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上海虹橋火車站 February 27, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Shanghai.
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With  a population of 1.3 billion, China has one of the largest train stations in the world. Here is a picture of  虹橋火車站 “hong2 qiao2 huo3 che1 zhan4” on the west side of the city of Shanghai.

虹橋火車站

This newly completed high-speed train station is next to the 虹橋飛機場 and it can be reached by subway from the Pudong International Airport. The fare for the ride is only Renminbi 8 or $1.3 US.

We came to 虹橋火車站 because we took a day trip to 西塘 about 25 miles from Shanghai.

上海虹橋火車站

台灣身份證 February 26, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Taiwan.
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Over the past couple of years, a series of events happened which led us to two things: we have renewed our Taiwanese ID and we bought a condo in Shanghai.

台湾身份证

Getting a Taiwanese ID has been much more difficult than we have anticipated.

From late 2009 till early 2011, my son has stayed in Taiwan hoping to improve his Chinese and find a job in banking or finance in Taipei. It seemed to me that there were plenty of jobs in Taipei but none of them suited his skills: most jobs were in sales at no name small companies or low-level clerk type of positions in trading companies.  Finance job was hard to come by because, according to a few of his interviewers, the finance industry in Taiwan was not well-developed in spite of being a developed economy since the late 1980’s. In addition, being a foreigner without a working permit, he had a hard time getting a decent interview because many companies just didn’t want to bother with the hassle.

That’s why we initiated the process of get him a Taiwanese passport which should allow him to apply for a work visa in Taiwan.

In order to do that we have to do the following

  • Authenticate our marriage using a state-issued marriage license (Wyoming) and a Chinese version of our marriage license which I have to translate from English word by word in the same format. Once we filled out the application form, we have to send it along with our marriage licenses and copies of our U.S. passport to Taiwan’s Economic and Culture Office (TECO) Seattle office. The reason that we had to apply it through the Seattle Office was because we got married in Wyoming and Wyoming is under the jurisdiction of TECO Seattle office. What I do not understand is how come we couldn’t apply it at the local TECO office which would be a lot more convenient and cheaper for us?
  • With our marriage authenticated, we then each have to obtain a Taiwanese passport since ours have long been expired. To do that we have to have our Taiwanese ID number or the original copy of our old 戶口騰本. Fortunately I still have my Taiwanese ID from 35 years go and Bao got a copy of their original 戶口騰本 from her sister who kept it for the family all these years.
  • After we received our passports, we have to travel to Taiwan and enter Taiwan as Taiwanese citizens using our Taiwanese passports.
  • Once in Taiwan, we have to renew our residence (户籍 “hu4 ji2”) at a 区公所 “qu1 gobng1 shuo3,” or a county office, where we need to prove that we are residents of Taiwan. This can be done easily if either one of us owns property in Taipei or any place in Taiwan. If we do not have a property, we have to use someone else’s 2010 property tax record if the owner of the property allows us to establish a residence there. We chose 台北 “tai2 bei3” 大安区 “da4 an1 qu1” because my son’s apartment is located in 大安区. Xiaobao’s phone call to his landlord for the use of his tax record wasn’t returned and we were out of options at that time.
  • Fortunately a friend of an acquaintance in Virginia was kind enough to offer his property tax record for our use. We took the tax record and went to 台北 大安区 区公所. Once there, it took more than an hour and a trip to the Immigration Office to get our Taiwanese ID, residence record 戶口騰本 “hu4 kou3 ten2 ben3” and 户口名簿 “hu4 kou3 ming2 bu4″or proof of residence.
  • Getting my residence and 台湾身份证 encountered a minor complication because 大安区 区公所 found out that I still have my old residence in Taizhong even though I have it removed more than 25 years ago at Houston’s TECO office. Since I was still considered a resident of Taiwan, once I renewed my residence in Taipei, I was required by law to pay for the health insurance premium since 1985, the year national health insurance system was put into effect. It was a not-too-small sum of money. The attending clerk at 大安区 区公所 was kind enough to let me off the hook because I was physically outside of the country for the past 30 some years. All I had to do was to get a copy of  离境证明 “li2 jing4 zheng4 ming2,” or the departure records, from the immigration office.
  • She also called Taizhong’s 北屯 区公所 and got their supervisor’s permission to remove my residence in 北屯 before registering me as a resident in 大安区. By doing so, the past health insurance premium was waived.
  • Our experience at 台北 大安区 区公所 was a pleasant surprise to all of us. We were greeted by volunteers at the door. We were assisted to get a number and told to wait for our turn. We were offered tea to drink. We were treated warmly. The assistance we got from 王藝蓉, 吳月蕙 and 周翠梅 (who contacted 北屯 区公所 on our behalf without us asking) were professional and excellent. They were all eager to help and we were absolutely overwhelmed by their kindness and concern for details. Simply put, they were great!
  • We were then told that once we become Taiwanese residents, we are able to enjoy Taiwan’s (problematic) public health care system. But it will take four months to be effective which means that we have to come back to take care of that sometime later. If not, we have to pay the premium even though we are not in Taiwan to use it.
  • The next thing to do was to authenticate my son’s official birth certificate, with a Chinese translation, at Houston’s TECO office because my son was born in Dallas which is under Houston TECO’s jurisdiction.
  • Now we were ready to apply for a passport for my son. Again, this has to be done at Houston’s TECO office in the United States even though my son was physically in Taiwan when we got our residence. That process took more than 6 weeks because we missed some items on the form, we need four pictures instead of two and we need to provide signatures at two locations which wasn’t mentioned on the application form or anywhere on the web site.

The long and treacherous ordeal made me realized just how difficult and time-consuming it was to apply for a passport for the sons and daughters of a Taiwanese citizen. The aspect of getting a proof of residence in Taiwan before being granted a Taiwanese residence was most unreasonable for people like me who have moved to a foreign country for so long. I guess this was how Taiwanese government control the movement of its people.

Another surprise I had with the Taiwanese government was how efficient the county office has become since the days I was in Taiwan. People work in the office were kind and courteous. The volunteers were helpful and polite. The atmosphere was warm and most welcome unlike what I had experienced before.

It was great!

 

太湖 February 26, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Travel.
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I have never been to 太湖 “tai4 hu2,” or Lake Tai, but have learned this beautiful lake in Chinese geography class when I was a kid in elemental school in Taiwan. I had a chance to see it after our visit of the  拙政园  The Humble Administrator’s Garden,

It was about 4 pm just in time for the afternoon rush hour. I got a taxi and told him that I want to see 太湖 and I also told him that our high speed train ride back to Shanghai was about 3 hours away. I told him that I just wanted to take a look of this lake, stopped there for about 20 minutes and then I wanted to take his taxi back to the railroad station.

Well, there was only a small problem: our young taxi driver (in his early 20’s) has never been to 太湖 either and didn’t know how to get there. He drove us toward the direction of the lake and called his dispatcher. His dispatcher send him some kind of code so that he can download a route map to his GPS device in his car. However, there were many new streets in the area near the lake that he managed to get himself lost. He then called his father who was also a taxi driver (as did his older brother.) Since his father has been a taxi driver for many years in Suzhou, he got his son back to the right streets and sure enough we arrived at 太湖 in about 40 minutes from downtown Suzhou.

Our young driver parked his taxi and said that he’d wait for us. However he asked us to pay for the fare first. We did that and he said he’d take a look of 太湖 because he has never been here either.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed because I finally was able to take a peek of the third largest fresh water lake in China. But there wasn’t a whole lot to see because November isn’t exactly the peak of the tourist season, the sun was about to set and we didn’t have too much time either. The sky was hazy which limited the visibility.

All we could do was to walk along the mile-long boardwalk and take a few pictures in order to prove that we have been here as we would say in Chinese “到此一游” “dao4 ci3 yi1 you2.”

There were many newly wed couples who came to this beautiful lake and got their wedding pictures done. I counted almost 10 couples in various colored wedding gowns.

Some couples have four or five people assisting them: one or two photographers, a light person, a make-up artist and someone who helped with the wedding gown as the bride and groom posing for pictures. They wore flashing wedding gowns and their presences apparently made quiet a scene among us tourists. Other couples weren’t so lucky and they only had a photographer and another person helping them out.

Who said that life is fair?

We stayed for about half an hour and returned to our cab. The young driver was still there wiating for us. He called his dad and figured out how to get back to the high speed train station.Going back was much faster and we had plenty of time to spare.

On the way back to Shanghai, I said to myself that I want to come back here with Bao again: in spring or summer instead of in the fall or winter. I wanted to see a sea of lotus. I want to see tall grass moving in the wind. I want to see fisherman catching fish. And I want to rent a boat, order a meal and a bottle of 白酒 “bai2 jiu3” or rice wine and sail on the lake like the poets did hundreds of years ago.

I am going to begin counting days now.

Huge Koi February 21, 2011

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Wow!

This guy caught a 30 pound koi in a lake in Southern France.

 

Chinese New Years Eve dinner with my employees February 21, 2011

Posted by hslu in Chinese, Chinese Food, My Restaurant.
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For the last several years, I have been treating my employees to a seafood dinner at 苗記 “miao2 hi4”, a local Cantonese restaurant, to celebrate Chinese New Year.

I was going to do it again this year at 苗記 but decided to have it at my restaurant instead on Chinese New Year’s eve.

I said to my head chef that I would rather have more and better food for my employees than have 苗記 making money off me.

He gladly did it for me.

I also bought some sweets to share with them. I know they would take some home to share with their family too.

 

Red Hook Lobster Pound – DC February 21, 2011

Posted by hslu in Restaurants.
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Heard of this place from Yelp and we had to try it out.

It was four days before Christmas 2010 and the web site said that it was the last day of 2010. They would be off until the first week of 2011.

We found the place where truck would be on 12/21/2010 and went there half an hour earlier. By the time we got there, five people had already there waiting in line before us.

20 minutes before opening, a line had already formed in front of the truck. It must be good.

The boss educated us the difference between Maine style (mayo-based, cold) Lobster Rolls and Connecticut (butter-drizzled hot) Lobster Rolls. The Red Hook Lobster Pound truck officially opened for business after her speech. A guy with a TV camera was taping a short show for some thing. We were probably in the show but didn't know what was the taping was for.

Maine-style Lobster Roll.

Connecticut-style Lobster Roll.

I have had lobster rolls before. It was more expensive then what we paid here. But there was no comparison at all: the lobster rolls from the Red Hook Lobster Pound were real lobster meat. They were juicy, fresh,  excellent taste and a lot of them.

Simply the best!

However, we liked the mayo-based Maine style lobster roll better than the butter-drizzled Connecticut style roll.

Clam Chowder was creamy and hot. Potatoes were just right. I don't like over-cooked potatoes in clam chowder soup. at all. A generous amount of clams too.

No wonder the truck was so busy. Before the truck was open for business, we had a line of 20 people already. We took our lobster rolls back to our car to eat which was parked on the street about 2 blocks away. By the time we finished our rolls and drove back to the truck, there were still 20 or so people lining up waiting to be served.

The line hasn’t changed.

We even got a Maine root beer on the house.

Well, there is only one phrase to describe the lobster rolls from the “Red Hook Lobster Pound”:

貨真價實 “huo4 zhen1 jia4 shi1”

Real ingredients at very reasonable price.

Great Stuff and you should try it at least once. If you can afford it, that is.

We paid $40 for two rolls, a clam chowder and a bag of chips. The root beer soda was on the house.

We loved it!

拙政园 The Humble Administrator’s Garden February 17, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Travel.
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拙政园 “cuo2 zheng4 yuan2” is probably the most famous classic Chinese garden in 江南 “jiang1 nan2.” It is definitely the most famous, most beautiful and the largest in 蘇州.

We took our son here in early November 2010 on a short day trip to 蘇州  from Shanghai.

This was the second time I was here. The first time was 24 years ago in mid-December 1986.

Nice weather attracted many tourists to the street leading to the entrance of 拙政园. there were many food stalls selling variety of food. They were in general around 5 to 10 Renminbi each order.

Hand crafted model bicycles and rickshaws made from wires.

There wasn't an entrance to speak of back in 1986. This entrance looked new to me and it was a very impressive improvement from 24 years ago.

Description of the garden. The Humble Administrator's Garden, in Chinese, English, French, Japanese and Korean. This was new too. For sure, there wasn't any visitors from Korea or Japan in 1986.

About 40% of the garden is occupied by water.Water in the form of lakes, streams and water falls are very important in classic Chinese gardens. Other elements include pine trees, bamboos and flowers such as 松竹菊梅蘭 'song1 zhu2 hu2 mei2 lan2" which stand for pine tree, bamboo, chrysanthemum, Prunus mume and orchid. Other critical elements include rocks and pavilions as well as houses.

菊花 chrysanthemum is the symbol for Autumn in every Classic Chinese garden.

菊花 chrysanthemum flower

花如解笑还多事           “hua1 ru2 jie3 xiao4 hai2 duo1 shi4”
石不能言最可人           “shi2 bu1 nen2 yan2 zhui4 ke3 ren2”

Hundreds of bonsai plants, big and small, could be seen in a separate area inside the garden.

Wow! It will take decades to grow to this size.

What was she trying to do? Perform?


Who will I sit with Pavilion. 與誰同坐軒 "yu2 shui2 tong2 zuo4 xuan1"

A small lake with willow trees lining the banks. Very typical in classic Chinese garden.

Chinese pavilions on an fake rock hill and buildings of many styles could be seen though out the entire garden.

It must take hundreds of man-hours just to keep the lakes clean of falling leaves in the falls. Koi could be seen every where.

Tea menu

I ordered 出水芙蓉 "chu1 shui3 fu2 rong2" Cottonrose Hibiscus on the water surface. 30 人民幣 "ren2 min2 bi4" Renminbi or "people's money."

蘇州評彈 "su1 zhou1 ping2 tan2" This kind of performance is a specialty of Suzhou: one play an instrument called 三弦 "san1 xuan2" (three strings played by the guy in this picture) and the other one play 琵琶 "pi2 pa1." It was sang in Suzhou dialect.

A 10 or 15-page booklet listed the songs that we could order for a fee. The first page gave a brief description of what 蘇州評彈 is about. It started in Suzhou about 600 years ago.

The first song we ordered was 釵頭鳳"chai1 tou2 feng4" by a poet called 陆游 of the South Song Dynasty (南宋 about 900 years ago.) I liked this the moment I laid my eyes on this song because the beautiful lyric which goes like this: 红酥手,黄縢酒。满城春色宫墙柳。东风恶,欢情薄。一怀愁绪,几年离索。错、错、错。 Take a listen and see if you like it as much as I do. This one was 50 Renminbi.

I also ordered another song called 江南好 "jiang1 nan2 hao3." it talks about the beautiful Suzhou and the surrounding area south of the Yangtze River.

Someone else ordered 太湖美 "tai4 hu2 mei3" the Beauty of Tai Hu or Lake Tai.

This song, 寶玉夜探 "bao3 yu4 ye4 fang3" described a scene from one of the most famous story in China; 紅樓夢"hong2 lou2 meng4," Dream of Red Chamber. The scene described an evening visit by the main male character of the story寶玉"bao3 yu4" to the main female character of the story: 黛玉"dai4 yu4." It was 80 Renminbi. We left here at the end of this song.

11-6-2010 苏州评弹

I recorded these songs using my iPhone. it was about 25 minutes long.  and you can play them by clicking this link.If you like, you can follow the lyric by zooming out of the pictures I have included here.

Suzhou Museum has a rich display of Chinese Classic Garden; its origin, its elements, its construction and the influences on Chinese's lives.

A scaled model of a Classic Chinese garden showing its important elements.

A flying eagle, perhaps?

A classic Chinese pavilion. I have reserved a place in my back yard for something like this. Of course it won't be as fancy as this. But this is what I had in mind. I was going to build it myself. Maybe one of these days.

A table top display showing rock mountains, trees, pavilions and people. the whole thing is in a inch deep pool of water.

蘇州觀前街 February 17, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Food, Gold, Restaurants, Travel.
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We spent our evening in 蘇州 “su1 zhou1” at 觀前街 “guan1 qian2 jie1,” a tourist hot spot in downtown 蘇州.

觀前街, according to our driver was much more fascinating in the evening. He was right: lanterns, push carts, boat loads of people, restaurant waiters telling us how good his restaurant was, young girls selling wulong teas and festival ambiance in the air wherever we went.

The name of the street, 觀前街, originated from the fact that the street is located in front of a 道教 “dao4 jiao4” (Taoism) temple called 玄妙觀 “xuan2 miao4 guan1.” A Taoism temple is called 道. means in front of and means street. When we were there, the Taoism temple, 玄妙觀, was closed and we didn’t get a chance to see what the inside was like.

We went to this famous restaurant for dinner. It served authentic Shanghai dishes. Their sweet and sour fish was tender and fresh. The restaurant was first in business since the late 1700's. The restaurant was fancy and spacious on the inside, The food was well prepared: artful culinary knife skills, fresh ingredients, reasonable prices and friendly services.

 

We grew up with this store called 亨達利 "heng2 da2 li4." It started as an eyeglasses store in Taiwan and now has many stores in China, many of them in very desirable spots in busy shopping centers. I didn't know that it was also in gold and jewel business like this one does.

Gold is big in China. With Chinese citizens getting richer by the day, their Renminbi has gone to stocks, real estate, cars and gold. This one is unique because it illustrates the heroes of "Three Kingdoms". in great details. Its cost was well over $5,000.

觀前街 night market was very busy and we had a good time there.

虎丘劍池 Tiger Hill and Sword Pond February 16, 2011

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After 蘇州 寒山寺, our driver took us to 虎丘劍池 “hu3 qiu1 jian4 chi2” (Tiger Hill and Sword Pond) where we had only 15 minutes to tour the place before the evening closing time.

Entrance at foothill. The tower was in the background.

Sword Pond

 

A picture of the Forture God

 

We didn’t get to see a lot here because we simply didn’t have time to do it. We stayed for about 20 minutes and had to returned. It got very dark very fast.

到此一游 “dao4 ci3 yi1 you2” (being here for a visit) and that was it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge 港珠澳大橋 February 16, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Travel.
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Last time we went to Macau 澳門 “au4 meng2,” it took us more than an hour and 20 minutes to get there on a ferry from Hong Kong 香港 “xiang1 gong3.” The scenery was good but it took too much time to make the trip and back to Hong Kong. Because of the limited number of return ferries, we had to leave Macau way before 10 pm to come back to Hong Kong.

Next time when I visit Macau again, I should be able to take a bus or taxi from Hong Kong and the trip to Macau will take 30 to 40 minutes at the most thanks to the  Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge set to open in a few years. The bridge links Hong Kong 香港 , Zhuhai 珠海 “zhu1 hai3” of the Guangdong province 廣東省 “guang3 dong1” and Macau 澳門 “au4 meng2” crossing the Peal River.

The bridge consists of 3 sections:
  • The 18.8 mile long Main Bridge: 14.4 mile long bridge and 4.4 mile long tunnel, one of the longest deep water tunnels in the world.
  • A 7.5 mile long highway from Honk Kong airport to the bridge and an area for immigration office at Hong Kong.

zhu hai HK macau bridge

The bird-eye view of HK, Zhuhai, Macau bridge

When the bride is completed in 5 or 6 years, the casinos in Macau would be able to accommodate many more gamblers from China and Hong Kong.
Last time we were there, I didn’t like casinos in Macau that much. With a bridge, I’ll probably change my mind though. In any case, I still have 5 to 6 years to plan my trip.