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Bellagio 鹿港小镇 – Pudong, Shanghai December 15, 2013

Posted by hslu in China.
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The first time when my wife and I came to Shanghai five or six years ago, we stayed at the Oriental Riverside Bund View Hotel right next to the Oriental Pearl. We got a room which faced the Huangpu River and The Bund and we loved it. A few hundred yards away from the hotel was a huge and modern shopping mall called “Super Brand Mall, “正大广场.”

It has six levels, hundreds of shops and probably close to fifty restaurants.

One such restaurant at is Bellagio.

It is not an Italian restaurant. It is not a casino. It is not a buffet. It is a Chinese restaurant. In fact, the Chinese name of Bellagio is “鹿港小镇.” It actually offers Taiwanese cuisines among other things.

Surprised? I sure was when I saw it. And I think it was a terrible mistake.

鹿港 is a small coastal city in the central part of Taiwan.小镇 literally means small town.

I hope you know what I mean.

Maybe it is too late but I think the company should change its name back to what it was and call it what it really is.

I guess you might call me “多管闲事.”

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Squid, celery and dried bean curd in a mild spicy taste with a hint of sugar.

Squid, celery and dried bean curd in a mild spicy taste with a hint of sugar.

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客家小炒. Squid, celery and dried bean curd stirred fried in a mild and spicy sauce with a hint of sweetness.

 

 

台式炒面

台式炒面

 

 

椒盐鸡排

椒盐鸡排

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腐竹冬瓜汤

 

 

 

China: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – I December 15, 2013

Posted by hslu in China, Shanghai.
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The Good

Chang’e 3 ”嫦娥三号” has successfully landed on the Moon!

http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2013/12140619-change-3-has-successfully-landed.html

The official landing time was 8:11 a.m. EST on 2013/12/14 and the rover, called ‘Jade Rabbit,’ or 玉兔, has been deployed successfully too.

Great! People at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (中國航天) deserve a big hand for their achievement.

Now, let’s see what China can do from this wonderful beginning..

The Bad

China’s Housing Bubble

Apartments in many major cities in China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, have seen their prices gone up many times over the last ten years.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/07/business/china-property-bubble/

Some apartments in Beijing which are located close to top quality schools can fetch as much as ¥70,000 per square meter, or about $1,060 USD per square foot at current exchange rate of 6.0718 USD/CNY .

That’s simply ridiculous.

Of course, this is an extreme. But, how can people afford a house when prices keep going up in the face of government regulations over the past three years?

There are many reasons for the rising real estate prices and, if the trend continues, the housing bubble will burst sometime. One of the reasons is that there are few options for Chinese people to invest their money in because China’s financial system is not very well developed. Furthermore, the China’s social welfare system is inadequate and Chinese people are doing what they have known for centuries to maintain their wealth:

有土斯有财

Well, we’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

The Ugly

雾霾

Tourists at “The Bund” in Shanghai could barely see the Oriental Pearl in Pudong.

Source: Google image.

Now, this is ugly and there is no other way to put it. This is a picture from Google image for Shanghai and it is widely known that the situation in Beijing is even worse.

It is called 雾霾.

I know what 雾 is. It is fog and is pronounced “wu4.”

But I have to admit that I don’t know what 霾 is and I have never used it before. To make the matter worse, I don’t even know how to pronounce it.

Well, Chinese have a way to pronounce a word that we don’t recognize: “有边念边 没边念上下.” According to this rule of thumb, I’ll pronounce 霾 “li1.” But that’s not correct. It actually pronounces “hai2” and it means haze.

This is a very serious problem and it gives China a black eye. Unfortunately, it will take years to reverse the trend. 

Since China relies on coal to generate ~70% of its electricity and Chinese are buying cars as fast as the government allows them to, 雾霾 is what you’ll get when the weather is damp and cold. What China needs to do and, it is actually doing it, is to convert the coal-fired power plants to natural gas and nuclear plants.

China has signed agreements with Russia, Myanmar, Australia and Central Asian countries to import vast amount of natural gas and natural gas products. It is also investing huge capitals to produce gas from deep water, shale and reservoirs in China’s provinces in the west.

For instance, China, in a JV with Husky, will begin operation at its first deep-water natural-gas project in South China Sea called Liwan-3 Deepsea Gas Field “荔湾3-1海上天然气气田” which is about 200 miles southeast of Hong Kong

This deep sea project is part of China’s effort to increase the use of gas to ~10% of China’s energy mix by 2020.

Some progress is being made, slowly but surely. 

Street Scenes in Shanghai January 17, 2012

Posted by hslu in China, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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Just a few interesting scenes in Shanghai

A man was making 油條 "you2 tiao2" the old fashion way

 

燒餅 has been done in a drum oven for hundreds of years in China

A narrow alley way doubles as living space for many houses here.

The guy on the left has a bicycle repair stand at an intersection in Shanghai. The woman had bicycle trouble and the guy on the right is lends a helping hand.

 

Make up while waiting for bus to come

A familiar scene in a Cantonese restaurant in Shanghai

Best in Shanghai dim sumA dog inside of a jewery store

A huge sax inside the Shanghai Paramount Theater

Job posting at the famous Paramount Theater

 

 

A plaque in front of the Paramount Theater (now a Dance Hall) indicating that this is a heritage building

 

 

The host of a street show organized by 靜安區 "Jing4 an1 qv1" or Jingan District.

 

 

城隍廟 in the dark January 17, 2012

Posted by hslu in China, Chinese, Chinese Food, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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城隍廟 in the dark

Two days after we have arrived at Shanghai, we woke up at 12:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  Instead of staying inside the cramped hotel room with a 32” flat panel on the wall, we decided to go out and get something to eat. The hotel staff suggested a 24-hour restaurant but the food there was so bad that it wasn’t even worth writing about.

Even though it was about 2:30 in the morning we couldn’t sleep because of jetlag, we decided to tour the city after in the dark. Since 城隍廟 was only 15 minutes away according to a sign posted in the lobby of the hotel, we walked south along 四川中路 and explored the city under dim street lights.

Along the way, we walked by a night club called M1NT,a 包子店 just opened for the day and an empty and almost eerie 豫園。On the way back to the hotel before dawn, we also stopped by a 24-hour McDonald’s to get some breakfast too,

When we were about 2 to 3 blocks away from 城隍廟, we saw 10 to 15 taxis lining up around a street corner waiting for the last chance to get a fare before the end of their night shift. But why here? There was nothing here except closed shops. Well, about a ½ block away there was a high-rise hotel with a bar called M1NT and the taxis were waiting for M1NT to close for the day. Based on the p[eop-le walking out of the bar, M1NT was frequented by mostly male foreigners with their young and flashy female companions. These young girls dressed in eye-catching tops, ultra short skirts, dangling earrings, name brand “fake?” bags and 3″ high heels. A mobile food stand was making good business selling street food to these half-drunk guys who probably didn’t know what they were eating at about 3 in the morning.

In front of M1NT at 3:30 AM

Many of the guys were rowdy and drunk but they certainly didn’t forget to flirt with their female companions or a few other women who were standing by trying to make a few more bucks before calling it a day or night. I hues the oldest business in the world never dies.

Across from M1NT, two young men in their late 20’s or early 30’s had already started working at a 包子店 preparing the dough for 包子 and 饅頭. They won’t start selling their first 包子 for at least an hour and a half from now but they had to get the dough started before 4:00 in the morning. The young and handsome guys told us that their first customer usually came as early as 5:30 am and they usually close in mid-afternoon after all the 包子 were sold out. I wished them well and hoped them doing great business for the days to come.


When tourists ask for direction to 城隍廟 in Shanghai, they are actually asking for direction to 豫園商區 near 城隍廟. 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” is a Taoist temple a block or two from 豫園 “yu2 yuan2,”a famous traditional Chinese rock and water garden. 豫園商區 “yu2 yuan2 shang1 qv1” is a business district encompasses several blocks around 豫園 about a mile south of The Bund and 南京路步行街. When we got there, 豫園商區 had long been closed. The lights were off and all stores were closed. The never-ending crowd during the day was finally gone and the over-worked and under-paid workers could finally go home and rest their tired feet.

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The doors of the famous 南翔小龍包 “nan2 xiang2 xiao3 long2 bao1” were closed。Even though the kitchen lights were dark and the team of robo-小籠包-makers had long gone, I could still image them tirelessly making thousands of 小籠包 one after another to satisfy the appetites of an endless line of hungry tourists from all over China.


九曲橋 “jiu3 qv1 qiao2,” or a bridge with nine turns, had no other pedestrians expect us walking under dimmed lights from buildings nearby. The bridge was made with white marble pave stones with beautiful designs which were hidden from view when the bridge was occupied by hundreds of tourists.

Some of the stones have various floral designs with following inscriptions for each month of the year:

一月 水仙 “yi1 yue4 shui3 xian1”– January Lily
二月 杏花 “er4 yue4 xing4 hua1”– February Apricot
三月 桃花 “san1 yue4 tao2 hua1”– March Peach blossom

四月 杜鵑 “si4 yue4 du4 guan1”- April Azalea
五月 牡丹 “wu3 yue4 mu3 dan1” – May Peony
六月梔子 “liu4 yue4 zhi4 zi3”- June Gardenia

七月荷花 “qi1 yue4 he2 hua1”- July Lotus
八月 桂花 “ba1 yue4 gui4 hua1”– August Osmanthus
九月 菊花 “jiu3 yue4 jv2 hua1”- September Chrysanthemum

十月 芙蓉 “shi2 yue4 fu2 rong2”- October Hibiscus
十一月 茶花 “shi2 yi1 yue3 cha2 hua1”– November Camellia
十二月 蠟梅 “shi2 er4 yue4 la4 mei2”– December Wintersweet Flower or Chimonanthus praecox

On the way back to our hotel, the McDonald’s on a side street of the 南京路步行街 was still open for business. We stopped by to get some pancakes and Egg Mac Muffin but they didn’t serve pancakes and their Egg Mac Muffin just tasted different. They didn’t have orange juice either. In a corner of the store, there were about 10 middle school boys and girls in three or four clusters crushing on chairs and tables. I wondered why McDonald’s management allowed this to happen at this store. Were there other kids spending their time at other McDonald’s in Shanghai at this time? If these kids didn’t sleep here, where did they go instead? How come they weren’t at home? Did their parents know where their kids were?Weren’t their parents worried?It seemed to me that this was a problem that begs society’s and McDonald’s attention.

We also walked around The Bund to see what the place was like without tourists and dazzling lights.

A very lonely policeman guarding the bull at The Bund

The Bund at 4 AM

Pudong at 4 AM

By now we’ve been out for about 5 hours and it’s time for a nap before our day got started.

Shanghai Manhattan Bund Business Hotel (上海曼哈顿外滩商务酒店) January 13, 2012

Posted by hslu in China, Chinese Food, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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上海曼哈顿外滩商务酒店

On our way from Shanghai PVG to our hotel in Puxi in early November 2011, I was able to give out tips to a few foreign fellow travelers on how to ride 地铁 to get around 上海as if I know my ways around here. I was very happy that I could offer some help though. Well, I better be because I have been here close to ten times since December 1985.

The hotel was Manhattan Bund Business Hotel (上海 曼哈顿 (外滩) 商务 酒店) which is only one block from The Bund and 5 minutes from 南京路步行街. It is behind the famous Fairmont Peace Hotel on The Bund. Our room was very small which was barely large enough for a bed, a bath room, a small desk and enough space on the floor for our luggage. But it was clean and everything worked just fine. Wireless internet was available in the room and in the lobby. It has a small café serving coffee and some light snack. The front desk staff and bell captain were both very friendly and the room only cost ~$45 a day. A great value for the location!
We walked around 南京路步行街 and found new stores opening up even in such a high-traffic, extremely busy tourist spot. I was surprised at the invincible force of capitalism in a communist country. A place called 大娘水餃 “da4 niang2 shui3 jiao3” or “Auntie Dumplings,” which I like to try but haven’t had the chance to, had apparently closed its door. Another cluster of small stores had changed to a brand new huge Apple store.

Another area at the intersection of 河南中路 and 南京東路 has changed to a new department store called Henderson Metropolitan. It appeared that it was aimed at higher income clients because we only saw named brand and high class stores in there. There were a few restaurants on the fifth and sixth floors and they had only opened for six days. We checked out the menu at one restaurant and saw their prices comparable to those at expensive restaurants in the US, too expensive for locals and probably 98% of the tourists at 南京東路步行街. We’ll see how long they can last.

As we walked away from the restaurant, a mid-aged woman said to us:

“不要在這裡吃。他們的菜貴的不得了。你想想,他們的租金多貴呀,當然要賺你一票的了。"

In essence, she said that due to high rental rates here, the restaurants had to charge you an arm and a leg to survive here.

我接着说:"他们确实贵的离谱。

I nodded my head in total agreement and said "Where would you go for authentic Shanghai cuisine around here?”
She said: “我在這兒打工的。他們的菜又貴又不好吃。下面的餐館比這家要便宜多了。山西路那邊也有好多家也蠻道地的。"

It turned out that she worked at that restaurant and were equally amazed at the extremely high prices. She told us to check out restaurants along 山西路 or Shanxi Road just a few blocks away.

I asked for a name but she couldn’t remember. We duly heed her advice and walked out of the shopping center with her.

Sure enough, 山西路 has eight or ten restaurants and many of them were still opened for business. We had 小籠包, 餛飩 and 青菜。 Sure enough, the price was very reasonable and it cost us no more than 50 RMB or $7.50 US, for the whole meal。

The Manhattan Bund Business Hotel was an ideal location because it has many shops, restaurants and fruit stands within a few blocks of the hotel.

We could recharge our sim card for my cell phone at a cigarette store. We could get 素菜包子 “su4 cai4 bao1 zi3” or vegetarian buns at US $0.20 each. If we wanted pastry and coffee, an 85oC store is right next to the 賣包子的 “mai4 bao1 zi3 de1”  or the bun shop. But we’d be paying US $1.20 to US $3.00 for a pastry and another US $1.50 for a cup of coffee. A busy but clean restaurant offered 稀飯 “xi1 fan4,” fresh 油條 “you2 tiao2,” 燒餅 “shao1 bing3,” 甜豆漿 “tian2 dou4 jiang1” or sweet soy milk, 餛飩湯 “hun2 dun2 tang1 or wonton soup and 飯團 “fan4 tuan2” or rice ball for less than US $2.50. Apple store was only 5 minutes away. Countless stores offered cloth, pants, coats, fake silk scarf, shoes at bargain basement prices.  High price shops such as Coach and Armani are but a few blocks down the street.

I ahven't seen a stone mill for a long time. We used to have one at home 40 years ago. We used it to grind soy bean to make doujianf. We used it to grind sweet rice to make nian gao. Most of the time, it was my job. Seeing that bought back memories from the old time in Taizhong, Taiwan.

They are about US $0.25 each.

Seeing this sign "十里洋场" made me think about "纸醉金"迷 and the glamorous old Shanghai of the 1930's and 1940's. I wasn't sure how good their food was though..

A worker unloaded 3 bags of rice at the same time at this clean restaurant serving very affordable breakfast. I am guessing that each bag of rice is 50 KG or 80 lbs.

Making 油条 and 烧饼 the old way.

The Bund and the Huangpu River were only a block away. We got to see The Bund at 2 in the morning, 5:30 AM or at 10:30 PM if we chose to. Many people flied kites starting from as early as 4:30 AM. Their kites were equipped with lights so that we could see blinking lights as high as 500’. By dawn, they would take down their night kites and replaced with a kite for day time. In the evening, tourist boats traveled up and down the Huangpu River. At 2 in the morning, there were only barges and ships big and small coming and going quietly.

 

 

We also got to see 南京東路步行街 after midnight. A crowded promenade gave way to a quiet street with only a few tourists who were just coming out of bars nearby. People getting off from their evening shift were finding their ways to go home. A team of at least 20 workers cleaned the street using big hoses such as the ones used by fire fighters. They told us that they’d do this every night. No wonder the place looked clean even with thousands of tourists from China and foreign countries.

Workers clean 南京路步行街 after midnight

 

Workers clean 南京路步行街 after midnight

 

Workers clean 南京路步行街 after midnight

 

An ad company changed an ad which was at least 60’ by 80’ in dimension.  They could do it within an hour with a team of three workers and a team captain. The guy told me that they do this all the time and their business was very profitable because so many business wanted to have visibility here.

The Old

The new.

 

All in all, we liked the hotel even though it was a bit small. I was told that we got a very good deal from either Agoda or Expedia because people who came in without a reservation would have to pay the list price at about US $80 or so for a day. However, I suspect that they would get a bigger room though.

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