Tag Archives: China

Sanya Trip: China Duty Free Mall – Yea or Nay

China Duty Free Mall

So you go to Sanya for a beach vacation, a place to enjoy the sun and waves – then you see tons of promotions for the China Duty Free Mall… You think – what is this all about?   Well, in a short answer – this is China’s insatiable desire for luxury and showing off.    This December, as part of our Christmas trip, we traveled to Sanya – here are some of the earlier postings on the topic.   We had really a great vacation and probably the only low point in it was the trip to the China Duty Free Mall.

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, China Duty Free Mall

Upon arrival in our hotel – there was a casual mention of it.  We quickly stated – “…but we live in China and upon departure from Sanya to go back home…we will fly to Shanghai and not leave the country.  How can we buy duty free?”

Turns out, the Chinese government has allotted Hainan and Sanya a special status – to stimulate the purchase of luxury foreign brand goods domestically tourists (non-living in Sanya) are allowed to purchase duty free goods up to the amount of RMB8000 twice a year.  And the Chinese consumer appetite for luxury goods is never too small (per Statista.com)

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, China Duty Free Mall
Sales of luxury goods in China from 2010 to 2020 (in billion euros)

So, we decided to check out the mall for ourselves.   The photo below is a snapshot of the map where the Mall is located in relationship to the Grand Hyatt hotel – in Haitang Bay area

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay

Here is the summary of the experience:

  • Main verdict:  Don’t waste your time…!  Really…!  No need to leave the beach for this.

 Why?  Here are the many reasons:

  • Prices are incredibly high — even after duty free is considered.   If you have the ability to shop in the US or Europe – do that there
  • We compared real time on Amazon.com for the prices on Toblerone chocolates – in the store after 15% sale price discount, the prices of the same chocolates were about 25% lower price on Amazon.com vs in this Mall
  • The selection is limited 

But the Mall is a great place for people watching.   Really…and had a good Christmas tree…Here are some more photos from those observations.   

China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
View of the CDF Mall from the road
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
The Mall is Big, so is the Food Court
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Sarah in Wonderland…Wait, wait, that was Alice, I think
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Tired of too much shopping…
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Weird Ad… I am NOT compelled to shop…
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Another tired soul – too much shopping…
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Matching Shoes make the world go round..
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
Security First…Menacing looking police truck
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
CDF-Mall…December…Christmas tree
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
CDF Mall – at least an interesting architecture to see
China, Hainan Island, Sanya, Haitang Bay, China Duty Free Mall
More of the CDF Mall architecture

At the end of the day – at least the architecture of the CDF Mall is interesting – something to experience… 

Starbucks Not Inspiring Loyalty Program – Huh…?

Starbucks Not Inspiring

It is very interesting how companies lose touch with reality…Starbucks not inspiring loyalty program is continues to be weird in how it deals with its loyal customers.  Yesterday, I published my views on how strange the way the company deals with global travelers is, and today I got another message from the Starbucks (lack of) customer care department.

If you have read my previous posting you have realized that if you travel overseas (to multiple countries) you cannot get points on your US card for buying products from Starbucks in those other countries unless you get a local account and card…!  Friendly ?  or is it?  

I vote NO

After notifying Starbucks of the (what appears to me and several of my friends) crazy recommendation of needing to have a local China card in addition to my US one… I sent another email highlighting how ineffective the recommendation is – this morning I received another “cheerful” email from Customer Care…Here is the new great feedback:

  • Starbucks calculates rewards in a different way in different countries
  • Cards from Germany, China, France, etc may be used only in the country issued

Here are the many things I find ridiculous with this amazing two days of emails:

  • All I asked is that my purchases in China be counted to my Starbucks points
  • I do not care how those points are computed
  • I am perfectly fine if the point calculation is different for each country…. I do not even know what the calculations are for the US…
  • In today’s technology empowered world not being able to link accounts and IT systems of the same company in two different countries is border line crazy and surprising
  • The customer care department at Starbucks is pretty ineffectual and actually the fact that every one of my emails was answered by a different person was a sign of the non-care aspect of it…

All in all, the financial aspect of my request is minimal to none.  But the optical effect of the hassle is pretty big…Oh, well, this has been a good beer (not coffee) conversation with friends in Shanghai….

Since I had some time on my hands I decided to check on-line whether there are more issues with the customer experience at the coffee shops — and was surprised to find quite a few.   I quick reference to a Slideshare posted project summary was very telling — customers at Starbucks are not very happy – long waits — yes they are even longer in Shanghai as the simple black coffee that you can get in 2 minutes from the drip machines in the US, is made based on expresso shot which is than diluted with hot water….bad and you have to wait long time…See others’ views here:

Starbucks, customer experience
Interesting observations….

Interesting to see that others have noticed the customer satisfaction gap — and the notion of Starbucks not inspiring the greatest loyalty

Good luck Starbucks  – hopefully the wonders of technology one day catch up with your operations for the happiness of your customers…

Starbucks Loyalty Program – a Strange Situation

Starbucks Loyalty Program 

The Starbucks Loyalty Program has been under a lot of criticism (in my understanding) from customers for many reasons.   Articles in several media outlets talk to the issues there.   What I discovered just this week is something very nonsensical and strange in this day and age.

China, Shanghai, Starbucks
Starbucks Shanghai new mega store – from Starbucks.com

I have been living in Shanghai (again) for a while now.  This week I ended up buying a large number of Starbucks coffees on multiple occasions due to some project work.   So, I decided “Oh, let me use my loyalty card and gets some points in my account…”  

I pulled up the Starbucks APP on my phone and proudly offered it to the counter employee….only to be told with a very nice smile – Oh, this is not a Chinese Starbucks card – we cannot use it here in China….The US cards are not used here – you need to have a Chinese loyalty card….

I found that very surprising so I looked on the bottom of my receipt and saw the statement “contact customercareCN@starbucks.cn with any questions..”

Well, I certainly had a question 🙂  So three emails later – I still do not understand why I have to have 2 different accounts in order to get loyalty points in the US and in China….

The very cheerful statements from Starbucks customer care was “…We also hope to create a culture of warmth and belonging…”  – Yes, true – just do not cross borders….(My interpretation…)

Then this evening I listened to an interview with the CEO of the company – Kevin Johnson – who made the statements “…Starbucks innovates on digital mobile connections with our customers…”  and given my email exchanges with the company’s customer care department I decided it is time to write about my experiences and the fact that eventhough 

  • Starbucks is focused on innovation in digital…
  • and the customer care organization is focused on creating culture of warmth and belonging

I had to have two different IDs to collect a few loyalty points….

Then I decided “Eh…not worth it….” I will just drink some other coffee…!  If a company that is focused on digital innovation and warmth is having difficulty with linking their OWN IT systems in two  huge consumer markets — may be their coffee machines are also NOT that great….Technology is hard … for some….

Shanghai: Yu Gardens and Qibao Old Town

Yu Yuan – Yu Garden

I think Shanghai has plenty of well known places to visit – many of them are worth the trip as they are spectacular, but some while beautiful, have become overrun by visitors and are rather tough to experience and enjoy.  I chalk the Yu Gardens (Yu Yuan) to that category.

China, Shanghai, Yu Yuan, Yu Garden China, Shanghai, Yu Garden 

Visited yesterday, on a Saturday mid-day.  The place was purely packed with people – no other way to put it.  If you do want to come and see it, first read through some of the background information on the area – to help you understand the history – then may ne uou can enjoy it some more (besides the overwhelming number of people around)

The Garden was supposedely built during the Ming dynasty around 400 years ago.   The main attractions are just the beautiful architecture and the interesting settings of water features and multi-turns bridge.  

Overall, you need to visit the place in order to gather a better feel for its beauty and significance.

Now, if you prefer something a bit more authethic, you may be better off in visiting Qibao

Qibao is one of the many water towns located around Shanghai.  It is believed the town was built in the 10th century A.D. during the Song dynasty.  

You can jump on the number 9 metro line and look for the Qibao stop.  Once you are there, look for the number 2 exit which will bring you to signs for the Qibao Old Street.

China, Shanghai, Qibao
Qibao Old Town

Overall, come here to experience the views and interesting architecture.  May be you can even find some wood or souveniers to buy….Up to you….

Check out the photo album I have added at the Travel Photo Web site.  I will keep adding albums there.

Happy Travels!





Style in China – Different…?

Style in China

I have been amazed by the rapid pace of development in China.  Me and everyone else, I think.  But one things that continues to baffle me is the style approach taken by many developers and builders in China.   

It is very strange (at least to me) that the same country which is able to construct in no time a science fiction looking city like Pudong

China Shanghai Pudong

is having major trouble keeping up a straght line when installing wall plugs, light switches,…and in the case that we observed today – a whole array of thermostat controllers

China Thermostats

Isn't this surprising?   Why would you install these units in such an obvious disarray?   It really boggles my mind… And the second surprising thing is that I see this in many places in China…. In 5-star hotels…and other fancy places.

Can anyone explain it?  May be it is a strange kind of Feng Shui?


Shanghai Blue Sky – Sunset

Blue Sky

Earlier this morning I was amazed to see the Shanghai blue sky – rare occurrence – and this late afternoon, I had the pleasure of seeing that blue sky in the sunset as well.

Well, it is good to see that!

You can take a look at the photos below and decide for yourself – cool, right?

China Shanghai Zhabei
[caption id="attachment_8856" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]China Shanghai Puxi Sunset And Another Panorama Photo of Sunset in Shanghai, Puxi

What do you think?   Cool stuff, right?  Enjoy!



Shanghai Blue Sky

Blue Sky

These days it seems to be the norm to be talking about the levels of pollution in China.  Some cities here seems like never get blue sky, so it is exciting to see a bright and sunny day happen.

Today is such a day in Shanghai….This morning the sky was clear and eventhough it is still pretty hot and humid – it was nice to see the clouds moving along and big swaths of blue sky everywhere 🙂

China Shanghai Puxi

Surprisingly also, the Air Quality Intdex – AQI – for Shanghai today at 9am was at 21…. For comparison, Austin, TX – which has very good air quality was at 37!

Good to see the progress the city of Shanghai is making!


Puxi Views – at Night and in the Storm

Puxi Views

This weekend, in Shanghai, I had the good opportunity to experience an awesome thunder and lightning storm while at the 19th floor of our high-rise.  It was pretty impressive

Right before the stort, the night was quiet and relatively clear – so I was able to take a few shots (without a tripod) of the view from West Beijing Road towards the Bund.

China Shanghai Puxi

And another photo of this view but this time with a zoom…. Interesting skyline

China, Shanghai, Puxi China Shanghai Puxi

The storm came later that Saturday evening – with howling wind and tons of lightning strikes.  I managed to capture one of them with my camera – wish it was less blurry – but again – taken without a tripod…Manual controls, 4-second exposure….I am amazed I even captured this one.



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!

Cost of Living in China and Inconspicuous Consumption

To continue from my previous posting, China (as you probably know by now) has become an economic power – which by itself is a great achievement (given its humble situation in the late 1980s) but one which has come at a great price – heavy pollution – which is visible in the big cities like Beijing more and more frequently – as the pictures below are showing you – the haze is almost omnipresent most of the time in the city…

Hazy-Beijing Beijing-China-May-2016 China-Pollution I think these photos from recent days in Beijing speak for themselves – May in the city – I wish the situation was different.  But then one would ask – what is the cause for this ?  Well – here comes the increasing wealth of the city dweller in China – and with that wealth comes the rapid growth of vehicles….

Which then brings me to another topic for today’s posting – the inconspicuous consumption.  What made me thing about it in the context of China?  These two photos did:

Hangzhou-pink-mazzeratiA pink Mazzerati “proudly” parked at the entrance of a hotel in Hangzhou – color and place all screaming – “see me, see me now!!!

And just so you do not think that this Mazzerati was the only “see me now” vehicle, take a look at the photo below – this one taken a few days ago, in Pudong, Shanghai: Don’t you love the pink car…

Shanghai-Pink-Audi I post these pictures as a decade or so ago, the mere ownership of cars was the coveted and standout situation.  Then came the fancy Lamborgini and Ferrari vehicles…but today for the raising and looking to differentiate middle class those may be out of reach – but a pink car is certainly well in the reach of many – as just those two photos taken 2 days apart can attest…

So, smog and pink cars…the price of progress…!