Category Archives: Living in China

Double 12 – Alibaba’s Drive Beyond China

Double 12

Have you heard of 12-12 or Double 12?  I bet you have not…Neither has most of the world – but Alibaba is driving hard for that to change.  Less than a month ago, here in China, was the now famous Shuang Shi Yi / Double 11 or 11-11.  The biggest (I think) shopping day in the world.  During the 2017 event on November 11, consumers spent US$25B in one day!  Amazing, isn’t it?  Well it did happen.

China, Singles Day, Alibaba

The graph above sourced from statista.com shows the super fast growth of Alibaba’s revenues from Singles Day…

Now Alibaba is driving the next best thing (for the e-Commerce giant) a second event with a goal to become a major shopping holiday — the Double-12 or 12-12 (December 12th)

China, Alibaba, Double 12, eCommerce

The advertisements for it are all over Shanghai and globally.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post — and is NOT shy at all to use its editorial as advertorials to promote its agenda and Double 12 as well.  It is a bit disappointing, but hey, what can you do….

Now, why am I spending time to write about it on this blog?  Because of Alibaba’s relentless focus on growth – it is fascinating – at least for me.  The company, which I think started around year 2000, has been on a tear – introducing a number of innovations – e.g. AliPay to drive electronic payments in China and more importantly making it a very successful platform which together with WeChat has enabled very seamless transactions processing across the country.  I must admit I am a firm believer in the technology and a satisfied customer and user…

The other fascinating aspect of Alibaba is their drive for global expansion.  They did create the largest single day commercial event – the double 11, and now are focused on expanding via Double 12 (linking it to the December holidays) in multiple countries – namely Hong Kong, Thailand, India, the Philippines.

So, in summary, watch out world retail players — Ali (as the company is often referred to in China) is coming…!

 

Shanghai, Winter and Holidays are Coming

Shanghai Winter and Holidays

This weekend the temperatures in the city dropped down significantly.   So, I thought to myself – the Shanghai Winter and Holidays are coming….finally!  So I grabbed my camera and off we (my wife and I) went to see how the cold weather and upcoming holidays are changing the city.

First we had to check out the local park – it has quite a number of ginko trees.  Those trees change colors in a beautiful, gold-like way… No, surprise – the ginko trees did not disappoint:

China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
The Ginko Trees in our local park in Shanghai
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park

Then took some pictures of the rest of the park – the weather has made the trees go into all sort of reds and browns…Nice overall

Shanghai, Neighborhood Park Shanghai, Neighborhood Park

Then we had a visit (and a very nice brunch) in one of the old Shanghai hotels – currently the Waldorf Astoria on the Bund.   No disappointment there either – we were greeted by a very nicely decorated Christmas tree — a nice start to the holiday season for us.

Shanghai, Christmas Tree

Next in line was the first of the Christmas markets we are visiting this year…But more on that one tomorrow….Enjoy the holidays

Hong Kong – What is the Latest Impression Compared to Shanghai

Hong Kong and Shanghai – trading places

Hong Kong is expensive !  How do I give you an idea about what that means?   Well, think of it in relative terms:  Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to this city.  We wanted to spend some time there and see how the city has changed and grown.   What we determined was actually rather surprising.  There were quote a few aspects that made us think of how this part of the world — Hong Kong and Shanghai — is changing.

The price of the flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong and back was US$500 for two people…. The price of a descent hotel room in the intercontinental in Kowloon was $480 per night….Hm….!    This is pretty wild.   Makes me thing about the economic competitiveness of the city.  If it is relatively cheap to get to Hong Kong (we bought the tickets with a 3-day advanced purchase) but the cost of getting hotel accommodations is so high, how can Hong Kong be competitive and attract talent and be a good (cost wise) place to do business…?

We came here with the experience from more than 10 years ago and the inputs from friends of ours – who believed Hong Kong is well organized, efficient, offering great food – but expensive.

Our assessment:

  • The city has become VERY overcrowded.  You do not want to be on the MTR in rush hour;   Queen’s Road Central and Wellington Road in Central are a ZOO – on a Friday night we had hard time walking together….two of us…

China, Hong Kong, MTR

  • We decided to eat in one of the local small restaurants – on Wellington road – Mak’s Noodle (Mak Un Kee) 77 Wellington Street, Central;   While the food was not bad – it was not great either.  We spent about HK$180 for a couple small of noodle dishes and a bowl of shuijiao (soup dumplings)….I.e. the proverbial Hong Kong fast food.   Not low cost and not a complete meal either….
  • Signage was pretty bad – relatively non-existent.    Not sure why?  For a city that prides itself on having tons of tourists come and visit, the degree to which various landmarks were easy to find was very bad!
  • We were shocked at the line of people waiting to get to Victoria peak.   12 years ago my family and I had visited so this time we decided to recreate the trip… Well, not so fast!   We saw the line waiting for The Peak Tram – asked about the wait time – and when we were told ~1.5-2 hours we lost the desire to go.   Afterwards I thought, may be we came at a busy time…?  Turns out the wait was normal…. So, another question then – why if you are so tourist friendly, would you create the infrastructure to have a massive crowd of people waiting for 1.5 hours to get on a tram and spend another hour getting to the Peak?  Beats me….

This brings me to the overall assessment – is Hong Kong losing its competitive edge and attractiveness as a regional mega hub?   

I think it is…!  Don’t get me wrong – Hong Kong still looks and feels very cosmopolitan, with great architecture, and its skyline is still interesting and making a solid impression on tourists 

China, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Island at Night

 

China, Hong Kong, Skyline
View of Hong Kong Island

We live in Shanghai, and this Chinese city is doing all possible to be residents and tourists friendly.   The subways are bright and relatively uncrowded, the streets are well signed and clean…the list can continue longer and longer…

Greetings from Hong Kong – Back in Town after 12 years

Hong Kong

My family and I spent some time in Hong Kong back in the fall of 2004.  Since then I have transited through Hong Kong on numerous occasions while traveling to Shenzhen, but in all cases I did not spent any time in the city.   So now that we are living in Shanghai, a long weekend trip here seemed the next best thing to do, plus get the opportunity to revisit some of the sites and enjoy this dynamic city.

Well, so we hopped on Spring Airlines flight from Shanghai (I will post a separate article on the airline — as it was memorable – for its utterly uncomfortable seats!) and came for a 3-day weekend.

Getting from Hong Kong airport to the harbor was very easy – we used the Airport Express – the second stop was in Kowloon.   The ticket cost is HK$150 for a group of 2.   Yes, if you are traveling at least 2 of you – you can purchase a group ticket which saves you some bucks… But you can get only one way group ticket…. Strange but oh, well, it is fine

From the Airport Express stop in Kowloon we went to the area with Free Shuttle Buses — and found one that stops nearby our hotel (as our hotel – the Intercontinental Hong Kong – did not have its own stop).   The stop at the Sheraton (in Kowloon) was just 5-8min walk to the hotel we were staying in….

Getting around – the MTR

Well, this has become quite the experience!   Hong Kong is overcrowed!  No question!   Why so many exclamation points ?   Well see the photo below and you will be able to tell and judge for yourself.  

China, Hong Kong, MTR

It is an incredible situation and very difficult to navigate.  The MTR is very low cost but has become very busy and appears well under capacity to handle the huge influx of people in the city.    That was not the case in 2004…

You can download MTR map with stations etc from the Apple Apps Store.. There are multiple apps that are free.

Now, off to explore in the city – so more writing later.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Fengjing Ancient Water Town – Good Day Trip from Shanghai

Fengjing Ancient Water Town

China, Shanghai, FengjingFengjing ancient water town is one of the ancient water towns within a day trip from Shanghai.  The history of the town is very long – per some of the local people, the town is about 1500 years old.  Some of the references I saw on-line desrcribed it as one of the gate towns to Shanghai.  The streets in the old town criss cross old houses, restaurants and tea shops.  Probably the main attraction that we saw (at least) are the canals that create the old city – the interesting houses being built all around the canals.

Fengjing is certainly much less visited by tourists – while Qibao is much easier to access, Fengjing is significantly larger, and much less over-run by tourists.  Let's put it this way – during our visit on October 6th, we saw only one obvious foreign tourist in the area.  I am sure there were plenty of tourists overall, but all in all, it is one of the off the beaten track locations.

China, Shanghai, FengjingThe local folks sell tons of food items – it appears frog legs are a major specialty here – we did not dare try, but tons of other folks did not hesitate as far as we can see…

Folks art is a big thing in the area.  I did not care too much for it – but if you like it, there is plenty of it.

 

 

In terms of getting to and from the city – here are some instructions – hopefully useful for you to use:

 

The town is easily reachable via metro and bus.  The town is located approximately 60 kilometers southwest from downtown Shanghai (e.g. Jing'An district).  

Instructions to get to Fengjing Ancient Water Town: 

  • Travel on metro line 1 to Jinjiang Park station
  • Exit either via 1 or 2 North exit 
  • Turn left and walk to the bus terminal – the name is West Meilong Bus Station
  • You need to get to a ticket window and buy a ticket for the FengMeiXian bus line – the ticket is 12RMB and you can use your Shanghai Metro card to purchase it (or use cash)

China, Shanghai, Fengjing, Feng Mei Xian 

  • The bus takes about 55-65 minutes based on how heavy traffic is
  • Once you reach Fengjing, the bus will drop you off infront of the Ancient Town.  You can then walk to the left of where the bus drop you off or to the right and in both cases bypass the visitor center and walk into the Ancient Town

China, Shanghai, Fengjing

  • On the way back, you need to remember to walk back to the same spot and look for a city bus with a sign (unfortunately in Chinese – Jin Mei Xian – this is a local city bus which can transport you to the town main bus terminal (you pay 2RMB as you get on that bus, you can use your Shanghai metro card again) – at the main terminal you will get back on the Feng Mei Xian to travel back to Shanghai.
  • The bus will stop at the Lianhua Road Metro Line 1 stop – or you can stay on the bus all the way back to the main terminal in Shanghai and walk back to the Jinjiang park metro stop

For a photo gallery of our day in Fengjing, please follow this link to the Travel Photo Blog.   Thanks!

Jing’An Sculpture Park – a Pleasant Place in Shanghai

Jing'An Sculpture Park

If you are going to the Shanghai Natural History Museum, you will very likely stroll through the Jing'An Sculpture Park.  It is a pleasant oasis in the middle of the hussle and bustle of the busy Jing'An area of the city.

China, Shanghai, Jing'An, Sculpture ParkThe park provides a nice setting for both leisure strolls and exercise.  As you walk or run through it, you can admire the interesting sculptures in it — please see the photos in this posting

This park is located at the intersection of Beijing West Road and Shimen 2 Road.  It is also at the Natural History museum stop of the number 13 metro line.

There are tons of trees in the park as well as of course the sculptures of all sort and shapes – some of them pretty whimsical (in my opinion)

This morning, during my morning run, I took a bunch of photos.  Several of them are below in this posting.

One of the big uses of the park is for morning exercises.  Go here around 7, or 7:30am on the weekends, and you will find groups of folks doing all sort of TaiQi.   Then there are the groups of sword dancers – the old grannies are well organized and moving in unison… I come across to do my monring runs as well.

Enough said, here are some photos to give you an idea…

China, Shanghai, Jing'An Sculpture Park
More Art
 
China, Shanghai, Jing'An Sculpture Park
Lawn with Sculptures

China, Shanghai, Jing'An Sculpture Park

 

Nanxiang – Old Street and Wrap Up

Nanxiang Old Street

Visit Nanxiang and you will have quite a nice experience.  According to local history, Nanxiang is the birthplace of the famous in Shanghai and all over China, xiaolongbao.  These are the small soup dumplings made with pork or crab filling.  They are great!

Shanghai, Nanxiang, Xiaolongbao Xiaolongbao, Shanghai, Nanxiang

Then there is the Old Street.   Interesting place, of course packed with people, but nevertheless very interesting.  My family and I walked the street and encountered many kids playing and of course all the old China architecture you can absorb.   This town is certainly a good place to visit for multiple reasons

  • Easy access — via metro line 11
  • The main landmarks and places to visit are within easy walking distance from the metro station
  • Great food!  Did I say xiaolongbao?  Of course I did – the dumplings (no matter whether they originated here or not) are extremely tasty…

Here are the next set of photos from the trip here:  

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang China, Shanghai, Nanxiang China, Shanghai, Nanxiang China, Shanghai, Nanxiang China, Shanghai, Nanxiang China, Shanghai, Nanxiang

If you like some of the photos, you can find a whole lot more on the Photo Blog pages here… Enjoy!

 

Nanxiang – Yunxiang Temple

Yunxiang Temple

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang TempleYunxiang Temple is also known as Liuyun Buddhist Temple.  It is located at one of the edges of the Nanxiang Old Street.  The temple has a very long history – being originally built in the fourth year of Tianjian during the reign of the Liang of the Southern Dynasty (505). Per recorded history I saw in the temple – during the Kaicheng reign of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 -907), the land area of the temple was expanded to 12 hectares and it had more than 700 monks.

It was renamed apparently in 1700, with an inscription from Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was destroyed in a fire, with only the Double Temple, Shijing Streamer and Shita Temple left. After the original Beihe Nanxiang Temple was burnt, a new temple was built in 2004 near the original site. The new temple, however, is still gorgeous with magnificent buildings – a very rare group of Tang-style buildings in the south of China.

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang Temple

The temple is located at 100 Renmin Road, Nanxiang Town, Jiading District.  Take Line 11 to Nanxiang Station (if you reach any of the Jiading stations you have gone too far) – then follow the map (see photo of the Google map) – the temple is a short 25-minute walk from the metro station.

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang Temple  China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang Temple  China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang Temple

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang TempleThe entrance to the temple requires a ticket – according to the ticket office on every 1st and 15th of the month, the tickets are 2RMB and during the rest of the time 8RMB but yesterday (October 3rd) the tickets were at 2RMB (for adults) as well – score…!

Overall the ticket cost is negligible given the interesting sights and views you will experience.  The temple provides an a good glimpse into how much China has changed over the years.  When I first came to Shanghai (in 1988!) for an extended period – I stayed for 2.5 years – it would have been very difficult to find a place like this temple and see people actually actively participating in various ceremonies…..

Today, this appears to be a normal act for many…. Given the number of people we say doing everything from a simple prayer to burining elaborate offerings (made out of paper of course).  

 

 

China, Shanghai, Nanxiang, Yunxiang Temple, PrayerPrayer for Good Fortunes

It also has become the most popular site during the Spring Festival in Nanxiang as people from all over the city come to pray for a prosperous new year. 

Of course, if offering a prayer is not your purpose of visit (as we were) – the temple offers excellent way to just walk around, do some people watching, enjoy the beauty of the architecture and overall find a place to sit down and contemplate….

 

This posting is a second one in the series about the less traveled part of Shanghai – the town of Nanxiang.  The first posting introduced you to the Ancient Yi Garden..

You can see many more pictures of the Liuyun Buddhst Temple in my photo blog.   Enjoy!