Jun 042009
 

This year, to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the New York Times has coverage of the photographers who took the photos of the man confronting a tank. Four different photographers captured the iconic confrontation. They also have coverage of a fifth photographer, Terril Jones, who recently released his photos taken at ground level.

 Posted by at 3:46 pm
Nov 172008
 

I sent my friends Sharon and Mark some letters of reference last week. It was interesting seeing the packages snake through the world to China. I sent two letters; one to Shanghai and one to Guangzhou. I’m a bit amazed that I can send a letter around the world in less than a week and trace its progress. (Even though I shouldn’t be surprised at all.)

November 12, 2008 18:25 New York East, NY – USA Shipment picked up
November 12, 2008 21:10 New York East, NY – USA Departed from DHL facility in New York East – USA
November 12, 2008 22:23 New York, NY – USA Arrived at DHL facility in New York – USA
November 12, 2008 23:02 New York, NY – USA Departed from DHL facility in New York – USA
November 13, 2008 01:24 Elizabeth, NJ – USA Arrived at DHL facility in Elizabeth – USA
November 13, 2008 01:42 Elizabeth, NJ – USA Departed from DHL facility in Elizabeth – USA
November 13, 2008 01:44 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Transferred through DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 02:35 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Arrived at DHL facility in DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 06:41 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Departed from DHL facility in DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 11:59 Anchorage, AK – USA Transferred through Anchorage – USA
November 14, 2008 21:10 East China Area – China, People’s Republic Arrived at DHL facility in East China Area – China, People’s Republic
November 15, 2008 00:05 East China Area – China, People’s Republic Departed from DHL facility in East China Area – China, People’s Republic
November 15, 2008 09:26 Shanghai – China, People’s Republic Consignee premises closed
November 15, 2008 09:36 Shanghai – China, People’s Republic Arrived at DHL Facility
November 17, 2008 08:14 Shanghai – China, People’s Republic With delivery courier
November 17, 2008 13:04 Shanghai – China, People’s Republic Shipment delivered

November 12, 2008 18:25 New York East, NY – USA Shipment picked up
November 12, 2008 21:10 New York East, NY – USA Departed from DHL facility in New York East – USA
November 12, 2008 22:23 New York, NY – USA Arrived at DHL facility in New York – USA
November 12, 2008 23:02 New York, NY – USA Departed from DHL facility in New York – USA
November 13, 2008 01:24 Elizabeth, NJ – USA Arrived at DHL facility in Elizabeth – USA
November 13, 2008 01:42 Elizabeth, NJ – USA Departed from DHL facility in Elizabeth – USA
November 13, 2008 01:47 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Transferred through DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 02:35 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Arrived at DHL facility in DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 06:42 DHL Wilmington Airpark, OH – USA Departed from DHL facility in DHL Wilmington Airpark – USA
November 13, 2008 11:44 Anchorage, AK – USA Transferred through Anchorage – USA
November 14, 2008 13:02 Hong Kong – Hub – Hong Kong Arrived at DHL facility in Hong Kong – Hub – Hong Kong
November 14, 2008 16:51 Hong Kong – Hub – Hong Kong Departed from DHL facility in Hong Kong – Hub – Hong Kong
November 14, 2008 23:26 Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic Arrived at DHL facility in Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic
November 15, 2008 02:54 Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic Departed from DHL facility in Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic
November 15, 2008 03:44 Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic Arrived at DHL Facility
November 17, 2008 09:10 Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic With delivery courier
November 17, 2008 10:14 Guangzhou – China, People’s Republic Shipment delivered
 Posted by at 9:15 am
Jul 272008
 

A few friends of mine are in China right now, so I thought I would write up a few suggestions for visiting. (This would have been better to send before they left, but I think it is still helpful advice.)

  1. Don’t drink the water. You hear this in a lot of countries, but it is important advice in China. Pollution in China is rampant, and the water is not safe to drink. To put it another way, the Chinese do not drink the water–ever. This also means generally avoiding ice. For what it’s worth, I would recommend not brushing your teeth with the water either. Most hotels have bottled water, and if they don’t it’s worth purchasing.
  2. Learn to love tea. Everyone in China drinks tea. It is a ubiquitous drink. Think of people in the United States with bottles of water and imagine them carrying bottles of tea instead and you will get a small idea of what China is like. The tea is safe to drink and delicious. While in the United States we are paranoid about people bringing very small bottles of water through an airline checkpoint, In China I saw people routinely bringing glass bottles of tea to their flights.
  3. China is not a democracy. This may be hard to imagine for people from democracies. But it’s important to remember. For folks from the United States, here a couple of side-effects:
    • You do not have freedom of movement. The police can ask you for your papers at any time. They can tell you where to go and when to go there, and at the time when they tell you there is no significant recourse. You must do what the police say, or you can be brought to jail.
    • If you are not in a hotel, you must tell the police where you are staying. This isn’t just a loosely enforced set of rules, as it might be in Europe–in China, the police routinely check houses door-by-door to check the residence papers of each person living there. If you do not have the appropriate papers, expect to spend some time at the local police station.
    • China does not have habeous corpus. As a United States citizen, the consulate should be notified of an arrest, but you do not necessarily have the right to a review of your detainment by an independent judiciary, nor do you necessarily have the right to consul from a local lawyer. In a way, you can be effectively “disappeared” if China deems it necessary.
    • You do not have a freedom of speech in China, nor do you have freedom of thought. The government of China has arrested dissidents for thought crimes. And direct criticism of the government is simply not allowed. Criticizing the Chinese government publicly is a surefire way to get sent to jail or ejected from the country.
    • There is no “freedom of the press” in China. Having press credentials is not a get-out-of-jail free card. If anything, being a member of the press subjects you to greater scrutiny from the Chinese government. Chinese police have been directed to confront photographers who photograph protests at the Olympics (ref. from the Harper’s a couple of years ago).
    • China has no freedom of religion. There has been a lot of coverage of Tibet in the west, but without minimizing the treatment of religion in Tibet, it pales in comparison to China’s treatment of religion in general. The Catholic Church is subject to the Chinese government, and some religions, like Falun Gong, are openly persecuted.

    We sometimes take the freedoms of the United States for granted. China makes you remember these freedoms.

  4. Watch out for counterfeit currency. The 20 and 100 Yuan notes (~$3.50 and $17) are frequently counterfeited. Examine 20 Yuan notes as you receive them as change. Chinese currency has similar security features to U.S. currency–get to know them. A couple of friends of mine ran into a sneaky trick: they gave a driver a 100 Yuan note, and the driver rejected it as counterfeit. Later, they realized that the note they had given the driver was not the same note they had received back. The driver palmed the real 100 Yuan note and slipped them back a forgery.
  5. China only has one timezone. China is a huge country, and easily spans five or six geographic time zones. However, the entire country is GMT+8 for the entire year–there is no daylight savings time.
  6. The Great Wall is amazing. Don’t be an ass: if you are in China, allocate a day to see a portion of the Great Wall. You will regret it if you don’t go.
  7. Most younger people in China do not have brothers or sisters. With the notable exception of ethnic Tibetans, most Chinese are only permitted to have one child. This means no brothers or sisters. In the United States, when people talk about their families, it is common to ask if you have brothers or sisters. In China, that question could be seen as slightly offensive. Cousins have much closer relationships in China than in the United States.
  8. China is a large, ethnically diverse country. While China has, as a policy of the government, attempt to blend the cultural differences of the different countries, the fact is that China is a huge country with many different peoples. From a tourist perspective, this means that if you leave Beijing, you will find that other parts of the country have different traditions, languages and foods. (For example, while it is quashed, Shanghai has it’s own version of Chinese distinct from Mandarin and Cantonese called Shanghainese.)
  9. China has censorship. On the public internet, many websites are inaccessible. For example, I would be surprised if the previous Wikipedia link is available in China. Results from google.com may not be available, while Google’s deal with China is that results from google.cn will be pre-edited to remove censored sites. (This is just my understanding–it may be incorrect.) While some sites will not be available at all, other sites may redirect to Chinese competitors. While both Yahoo’s and Google’s policies are arguably participation in Chinese censorship, there is no question that companies like Cisco have directly enabled Chinese censorship. It’s stunning to me that our country allows Cisco to do business with China in this manner. On another note, in addition to online censorship China will routinely black out news broadcasts of channels like CNN when they disapprove of the coverage.
  10. Pornography is illegal in China. This shouldn’t be surprising based on what else I have written, but be judicious in the web sites you visit.
  11. Enjoy the food in China. Some of the best food I had in China was food from street vendors in Shanghai. From a western perspective, the food is very affordable, and there are items that are difficult, if not impossible, to find in most of the United States.

I hope these tips about China are handy. It’s a fun country to visit, and my trip was uniformly positive. I hope to be able to visit again someday.

 Posted by at 11:12 am
Dec 172007
 

I owe a big thanks to Sharon and Mark for joining me in Beijing and putting me up in Shanghai. They are experienced world travelers, gracious hosts, and most importantly, good friends. I can travel around the world or stay at home, but as long as I have friends like Sharon and Mark I know I will never be alone
Sharon and Mark
Sharon and Mark

 Posted by at 1:46 pm
Dec 122007
 

Hairy crab is a specialty of Shanghai. You can buy the crabs around the city, including in the airport. In fact, the Shanghai airports recently had to enact a ban against carrying around unsecured crabs–apparently there were too many incidents of escaped crabs skittering around the airport.

Folks in Shanghai are very proud of their hairy crab, as you can see in the photos from Yuyuan Garden. I took this photo of a hairy crab on Wulumuqi Road, just around the corner from Sharon and Mark’s apartment. Note what looks like arm warmers near the claw–this is where Hairy Crab gets it name.
Shanghai Hairy Crab

Mark and I went hunting for Shanghai Hairy Crab on Saturday morning. The first place we tried to go (a hotel restaurant) was fully booked and a bit too expensive. We ended up across the street at Jade Garden on South Mao Ming Road. Jade Garden is a small chain of restaurants mainly located in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. As you can see from their website, they definitely cater mainly towards the Chinese. In fact, Mark and I were one of only three obvious non-Chinese people in the restaurant, and it was full of families and groups of people. It was very elegant, and the staff was polite and kind despite our inability to speak Chinese fluently.
Jade Garden

We started out with some dumplings, both shrimp and pork.
Jade Garden shrimp dumplings

The pork dumplings were nice and juicy and reminded me a bit of soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai in the New York Chinatown. However, I don’t believe there was any additional soup; I think the liquid in the pork dumplings in Shanghai was simply juicy goodness from the dumpling filling.
Jade Garden pork dumplings

We wanted to get some vegetables, so on the recommendation of the waiter we ordered this dish. Neither of us were sure exactly what it was. We believe it was a pickled melon of some kind. It had a nice fresh and vinegar flavor with a nice snap. It was very nice dish–I wished that I understood more Chinese so that I could know the name of this dish.
Jade Garden pickled melon

Mark felt that we had not ordered enough vegetables, so he ordered this broccoli dish. The broccoli dish was at best interesting. I don’t think that either of us would order it again. The white substance on top of the broccoli was a very strong fish sauce; it was almost like a fish puree. The broccoli was just barely cooked, so there was a sharp contrast between the crisp broccoli and the thick, creamy fish sauce. This was the most challenging dish I ate in China. The joke was on Mark, of course–neither of us thought of this dish as a “vegetable” dish.
Jade Garden broccoli and fish sauce

Our final dish was the hairy crab. We ordered two crabs. They were served split in two in a thick soy sauce. The crab was delicious. It reminded me of the flavor of blue crab from Baltimore, but with a creamy, rich taste and a soft texture. Unfortunately, the crab were as difficult to eat as blue crab, and the sauce made the crab even more difficult to handle. The restaurant provide us with utensils to crack open and eat the crab, but it was messy business all around.
Jade Garden hairy crab

Mark and I had a fun time at Jade Garden. I recommend checking the place out.

 Posted by at 11:11 pm
Dec 112007
 

(Or as the Chinese say, street food in Shanghai)

Shanghai has a fantastic street food scene. A typical breakfast in Shanghai can consist of walking to your favorite street vendor and ordering up a small bit of food.

I got breakfast several days in a row on Wulumuqi Road next to Sharon and Mark’s apartment. It’s close to both the U.S. and Iran consulates. (Interestingly, these two friendly countries have consulates across the street from each other.)

Several of my meals were of a slightly sweet pork-filled dumpling. The dumplings are cooked in front of you and are sold in groups of four. However, no one orders just four–four is bad luck and not enough to eat. Eight is a more typical number–it’s just enough and a lucky number. Eight dumplings cost around 25 cents (one Yuan, eight Mao).
Pork dumplings in Shanghai
Pork dumplings in Shanghai
Pork dumplings in Shanghai
Pork dumplings in Shanghai
Mark and I took a group of dumplings back to the apartment to enjoy.
Pork dumplings in Shanghai
Pork dumplings in Shanghai

Another typical dish is steamed buns. You can get them with pork or vegetable filling, or even just plain. The dough is sweet, spongy, and filling. The steamers for the buns are all stacked on top of each other. The steam comes from the bottom and cooks the food as it rises through the steamers. Each level has a different kind of bun; you can ask to see the different levels or just ask for a specific bun.
Buns in Shanghai
Buns in Shanghai

I bought other street food while in Shanghai, but I don’t have pictures of all of them. Some other good street food I enjoyed included fried pancakes and roasted chestnuts. Here, people are lining up for either duck or chicken for lunch.
Buns in Shanghai

Like many other cities in the United States, Shanghai has any number of semi-outdoor groceries.
Street market in Shanghai
Street market in Shanghai

I also enjoyed sugar cane juice. For two Yuan (around 26 cents), you can get a glass of fresh squeeze sugar can juice. The sugar cane goes in one end and juice comes out the other end. The juice is both sweet and sour; it is very refreshing and a good afternoon snack. The plastic glass is very flimsy, and you need to be careful not to squeeze it too tightly or the juice will flip out all over the place.
Cane sugar juice in Shanghai

I was very happy with the street food scene in Shanghai. The food was fresh, affordable, and tasty. For the record and those folks who are nervous about eating food from street vendors, I did not get ill from the street food.

 Posted by at 11:33 pm
Dec 092007
 

Shanghai is a modern, cosmopolitan city with fantastic architecture that blends the old and the new. Like Paris and La Défense, Shanghai decided to build a major commercial area just outside of the old downtown across the Huangpu River in what used to be swampland. This area is call Pudong.
Pudong
Pudong
Pudong

Along the west bank of the Hangpu River is The Bund, a large road and pedestrian plaza. There are great views of Pudong. It’s particularly pretty at night.
The Bund
The Bund

Sharon and Mark’s apartment has a great view of downtown Shanghai.
Downtown Shanghai

Tourist information center. I wonder who sponsors them?
Shanghai Tourist information center

In Shanghai, there are traffic signs that tell you exactly how many parking spaces are available in a given location. It’s a neat idea.
Shanghai parking sign

Nanjing Road contains many shops and a large plaza. Seeing that I was not Chinese, people ran up to me every minute or so to try to sell me bags, watches, or watch bags. (I don’t know what a watch bag is.)
Nanjing Road

The shops outside of Yuyuan Gardens were probably more geared towards the tourist crowds, but they were fun to shop in. I’ve never seen anyplace like it.
Shops in Yuyuan Gardens

Sharon and Mark live in a neighborhood called the French Concession. This area was created as a neighborhood administered by the French government for the use of French citizens. Of course, this neighborhood is now part of China. However, there are still many French shops in this area, from wine bars to bakeries. This part of the city managed to blend both European and Chinese architecture.
French Concession

 Posted by at 9:39 pm
Dec 092007
 

Western brands are common in China. Just like in the United States, Starbucks has a significant presence. In Beijing, there was a Starbucks right near my hotel.
Starbucks in Beijing
In Shanghai, there was a Starbucks in Yuyuan Gardens.
Starbucks in Beijing

Trademark protection in China is not as strong as in the United States. Does the Wandanu logo remind you of a certain international athletic apparel maker?
Wandanu store in Shanghai

The Nightmare Before Christmas store appears to be a shop that caters towards clothing for young women that is inspired by the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The Nightmare Before Christmas

Many newspaper stands in Beijing had Sports Illustrated in China awnings. I was working at SI when they launched their China branch. Interestingly, while it was still for sale, I did not see any advertisements for SI in China while I was in Shanghai.
Sports Illustrated in China

I walked by the Google offices in Shanghai one morning. As I walked by their offices, I realized that as Google is opening offices across the world, Time Inc. is closing foreign offices. I don’t think this is an accident; in fact, I believe it is indicative of a shift in how we receive our news.
Google Shanghai

 Posted by at 9:26 pm
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