This is my Saturday lunchtime listening while curled up on the couch with the dogs! A fantastic live album from one of my favourite bands.
This is my Saturday lunchtime listening while curled up on the couch with the dogs! A fantastic live album from one of my favourite bands.
Today is our 19th wedding anniversary and one reason we came to my wife’s hometown was the hope that I could return her under warranty. Apparently it wasn’t a lifetime warranty, but rather I had to keep her for a lifetime. If only I read the small print! 😜
When I landed in Xi’an I saw these Take a nap boxes. Let’s hope my boss doesn’t come up with cost saving ideas after seeing them! Actually at 30RMB/hour they are not exactly cheap.
From the picture it looks quite comfortable and could well be a better standard than my normal business trip hotel!
If I can find them in the departure area of the airport on Friday, I think my curiosity will get the better of me.
Come to think of it, this could be a great escape room from a nagging wife!
When I first got back to my apartment complex after my 14 days quarantine, I observed an unmanned food cart at the entrance. Over the last few weeks I have seen these carts at subway station entrances in the morning. They looked interesting but I had never seen one moving until yesterday.
First I should say that I live next to Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park in the Pudong District of Shanghai. Across the street from my apartment complex is the Pudong Software Park where I often take my dogs for a walk because in the middle is a nice lake where the dogs can enjoy sniffing and running around.
Yesterday as we headed towards the park, I observed one of these unmanned food carts, but it was actually an autonomous unmanned food cart. As you can see in the video below, it is oblivious to the red light, not only at the pedestrian crossing, but also at the main junction. When I shared the video with my friend, he said it must have been programmed by a cyclist because the cyclist is also ignoring the red lights (which is pretty normal in China to be honest).
So it looks like they have a lot more work to do on the software before these are allowed to freely roam around the city.
Although Acronis True Image did the job, I just didn’t find it easy or speedy to use. That may of course be due to the internet connection here in China. I also cannot help but think it is becoming bloatware with it’s new ransomeware detection features and so on. The personal version also lacks some of the advanced features available in the business version, perhaps I expect too much and I am just not the target audience for them.
What backup tools do you all use?
Researchers have demonstrated that they can make a working 3D-printed copy of a key just by listening to how the key sounds when inserted into a lock. And you don’t need a fancy mic — a smartphone or smart doorbell will do nicely if you can get it close enough to the lock.
This is wild!
The block was put in place at the end of July and is enforced via China’s Great Firewall.
This isn’t a nice welcome back home. I don’t know how many sites implement TLS 1.3 and ESNI but it seems many countries want to have more control over the internet. If we are not careful we will end up with _CountryNets_with premium insecure monitored tunnels for external connections.
When I left China on 19th January there was news about a virus in Wuhan, but I had no idea that the whole world would be impacted the way in which it has. I would have never guessed that my 14 day trip would eventually be an additional 186 days! However, after an approximate 2 month process, today I was finally reunited with my family and almost got licked to death by my two dogs!
I would not have got through this experience without the love and encouragement of my family and friends all around the world. I am especially grateful to my friends in Hodenhagen who looked after me for the vast majority of the time I was in Germany. An experience I will never forget.
I must say a big thank you to my colleagues in HR at thyssenkrupp System Engineering, The German Chamber of Commerce and Lufthansa for making my return to China possible at this globally challenging time.
I would also like to say a special thank you to the Qingdao authorities and the staff of the Mangrove Tree Resort World who have looked after me, along with the other passengers who arrived in Qingdao on the 22nd July Charter flight. You have made the last 14 days as comfortable as they could be. 谢谢!
I should also thank the Qingdao West New Area Government for the ample supply of complimentary beer!🍺.
I think I have some interesting photos to post from today, which I will do in the coming days. But right now I must get myself readjusted to life at home at give my wife and dogs the attention they have missed.
Thank you all for coming on this journey with me!
For many years I have been told by friends that I should try TsingTao Original Beer, however I have never seen it anywhere when I have looked. That was, until today.
Today is my last day in Qingdao, the home of TsingTao beer and I was pleased surprised to see a small beer store selling the local wares.
I was pleasantly surprised that not only did they have the TsingTao Original Beer, they even had cold ones! (If you have ever been to China you will know that ice cold drinks are not very common).
This has to be the best TsingTao beer I have tasted so far, but it’s not cheap. It cost ¥99 (about $14 US) for 1L. But after 14 days of quarantine, I deserved it! It is served in a quality aluminium bottle which probably adds to the cost!
Earlier today I was visited by doctors in white suits who did another COVID-19 swab test and also sucked blood out of me for an antibody check. Hopefully this will enable me to be issues with a certificate that states I completed quarantine virus free!
I am particularly interested in the antibody results, just to see if I ever had the virus without knowing. However a friend told me that asymptomatic carriers tend to be fit and healthy individuals, so that actually rules me out.
So, apart from finishing the remaining beer, tonight I must re-pack my suitcase ready for my onward adventure to Shanghai tomorrow. Then my real diet and excercise program can start (maybe!).
Well there is a little under 3 days to go before I will be released from quarantine. To be precise my quarantine officially ends at 10:29 On 6th August, this happens to be the official landing time of my flight on 23rd July.
The last few days have been really humid and the nights have been disturbed due to a tropical storm off the east coast area of China. I hope I can get some good sleep later today!
As I woke up earlier than usual this morning, I checked my leg and it seems the muscle injury had healed. Feeling guilty, I thought I would start doing the quarantine exercise regime that I had planned. For this I used Carrot Fit as my mentor and guide, only to discover that I am really out of shape, which is surprising because when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a finely tuned athlete.
I completed the routine and this afternoon I am now hurting in places that I didn’t know could hurt. Perhaps exercise is really for young people?
However, Carrot Fit did give me a reward of a popsicle but sadly there are none available in my hotel quarantine room.
While I am biding my time in Qingdao quarantine, my wife is once again travelling to some of the more scenic places in China. This time she is in Qinghai Province with her photography group. Today she sent this spectacular drone footage of The Devil’s Eye, Aiken Spring. I assume she is one of the small dots near to the vehicles you can see.
Here is another great photo taken of my wife by her photography teacher. I am so envious, I just wish I was there with her, I need a vacation!
Your terminal can display color, but most diff tools don’t make good use of it. By highlighting changes, icdiff can show you the differences between similar files without getting in the way
I am on a roll today, the second really useful utility I have found. I always struggle with the output form diff, probably because I am old, but icdiff allows me to stay on the command line. Lets see if it becomes a permanent replacement for Beyond Compare which is my current go to GUI based diff/merge tool.
This tutorial teaches you to convert the tabs into spaces in Linux command line from the programming perspective.
I often think that I am knowledgeable about Linux, but I keep discovering little gems like this one. The actual real magical command I discovered in this article is sponge, if only I had know about that before, some of my shell scripts would be so much better!
Who made the beach disappear?
So it’s quarantine half time. What have I learned during the last 7 days?
My guess is the second half will be pretty much the same. Further COVID-19 tests are scheduled including an anti-body check so that is probably as exciting as it gets.
China’s homegrown large amphibious aircraft AG600 successfully completed its maiden flight over the sea yesterday in the coastal city of Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province, its developer has announced.
Damn! I had this happening on my doorstep and I had no idea.
Today was my first working day of quarantine. It was a very pleasant day here in Qingdao with clear blue skies and really good air quality, I hope that this continues.
There is something to be said about the climate here. I usually detest the summer in Shanghai because of the humidity. Normally within minutes of leaving my home to start my commute my shirt is usually soaked in sweat and I am ready for another cold shower!
Qingdao is different, for the last few days and nights I have kept my balcony door open and the cool sea breeze is just enough to take the edge off the heat and create a really comfortable environment. Looking up from my laptop and seeing sun, sea and sand takes me away from the reality that I will have no human contact and very little native language communication over the next 10 days. The only person I see and interact with each day is someone dressed head to toe in a white suit who knocks at my door twice a day to take my temperature.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for everyone. The German Chamber of Commerce set up a WeChat group for all of us on the 22nd July Charter Flight. There were reports today that many people who were on the 15th July Charter Flight got stomach issues starting last week, possibly as a result of the food. Apparently some even had to be taken to hospital. This no doubt has made a bad situation much worse for them, I wish them all a speedy recovery.
A few people on my flight say they have had stomach problems, but fortunately I have been OK so far, perhaps as a result of the fine whisky I brought with me. Hopefully the situation will remain that way!
Now I must address an important issue, I have run out of beer! 🍺
Yesterday, my journey from hell finally ended. After leaving my hotel in Frankfurt at 7:30am on Wednesday 22nd July, I finally arrived at my quarantine hotel in Qingdao around 5:00pm. A total door to door journey time of 27.5 hours!
During this period, I was tested twice for COVID–19, and had my temperature taken 6 times. Although there was lots of waiting around at times, the actual process was extremely well organised by the Chinese Authorities. I remain grateful to the German Chamber of Commerce and all the local Qingdao authorities that have worked extremely hard to facilitate and receive these special charter flights. An extra special call out and thanks goes to the Qingdao West Coast New Area Government who are providing complimentary beverages throughout quarantine, include the famous Tsingtao beer that is made here.
The quarantine accommodation is better than I can possibly have expected, and I was lucky enough to get a room with a sea view! The hotel is part of the Mangrove Tree Resort which you can see on the map below. Now you should have a better idea of where I am in the world right now.
Throughout the journey yesterday I took a several photos, those that I think maybe of interest for you can be seen on my image website:
Additionally for those interested in the food that is being served, I will also be posting the pictures on my image website:
After two hours waiting on the plane, my row was called and I finally got to disembark and go through the formalities.
To be honest the Qingdao Authorities were extremely well organised. They reviewed the health declaration paperwork that I prepared in advance and then asked a few questions before going for some further tests.
My body temperature was checked first and then I had another COVID-19 test. This time, not only did I have my throat swabbed, I had my nose violated like never before. I could swear they were inserting a micro chip into my brain!
After that, a quick check at immigration and customs and I am finally in China! I have waited so long for this day.
I am now on a bus heading to my quarantine hotel where I’ll get to spend the next 14 days of my adventure, and only then can I return home to my family in Shanghai.
While I was waiting for my COVID-19 test results (Fortunately I am negative!☺️). I took a time-lapse video of the view I had of Frankfurt Airport
Even though my flight is not until Wednesday, I am not taking any chances. Today I will take the ICE 575 from Hannover to Frankfurt and stay the next two nights at an airport hotel.
I leave with mixed emotions. My good friend and colleague welcomed me into his family and home four months ago so that I didn’t have to endure the lockdown period all alone in a hotel room. This is an incredibly kind gesture for which I can never repay him. I will miss the whisky tasting and the quality food and beer. Not only do I leave as the 2020 Hodenhagen Corona Lockdown Phase 10 Champion, I have a long term souvenir of a few extra kilos around my waist that will remind me of all the happy memories together!
As a sufferer of depression, I have no idea what my mental state would be if I had remained in a hotel for the whole six months. But with the help from my friend, his family, my colleagues and the extended support of my new friends around the world in the weekly Eve Selis Patreon Zoom meeting, I have come through this relatively unscathed and I am now a just a little more relaxed about situations that I am unable to influence.
Today is just the beginning of a long journey home, there are still a few obstacles to overcome but I am facing them with positivity and vigor!
As regular visitors to this blog will know, for the last 6 months I have been stuck in Germany after the outbreak of the Corona Virus extended my two week trip!
One of my friends and colleagues who I have been lucky enough to be staying with during this time is very much into Whisky tasting, and with the help of the live tastings and the live tasting archives of Whisky.com (or Whisky.de) I am now also enjoying and appreciating whisky like I have never done before.
Updated 2020–07–26 - forgot some whiskies!
Updated 2020–07–26 - forgot some whiskies!So to keep track of which whiskies we have tasted, I decided to list them all. Unbelievably it was 62, roughly 1 every 3 days! 🥴
|1||🏴||Ardbeg An Oa|
|7||🏴||Auchentoshan American Oak|
|8||🏴||Auchentoshan Three Wood|
|10||🏴||Bowmore 15 Darkest|
|12||🏴||Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie|
|15||🏴||Cotswolds Distillery Founder’s Choice|
|16||🏴||Cotswolds Distillery Small Batch Reserve|
|20||🏴||Edradour 12 Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia Selection|
|24||🏴||GlenAllachie Masala Wood Finish|
|29||🏴||Glenmorange 12 Quinta Ruban|
|30||🏴||Glenmorange 14 Quinta Ruban|
|31||🏴||Glenmorange Madeira Wood Finish|
|32||🏴||Glenmorange Nectar D’Or|
|33||🏴||Glenmorange Port Wood Finish|
|34||🏴||Glenmorangie 10 Original|
|35||🏴||Glenmorangie 12 La Santa|
|38||🏴||Lagavulin Double Matured|
|40||🏴||Laphroig Quarter Cask|
|42||🇺🇸||Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye|
|43||🏴||Port Askaig 100° proof|
|44||🇩🇪||St Kilian 16 months (Distilled 2017 Bottled 2019)|
|45||🇩🇪||St Kilian 28 months (Distilled 2016 Bottled 2019)|
|46||🇩🇪||St Kilian Signature Edition Five|
|47||🇩🇪||St Kilian Signature Edition One|
|48||🇩🇪||St Kilian Turf Dog|
|50||🏴||Talisker Distiller’s Edition (Distilled 2007 Bottled 2017)|
|53||🏴||The BenRiach 10 Curiositas|
|54||🏴||The BenRiach 12|
|55||🏴||The Glendronach 12 Original|
|56||🏴||The Glendronach 18 Allardice|
|57||🏴||The Glendronach 20 Vintage 1995 Bottling|
|58||🏴||The Glendronach 21 Parliament|
|59||🏴||The Glendronach 8 The Hielan’|
|62||🏴||Wemyss The Hive|
I sincerely hope that I can continue my new hobby when I am back in China, though I am sure the availability of miniatures maybe limited. Fingers crossed that I can find a good store in Shanghai!
Wednesday was not a great day for me as I found out that I did not get a seat allocated on 15th July Charter Flight to Qingdao, China (NOTE: Since then I have found out I have been allocated seat on the 22nd July Charter Flight).
In the evening, to help raise my spirits, my friend took me to a neighbours socially distanced birthday celebration in the village of Eickeloh. Everyone was super friendly and sympathetic about my situation.
During the evening, one couple asked me where I was from in England. Usually when I answer this question I say Milton Keynes because it’s the nearest biggest city to my small home town and many people have at least heard of it, even if they don’t know where it is. They knew Milton Keynes, and responded with a follow up question of whether I knew the town of Winslow because they used to live there for a time….Winslow is the town where I have my house and where I went to secondary school! A great conversation ensued reminiscing about various town events such as the Winslow Beer Festival and Winslow Show!
I just find it so fascinating that you can be in the middle of nowhere in rural Germany and meet somebody who has lived in the same small rural English town as you.
A similar occurrence also happened to me back in the mid 90’s. On one business trip to the USA I stayed in the Marriott Hotel in Livonia, MI. Normally I would stay in the hotel across the street, but on this occasion it was fully booked so I had to stay a few nights in the Marriott first. One evening I was talking to one of the bar staff, not only did they know the small village of Great Horwood where I grew up, they also went to school with the daughter of our neighbour!
These little chance acquaintances always make me smile and consider how small the world actually is.
A number of pubs in England have closed after customers tested positive for coronavirus.
At least three establishments announced they had shut their doors again just days after reopening at the weekend.
Well that was not hard to predict! Most of the photos floating around news websites and social media clearly show very little social distancing and a distinct lack of 😷.
I am sure this is just the beginning.
Following my successful trip to Hamburg to obtain a visa so that I can return home to China, I decided to try out the FFP3 mask that I had purchased many months ago in anticipation of returning home in the height of the COVID–19 outbreak in Mainland China.
The train journey was only 2 hours, and it was clear that you get hot and a little uncomfortable with the bands strapped around your head. How medical professionals wear these day in and day I have no idea. I have even more respect for them now. All I have to do is put up with discomfort for a 12 hour flight! My good friend @yogimo suggested that I pack several and change them throughout the journey. I think this is probably a wise idea and I will give it a try. All I need now is a flight!
Previously I have written about my current situation, When can I go home? and Two steps forward, one step back. Today I woke up to some good news from my HR department back in Shanghai, the special invitation letter has been approved, so now I can apply for an appointment at the Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Hamburg so that I can obtain a special visa.
I submitted all the documents and fortunately I got a quick response, sadly it stated I need another document but this time it must be issued by the local German authorities. I think it’s like a proof of residence or something. I find it strange that this is required because I am basically living here due to being stranded and not by choice.
Emotionally today has been a complete rollercoaster, fantastic news followed by rapid anxiety and stress of finding out how to obtain a document I don’t really understand, in a country I am not really that familiar with. Fortunately my good friends and colleagues here have helped me find a way forward. Hopefully tomorrow I can get the required document and a visa appointment date and time.
This afternoon focus has been hard, and at times like this I turn to music, and in particular my favourite album by a very special singer/songwriter to me, Eve Selis. Eve has offered inspiration and a sympathetic listening ear to me and others during the weekly Zoom meeting for her Patreon supporters.
The special track for me at this time is One Day At A Time. Check it out, I am sure you will love it.
My wife sent me this time-lapsed video she made yesterday from one of the windows in our apartment. I think it’s pretty cool.
As part of iOS 14’s new features, users will be able to switch their default app preferences for the first time.
This has been a longtime coming! I seem to get more excited by this small news rather than that announced in the WWDC keynote.
In the late 1990’s I was living in Farmington, Michigan, USA. For the first couple of years of living there I didn’t have a TV and just listened to the radio, predominately the local National Public Radio station Michigan Radio. Every Saturday Night a two hour show called A Prairie Home Companion was aired. It contained live music, comedy and great general radio entertainment. Ever since that time I have been a regular listener and the show has been part of my weekly routine.
A few years ago, the host of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor retired after 40 years of doing the show Chris Thile took over the helm, and shortly afterward the show was rebooted into Live from Here. This once again became part of my weekend routine, until I read this thread in my Twitter feed:
Live from Here has always been about bringing people together. It has been a joy to connect with you in person, on the radio, and online.— Live from Here (@livefromhereapm) June 16, 2020
So last week’s show was the last one to be broadcast. For me this is really devastating news, whether at home or on a business trip, listening to Live from Here always brought happiness and joy to my life. It introduced me to so many new artists and has probably influenced my musical taste just as much as Bob Harris has done over the years. In my eyes, it was simply the best live radio show in the world.
The Slow Mo Guys, known for science and technology-related videos that take advantage of slow-motion cameras, today took a look at how the Apple Watch water ejecting feature works, featuring it up close and slowed down.
I think this is actually a cool video, I wonder how much time and effort was spent by Apple engineers to optimise this process?
This week has been a bit of a roller coaster with a crash at the end of it.
A few days ago I published this post asking When can I go home?. As the week progressed things seemed to be moving along, payment being arranged, special invitation letter being requested and visa application forms prepared.
One of the key criteria in getting a seat on one of the Charter flights back to China is to receive an Invitation letter from the local authorities in Shanghai. Today I learned that it would take at least one month for this to be processed! If this really is the case then I would not be able to make any of the planned Charter flights in July as once this letter is issued I still need to apply for a visa, which is required in addition to the residence permit I already hold.
So I am heading into the weekend, disheartened, depressed and without the flickering light that I saw a few days ago.
I sincerely hope that my employer and the German Chamber of Commerce are able to facilitate expediting this process so that I, and many others like me, can return to China and our families as soon as possible.
Please keep your fingers crossed for some more positive news next week so that I can enjoy the Dragon Boat Festival with that flickering light back in my sight.
The days of Vegemite, the Australian equivalent to Marmite, could be numbered down-under because people are using it to make moonshine.
I just what to know how as this could save me when I am in quarantine!
For almost 9 years I have been living and working in Shanghai, China. For the last 6 years I have been working for large German multi-national and have enjoyed building up their technical capability in China.
Back in January, I came to Germany for a 2 week business trip. Little did I know that 5 months on I would still be here. Due to the outbreak of COVID–19 in China earlier this year, my employer initially prohibited all travel to China and then in late March this announcement came:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China National Immigration Administration Announcement on the Temporary Suspension of Entry by Foreign Nationals Holding Valid Chinese Visas or Residence Permits
So where does this leave me? Well, fortunately as a UK national I don’t have any immigration problems with staying in Germany (I have no idea what happens when the Brexit transition period ends). A good friend and colleague has invited me to his home, so I am being well looked after and gaining all the weight I lost in the last 9 years!
Since the announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there has been no further information as to when the borders will be opened again to Foreigners, let alone those of us with residence permits. If I am honest, I have no real idea when I will see my family again.
Earlier this month, the German Chamber of Commerce arranged two Charter flights to China for employees of German companies, one to Tianjin and one to Shanghai. Sadly I was unable to secure a seat on one of these flights, but last week there was an announcement that further Charter flights are being negotiated, but this time the destination would be Qingdao. My employer has applied for a seat and now I am playing the waiting game. Even if I can secure a seat, it is no guarantee that I can return as the Chinese Authorities have to approve the passenger list, and negative COVID–19 tests must be completed before getting on the flight.
As my home is in Shanghai there is a good chance that I will have to quarantine twice, 14 days on arrival in Qingdao, and then for another 14 days when I eventually arrive in Shanghai. So, even if I was to able to fly home today I would still not see my family for another month! This is something I am prepared to endure because there would be definite light at the end of the tunnel, unlike now. Mentally this situation is proving quite challenging, especially now that the amount of work I can effectively do remotely is beginning to dry up which could also lead to other complications with my predicament.
I am extremely grateful to my friend who has welcomed me into his home for the last few months. As well as providing me a comfortable environment to live in, he has also introduced me to the best COVID–19 lockdown hobby of online Whisky tasting!
Here is my family that I miss so much being so far away:
Wish me luck!
For many years now I have been hosting my blog on a self hosted WordPress site. I have not been a prolific blogger and I found that I was spending more time keeping WordPress and the relevant plugins updated than I did actually using the site.
Over the years I have used various blogging platforms such as 10Centuries and after exporting and importing data images in my posts got lost and some other meta-data such as location data also disappeared. I then went on a quest to find an affordable alternative. After several days of searching, I settled with Micro.blog
After setting up my account I looked at how I could get my data out of WordPress and into Micro.blog. This looked easy, however unfortunately only about 10 out of the 120 posts got imported. I submitted a support ticket and got a prompt response, however there appears to be some edge case issues with this process. Not being one to be defeated I searched around for a solution and ended up settling with converting the WordPress export file to Markdown. This is the guide I followed: How To Convert WordPress To Markdown - Kev Quirk.
Using Markdown files allowed me to easily fix some of the image references before I imported them into Micro.blog, and after a couple of hours I had all 120 posts imported with images and links. Sadly I think some of the links are now rotten, but the rest of the data is available for all to see.
Now all I need to do is start blogging more. Right now it’s time for bed.
I just wish I could take photos like this!
By Lo Shih-hung The US-based global tech giant Apple Inc. is set to hand over the operation of its iCloud data center in mainland China to a local corporation called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) by February 28, 2018. When this transition happens, the local company will become responsible for handling […]
Is this the end of the end?
Port 443 and port 80 has been blocked coming into my home IP for a few months now, but it will be interesting to see if this can be pulled off!
Just remember, China is the beta test for the west!
BEIJING (AP) — China is tightening control over foreign companies’ internet use in a move some worry might disrupt their operations or jeopardize trade secrets as part of a crackdown
We will all have to wait to see how this may or may not affect us, but without a functioning method of bypassing the GFW then many expats, businesses will struggle to enjoy China.
It cannot be denied that a large portion of videos stored on the internet can be found on YouTube. Isn’t it frustrating then that when you navigate to the web interface on YouTube and look for the Picture in Picture button, there isn’t one there? Well with macOS Sierra, it IS possible 。。。。
I have been wondering how to do this for almost a year now!
This is an interesting read, I have often said that China is the beta test site for technologies that will be applied in the west.
A fitness craze from Germany combining yoga poses while drinking beer is gaining popularity in Asia.
What can I say other than ‘Sign me up!’?
The maker of Budweiser just bought a stake in a craft brewery in China
Boxing Cat Brewery makes the best beer in Shanghai, however I must drink as much as I can now before it is too late!
Apple Pay has finally caught on in the US, but one year on in China and it is still struggling.
I think one aspect that is not mentioned in the article is that UnionPay insist that a PIN is entered when using Apple Pay (and in some circumstances a signature is required). This means that using Apple Pay is not really any different to using your debit or credit card.
The competition such as Alipay and Tenpay simply require the QR code to be scanned and the payment is immediate, a much better experience in my opinion.
It would not surprise me if this situation was intentional to ensure the business and profits stay in China.
The other day I wanted to search and replace in OneNote 2010 (the version my employer uses), after trying all of the shortcuts and searching the menus I turned to DuckDuckGo for help. This is the Office support document that I found:
I thought it was 2017 already?
If you’re living in China, you’ve got to know these ten simple hand signs.
Quite a good guide, check it out and practice!
I have been a fan of Alison Krauss for many years and have her entire catalogue, a unique voice and also a unique talent. I simply love everything she does, from song writing, to producing.
Today she released Windy City which is her first solo album since 1999’s Forget About It. I think it has been worth the wait and has been the perfect end to a not so perfect week.
Passengers abroad a China Eastern Airlines flight bound for Shanghai were recently rewarded with a free trip to the scenic middle of sunny Siberia following a small bout of engine failure.
Yikes! I’ve taken this flight many times before!
I find this really interesting, and about time the rules were enforced. I don’t think I have taken a flight in recent memory where the somebody has not been using their phone during take off or landing. The only strange thing with rules in China is that they will not allow a mobile phone to be used in Airplane Mode, yet a cellular based iPad in Airplane Mode draws no attention.
It turns out that China was actually serious when it warned passengers against using phones on planes last year. Shockingly serious, in fact.
I’ve often wondered this while putting on my thermals to keep warm despite having the air conditioner on full blast.
Due to budgetary limitations, however, this heating entitlement was only extended to areas to the north of the geographical dividing line between northern and southern China - the Huai River-Qin Mountains Line. The logic being that they have a longer winter, which last for at least 90 days (meteorologically, a winter day is defined in China as when the average daily temperature falls below 5 C).
Psychologists are uncovering the surprising influence of geography on our reasoning, behaviour, and sense of self.
I have just bought this fastastic new album, I simply love everything Chris Thile does, a musical genius!
As much as China excels at putting up buildings, they are they are just as good at taking them down.
This is pretty cool, but what’s interesting is that the Shanghai Tower will soon be the third tallest building in the world!
Some recent China news suggests VPN is now banned in China. Is VPN banned in China? We will discuss the news and whether you can still use VPNs in China.
This is probably the best article I have read based on the recent new VPN laws announced in China. Many of the other articles pain the picture of the end of the internet as us Expats know it. Although we cannot be sure exactly what will happen, I think VPNDada.com have assessed the situation well.
Thanks to a recommendation from @Leader_Music I simply cannot get enough of this newalbum by Karen Jonas, Country Songs. I had not heard Karen’s songs before, but her story telling is wonderful and her voice is incredible and yet classic country. I am sure by the end of the day I will have purchased her debut album Oklahoma Lottery.
As of today I’m officially suspending sales and support of Mint and Fever. But! As self-hosted software, absolutely nothing changes and you can continue using both Mint and Fever as you were yesterday.
I started using Fever after the demise of Google Reader, it was self-hosted and worked extremely and had some cool features to manage my RSS feeds. It even gained a decent amount of 3rd Party app support for synchronisation and offline reading despite the API being in a beta state. Sadly once Anthony Drendel stopped development of Sunstroke for iOS, the fastest of those apps, I had to find an alternative.
Sadly none of the alternatives performed well synchronising with Fever and most of the time they were not useable. About a year ago I migrated from Fever to Tiny Tiny RSS and found a plug-in that mimicked the Fever API so it could be used with the various 3rd Party applications. I now use this configuration with Reeder on both macOS and iOS, synchronisation is lightening fast and I can now get to browse through my RSS feeds wherever I am in the world.
My main concern now is that if these 3rd Party app developers see the demise of Fever then they may remove the support for the API, leaving me hunting for yet another solution.
I moved to the US for a few years in the late 90s and I discovered A Prairie Home Companion on Michigan Radio, and ever since then the show has been a part of my weekends. It’s possibly my favourite show on the radio…actually it’s probably second to my best buddies show, Leader’s American Pie.
However I was wrong to be concerned, Christ Thile is doing a fabulous job.
Chris Thile has been preparing to host the beloved radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion—which comes to Pasadena this weekend—for nearly his whole life
Thank Donald Duck for that…..
Airpocalypses not withstanding, China is continuing to take the lead in the global fight against climate change, announcing that plans for 104 proposed coal power plants in the country will be halted.
Now I know what I want for my birthday!
We have seen a lot of connected coffee machines last year, from Auroma Brewing Company to Smarter Coffee. This year in CES 2017, iGulu, the company behind an automated home beer brewing machine, wo…
Beijingers are used to seeing soy used to produce all manner of foodstuffs – tofu, soy milk, edamame, protein supplements, soy sauce … but soon we may be using this miracle bean to protect us from the city’s notoriously bad air.
This was inevitable, however I am very grateful for it’s existence because I have made many friends from all around the world via this service, many of whom I have since met face to face.
This is an interesting piece. I always think China manufacturing is better than it actually is. Hopefully things are now changing for China which is great!
China is close to producing a fully domestically-made ballpoint pen after a long struggle.
So the many hours trekking around around numerous foreign supermarkets in search of Marmite were indeed in vain.
Ever wondered why you can’t find Marmite, American beef and proper
This is so true!
‘So what is China like?’
Today Astrill offered and apology, well not really, it’s still the customers’ fault!
This week has been a frustrating one for those of us living behind the Great Firewall of China. Popular methods of leaping the wall have been restricted by the authorities and many VPN providers have been totally locked out, especially on mobile devices that are limited to certain detectable protocols.
The provider I have used for the last 18 months or so has had good speeds and solutions in China up until this week. On Tuesday their iOS app got totally blocked but fortunately they already had a solution in review with Apple and two days ago it was released. Sadly the euphoria was short lived because as of last night I was presented with this message:
In the past censorship has increased during the holidays, but not like this. My gut feeling is this is a more permanent upgrade, which if it is the case, then my life will be made even more challenging.
I can understand this is not only frustrating for users, but also the developers of the VPN products, but last night this appeared on my Mac desktop client:
This message is totally offensive to customers, and if I could get my money back I would. But sadly the only stupid thing I did was give them money in the first place. Are they so naive to think that customers and the press are the reason the new app got blocked so soon? Do they seriously believe the Chinese authorities are smart enough to create the Great Firewall but not smart enough to monitor the status of one of the more prominent circumvention tools? I really hope somebody got reprimanded for pushing this message out, as I for one will not be sending any further money their way. They must have forgotten that they have competition that actually have functional solutions right now!
Today saw the great Internet crackdown of 2016 here in China with most IPSec VPN servers being blocked. For users of VPN’s on iOS this is a bit of a disaster because IPSec protocols are what they mainly use.
It’s not clear whether the blockage is automatic or if the GFW is targeting the big VPN players, but whatever the reason it’s a real pain in the arse. Earlier this evening OpenVPN was being blocked but that seems to be working OK right now.
Life is great in China, except for the air quality and the Internet. That reminds me, I must research the air purifier I want to buy from BlueAir….that’s assuming I can access their website.
Please look and learn my friends!
Having lived here for 4 years this is the worst AQI I remember.
However in recent months to protect myself not only from the bad air but the open coughing and spluttering of germs on the subway I wear my Vogmask to hopefully protect me…it’s so bad my employer issued masks to everybody today!
Stay safe folks.
As many of my friends and colleagues will tell you that I have been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine for about 5 years now. This proved a smart choice when I moved to China because other search engines were either filtered or just did not work from the mainland.
In the 3 years that I have been living and working in China, 2014 has to be the worst year for seeing sites being blocked, and the whole international web experience is becoming totally miserable. For example, earlier this year Dropbox was just partially blocked, then it was totally unblocked and many people were ecstatic but as of a few months ago it is now 100% blocked!
There are many ways to get around the blockages, but none of them provide you with the experience that you have when outside of China. They involve connecting a VPN, changing your computer configuration etc Not fun when you just want to quickly look something up.
Yesterday, I fired up my browser and instead of getting the usual DuckDuckGo logo and search box, I was presented with a progress bar that stopped moving and eventually the message
Safari can’t open the page “https://duckduckgo.com” because Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server “duckduckgo.com”
Anybody who has spent any amount of time in China immediately knows that this is almost certainly a result of the site being blocked by the GFW. So I did a bit of investigating and noticed that the DNS was being poisoned because it returned the ip 126.96.36.199 which appears to be for a non-existent server in South Korea. It also happens to be the same IP that was used to block Google.com according to this The Next Web article!
With the imminent launch of iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite I was looking forward to unencumbered DuckDuckGo web search on both my iPhone and Mac. But alas, this is not going to the the case unless the Chinese authorities have a change of heart, of which I certainly won’t be holding my breath.
So, just for you all I risked life an limb to show you 5000 firecrackers being set off in the apartment complex where I live here in Shanghai.
Notice the strict adherence to health and safety rules and not putting nearby buildings at risk.
My normal commute to the office in Shanghai is often a battle. I rarely get a seat on the bus or subway, and there isn’t a day where I am not pushed or shoved in some way or another.
As the Spring Festival is now upon us, many of the migrant workers have already left Shanghai to return to their families. This has made moving around Shanghai a very pleasant experience. During the last 3 days I have managed to get a seat on both the subway and bus on both legs of my commute….I cannot recall this ever happening before!
So if you want to travel and visit Shanghai, take my advice and do it during the Spring Festival your experience will be so much better.
Well what can I say, it’s well deserved! ;)
I guess it pays to have friends in high places here in China! ;)
Sorry for posting this late!
I am sure that most expats will tell you stories of things they miss from home apart from friends and family. For me it’s the occasional food or drink item.
This Christmas my wife and I decided to remain in Shanghai which meant that I would miss the traditional Christmas dinner that my mother would prepare. However to my surprise after living in Shanghai for over 2 years I was told about a restaurant that served traditional English food. Although the English are not renowned for their food, the opportunity to fill up on Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies is an opportunity not to be missed if you ever get the chance.
So on Christmas Day we headed to Glo London for a 4 course _eat until you cannot move_ dinner! It was simply delicious!
So next time you are in Shanghai with friends looking for somewhere to eat, instead of popping out for a Chinese consider going for an English! ;)
On returning from a recent business trip my wife showed me a fault on the right hand side of the screen on her 3 year old MacBook Air. Although this fault did not prevent her from using it, it was somewhat irritating when what she wanted to read was on the right side of the screen.
I am fairly strange in that I like almost everything I own to be well kept and maintained. So having a faulty MacBook Air screen annoyed me somewhat. So I set out to get it repaired….
The first stop was the official Apple channels. I visited both an Apple Authorised Repair Centre as well as one of the big Apple Shops here in Shanghai. Both of which offered to replace the screen for a little under ¥4000 (about $600). I thought this was a little steep considering a brand new same spec model could be purchased for only ¥7088. I needed a plan B.
Not to be deterred, I asked for ideas from my followers on ADN and also contacted my wife’s cousin in Wuxi because he has a couple contacts in the digital market there. His contacts suggested I purchased a replacement screen from Taobao and they would replace it for a small fee. So over to Taobao I went.
Within minutes of searching I found a seller who could supply a new screen for ¥600 and not only that, they were based in Shanghai! If I would go to their office they would also install it for ¥200! This was the solution I was looking for!
It’s amazing that I eventually got a new screen installed and fitted for less than our Christmas Dinner, but I am disappointed that Apple are marking up spares and repairs by so much, especially knowing that labour is so cheap here in China.
Here is the card for the repair shop if you should ever need it!
Last month I wrote a post after I discovered that FaceTime Audio was disabled on the iPhone 5s that I purchased from one of the Apple Stores in Shanghai. After contacting Apple Support I was told that “…the decision to disable the FaceTime audio in devices sold in China is to adhere to regulations in that region.”
As an Apple user in China I am pleased that their relationship with the relevant authorities is better than that of Google, however yesterday I noticed an inconsistency with this statement.
I purchased an iPad Mini with Retina Display as a Christmas Gift for my Wife. I purchased it from the Apple Store in Pudong, Shanghai and I noticed that the FaceTime Audio option is enabled and functions! So why is FaceTime Audio allowed on an iPad but not an iPhone? It simply makes no sense to me. Perhaps the carriers feel it would take revenue away from them, but if that’s the case then why not inhibit FaceTime altogether (FaceTime Video works on the iPhone!)
In China there are many things that appear illogical, but I really do wish Apple could be more transparent and clearly state which features are disabled in which region, ideally with an explanation of why.
My commute to work over the last couple of days has been a somewhat unpleasant experience. Anybody who has traveled on public transport in China will relate to the fact the the vast majority of people have no concept of queuing in an orderly manner. When the train or bus doors open it is literally a shove fest so that seat can be obtained, and in my experience is the elderly people you have to watch. They have years of practice and know ever trick in the book. I tell many visitors that the Shanghai public transport traveler motto seems to be “He who pushes, wins!”.
My commute to work starts at Longyang Road on Shanghai’s Subway Line 2. My final destination is East Huaxia Road, just 6 stops in the direction of Pudong Airport. However, it is not as direct as it seems. At Guanglan Road, the 3rd stop, passengers must alight the train, cross to the other side of the platform and board another train for the rest of their journey. This all sounds fairly straight forward doesn’t it? In reality it isn’t. Each train carriage has seats for about 48 people, however at rush our these carriage carry in excess of 160 people, all of whom want a seat on the next train and will stop at nothing to claim their prize.
Yesterday the train from Longyang Road was unusually empty and when it arrived at Guanglan Road. I was standing behind two girls at the door waiting to alight. As the train came to a stop we could see the crowd of people on the platform who had come from the train at the other side of the platform, all with a blood thirsty look, ready to fight for the seats on our train.
Most polite people would allow alighting passengers to leave the train before boarding, but this is China and getting a seat is more important than anything in the world. As the doors opened a wave of people pushed their way on to the train which startled the 2 girls which were then instantly pushed back onto me, knocking me off balance and on to the floor….people could easily see that I was knocked down but carried on with their quest by trampling on me and my bag. I started shouting profanity, got to my feet and shouted in English that people should get some manners. I know that some people understood what I was saying, but most probably thought I was a rude foreigner, after all to them it is perfectly normal to push people to the ground in the hope of being the first to a seat.
Today, I happened to be first at the door as the train arrived at Guanglan Road and I could see the seat thirsty crowd waiting for the doors to open. But this time I put my full body weight (I am probably close to twice the body weight of most Chinese people) and legs in a resistive pose so that I could take on the onslaught of pushing. As the door opened a guy headed towards me and tried to push me back, I did not move, instead he crashed into me and then the guy behind him tried to push him and me. At this point, I pushed them both back towards the station and said affirmatively that they should learn some manners and allow people to get off the train first! There was a look of shock on their faces, and one grunted at me (probably because he lost the opportunity to get seat, not because he was sorry for being a jerk).
It’s going to take a while for me to educate 1.3 billion people to be courteous to fellow human beings when traveling on public transport. Unfortunately I cannot send them all to Japan to see how pleasant boarding a train should be. Hope is not lost because even the Chinese Government realises something needs to be done as earlier this year they issued some travel etiquette tips for Chinese citizens traveling abroad.
As much as I love China and the majority of the people, the more time I spend here the more points in this blog post I begin to agree with. Come on China, pull up your socks and show the world how good you can be.
Safe travels in China, and remember “He who pushes, wins”
Friday evening a friend tried to call me using FaceTime Audio, a new feature in iOS 7. Strangely my iPad 3 rang but my new iPhone 5s didn’t. At first I thought nothing of it and decided to look into it over the weekend.
After further failed tests with my wife I trawled the internet for answers and discovered this thread that implied that it was a problem with devices sold in China.
As this was the only thread I could find discussing this issue I decided to contact Apple Care and to my utter surprise I was told the following:
“I know that for a list of iOS 7 features and availability, you can visit the Apple website. I can certainly understand how you feel in this situation as well, Paul, especially if FaceTime is a feature you utilize often. Please note that the decision to disable the FaceTime audio in devices sold in China is to adhere to regulations in that region.”
So apple have been asked by Chinese regulators to disable the FaceTime Audio functionality. But why? I can happily uses other VoIP applications such as Skype Viber Forfone and even home grown WeChat so this is mind boggling to me. Even if it was the carriers that forced the restriction, the data plans in China are hardly generous enough to use VoIP regularly instead of a regular call.
I try my best to understand why the Chinese authorities make various restrictions on the Internet, and for the most part they make sense (though I do not necessarilyt agree with them). And this one has me perplexed. I kind of feel I have an expensive device that is not functionally complete. I see I have 2 options:
Return my nice iPhone 5s for a full refund and purchase one from overseas such as Hong Kong or South Korea. Apart from the inconvenience this causes warranty issues because the Apple Stores in China will not honour warranty or even support you with devices purchased overseas.
Keep my iPhone 5s, know that it is fully covered by Apple and continue to use the VoIP applications I have been using for years, besides when I do use FaceTime it is inevitably for the superior video functionality.
What are your thoughts? What should I do?
This last week has been a week of worry because I inherited the worry gene from my mother).
Last week I had a few days vacation and on one of the days my wife had booked me into a local health center for a thorough health checkup. Anybody who has lived and worked in China will be able to relate to the health check process as you need to undergo a government approved health check to obtain your residence and work permit.
Basically you get ushered from room to room and in each room you experience a different test. It’s a bit like a production line! Having said that it seems to work incredibly well considering the volume of people.
The tests you get depend on what you pay for, and one of mine was an ultrasound to check some internal organs. After checking my liver etc the nurse proceeded to check my neck, but promptly stopped because she realised I had not paid for that particular check, however she did say she saw something and I should go to see my doctor! Panic!
Once the health check was over my wife and I headed to Shanghai East Hospital to see a doctor and find out what was wrong. Another ultrasound was done and the doctor informed us that I had some Thyroid nodules one of which was large enough for him to be concerned that it could be cancer…yes that ‘C’ word nobody wishes to hear come from a doctors’ mouth.
So before I knew it I was handing over lots of cash to the hospital for further blood tests and within a few days I was being pumped full of iodine with my neck stuck inside a CT scanner.
By this time I was really not sleeping and probably made the biggest mistake of all….use the Internet for self diagnosis! Apparently I could have been suffering almost every ailment known to man, or I could be healthy, or soon be having a cancerous thyroid cut out of my neck. The Internet is not good when it comes to this sort of thing! Just don’t do it!
A couple of days later I get called to the hospital to discuss the CT scan results with the Doctor and fortunately there was nothing to be concerned about, no cancer just a slightly swollen thyroid that could be attributed to the ridiculously long hours I have been working recently in South Korea. The doctor prescribed rest for the remainder of the week! What a top bloke!
Now that I had calmed down and started to think about the last few days I realised how different healthcare is around the world. Having lived in the UK, USA and now China I still am not sure which system is better and which offers the best care.
In the USA I was fortunate enough to have good insurance through my employer but I was skeptical about how doctors prescribed medication, they often had bags of samples that the big pharma reps had dropped off. Was I being prescribed the best medication or was I being given the one that the doctor got the best kick back? I guess I will never know. The only issue I had was where my insurance company refused to pay out for some blood tests that should have been covered. They blamed the doctor for filling in the paperwork incorrectly but my doctor said they had filled it in correctly. Only when I was threatened with the debt collectors knocking on my door I paid up out of my hard earned cash. So much for insurance!
In the UK healthcare is free to all, rich or poor and throughout my life I have been pleased with the care I have received. That being said, I have no idea how I would go about getting a thorough health check similar to the one I had last week, so if I did have a major problem then perhaps it would not get treated until I had other symptoms which by then it could bet too late.
Now let’s tackle China. It seems if you have money or a good job then healthcare you can get, if you are one of the millions of poorer people then you are out of luck which is simply heartbreaking. I am also a little skeptical whether doctors recommend tests because they are 100% required or if they think I’m a foreigner and they can scare me a little to extract a bit more cash out of me…either way, I may now be out of pocket for the cost of a iPad or two but aleast I can sleep!
Two years ago when I first moved to China I had never heard of the online market place called Taobao. I can only describe it as Ebay on steroids, I honestly believe you can purchase anything you want on Tabao be it a new component for your computer or even a wife!
So what is the catch? This is China after all. The catch is that you can never be sure what you are purchasing exists, and if it does exist is it the real thing. The girls in the office warned me of this when I first started shopping on Taobao but my experience up until recently has been perfect. Everything I ordered had arrived in a timely manner and was exactly as described. This was shopping heaven for somebody like me who likes to save pennies wherever possible.
Sadly, my last 3 purchases have not gone to plan…
I ordered a USB to 1.8” HDD case so I could utilised a 60GB HDD from an ancient iPod with my Raspberry PI computer….this never showed up, but after several months I was able to ask for a refund.
Gillette Fusion Power Razor blades. I ordered these based on the reviews, everybody saying that they were the real thing. Great product etc. I then thought surely not even the Chinese would go to the trouble of manufacturing fake razor blades. How wrong could I be. At first the packaging is almost identical to that of the real product. And when you unpack the razor blades from the packaging they look like the real McCoy….but then you try to shave with them….holy crap, it’s like being waxed on the face! I immediately knew there was something wrong so I took a closer look:
The blue strip that tells you when to change the blade did not look like that of the genuine article, sure it faded overtime but it was different.
The plastic moulding was slightly different, but the overall assembly of the product and colour of the components was identical.
The major difference was the spacing of the 5 blades. On the genuine article these are spaced evenly, but on the ‘Chinese’ version the spacing was sporadic which is probably the cause of the painful shave.
You either love or hate these keyboards, but I love them. They are quite and great to code with. When I travel to South Korea I stick mine in the suitcase each time. I am a lazy git and want an easy life so I decided that I would have a complete office setup in Korea and China so I decided to buy another keyboard from Taobao It arrived today, and although it is genuine article I have no idea which country it is for because the keys have characters that I don’t even recognise. With the aid of my wife I have complained to the seller and intend to return the goods and get a refund, but for me this is all hassle and I will pay the 30% more and get what I want from the Apple Store.
I must have been lucky up until now, but my love affair with Taobao is coming to an end. Maybe I am being a bit harsh, my colleagues have been shopping far longer on Taobao and have much worse stories to tell, so maybe I should chalk this up to another ‘China Experience’.
Well OK, I didn’t get the Space Grey, but I now have my gold iPhone 5s that is now busy restoring from a backup…
I don’t think I will get much work done tomorrow!
After 4 weeks working in South Korea I had hoped to return to China and buy an iPhone 5s. But so far I am failing miserably.
In mainland China you cannot simply go into an Apple Store and pick up an iPhone 5s. As a result of the mini riots after the iPhone 4s launch a couple of years ago there is a reservation system that goes live each day at 6am, this allows you to reserve one of the phones that they have in stock at your local Apple Store. Living in Shanghai, I now have a choice of 4 official Apple Stores because 3 days ago a new store opened in the IAPM mall. The process is this:
At 6am got to http://apple.com/cn/retail/iphone and click one the iPhone 5s reservation link.
You then must send and SMS containing the word ‘iPhone’ to a number and a special code will be sent back to you. You must enter this code, your phone number and fumble over a captcha before you can view the available stock at the different stores and I assume make a reservation (I have not got any further than this point).
The stock appears to be extremely limited. Prior to today I never managed to see any available stock, but today a couple of the stores had the 16GB Space Grey and one of the stores had a 64GB Gold but none had a 32GB of any colour (which is the model I would like). As of a few minutes ago all stores except the new one at the IAPM mall has sold out.
Who is buying all these phones? In China the cost of these devices is higher that the average monthly salary so to be this does not make too much sense (I would not spend a month’s salary on a phone). However I guess Shanghai does contain a large percentage of the wealthier Chinese population.
So, what are my options?
I could order online, but I don’t have a credit card here in China. Despite earning a western salary every application I have made for a credit card has been declined (even though I have been here almost 2 years now).
Pay a premium from one of the retailers who has a grey import from Hong Kong.
Try and buy one during my next trip to South Korea.
Take @nevin up on his offer to send me one from Hong Kong.
Just buy the next 32GB or 64GB model that is available regardless of colour.
As I am scheduled to be in Shanghai for the next week, and I also get up at 6am everyday, I will probably continue to keep trying the silly reservation system. I will keep you informed of my progress!
I have been travelling to Asia for over 13 years now and back in 2000 when I first visited China buying antiperspirant deodorant outside of Shanghai seemed almost impossible. Thankfully this is no longer the case, it can be purchased almost anywhere now even though the cost is approximately twice that of the equivalent product in UK.
Fast forward 13 years to Siheung, South Korea where I am frequently based due to the HQ of my employer being just down the road in Ansan…..Normally I pack 2 lots of antiperspirant deodorant when I travel just in case I leave one it a hotel or something, however on this trip I totally forgot to pack any! So I decided to head to the local shops to buy some….it was almost like being back in China 13 years ago! I couldn’t find any in any of the convenience stores, so off I head to E-Mart which is a large supermarket/store…
I was expecting to be presented with a wall of deodorant including international brands that I was familiar with along with a select of Korean brands that I will never have heard of, but alas this was not the case. What I did find was small selection of Axe (Lynx in the UK) spray deodorant in a special ‘New’ section of the mens grooming products. I was happy at first because it meant I would not be stinking before the end of each day, but my happiness was short lived when I saw the price of 10900 WON (Approximately 11 USD)!
So this has got me wondering, do South Korean guys simply do not need deodorant? Or I am in a less developed suburb of Seoul where such luxuries are sold at a premium price?
On my next trip I will bring a few extra cans and leave them in my dormitory, or better still import a crate load from the UK, mark them up 100% and sell them!
As the second anniversary of moving from the UK to China is rapidly approaching I realise I have done a poor job in writing about my experiences living and working in both China and South Korea.
The main reason for this is my crazy life and laziness. It has also been a challenge to find reliable tools to do the the blogging in the way that I wanted to do it. For example, previously this blog was a self hosted WordPress blog. This suited me fine until I started to write posts using the iOS app. More often than not the app would crash with data loss, and then if I did manage to publish it rarely looked like how I expected it to.
Then I discovered an interesting solution called 10Centuries.com. This is a new blogging platform creates by @matigo. This solution is simple, clean, fast and comes without any of the security based issues you have with self hosting a WordPress blog. It’s easy integration with Evernote means creating posts on any platform is a breeze.
Please drop by from time to time to see how well I am getting on!
Sometime last year I had my bicycle stolen here in Shanghai. It wasn’t an expensive bike but it had travelled the world with me.
I had originally purchased it from a local dealer near my home in the UK. When I relocated to the USA in the late 90’s it followed me and saw a few of the streets in Michigan in the early summer mornings as I attempted to stem the weight gain as a result of my unhealthy lifestyle.
When I returned to the UK it came back with me and saw very little action in the subsequent 10 years.
My bike before it was loaded on to a slow boat to China!
Then came the time to up roots and move to China so I decided to take it with me as I had no doubt it would prove to be useful transportation in China, everybody rides a bicycle in China right?
Well somehow between leaving the UK and arriving in China it developed a puncture so I took it to the local sports megastore for a full service. Afterwards it was like a new bike but it still had it’s characteristic squeaky front brake.
The last photo taken of my bike before it was stolen!
On the third ride I decided to pickup some bread from a bakery at Kerry Parkside on Fangdian Road and Meihua Road. I locked it up as usual, got the bread and headed back to my bike to ride home. The only problem was that the bike was not there! I looked and looked and it soon became obvious that after leaving my bike for no more than 5 minutes, it had been stolen! So after another 20 minutes of looking around, I called off the search and took the subway home.
That was last year! Now it’s a new year and summer is coming, so this weekend I went out and bought myself this little baby:
It was not too expensive but I have two locks to foil would be thieves!
I have yet to leave it unattended but I’m hoping I will get to ride it more than 3 times!
So If you are ever in Shanghai and see/hear a grey Rayleigh mountain bike with a squeaky front brake, then that is mine! I guess it’s foreign branding and good condition was the main reason it was taken in preference to the rusting domestic models parked next to it.
I have no idea if YouKu works outside of China, you will have to let me know!
Despite having lived most of my life only a few miles from Silverstone Circuit, the home of the British Grand Prix, until last weekend I had never attended an F1 race. But on Sunday 14th April I headed to Shanghai Circuit to see my very first one.
A friend who was on business in China flew from Chongqing to Shanghai to attend all three days of this big event, and fortunately for me there was a spare ticket going! So after a late night drinking in Xintiandi we headed off to the circuit with numerous other fans from around the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and would recommend anybody who has not seen an F1 race to at-least go once as the atmosphere and sound is something to be experienced.
Yesterday I had to go to the Korean consulate in Shanghai to pick up my passport, on on the way I passed this sign for the 10th China International Adult Toys and Reproductive Health Exhibition.
All I need to do now is create a link between this and powertrain testing so that it could become a legitimate day out of the office which my company will fund. I could then stay in bed and just got to the lingerie show at the end of the day.
The perfect end to the week!
The other morning before I met my boss for a ride to work I saw these elderly women enjoying their morning Tai chi using swords as part of their exercises.
If this was to be seen in the UK they would all probably be rounded up into a back of a van, stuck on a rendition flight to the Cuba and stuck in Guantanamo Bay for years without a trial.
Sometimes I wonder why we refer to the countries in the west as ‘free’.
In recent weeks Lily has found a new friend in the gardens around our apartment complex. She used to feed him and I would often see him in the morning on the way to work.
Our little furry friend has not been seen in the last week or so which leaves us to believe he has either hopped of to greener pastures or participated in a rabbit stir fry with one of our neighbours!
Today has probably been the most ‘British’ of days since I relocated to China.
The journey to work started wrapped in fog which apparently caused chaos at Pudong International Airport throughout the day. Around lunchtime the heavens opened and the rain literally poured (as it still is now) which made my walk from the underground station to the apartment quite a challenge due to the flooded roads and pavements. I now wish I had shipped some wellies from the UK!
According to my colleagues we will have about 10 days of this, but living on the 13th floor I guess I won’t have to worry about the apartment flooding!
So let the story begin….
Today we decided to return a few items that we bought from IKEA last week that we no longer needed.. We are lucky with our apartment location because across the street next to Longyang Road underground station is a bus stop where you can get a free bus to IKEA.
As we crossed the road, I started walking to the where the bus stops, when my wife pointed out the error of my ways and informed me that the bust did not go from where I was heading. In fact, we were on the wrong side of the station. I contested this, but got the look. Being a good husband I followed my wife and 5 minutes later she was looking confused as she could not find the bus stop. Guess who was right? By the time my wife had realised that I was right (though she didn’t actually say as such), we had missed the 11am bus and would have to wait an hour for the next one.
So to kill time we headed to a local dumpling restaurant for lunch and then returned to the bust stop at midday. There was no IKEA bus top be seen. On consulting the time table we discovered that the buses come every hour, except for midday! That was enough, it was cold so we gave up on the free option and sought out a taxi to take us.
After about 5 minutes in the taxi I said to my wife that I thought the taxi driver is taking us in the wrong direction, after a lot of commotion my wife was able to confirm this and got the taxi driver to head off in the right direction. After another 10 minutes or so we arrived at IKEA when the taxi driver committed a cardinal sin of trying to get my wife to pay the full fare, despite trying to take us in the wrong direction. I should point out that money is very close to Chineses people’s hearts. Trying to get my wife to pay the full fare would have been equivalent to chopping one of her legs off…a heated ‘negotiation’ ensued.
I left my wife to the ‘negotiation’, returned the stuff at IKEA and headed out to discover that the Police had been called! Thinking that this would resolve the issue in a timely manner I decided to stay out of it and watch with the other passersby . Mobile phones were being used by the Police and the taxi driver, and the shouting continued.
After several more minutes, the only solution was to take it down the station. I really wanted to go with my wife, but as I did not have my ID on me (you are meant to have it with you at all times), I did not want to be the one to complicate things further. So like a good husband I waved goodbye to my wife as she disappeared into the distance in the back of a Police car.
If you look carefully in the picture you can see my wife smiling!
My wife spent a few hours waiting at the Police Station before deciding she had wasted enough time, and the taxi driver had been punished enough with the loss of the afternoon’s takings. She paid the fare and headed back to meet me, happy knowing the the Police station was half way between IKEA and Longyang Road underground station so the taxi fare back would be cheap!
So, if only my wife had listened to me at the beginning of all this, we would have taken the bus to IKEA and had meatballs for lunch! So to all you wives out there LISTEN TO YOUR HUSBAND, HE KNOWS BEST! ;)
New Year’s Day was spent feasting with our family in Wuxi.
The meal has kept me going for a whole day, and only now (lunchtime on 2nd Jan) am I considering eating again!
Lily being the family hairdresser was put to work by her second cousin…
The meal doubled up as a family gathering for my upcoming birthday, fortunately the cake had candles in the shape of 30 so somebody truly loves me!
In the afternoon we strolled around Nanchan Market with the rest of the Wuxi population…
Since we have moved into our apartment, on the way to work I occasionally pop into the local coffee shop and order an Americano to go.
At first this did not go too well because my pronunciation was very bad (in Chinese a slightly different tone can change the meaning of a word). After a few days if practicing I mastered ordering my coffee and I was extremely proud of myself, that was until today when my order was met with another question from the server.
Now what do I do? Well thanks to technology I was able to determine that I was being asked if I wanted it hot or not! If only the server had asked if I wanted it cold or not then I would have understood as I learned the word cold for when I am ordering beer!
I have so much to learn if I want to get around without using English, I just hope my brain isn’t too old!
Tomorrow we move out of our temporary accommodation to our apartment in Longyang Road, so I thought I would share some shots from the balcony of our room.
This is what has greeted me each morning for the last 7 weeks.
A few days ago I passed the one month mark of being in China, although I have stayed longer on business before this is a bit of milestone having relocated with my wife and all of our belongings (well most of our belongings are on a slow boat right now!).
Despite passing through the one month mark, we are still in our temporary accommodation as our future landlord will not be vacating the apartment we have let until December 21st, my wife and I decided that we liked the apartment so much it was worth waiting for. Despite the apartment being bigger than our house in the UK I am worried that it is not big enough, others say it is too big and many of the bedrooms will be empty most of the time. I guess we will have to wait and see!
I am writing this post on a flight to Seoul where tomorrow I will be not only visiting the head quarters of my news employer, but also heading to the Chinese embassy to obtain my work permit, therefore on my return to Shanghai I can obtain my residence permit which means I will be free to come and go for the next 12 months.
I am enjoying mixing in with the local. It is so easy to hail a taxi to get to work, I more often than not chooses to take the bus. Not only is is significantly cheaper, it is faster…though I do have a 15 minute walk from the bus stop to the office. This walk, along with the healthy eating is doing wonders for my waistline, all my trousers are too big for me now and if I don’t wear a belt they will simply fall to the ground…..not a pretty sight!
It’s not all good though! Internet connectivity is somewhat hit and miss. Connectivity within China is super fast, but connecting to sites overseas is slow compared to what I am used to back in the UK. Simply activities such as downloading a 50Mb podcast can take several attempts…I cannot work out why this is, perhaps there is some traffic shaping being done by the Great Firewall, not just blocking of almost everything foreign and social. One positive thing about the Great Firewall is that it blocks Facebook and subsequently all those annoying Facebook advertisements that are all over the web now.
So what am i missing from my old life in the UK? That’s easy, family and friends, Marmite, my Sonos and Monitor Audio Silver RX6 speakers!
I used to be really good at knowing what time it was in various places in the world, but since moving to Shanghai I am totally lost!
I now have to retrain my ageing brain to understand the new offsets so I don’t call my friends in other countries when they are in deep sleep! You’d thinks this was simple, but for some reason for me it isn’t!
I think I have discovered Man’s Hell here in Shanghai.
What made the trip even worse was that Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and other Christmas music was being played at the entrance! Bah Humbug!
Fortunately on this trip money was only spent on dinner, who knows what damage will get done when my wife makes a visit alone!
The last week has flown by and I have been left with little time to write about my experiences. But during last weekend my wife and I decided to view some apartments. In fact my wife had already been looking while I was working last week and wanted to show me a particular one that was within budget and also in the location that we wanted.
A meeting with owners and the letting agents was arranged and both my father-in-law and sister (who lives in Shanghai) wanted to also come along. We all met at the letting agent office and waited for the owners to arrive. Little did we know that the owners had advertised the apartment with various other letting agents and arrived on time for the meeting only to be told that they had just let the apartment out to somebody else! A huge heated discussion ensued, which involved everybody except my wife and I. This went on for at least 15 minutes, until I told my wife to simply ask the letting agents if they have other property to view.
We then spent the next few hours previewing property, most of which did not meet our requirements. I am not sure whether this was the letting agent trying it on or it’s just the way things are here.
We eventually found a place that we simply loved and decided that we would sign a lease, the only catch is that the owners will not be moving out until December 21st. After about 30 minutes of what appeared to be negotiations on the phone, I thought we were getting closer to getting to signing a lease and relaxing for the rest of the day, but the apartment owners decided it was lunch time and asked to meet us back at the letting agents office at 3pm!
I didn’t have a clue what was going on, my wife was not translating anything for me, so I just sat back with a very bemused look on my face.
After a bite to eat we returned to meet with the owners, I am not joking when I say there were 10 people in all in the room, all appeared to want to say something about the finer details of rent, contract etc etc. This ‘discussion’, that also appeared heated at times when on for nearly 1.5 hours when finally documents appeared and names were signed!
So, we now have placed a deposit on a nice 135m2 apartment located opposite the Longyang Road Station where there is not only a subway station but also the Shanghai Maglev Station that gets you to Shanghai Pudong Airport in 8 minutes at 430 km/h (268 mph). I’ll be taking this next time I fly out of Pudong Airport!
All I need now is a residence permit and I’m sorted!
Today was day 3 in the office and I am settling in well. I am slowly remembering all the new names of my colleagues along with their roles, most importantly I know the finance team as I got paid today…into a Chinese bank account! This leads into a story….
When trying to open any type of bank account in the UK you have jump through hoops providing original utility bills for proof of address, photo ID etc etc. Here in China the rules are a little more relaxed. My wife went to the Bank of China with my passport and the bank opened the account in my name after calling me on the phone and asking me for the room number of the hotel I was staying in! They then went on to give my wife a Debit Card and it’s PIN number…..guess what, I don’t have another 4 digit pin to remember, in China they are 6 digits!
After a long uneventful flight from London to Shanghai we arrived without issue at our temporary accommodation. This small hotel apartment room is much better than a standard hotel room because not only is there a living area, there is also a small kitchen so that we can prepare our own meals without having to go out to restaurants each night.
After a short rest we headed to the local supermarket, Carrefour…this is when I discovered that despite my wife being Chinese we are in for some fun!
My wife has spent most if her adult life in the UK and has not actually lived by herself in China, so basically laundry detergent brands are unfamiliar to her as they are me (I remember this exact same experience when I lived in the USA 12 years ago). What should have been a quick 30 minute shop turned out to be a marathon reading labels and asking shop assistants for guidance!
Our next challenge of the afternoon was to get SIM cards for our mobile phones. Having a nice shiny iPhone 4S, I wanted to maximise its data capabilities which means I had to go with China Unicom as they are the only carrier that support 3G right now. Here are the tariffs,
I have no idea how they work or what I actually have, I just know I can make calls and access the Internet!
The day was topped off by meeting my new boss and his wife for dinner. I just hope the beer helps me sleep through the night, ready for work in the morning!
About 2 months ago I accepted a new job based in Shanghai during which time I not only prepared for the international move, but also kept up a full time job. In hindsight this was a bit too much. Most of the time my wife was not around to help and it meant that days were long and prevented us from meeting up with all our friends to say goodbye.
Today is the day we fly out to Shanghai carrying everything we need for the next few months as I am sure we won’t see our shipment until January 2012. I sincerely hope we have got everything, if not then we are in big trouble! I am a bit worried because for the first time in 10 years of marriage I let her pack my bags…..
Excess baggage? My wife says no, but I think different! We will soon find out!
Location:Keach Close,United Kingdom
Today is a big day as it marks the start of our big move to China. Although we are still very much in the UK, in a few minutes time our personal belongings will be packed up and literally put on a slow boat to China.
Although I have moved internationally before, there is still something strange about having everything you own in a small metal container….your life’s material achievements literally come down to a few cubic feet.
The exercise of moving has proven fruitful, not only were we able to get rid of a large amount of rubbish we had accumulated during 10 years of marriage, we were also able to enjoy various memorabilia from my childhood. I even discovered a pristine copy of the 2000th Beano!
For various reasons we will probably not see our belongings again until January, only then we will realise what we left behind! All I am worried about arriving intact is my HiFi and computing equipment, my wife is just concerned about her 27+ pairs of shoes! Keep your fingers crossed for us!
When travelling around China there are often sights to be seen that you never see at home. At first I wad always amazed at the innovative storage and transportation methods used by the people if Wuxi, but these unusual feats seem to few and far between today compared to 10 years ago.
Yesterday I saw this guy trying to navigate through a bit if a traffic jam!
Since I was last in Shanghai Apple has opened a superb store in the Pudong District of Shanghai. So what else can I do on New Year’s Day other than pay it a visit and purchase something I don’t really need!
Some shots from The Bund, Shanghai.
Just over 1 hour until 2011!
Location:Jiangxi Road (Middle),Shanghai,China
Some photos of the crowds on Nanjing Road in Shanghai this New Years Eve!
Here are some photos from the hike down from the rice terraces.
Next stop is the train station to catch train to Shanghai for New Years Eve!
I have no idea what this will look like on my blog, but here is a panorama of the rice terraces I took with my iPhone. Simply beautiful and so peaceful.
My worry is that my photo does not do it justice! Don’t forget you can click on any of the photos on my blog to enlarge them, but I have had to reduce resolution due to limited bandwidth.
A culinary speciality of Guangxi for breakfast: Rice Cooked in Bamboo! It takes a while to prepare as we ordered it last night!
I love this place!
I’ll be totally honest and say I have no idea where I really am, all I can say is we hiked for 2 hours from somewhere near to Dazhai up some mountains in preparation to see the famous rice terraces in the morning.
Unfortunately this is the wrong time of year to see the terraces in full bloom as it were, but I hope tomorrow the fog lifts a little so that we can get some good photos. What I saw today was once again breathtaking and goes to show what a beautiful province Guangxi is.
Scattered around the terraces are multi-level wooden buildings, built Tudor style where the floor above is actually wider than the floor bellow. It’s amazing that all these have been built because all the materials must be carried by hand…I struggled to carry myself up here!
I saw this inscription on the hotel so I assume it is right!
Fingers crossed for a clear day tomorrow!
Today’s main adventure was a trip down the Yulong River, the scenery was even more stunning than that seen while on the Li Jiang River, something I did not think possible.
We decided to cycle to hitch a ride on a raft, this was a big adventure in it’s own right as despite travelling to China for all these years I have never ridden a bicycle here. If you can indeed call this a bicycle. This particular bike was chosen by my dear wife so that she could sit at the back, with her feet up enjoying the view…which she did!
After 5km of hard peddling across rugged terrain, we made it to the rafting station. I was told they were bamboo rafts, and guess what, they were!
All was fine until we realised there was a total of 9 dams to navigate, you would think that you would get out and carry the raft, but you’d be wrong!
And this is what we dropped down…..
It was all worth it because the views were beautiful…
Lily Told me that tonight me that tonight we were going to see a show that was directed by Zhang Yimou a famous film director and also the genius behind the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
I did not really know what to expect, I had no idea that the backdrop would be the illuminated kirst peaks and the show would be done on a lake with fisherman, birds, cows and a cast of over 600 people!
The best way to describe what I saw is simply ‘jaw dropping’. To see something on such a large scale executed so precisely on water is simply something that has to be seen to be believed. I don’t think a single photo or DVD would do it justice, so come and see it for yourself!
Today we are heading to Yangshuo by boat! The scenery looks stunning and we haven’t left yet! Not sure my iPhone camera does it justice.
Location:095 County Rd,Guilin,China
We are still heading down the Li Jiang River toward Yangzhou. The views are simply jaw dropping, this is a journey everybody should do if they get the chance.
Location:095 County Rd,Guilin,China
Well as much as I would love a good ole fry up right now, instead I tucked into spaghetti style noodles in a spicy soup with pickled vegetables and chunks of what I think was pork!
Welcome to the Shanghai -> Nanning Express!
We are now well into our journey to Guilin only about 3 hours or so to go assuming that we are on time. According to my guide book the journey should take 22 hours and not 24 as I had previously thought.
I managed to get the top bunk out of 3, which sounds bad but for some reason I like it up the top. Despite the lack of space to even sit up I can camp out with my gadgets and keep myself amused.
Unfortunately my sleep was not as good as it usually is in a train due to increased competition in the snoring department. I am clearly an amateur in comparison to my father-in-law and a stranger sharing our cabin with us. I am sure I would have won if I had a few beers before bed.
Technology rules this trip, iPhones and iPads are keeping us amused when the scenery isn’t.
Some shots from around the Seven Stars Caves and Scenic Spot
We made it to Shanghai without issue and are now waiting in the Shanghai South Railway Station so we can board the sleeper train K537 16:52 to Guilin.
This is the first time I have been to this particular railway station, and like some other new stations it reminds you more of an airport, it even has metal detectors and X-ray machines, a sign of thinks to come back home I’m sure.
We have arrived in Guilin and are staying at the Dozycat Hostel, this is a bargain place to stay even with ensuite at £12 per night. I have stayed in many a worse place in Europe that cost a whole lot more (Hotel Medusa in Tirrennia springs to mind!).
It has all the facilities you need, shower, laundry, kitchen, Internet etc etc. So if you are ever out this way and are looking for some budget accommodation check out the Dozycat Hostel!
Well Boxing Day Dinner consisted of Black Beauty Hot Pot, can you spot her in the photo?
No prizes for guessing what’s in this drink!
No I didn’t try it! :)
While heading to Nanchang Market to get our Christmas Brunch, we spotted Santa….
For the rest of Wuxi it’s just a normal shopping day!
The first leg of our Christmas Day journey begins at Wuxi Railway Station. Just a normal Saturday for the locals!
Once we get to Shanghai I believe we have to catch the Metro to Shanghai South Station before boarding a 24 hour train to Gualin.
Over the years I have seen the train system in China evolve into an experience I would love to see in the UK one day. Here are some shots of a CRH High Speed Train.
While out wandering the streets of Wuxi this Christmas Eve I was struggling to find anything that would make it feel vaguely Christmassy. We happened to walk through the lobby of a large hotel and saw this Grotto made from Cookies. Sadly I was not allowed to take a bite, but photos were allowed.
In general the shops have a small amount of Christmas decorations and some are playing new mixes of songs such as Jingle Bells and We Wish You A Merry Christmas….I need to introduce them to Shakin’ Stevens!
I spotted these while out shopping today. Even though they are copies (can you spot the difference?) they were still just as expensive as the real thing. The funny thing is that real UGG boots are also made in China, most probably in the same factory as these!
I have been coming to Wuxi for over 10 years now and each time I come it looks different.
I was last here in June and the maternity hospital across from my in-laws apartment was there, but now it is just a pile of rubble being moved to make way for a new one.
An underground railway is also being constructed which made me think…
What percentage of the world’s construction cranes etc are in China? It must be in the 90’s…
Back in September we decided to spend Christmas away from the UK for the first time ever. This seemed like a great plan until last Saturday 5 inches or so of snow fell on most of the UK in little more than one hour. This caused havoc on the roads and crippled Heathrow airport. Our travel plans looked doomed!
We got lucky… We were one of the few that managed to get away from Heathrow on 21st December which meant that our travel plans were going ahead. We eventually arrived in Wuxi yesterday evening roughly 24 hours after leaving home!
The journey was not without it’s tales, Heathrow was packed, as was the Shanghai Metro….however the new train station at Hongqiao Airport was simply one of the best I have ever seen.
Today we made an attempt to visit the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the problem was so did the rest of China!
I have never seen so many people in one place and although the buildings looked great and the general organisation was superb the actual experience was awful due to the large crowds.
Many of the popular pavilions had queuing times in excess of 5 hours and even some of the less popular ones had relatively long queue times for nothing special. After giving up all hope of visiting the Chinese and Japanese pavilion, we queued for 45 minutes to visit the Turkmenistani pavilion only to see a few rugs, some jewellery and a brief presentation on their communication infrastructure.
Maybe my expectations were too high but I am glad I didn’t travel to Shanghai specifically to see the Expo, unlike the thousands of others that visited with me today!
This morning we visited the Lingshan Big Buddha as we were told that the 26th May was a good day for visiting and making wishes.
We asked a friend to drive us there and it has changed significantly since I last visited 10 years ago, however Buddha is still big, about 88M tall!
I could have been selfish when it came to lighting candles and incense to make a wish however instead I wished for my buddy Carl to have a full recovery from Trevor, his brain tumour (visit his blog for more details)
Well the Tibet leg of our holiday is mo over and we are now 31 hours into the 48 hour journey back to Wuxi. I am grateful for my iPhone and netbook keeping us occupied during the non sleeping periods which is most of the time in my case!
Our diet had not changed much from the journey to Tibet…still instant noodles, fruit and snacks!
I am looking forward to reaching Wuxi so that I can start getting pampered, not only by the in-laws but at one of the local spas!
Today was a little bit of a disappointment as we travelled about 4 hours north of Lhasa to visit Namco Lake, the highest lake in the world only to be turned around by Police 50km from the lake due to a heavy snow storm! Apparently the road is treacherous under the best of conditions so it was probably a wise move.
We stopped for lunch and negotiated a deal with our driver to take us Yamdro yumtso Lake which is at an altitude of over 4000M and is over 638km^2 in size! The water was a glittering jade colour and the snow capped mountains in the distance were a small section of the Himalayas. Stunning.
As this was our last day in Tibet we took a bike rickshaw ride around Lhasa and stopped of near to the Jokhang Temple were there were thousands of people circling the temple by take a couple of steps before lying down, arms stretched out preying and chanting mantras, it was a sight to be seen. Due to the large crowds there was a significant police and military presence which now seems to be the norm around Lhasa even at midnight!
To end the night we headed to the most famous bar/restaurant in Lhasa called the Makye Ame where 300 years ago the 6th Dalai Lama used to sneak out and meet a mystery women….
The last couple of days have pretty much been spent on the road heading back to Lhasa from Bomi with another stop off at Bayi City.
On the way we visited various tourist hotspots and also stopped wherever we wanted to take photos. One of the more notable sites was Basomtso Lake which is one of the largest alpine lakes in east Tibet. After crossing a floating bridge to a small island we took a brief look around a temple that is over 1000 years old. What amazes me about Tibet are these remote historic locations that contain such interesting treasures and have the folklore to go with them.
I tried to take a picture of the lake with my iPhone and like before it doesn’t do it justice, believe me the water was turquoise and the trees green all around, beautiful!
On the way back to Lhasa this evening after bouncing over a big bump something broke on the rear suspension of our minibus. This dud nit really surprise me as for the last few days this poor vehicle has been over terrain more suited to a 4x4.
Fortunately this occurred a couple of miles outside a small town so we turned around to find a mechanic who could fix it. We did succeed except that the mechanic could not fix it but instead applied a bodge that would hopefully get us back to Lhasa. We continued the journey back to Lhasa at about 20km/h! In the meantime the tour company arranged for another bus to pick us up and take us back to our hotel leaving our poor driver to drive slowly back to Lhasa to get the suspension fixed properly. I guess we will find out if he made it if he picks us up in the morning!
To end the day on a high Lily and I ventured out into Lhasa to find a bar, after a bit of guidance from a taxi driver we eventually found one and spent the rest of the evening playing liars dice and drinking beer…pretty much how we met in Wuxi over 10 years ago.
Tomorrow we will be heading north for the day, I will try and remember to take photos with my iPhone!
Today was a long day. We left Bayi City around 8am and headed further east on the G318.
After a couple of hours our journey got interesting as the paved road stopped and the muddy, pot hole ridden road continued into the distance. It wasn’t too long before I felt we were reliving the Top Gear special in Vietnam as we had several heart stopping passes with a sheer drop to our right and had to clear the road of large rocks after a recent landslide!
After winding our way through stunning valleys, we eventually reached our goal…Midui Glacier. The iPhone photo does not do it justice, it was simply awesome to see something so large and natural in real life rather than just on the TV.
After the Midui Glacier we headed off to Rowa lake. The scenery here was more of what you would expect in Switzerland rather than Tibet, simply gorgeous!
We had originally planned to stay near to Rowa but due to the military presence and sensitive nature of the area (close to Indian border) there are no hotels that can accommodate foreigners so instead we gad to double back on ourselves and stay at the only hotel that would take me in Bomi.
We arrived in Bomi very late and after checking in we headed out to find some food. It was then pretty clear that Bomi looks after the military personnel very well because there were more brothels than restaurants open!
I am not sure what adventures we have planned for tomorrow but by the sounds of the rain outside we may have some new landslides to contend with as we head back to Bayi City!
I love this place!
Today we left Lhasa and headed east on the G318 national route. This eastern part of Tibet has only been opened to foreigners for a few years now and because it holds sites of natural beauty rather than sites of historical value it does not attract that many foreign tourists…except me!
En-route there were several Police checkpoints, which I discovered were actually journey time analysis checkpoints. Instead of installing ANPR cameras and measuring average speed automatically they employ numerous teams of Police to do the checks manually!
For the whole journey we were surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and got to see how real Tibetans get on with their lives, raising livestock and general farming. It seems such a slower and more peaceful life than the chaotic and stressful one I lead!
At one point we stopped to take photos at over 5000 meters above sea level, certainly the highest I have ever been outside of an aeroplane. It literally takes your breath away!
I have noticed that Tibetans appear to be very house proud, the buildings are beautifully decorated inside and out, though they do seem to let their livestock roam the streets, we often had to give way to yaks, pigs and sheep!
Before we got to Bayi City we stopped off and saw Kadingla Falls, a 200m waterfall tucked away in some beautiful terrain which had yet to be ruined by tourists.
Tomorrow we will be venturing out some more, we have had to slightly modify the tour as we found out that foreigners are not allowed to stay in the hotel we had originally planned so we have to double back on ourselves.
Let’s hope the weather continues to be kind to us!
After getting up and having a poor excuse for breakfast we headed out to the streets of Lhasa. For me it is hard to distinguish Lhasa from any other city in China, there are the same stores, streets which have shops of one type etc. However there is one noticeable difference and that is the presence of both armed military and Police. There are numerous patrols around the streets, markets etc as well as small teams posted sporadically around the city with riot shields and batons!
Putting this negative stuff a side, what is simply spectacular is the Potala Palace (the hone of the Dalai Lama) and the Jokhang Temple where you can see pilgrims who have travelled thousands of miles to see this holy place. I must say, everybody should put atleast these two sites on their list of things to see and do before they die. The history and treasures that they both hold are simply mind blowing.
Tonight is our last night in Lhasa until the end of the week for tomorrow we will venture into eastern Tibet to see some unspoiled natural beauty spots.
A short time ago the Police came round and checked everybody’s ID and I my case checked through the various permits I had to obtain to visit Tibet.
The Police were very polite, asked where I was from and even welcomed me to China. Take note USA immigration / TSA or whatever you are called!
Some of the scenery we have passed through is simply spectacular, taking the train was the right decision!
After scoffing huge dumpling things for breakfast and lunch, I tucked into my duck noodles for dinner.
I think I was misled by the photo on the lid but nonetheless they tasted good.
I have now been on the train for over 24 hours so half way to Tibet. Tomorrow will be interesting to see how my finely tuned body copes with the altitude.
If you don’t hear from me tomorrow it means I didn’t make it and the Tibetans have given me a sky burial. It could also mean the battery on my iPhone is flat!
21 hours after leaving my home in UK I arrived at my in-laws without event. On unpacking I realised I forgot not only a waterproof jacket but also socks! So much for my failsafe checklist I have been using for years!
Fortunately over the last 10 years I have built up a stash of clothes that I leave at my in-laws and fortunately docks were amongst them!
Today we are preparing for the trip of a lifetime to Tibet. I have travelled to various places in China but never somewhere as remote as Tibet, I cannot wait to get there!
The train from Wuxi to Tibet will take about 48 hours so we must stock up on supplies to sustain us for the journey. I sincerely hope I can get some sort of Internet access there so that I can post some select photos!
Which flavour instant noodles shall I pick?
9pm Thursday night we boarded a train for Lhasa making a few stops en-route. I had intended to keep track of where the train stopped, but sleep got the better of me!
The whole journey should take 48 hours, the longest time I have ever spent on a train in one go, however as you can see from the photo we haveca bed to kick back and relax in. The gentle rocking of the carriage is enough. To put anybody to sleep!
Although there us a dining car we gave come armed with 2 days worth of food which pretty much consists of instant noodles, dumplings, biscuits and fruit! I hope that the Tibets are preparing a nice juicy lamp for my arrival!
As a foreigner I had to obtain various passes to visit Tibet and was told that I would not be allowed to board the train without them. As of yet I have not had to show them so I am beginning to wonder if it is a money making scam, time will tell!
Today is the start of what will hopefully be a holiday of a lifetime, for tonight I will fly from London to Shanghai.
When I arrive in Shanghai, assuming my wife has not forgotten about me, she will meet me at the airport with train or bus tickets to take us to Wuxi, Jiangsu province to stay just one night with the in-laws.
Although I have made this journey many times before, it’s what’s happening on Thursday that should be a big adventure! I hope my wife has been able to make all the required arrangements, but I will not tempt fate by going in to details now, just in case it goes all horribly wrong….after all there is an Icelandic Volcano doing it’s best to cause travel chaos throughout Europe.
What more does a travelling man need?
Watch out Wuxi, here I come!
For many years now I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world both on business and pleasure. I have always wanted to write about where I am going and what I see as it happens, but due to what can only be described as bone idleness I have never pulled my finger out and created the platform to do it. So from now on I am going to try and do my best, starting from tomorrow!
Obviously internet access is never guaranteed especially when you travel to certain parts of the world, so if this is the only post you see over the next few weeks then you know I am having connectivity issues! I will however try and update my twitter feed as I have a few different methods of doing so.
Come with me on my journey.