Category Archives: Living in Beijing

China Air Pollution – Shanghai and Beijing

China Air Pollution

China air pollution does not appear to improve.   I have lived on and off in the country for many years and this issue continues to be a major problem.  It pains me to write about it as the postings seem to repeat themselves.  You can see the earlier ones which include pictures, which are very similar to the ones I took earlier this week in Beijing and this morning in Shanghai.

The air pollution is a very well recognized problem in China.   It is talked about in many media outlets.  Dealing with it is underscored as a priority by the government.  It was included in the targets set by the 19th Congress last week in Beijing.   Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection, described targets set for 2035 — see here

China, Shanghai, Air Pollution Until then – this is what you will have to face on days when the air quality is less than desirable…!

There are days in both Shanghai and Beijing, when the index shown in the phone snapshot here is much better.   This morning we woke up to an index which is out of the sky.  Literally, very often we may get hazy skies – but as you can see from the metrics on the page here, today is special!

 Included here is a photo from the Beijing Olympic Village area – as I saw it from the window of my hotel on a recent trip there

  China, Beijing, Air Pollution




So, in this posting I will include the comparisons of the good days here in Shanghai and the bad days (i.e. today) – you can see the side by side similar photos taken by me — no photoshop here….

China, Shanghai, Air Pollution
Shanghai Smog and Not…Same vantage point…
China, Shanghai, Air Pollution
Shanghai Smog and Not…Same vantage point…

All in all, this is something the country and its leadership must deal with soon.  it is tough to breathe the air and notice the pollution.  Having said that, China has made great strides in cleaning up many aspects of the cities and environment.  The air pollution must be dealt with next….

Beijing Snapshots – Xin Ao Shopping Center and Around

Xin Ao Shopping Center

If you are in the area of the Beijing Olympic village you may want to visit the Xin Ao Shopping Center.  The area is a good place to go walking and get some city sightseeing exercise.  The shopping mall is actually sort of hidden under an artificial lake.  The address is No.9 Hujing East Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.

The shopping mall also includes some very good restaurants.  I ate in the Yunan Food restaurant (Yun Nan Cai) — worth the visit.

How do you get to the mall?  You can take the number 8 metro – the metro station exits right in the shopping mall – very convenient.   Parking is available on the near by surface streets. 

In the evening while walking around I took some photos and then took some from my hotel room – I stayed at the near by Intercontinental BeiChen hotel.

The area outside of the mall is very lively in the evening – you can encounter people dancing, singing…all sort of group activities.  Great people watching overall….

China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area




Sleeping in China

Sleeping in China

ChinaSleeping in public in China – is a national sport.  Almost.  There are so many instances of it in any given city on any given day, that you will be hard pressed not to encounter it. Is it wrong ?  No!  Just amusing to some extent to the unaccustomed foreign visitor.   For those who have lived / stayed long enough in the country – it is a regular occurrence, and something not to be surprised about.

Having said all this – well it is still pretty entertaining – not so much to find people sleeping out and about, but to find all the different ways and places people find as comfortable whether for a small siesta or a serious sleep.

China Chengdu  China sleeping    China street  China sleeping

While to us (the foreigners) this may seem odd, sleeping in public shows some interesting (potentially) characteristics of the Chinese society – namely:

  • Expectations for public safety – it seems no one is really concerned that their well being may be threatened while asleep
  • Surprising expectation of no petty theft – which is strange because there is certainly enough of it in China….May be the petty thief stay away from sleeping folks – their sleep is special state and in an unspoken way, protected….
  • Everyone is really used to loud noise.  I know from experience – I was.  Living in a hussle and bustle of Shanghai, you get accustomed to the noises around you and you tune them out.

So all in all, not a bad set of traits and tricks to learn to leverage.   Those will help you!

Beijing Pollution – Not Getting Better

Greetings!   For all of you who need information on the weather and air quality in China and especially Beijing, here is an update – I was in Beijing this week – until earlier today.  Over the years I have spent a considerable amount of time – including 2 long term periods of living in the city as an expat.  The air quality has become an increasingly hot topic (in a negative way) and one of concern to a huge number of local residents and visitors from within China and abroad.

The city government has been trying (for years) to improve the situation.  Tons of measures have been taken:

  • Moving coal burning industries away from the city
  • Restricting the usage of bad quality coal for domestic purposes (although I still see the tricycles with stacks of coal being carted around the neighborhoods in the winter)
  • Heavily regulating the usages of cars – no cars from outside the city are allowed further inward in the city beyond the 3rd loop road;   The usage of motorcycles is also extremely restrictive
  • Cars with odd and even plates drive on different days of the week
  • and so on and so forth….

The results however, are NOT great.   Here are the snapshots of today’s / current (as I write) Beijing weather:

Beijing-Pollution-Readings                               Pollution-Readings-Imcl-Austin

And then – there are the photos from my window and photos taken from Hangzhou on Monday:

China-Pollution Beijing Smog

So for all of you doubters – is China really that polluted – the answer is – “We do not know…” but it is most likely bad.

Hangzhou, by the way – which used to be incredibly nice to visit and less polluted, not has similar problems  Here is a photo from Monday of this week….

China-PollutionAll in all it is a scary situation.  The reality is that the city has been under the watch for a awhile

I see a number of photos in my collection that reflect the slipping situation in the City.

Long story, short, be careful to research your destination and put it in perspective and comparable readings/assessment of the likes published by AirVisual (one of many applications reporting the air quality around various global locations)


None of this listed above is something new for those who have a lot of travel or living experience in China.  I have done multiple updates over the years on the pollution situation in Beijing and China.  You can see it in a 2015 posting, then again in a 2014 one, and earlier in a 2013 posting, then several in 2007 (here and here, and yet another here);

Having said all this (above)  a trip and visit to China is still an awesome idea.   Just make sure to be well informed and well prepared.   Happy Travels!

Beijing Pollution – Again…

Beijing Pollution – A Hassle for All

Beijing is a great city to visit and experience.  Having said that, the Beijing pollution can be really a problem – coming back from a business trip there, a couple of weeks ago, the environment was certainly not great.  But in a way, that situation was not as bad as it appears in the last few days.

Beijing Pollution Night-in-Beijing

Beijing Pollution China-Beijing-Evening

As you can tell from the photos, the smog is there just not as abundant as it appears to be per the news media articles here

Per the Guardian (article link above), residents are being told to stay indoors due to the high level of particulate matter…

Beijing-Pollution-China The pollution in Beijing is nothing new – my family and I lived there last time about 8 years ago and at the time there were days when the kids in my daughter’s school were not allowed out on recess due to particles count being too high….as it is now.

Then came the Olympics and other important international events, and each time the local government would shut down coal burning plants, force cars off the road….and take all sort of measures to reduce smog…

Now the Beijing Government is even pushing for adoption of the world’s strictest emission standards…I would say, that cannot happen soon and fast enough.  But hopefully it will eventually help.

Beijing-Pollution-ChinaUntil then, well, you need to plan your trips to Beijing and stays there carefully and avoid the winter months when smog is further exascerbated by the frequent fog conditions.

The US Embassy in Beijing provides air pollution monitoring and makes the readouts available to the public via their web site.

It is a very good idea to check out the reports on a regular basis – why?  they can help you plan your day and how to manage exposure…

Here is a link to their reports.

Like I said, Beijing is a great city to visit – lots to see and do – but do so with care.


Liulichang Beijing

Liulichang – Often Visited but Still Interesting Site in Beijing


Liulichang is a well known place in Beijing – today it is a mixture of private and state owned stores.   However, even if you do not purchase anything, it is an interesting place to see old Beijing…Here is a link from the Beijing Government….


Beijing – Winter Olympics 2022 – Incredible

China-Beijing Something unexpected and really strange happened in the last couple of days – Beijing was selected as the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games!!! Isn’t that incredible…?  Why would I say that – well – very simple:  Beijing and its surrounding areas are NOT a winter wonderland!

Beijing is for sure a very dynamic, interesting, sports oriented and full of energy city.  BUT – that does not make it a good candidate for a Winter Olympics host.

The place is bone dry in the winter – cold and dry.  Usually, in the hotels you have to request a humidifier to ensure you get some help with the climate to help the skin on your body and make your stay more comfortable.

Now think how can such environment be conducive to winter and snow and ice dependent sports….?   The only answer is man-made snow !   But that is very water and energy dependent – and both of those are in relative short supply in the capital ….!

So I fully expect that the local government will mobilize an army of people to both clean up the city as well as man machines to generate snow.  If a country can pull off such a challenge – China is your choice – a society focused on the state’s success and good position in the global view.

I certainly hope the games are successful and snow abundant – I just wonder how was the choice made and was it purely investment dollars (RMB) driven with nature, natural resources, clean air – all being secondary and tertiary…!   Oh, well….!

China-Beijing-Skyline   Beijing-China

Conde Nast Traveler: Strange Article on Visiting the Great Wall in China

Over the years I have read the Conde Nast Traveler magazine on a relatively regular basis.  Until recently, I also thought their articles are thought provoking and of good value to the experienced traveler.  All that until now – I just came across an article that proclaimed a good way to have a visit to the Great Wall and avoid crowds.  Why, do I say the article was strange (and barely useful)?  Because of its key points – if you want to visit the Great Wall in a way that avoids the crowds you need to:

  • Go to Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai…
  • You will avoid bus groups
  • avoid souvenir hawkers

Here is the excerpt that made me laugh:

It’s more than a fantasy: We recently took a guided and chauffeured tour organized by the Opposite House, an ultramodern hotel in Beijing’s energetic Sanlitun district. With the help of a registered guide, fluent in both English and Mandarin, and a chauffeured Audi A6, we were able to bypass the popular, overrun Badaling section of the Wall to explore less-touristed stretches—Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai, or Jinshanling—free from bus groups and souvenir hawkers.


No one knows about Mutianyu or Simatai…??? Hardly!!!

No crowds and no souvenir hawkers….??? Hardly!!!

Just take a look at the photos below and you will see the evidence of the opposite

Mutianyu Market     Mutianyu-Great-Wall-May

Now, can you enjoy the Great Wall in relative crowd free manner?  Yes, it is possible – just need to make sure you select the time of your visit carefully.  Pick a work day of the week, plan to visit one of the sections like Mutianyu and preferably do that in the months closer to the Winter…. E.g. March

Here are some views of the Great Wall at Mutianyu which actually reflect a day when there were hardly any people at the site.  Enjoy!

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(Side note: here is the link to theConde Nast Traveler article...)

Chinese New Year: Interesting Statistics to Help You Learn More About China

Well folks, the Chinese New Year celebrations are (almost) behind us.  In previous posting here I provided a brief view of the Year of the Goat, and some statistics associated with this huge holiday.  In today’s posting, I would like to add some interesting statistics I have come across in searches on the Web – and leverage those as a way for all of us to build up more understanding of the customs and habits associated with the Chinese New Year.

The first stop along the road of fact discovery is one that compares the US Thanksgiving and Chinese New Year.   Can you tell “Huge Order of Magnitude” difference…

Infographic: How Chinese New Year Compares With Thanksgiving | Statista

Then we need to look at how people spend their money in order to get a feel for what drives nowadays customs.  Sure, you can talk about ancient practices but money speaks loud…So here is the next infographic

Infographic: Chinese new year: how people spend their money | Statista

Amazing, right… Huge RMB-amount spent on the event itself and associated gifts.  Now you can understand how important this holiday is and why China essentially comes to a stop during its duration.

Here are a few stats more – courtesy of The Independent


Chinese New Year Approaching Fast

Chinese New Year in 2015 falls on February 19th — and on that date we will go into the Year of the Goat.  I get the question very often – what year will be this year? The year of __?

So to that effect here are the two things:  2015=Year of the Goat,

Year of the Goat

and a pictogram I found on the web that shows the alignment of the Chinese Zodiac

Chinese Zodiac Years

The Chinese New Year is certainly the biggest holiday on Earth – why?  Because of the sheer number of people who celebrate it, take action due to it and take a huge number of trips as a result of it.  In China and other parts of the world, people celebrate the event by having family gatherings.  It is THE norm to have the extended families travel thousands of miles to get to their ancestral homes and bring everyone together.  To that effect the holiday creates the biggest migration of people on Earth (I think).

Talking with friends and reading in the media, the holiday travel is characterized with the following statistics:

  • In preparation for the travel needed, train ticket sales reach over 1000 tickets sold per SECOND!
  • Chinese authorities expect approximately 2.8 BILLION trips to be taken around the festival
  • Expected close to 1B people on the move
  • The amazing view was the image from Baidu Maps – which showed the location based requests from mobile phone registered users in China – the image shows the intensity of travel associated with the holiday last year….Expect the same and MORE this year…

Chinese New year 2014