This is Shanghai!

I took this photo :)
I took this photo :)

On Instagram I’ve sort of adopted the hashtag #mycityShanghai. I’m proud to be a Laowai living in Shanghai and I love this city. I love the energy, the vibe, the ever changing landscape, the cars, the chaos, the madness, the lights and the people (I also hate it all equally but that’s a whole new discussion)

So when I watched this video it filled me with a sort of borrowed pride for an adopted city I have come to love. I have never seen a better video representation of the powerhouse that is Shanghai, just watch a little (soundtrack is too cool as well)

This is Shanghai from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Bizarrely enough a few days later I got sent another video. A video that gave the the complete opposite feeling ot the first one! A video that made me sad for the loss of an old city with so much character and soul, a city that must die for a new more modern metropolis to be born!

It’s not that I don’t agree with the growth and the progress, shit I’m the last person to let nostalgia stand in the way of change but at the same time it made me appreciate what was being lost. I drive past the houses being torn down every single day in one part of the city or another and my immediate reaction it is how progressive china is, how fast they are evolving and it comes with a sense of admiration. Now after seeing this perhaps the admiration will be matched with empathy for those who are losing their history to make way for a new generation

The most poignant part of this video is when he says, “Why? There is no why in China”. This is the side that the world harps on always, I see it as progress, that’s maybe because I’ve never been on the worng side of it!

Ill post my Yangzi River cruise in the next few days but there is a stop at the worlds biggest dam // hydro plant. It was the correct decision to build this thing but literally millions of people had to be relocated. No discussion, no query, no WHY? It just is what it is sometimes in China and if you are on the wrong side it doesn’t help to ask why, it just is.

Regardless of the dichotomy of this country I find it tremendously exciting (and then I watch the first video again)

On the road again . . .

So I have a rather hectic travel schedule coming up. A few countries in a few weeks (including 72 hours back home YAY!). I haven’t traveled in a while and after 4 years of almost 100 flights a year it feels a little weird being on the ground so much.

Never the less it’s starting to move again, I guess after my move to China I had to feel solid ground for a while before I could fly again, after last week’s drunken post I guess that time has come.

My new policy though is that while there is work, a lot of work, there must be some fun in between and if you disagree and think the straight and narrow is the only way, well then, read on and tell me if you still think this way at the end!

Here’s the next few days!

A bit of work in Vietnam (very very excited just to get there – I want to plan a 3 week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia for CNY next year!)

Once the work is done a few days to relax at the Nam Hai near Hoi An are in order.

nam hoi

nam hoi 3

nam hoi 2

nam hoi 4

nam hoi 5

As you can tell this is going to get boring quickly so maybe a bit of time experiencing the World Heritage site of Hoi An.

hoi an 4

hoi an 3

hoi an 2

hoi an

hoi an 5

Back to Ho Chi Minh City for one night and day sadly but just enough to have a superb dinner round the corner from the Park Hyatt and relax by the pool for a bit! A quiet drink in the bar downstairs might just be in order :)





From there its back to work but in a rather magnificent park of Singapore, the Marina Sands (I don’t have the first day to laze with some friends around their epic infinity pool overlooking the city!)


marina sands singapore

Infinity Pool Singapore Marina Sands Bay-44


There shall be some entertaining of course and I get to catchup with my brother (hopefully both!!) at the W Hotel (you know I love the W) for a dinner at the brilliant Skirt in Sentosa!



Then back home for a few days to get the shirts washed and ironed to pack for the next little adventure!

The Pandas and the Buddha . . .

I’ve waited my whole life to see the Pandas, I could’ve gone to a million zoos in some or other country but to see them in the ‘wild’ has been a life long dream, a bucket list cross-out if you will. I don’t know why I love these creatures so much but to be able to see them just naturally playing, eating and relaxing was soul food. They are ancient, innocent and the epitome of a species that should never have survived this long but are a rare beauty because they have. You can almost feel them laughing as they stuff their cute little faces full of bamboo and give evolution the middle finger simultaneously.

Its literally almost impossible for them to procreate on their own, the mothers are rarely attached to babies and they don’t hunt or really do anything other than eat, sleep and relax – I think that’s what makes them the most fun creature on this planet.

dsc00216 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00035 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00062 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00080 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00081 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00082 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00142 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00151 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00156 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00159 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00188 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00190 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00206 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

For a small fortune you get to hold a baby one of these buggers for all of two minutes. It is rationally a complete waste of money but there are few things that are more incredible. I dont know why but feeding this fat little thing honey coated bamboo shoots while it sat on my la was truly an incredible experience and worth every penny!

The main reason to go to Chengdu was the above but an added life enhancer was the giant Buddha at Leshan. This is basically a stone Buddha carved OUT OF A MOUNTAIN 100 stories high. It took almost 100 years to complete and is hundreds of years old.

dsc00438 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
At the bottom of this shot on the left are his toes!


dsc00355 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

To stand above this gigantic expression of one mans dream and to think that he started a process to create this that he knew he would almost never certainly see complete resonates with me somehow. To have the faith and self belief to know that your dream is so powerful that even if you are not there to do it, someone will carry it on just to see it finished. Incredible.

This magical monstrous sculpture took my breath away from literally every angle, some of them a single foot path of hundreds of steps to climb down the side of the Buddha and then back up the other side.

dsc00459 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Just past his head – those tiny little colored dots – those are people!
dsc00409 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Same as the above pic – look at the people past his head!

dsc00417 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00432 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
This is taken on the way down from the tiny narrow one man line of stairs!

4 May was my birthday and spent climbing to the top of Qingcheng Mountain that has a 1000 year old Taoist temple. Misty wet and surrounded by something that is truly ancient is an incredible feeling. Its barely describable but when you are walking the same steps that millions have walked over 1000s of years is a most calm and peaceful place, rounded off by lighting incense to mark the day and to hope for more incredible ones to come.

dsc00629 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)



dsc00649 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00684 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00687 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00690 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

At the top of this mountain sits a pagoda with a view literally in the clouds and with banister after banister of locks from people who have come up to the top, engraved the names and locked them over years onto these poles to show love and friendship.

dsc00700 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)






Lastly there are a few things I have to say about Chengdu.

dsc00489 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00513 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

It has a quaint charm I have found in small corners of China. It has the greatest spicy Sichuan food on the planet (I now own enough Sichuan peppercorn to last a few generations). The people they say are like Pandas, they are lazy and like to sit in the sun, drink tea and play Majong – if you had to say who was winning at life, I really think they are!

dsc00611 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00614 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
The obligatory marriage market!
dsc00616 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
One of maybe 50 activities going on in the park from games to dancing to skateboarding etc
dsc00619 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
100 year old tea house next to the river

dsc00622 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00623 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00624 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00625 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)
Thermas’s of hot water continuously refilled for hours of tea drinking

The Shangri La (depending on when you read this) is massive, as all Chinese hotels are, salute to decadence and luxury and the Horizon Club is magical. There is something completely civilized about sitting on the 35th floor of a building, eating canapes and drinking champagne while looking over and entire city!

dsc00492 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)


Every night Champagne and canapes . . .

A panda cake waiting in the room for my birthday from the brilliant team at the hotel!


Lastly a few places you need to put back on your list of things to do if you haven’t yet.

Jinli old street is a bit touristy, it’s a little cheesy but at the end of it, it has the best selection of street food that is well worth the walk-through abuse you get from markets in China.

dsc00606 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00608 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00598 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00601 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

Peoples park you may think is just a simple waste of time but just seeing the people dancing, playing games and relaxing by meandering rivers really makes you re-evalute what the hell you are doing rotting away in an office every day!

Like all Laowai there are certain things you are ignorant too, how many types of Tofu exist and how many kinds of Bamboo there are. There is a park with 100s of types of bamboo, some that I swear are not of this planet. It’s a small walk through, very quiet and peaceful and quite magical in a way.

dsc00551 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00543 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00532 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00565 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00563 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00553 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

Lastly the face changing show that’s held in the local outdoor theater  it again is packed with tourists and you wont understand half of whats going on but to see Chinese theater in action (plus you can watch the put on the make up / costumes) is really spectacularly interesting, even if you just go for the shadow puppet guy!

dsc00790 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00786 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00776 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00805 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00803 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

If this place is not on your list of China TO DOs then you need to re-evaluate your priorities I fear!

dsc00762 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)

dsc00764 (Mike Smollan's conflicted copy 2013-06-06)


Sometimes inspiration just smacks you in the (drunk) face . . .

So I’m taking a leaf out of another bloggers book, not of the same courage, not of similar personal perseverance to triumph, but of impulsive unedited spontaneous feeling driven writing!


Let me give you the 20 second summary and background.

I sucked at university, so much so that it almost took me double the allotted time to complete my degree. Since then I have been a merchandiser (shelf packer) , sales rep, manager, director, created the biggest dedicated sales force in the world and now Shanghai-I’m-not-sure-what-CEO-type-thing!

Today, I was playing golf with probably three of the most important business people in my universe (I manage about 15 000 ppl and they pay most of the bills). So I was slightly nervous at 10am this morning at tee off. I didn’t shank the first drive but I certainly didn’t find the fairway. After a year of non-golf you will excuse me!

So now I’m drunk, very drunk (each hole had to include a beer but drunk quickly every four holes – its raining and playing golf in the rain is shit so you get it).

So currently I’m in my Buick people carrier driven back to Shanghai by my seriously cool under 30 driver who is the epitome of Chinese new age nonchalant cool (whose mom made me Zongzi over the Duanwu Jie when he went home this week and I went cruising – soon to be written about).

We’re going off track (I did warn you I am drunk)

So the reason for my post is I’m listening to a playlist of song from a world class friend of mine, one of which is ‘Pursuit of happiness – Kid Cudi’ – the kind of track I like to stand in the middle of the dance floor hand in the air when the beat drops and just standing still enjoy the moment as the music, light and people all move in slow motion around me.


(this is the remix im listening to – the video is from a movie called Project X that you should have seen by the way)

This feeling is slightly older, slightly more limitless-pill, the feeling a sense of calm, happy and power. One of small victories and self satisfaction. The fact that I’ve come to place I cannot understand and cannot begin to comprehend but now, a year later, am playing golf with the most important people in my economic world, I have friends, I have and amazing lane house (post to come) and I have a ‘power-base’ that I took so for granted in SA.

Do I miss my home, fuck yes, do I miss my friends and the fact that I would be on the course with them today instead of anyone else today, no question but as so brilliantly said in the Godfather ‘This is the business we’ve chosen’ and so I must live with these decisions but so much as to say, I’m doing well, I’m enjoying life and I’m really starting to feel like I’m standing on grass rather that in the waves of the beach feeling the sand seep out from below my toes!

The moral of this rather long laborious story is, enjoy life, enjoy the shit adjustment phases of new days and enjoy the intimacy of knowing and learning new spaces – love it all and like I’ve said so many times before, when you have a small victory, embrace it, enjoy it and appreciate it!