why she, like many women, just kept expecting that she would be rewarded because she deserved to be.   If only the world worked that way.  Ellen believed that Kleiner would do the right thing even until the very end when she shared her email exchanges with their lawyers.

There are so many bad characters in the book.  Of course, there are always three sides to a story but I have been witnessing this type of behavior in the business world for so long that in some ways, none of this is surprising.  What should be acknowledged is that the lawyers (female and men) who read all the documents, the women who worked inside the firm and have been treated abysmally as well and absolutely knew what truly happened, took the money and turned a blind eye for fear of destroying their own careers.  Wouldn’t it have been refreshing for once to see every person stand up to this type of behavior and say something so these people in power would no longer be able to abuse their power.

We have seen many men in power fall over the past year because they held the keys to some castle.  It is high time we all stood up, like Ellen, and create our own castles where people are treated with respect in dignified environments where nobody is debased for who they are, where they came from or what they stand for.

Change never happens from inside, it always happens from outside.  I believe and hope that the next generation will be different.  More than anything I hope that we will see many other bad players fall and fall hard over the next years to come but that can only happen if nobody stands silent.   We must all be courageous and take a stand against bad behavior and that includes calling out the ones who pretend to be one thing such as supportive of this issue but in reality are the worst.

Cambodia, Day 2

When the kids were young, one of the favorite board games they would play over a course of a weekend would be Risk.  If you have not played the game before, it is essentially about world domination.  Like Monopoly which is about being the king landlord of all the properties, Risk is about being the king of all the countries.

We have now been in Southeast Asia for over a week.  Heading to Laos next and I keep thinking about Risk.  These beautiful countries with warm friendly people who have been destroyed by rulers and of course war.  The US has certainly had their hand in all of this as well as Russia and China.  These days everything feels fragile all over again.  At the end of the day, I truly believe most people just want a roof over their head, family, and friends close by, food on the table and a stable job….and of course healthcare.

We made our way out to Angkor Thom & Enigmatic Bayon today.  These were both used around the 16th Century.  They are beautiful temples that were put back together by the French, almost like a jigsaw puzzle after so many years of decay.

Honestly, the pictures do not do the place justice.  I just kept taking photos.

This is one of me just staring at the images carved into stone.

Through each door, there is something else to see.

After the morning of temples, we hit the water.  We took a boat down through the stilted homes over to Tonle Sap, one of the largest bodies of water in Southeast Asia that flows from the Mekong River.  Our boat went through this area where people move twice a year due to the floods.  Right now the river is high so we can easily boat down to the lake.  During other times of the year, there is no water.  99% of the people here are fisherman.

A moving store.

We had a really great lunch on board before heading back.

On the way back to town we drove through a residential neighborhood where there are many lotus flower farms.

Back for some rest and relaxation and dinner at the hotel.  The greenery, the people, the whole place takes over your senses.


We got in at night and just made our way to the hotel, had dinner and went to sleep to get up at the crack of dawn to get to Angkor Wat.  Watching the sunrise there is beautiful.  The history is rich and long.

The attention detail at every turn is incredible.

The balance of each water pool inside the temple although they are now all dried up.

The place is just huge.

Although each time you turn, you see something from a different angle.

The reflection outside even shows the clouds.

I couldn’t stop taking photos of every tree.  This one is particularly amazing.

Lily ponds through the water as well.

We got on our scooters to get over to our next destination….and it is hot!

As amazing as Angkor Wat is, Ta Prohm is more amazing.  The trees have taken over the place.  

The moss.

More trees.

I couldn’t get enough of them.  Also, loving the iphone camera here.  Having fun playing with it.

After the temples we had breakfast in this beautiful spot.

Fruits are incredible.

Green curry and noodles worked at 10am.

We then drove down a road that had food stall after food stall.  I didn’t catch enough photos.

We made our way to an antique store.  I saw this sign in the bathroom.  There are children everywhere begging so obviously an issue.

Then Kandal village where there are new shops.

Actually, a few owners are from the states and Europe.

Before heading back to the hotel we stopped at a place where they train people to work on local products.  This is stone.

Here is wood.

It was not even 1130 and we had put in a full day.  It was super hot.  Made our way back to the hotel for lunch.  Had a Num Pang sandwich for lunch.  The rest of the day was extremely chill…and a very good massage.

Dinner was at Cuisine Wat Damnak located in the town.  Interesting just seeing the city pop at night.  Nothing to write home about but we had a nice time.  The chef is super engaging. One thing to keep in mind is they are happy to take American dollars even more than Cambodia dollars.  Little tricks learned along the way.

Last Day in Hanoi

Not sure where I read about Suzanne Leicht but when I mentioned her to the woman at Sophie’s Art tour she connected us.  The piece she is standing next to is about matriarchal society.  That is a woman crushing a man.
We went to meet her at her place at 10am.  What an incredible human being.  Suzanne has been living in Vietnam for 23 years.  Prior to this, she was living in Tokyo with her husband although Americans they both fell in life with Japan.  He died way too early and she decided that her love of art and desire to live somewhere else in Asia drew her to Vietnam.  She has done more for the art world here than anyone.
Suzanne has had a series of galleries although now she shows in her house.  All the artists in Vietnam gravitate towards her.  She is putting on a show at the end of October highlighting the Gang of 5 who were the first Hanoi artists of the contemporary art movement here.  This is inside her home.  Really beautiful.
She knows the stories of each of these artists and understands why commercial art (as they call it here) has a hard time evolving because of an artist sells then the gallery world wants them to stick with that look.  It pays for their livelihood.
Suzanne has this charming calming zen-like aura that makes you feel as if you have known her for decades.  It was truly wonderful to meet her, hear her story and see her place.  The neighborhood she is in is outside of where we have been so when we started walking down the street everyone knew where we were going.
Afterward, we were supposed to get in Vespa’s and hit the town and see many of the historical sites but the rain got in our way.  Rainy season should be over but global warming has extended the rainy season here.  Instead, we got a car and went to see them that way.  Lenin Square.
Ho Chi Minh mausoleum isn’t open right now so we just walked around the place.  Huge monument
Then we had lunch before heading over to the Hanoi Hilton has been a jail a lot longer than I realized.  Many photos of the past there.
We hit up Frannys for ice cream afterward.
Then went to Tan My Design store that is run and owned by a local family.  Three floors with local wares from art to home decor to clothing.  Refreshing to see totally different clothing here that I would never find in the states.
Walked back to the hotel, around the lake, and took a shot of the Pagoda that sits inside the water.
Dinner tonight was the best meal we had.  We went back to the bar Ne for a cocktail before going to Grandmas for dinner
Delicious food and service.  Sometimes the service here is a bit overwhelming.  They just want to make you so happy that they are overly attentive.   This is grilled chicken in lemongrass.
And the rice rolls.  Good spot!  Tomorrow….Cambodia.

Hanoi, Day 2

Today was about art.  To really understand art in Vietnam, you can go back to the stone age but we went back to when the French ruled in Vietnam.  We booked a morning with Sophies Art Tour which I highly recommend.  We were able to learn about what we saw.  We started out the morning at Tang Tret coffee shop, where local artists hang out.

This is a sign that hangs in the shop.  Might be my new mantra.

It is down the street from the Museum of the Fine Arts.

Notice the influence from France?  This piece was done in 1935 by To Ngoc Van.  Many artists of that time went to France to study art and others came here to teach.

Lacquer art is a traditional technique still used in Vietnam today.

They love Uncle Ho, Ho Chi Minh.  It is clear to all of us that we should have never been fighting a war in Vietnam or at least figured it out sooner and pulled out.

After a full on history tour of the art at the museum we went over to Tan Dan.  Tan Dan was a painter and son of a Vietnamese playwright, Vu Dinh Long.  Their home is an open artists salon. Both the artist and his father was now gone but their wives/mother continue to live there and tell the story of their art.

This is the playwrights wife.

Our next stop was the GreenPalmGallery that sells commercial art.  What is of interest is that there are a handful of artists who have made a name for themselves.  Some of them are called the Gang of 5, who led the development of contemporary art in Vietnam.  Those artists are in their late 50’s now and there is a retrospective happening on their work in Hanoi beginning on Oct 21.  Commercial art is really what can be sold.  The artists that make work that people want are guided by their families and galleries to continue to make the same work again and again because in reality is pays the bills.  Few are being embraced to think and grow when it comes to their work.

I picked up this piece from Dinh Cong Dat.  We continued to see his work in other places around Hanoi.

Our next stop was Manzi which appears to be a coffee shop that also installs art work but above is a gallery that represents all the young up and coming artists in Vietnam.

Lunch was calling so we made our way over to Banh Mi 25 which is the best we have had.  They definitely get the new way of life…great branding.  It was so good that we had one pork sandwich, strolled around a bit and then returned to have another one with the pork pate.  If you only have one, go for the pork pate.

And life goes on around us.

Old school living is alive and well.

Before dinner, we had a tour of the bunkers in the Metropole Hotel.  Don’t run but seeing the actual bunker is of interest.

Dinner was definitely a better experience this evening.  We went to Madame Hien.   Pho is generally a breakfast dish but we went for it at dinner.  The food experience reminds me a little bit of when we went to Spain on our honeymoon.  We ate boquerones every day because they were on every menu and would discuss which one was better.  The food here is consistent at every place, although some better, some not.

Fun fact…50% of the people in Vietnam was under 30 years old.  We are seeing huge ranges of pricing.  The cabs, the food is all extremely inexpensive.  Two sandwiches and four beers can be a whopping $4.  Yet when it comes to tour guides, the prices are high.  Will be very interesting where this country is in another decade.