Shanghai : Why I said ‘Goodbye’ / Why you should say ‘Hello’

imageShanghai was never supposed to happen. My GF and I had ‘planned’ to travel to Japan taking an overland route from Singapore, but along the way we had too much fun/spent too much money/took the long way round…basically ran out of all our baht, dollars, dong and riel, and were only left with enough Chinese yuan to tide us over for three days in Shanghai. As a last desperate attempt to keep on the road we decided to throw ourselves to the mercy of headhunters (the city type) and get ourselves that dreaded three letter word, a J-O-B.

Working in Shanghai

A city of 25 million plus, with a GDP still accelerating at warp speed, the opportunities to work are plentiful. Getting a job is easy if you can (1) speak English and (2) smile. You don’t necessarily need to be a fluent English speaker,  for a Hungarian friend of mine’s English ability was mama-huhu (meaning ‘average’, literal translation ‘horse horse-tiger tiger’ but that’s Chinese for you). With only a basic grasp of some English nursery rhymes, she got employed and was more than happy to pass this knowledge on to Shanghainese 8 year olds. So, if you hear little kids singing ‘baa baa black shit’ along the Bund, they are not being facetious, blame my friend.

This was the problem. I got sick and tired of being offered jobs when in Shanghai. Nick can you : Sell wine, be an extra in a commercial, teach English, coach tennis, be a captain at a summer camp, be in a game show, swim instructor, teach English, become a dj, be a ‘host’ at a wealthy women’s party (which my friend did, I’ll leave that story for another blog), import beef, export anything, teach English. Nobody got that I am alwaysonholidays, I had to say goodbye.

Champagne Brunch

I don’t drink anymore, but I don’t drink any less. Champagne brunch is the way to spend a Sunday in Shanghai. Great for when friends are in town, or when it’s wet/cold/polluted or even when it’s not. There are lots of brunches on offer and I did them ALL. The best bubbles for your buck is at ‘YeShanghai’ in Xintiandi. I never once saw a review anywhere about their deal, completely  under the radar, you’ll have to thank nickisalwaysonholidays for this one. It’s not the Waldorf, with free flow caviar washed down by a bottomless well of Pierre-Joulet, nor does it have the operatic singers of the Westin, but it is a fifth of the price and serves Shanghainese style dim-sum, and when they run out of bubbles, bottles of plonk are plonked on your table. So thank you very much for your hospitality, Ye Shanghai and all the rest, but enough is enough  and I’m sorry to say that I’ll need to decline the next round(s), please excuse me for all my mess, I’ll be recommending you to all my friends. Enjoy.


Not the avant-grade art movement of the early 20th century, but the dive bar at the end of the night. In Shanghai Dada is also used as an explanation of a mood, for example when your colleague looks like crap and you ask about their well being, ‘Dada’ would be an appropriate answer. What ‘Dada’ actual involves would be something along the lines of Bund dining, (Mr&Mrs if you please), followed by a jazz club (JZ or Cotton Club being the picks since Theo Crocker left the Peace Hotel), a cocktail emporium or two (another blog), at least one boogie at a  Chines mega-club, the ubiquitous beer outside a 24hr mini-mart, followed by a wander up and down Xingfu Road hoping a random taxi will take you home before, ‘shit’ you found the door and you’ve been sucked inside Dada. Hopefully it will be a ‘papasuda’ night and dj Sahl will be spinning. Say ‘Hello’ from me and you can have shots at the booth, I won’t be needing them. Xiao xin (another Chinese lesson, this means ‘be careful’ and I mean it).

Enjoy your time with the ‘Whore of the Orient’, ‘Paris of the East’ and give her my regards. I’ll be back….


The Five Best Travel Films

Lacking inspiration to write today, my GF suggested I do a list. “Everybody loves a list”, she stated convincingly. This got me searching other people’s lists, maybe id find some ideas, the go-to being ‘1001 movies you must see before you die’. Hold up a sec, 1001 feature films. Let’s say that each is 100 minutes long, and you know those art house flicks are always longer, then (calculator needed) it would take 6mths of watching movies 9 hrs a day to get through somebody else’s list. That’s a J-O-B!! Keeping things simple, my list is only five items. Let the countdown begin!

The Five Best Travel Films, by nickisalwaysonholidays. 


5. Wim Wenders ‘Until the End of the World‘ (1991)

The ultimate chase around the world. The film highlights that no matter where you are, you are mostly stuck thinking about the images in your own head, and this was years before people got hooked on Instagram! The finale shot in the surreal landscape of the Bungle Bungle Ranges alone is enough to whet the lips of any traveler. The film has a killer cast, killer soundtrack but has been somewhat forgotten as it was a major flop at the box office. In 1991 people where paying to go see ‘Terminator 2‘ (yawn).


4. Jean-Pierre Jeunet Amelie‘ (2001)

OK, so not technically a travel film but it is set in one of the most sought out destinations on Earth. Love Paris, Lust Montmarte. I was lucky enough to stay in the 18th Arrondissement for a month a few years ago (blog alert), and initially thought wandering the set of Amelie would become naff-naff in an instant. Oh, was I wrong.  Champagne and a rug watching the sunset from the grassy slope of the Basilica of the Sacre-Couer with a woman you love, please. Get inspired. Watch the film (again), buy a plane ticket and remember to thank nickisalwaysonholidays.



3. Lars von Trier Europa/Zentropa‘ (1991)

This film ticks lots or travel boxes: train trips, working abroad, romance and, umm, werewolves. Set in post-World War 2 East Germany, Lars von Trier picks up all the tensions of cross cultural interactions. Jean-Marc Barr plays the protagonist, an American who exemplify’s the role of the idealistic outsider, a position a traveller often finds themselves in. Scenes are nearly entirely shot onboard a train where, Paul Theroux eloquently explained, ‘anything is possible: a great meal, a binge, an intrigue, and strange monologues framed like Russian short stories’. On the count of ten, you will be in Europa…


2. Bernardo Bertolucci The Sheltering Sky‘ (1990)

Bertolucci’s adaptation of the Paul Bowles masterpiece (‘Yes’, the book is better), captures so much of my love/hate relationship with travelling. From the jaw dropping scenery, set on the edge of the Sahara, to the boredom of yet another hotel room, the indifference of locals to a tourists needs and the pit falls of getting sick on the road, the film is entirely engrossing. Paul Bowles was the master back packer, even with a trolley of luggage. Supposedly Gertrude Stein suggested Bowles move to North Africa after shunning him from the click of artisans in 1920’s Paris, and so the adventures began. Watch this film and get sucked into the wanderlust of Port and Kit on their date with destiny.


1. Jim Jarmusch Night on Earth‘ (1991)

Shot on location throughout Los Angeles, Rome, Paris, New York, Helsinki, starring Beatrice Dalle, Winona Ryder, Roberto Benigni, with some drunken tales, a heart attack, a car crash or two and a dying priest, this film takes you to the other side of all the top spots on a bucket list. Each of the five short tales let you embark on different taxi journeys through the streets of the cities of the world. A reminder to us all that when you are travelling, the journey is often more exciting than the destination.




So there you are. Weird, three of my top five are from 1991. Now why is this??



Why blog? 


  “Nick, you are always on holidays, you’ve got heaps of free time, why don’t you write a blog or something about your experiences?” (From friends and family).

“Nick, you need a creative outlet, perhaps it’s time to start writing?” (One of the nicer voices inside my head).

“Nick, you are a wealth of information and have lead such an exciting life, please write a blog. Please?” (From the world at large, in my dreams).

My justifications not to blog in the past have followed a familiar theme along the lines of ‘just because I like to read/eat/watch films, it doesn’t mean I want to be an author/become a chef/direct movies’. 

Short, witty analogies that got me of the hook…until now.

What’s changed? In a word, attitude. Rather than try to avoid something I thought may be like that dirty three letter word, J-O-B, I decided to embrace something new. Well new to me, anyhow. I’ve always been a bit slow with technology. Didn’t get my first e-mail address until the late ‘noughties, plugged in my first mobile phone when 3G came into play and am still yet to stalk, sorry ‘search’ long lost friends on Facebook.  So here I am, like a kid with a new toy on Christmas, typing away with a big cheesy grin on my face.

Before leading you all down the track too far, I should outline what this blog will be about. I’m not putting up any boundaries around topics of discussion, but I will dab into travel (which I do a lot of), food (trying to cut down on), foreign culture (the one thing you know more about when you know you know nothing) and the general state of my mind. Probably throw in a book review or two, if I wasn’t typing this I would be reading. I may even give a secret away on how to be alwaysonholidays.


(If I get slack and don’t post anything, there will be a photo or two on Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)