Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Scene in Zhuhai: Fishbowls for Sale

One morning in Zhuhai I passed this girl who was helping place some fishbowls for sale in front of her family's store:

little girl looking at me while she stands at a low table with fishbowls in front of a pet store

Like another little helper in Guangzhou, she seemed surprised to see me taking a photo of her. After I showed her the results, though, she smiled and did a little dance. As I walked away she happily returned her attention to the fishbowls.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Starbucks and its Customers Both Paying a Higher Price in China

At a Starbucks in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, I spoke with a number of employees during their team meeting a few days ago.

One of the items on the agenda was planning for the upcoming Halloween holiday. In some ways, the workers reminded me of a young woman I met in Nanning who enjoyed working at another American company--McDonald's.

Starbucks was especially on my mind because it recently had the honor of being the latest foreign company to receive the wrath of the China Central Television Network (CCTV). As Adam Minter wrote in Bloomberg's World View blog:
What did Starbucks Corp. ever do to the Chinese Communist Party?

That’s the question China’s latte-sipping set is asking in the wake of a now-notorious investigation, first aired on national television Sunday, that revealed -- among other examples of allegedly shameless profiteering -- that a tall latte costs about 45 cents more at a Starbucks in Beijing than it does at one in London, and that Starbucks’s profit margins in the Asia-Pacific region exceed those of any other in which the company operates.

The story has dominated China, with major international news media outlets subsequently picking up on it.
Read the rest of Minter's post here. The big issue here isn't Starbucks unfairly charging customers in China more than elsewhere. Instead, the CTTV's report is another example of the additional challenges non-Chinese companies can face in China, even if they are offering something strongly desired by many Chinese consumers and providing better-than-average opportunities for Chinese workers.

Nonetheless, I would welcome another CCTV report on Chinese paying more for a foreign brand's beverage. After all, "imported wines to China are subject to taxes that amount to about 48% of the declared value." That usually works out to costing to a bit more than 45 cents. Wine consumption in China is rapidly growing, so wouldn't many Chinese be happy for foreign wines to cost less? And the tax is entirely controlled by the Chinese government. How can you lose, CCTV?*

*Yes, reducing the tax wouldn't necessarily guarantee a drop in wine prices. But if prices didn't fall after a big change in taxes, CCTV could conduct another investigation!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tchotchkes for Sale at Night in Zhuhai

At a popular area along the Pear River Estuary in Zhuhai, Guangdong, it is common to see people selling a variety of small items, many sea-related, which can be of interest to tourists. For most of the items, if I were to present them as gifts to my parents I'm sure they'd be fondly described as tchotchkes. Below are several photos I took earlier this evening of tchotchkes for sale.

The buildings visible on the other side of the water are in Macau--one of China's Special Administrative Regions. For some daytime photos from similar vantage points, see my earlier post about Macau's border with mainland China--something I can cross far more easily than most Chinese.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Zhuhai Bar with a Giant Inflatable Rubber Duck

In an area of Zhuhai with a number of upscale clubs and bars, one of the establishments decided it needed a special piece of ornamentation outside.

large inflatable duck in front of a bar in Zhuhai

A young man working there offered to take my photo with the duck. I politely declined.

If you're unfamiliar with the role giant inflatable rubber ducks have had in China this year, for a summary of the South China Morning Post's excitement over the original duck in Hong Kong see Shanghaiist here, for more general Hong Kong excitement over the duck see Hong Wrong here, for why China's Communist Party might not be thrilled about the above bar duck see an article from AFP here, and for an assortment of Beijing-related giant duck news see Beijing Cream here.

There's probably not much I could say that hasn't been said before. But if that's still not enough duck for you, email me for the approximate address of the Zhuhai bar. Last time I walked by the duck was still there.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

More Dust Cloud Art in Zhuhai

I will touch on a topic I did not expect to revisit. Today as I approached a previously featured intersection in Zhuhai, China, I saw a familiar cloud of dust.

dust cloud at a street interesting in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

Yes, the gravelblower had returned. Many passersby on the nearby and not-so-nearby sidewalks covered their mouths and noses with their hands, shirts, or whatever else they had available. Here are a few scenes of people who especially immersed themselves in the experience:

man covering his mouth with his hand while riding a bike through a dust cloud created by a gravelblower

man covering his mouth with his hand as he walks through a dust cloud created by a gravelblower

man riding a tricycle cart through a dust cloud created by a gravelblower

While watching what could be a piece of performance art, I considered other solutions for removing the gravel and also wondered if I had missed the real purpose of the gravelblower. And then, as if someone had read my mind, other workers came to do their thing.

workers removing gravel from a road using brooms and shovels

Some workers used brooms to sweep the gravel into piles, and others used shovels to remove the piles--all while the gravelblower continued making dust clouds. Notably, the workers were upwind from the gravelblower. Also, the sweepers were more efficient at moving the gravel than the gravelblower. I dared to wonder whether it was possible someone decided to use a leafblower so the sweepers and shovelers would breathe in less dust. If that was the goal, I suppose I should start calling the gravelblower a "dustblower". And there are several shortcomings to their process--at least one of which could be readily pointed out by the passersby walking though the dust cloud.

Somehow, the performance art idea seems more appealing.

Finally, as I pondered gravel clearing processes, I noticed I wasn't the only one who felt compelled to stop and watch for short amount of time.

man holding a variety of balloons and watching workers clean gravel off a road

Insights from those familiar with road construction and gravel removal are welcome. Otherwise, I think I'll bring this topic to a close.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Traditional Bakery Advertising in Macau

I need to keep it simple today, so I will share a colorful scene of a Koi Kei bakery delivery truck near a Koi Kei billboard advertisement in Macau's Taipa Village.

As suggested by the design of the advertisements, Koi Kei is a traditional-style Macanese store. It sells a variety of food products, including cakes, candies, and meat jerky. One great aspect of Koi Kei's stores, at least the ones I have seen, is the large variety of free samples available for tasting. They have a number of locations in Macau, several more in Hong Kong, and one in Singapore. One of their stores is down the narrow street next to the sign. The street is also the location for a favorite Portuguese restaurant of mine in Macau--O Santos. Needless to say, I rarely leave this area feeling hungry.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crossing a Dust-Cloud-Free Intersection in Zhuhai

Today I crossed the intersection where yesterday I saw and heard a man using a leaf blower to move gravel and creating a large cloud of dust, so I thought I'd provide a brief update.

men doing road work as people and a car go around them

Men were still working in the road as vehicles and pedestrians moved around them, but there were no signs of the gravelblower or his dust clouds. Nothing seemed highly unusual.

Barring any exciting developments, this concludes the chapter on gravelblowing in China.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Small Scale Air Pollution: Blowing Gravel in Zhuhai

This afternoon as I approached a large street intersection, I came across a rather non-mellifluous sound and a scene somewhat like a miniature Beijing sandstorm.

dust cloud at an intersection in Zhuhai, China

I immediately thought of James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic. It wasn't because I am in Zhuhai, which Fallows has described as "a sprawling, not-universally-adored, tropical-coastal Chinese city that I have really come to appreciate on several visits" and possessing "surprising charms". Instead, I recalled that Fallows has a strong dislike (to put it mildly) of leafblowers. Today, blowing leaves would have been a welcomed alternative even though I, too, am not a fan of leafblowers.

man using a blower to move gravel and creating a large dust cloud on a street in Zhuhai

That a man was working in the middle of an unblocked section of a busy street probably wouldn't get most people's attention here. But it seemed more notable to see the man using a "gravelblower" in an attempt to clean up gravel while seemingly creating more of a mess than there was to begin with and creating a nuisance for people trying to cross the intersection or use nearby sidewalks. The photos don't do justice to the cloud he created. Even standing on the other side of the intersection dust got in my eyes and on my camera lens.

Given that the blower appeared to be more effective at spreading a huge dust cloud than moving gravel, it's hard not to believe there wasn't a better way. I suspect many of the passersby I saw would agree.

Here are a few more scenes:

people walking by a man using a blower to move gravel and creating a large dust cloud on a street in Zhuhai

a bus and truck going around a man using a blower to move gravel and creating a large dust cloud on a street in Zhuhai

bicyclist going through a cloud of dust caused by a man blowing graving on a street in Zhuhai

In places such as Shanghai, whenever the air is bad it is common to hear something like "at least I'm not in X", with X usually being Beijing. In today's case, I will say that it was easy enough to leave the Zhuhai gravelblower in the dust, and at least I was not in Harbin's nightmare.

Sales Promotions for Hongmi in Nanping, Zhuhai

At the same shopping district where I saw a variety of mobile phones for sale in Nanping, on Saturday evening at least three stores had outdoor sales promotions for Hongmi -- the new budget smartphone from the Chinese brand Xiaomi.

Hongmi smartphone promotion in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

Hongmi smartphone promotion with a clown on a stage in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

Hongmi smartphone promotion in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

Does this mean there was plenty of loud noise? Yes. Does this mean Xiaomi is topping the sales at most mobile phone stores in Nanping? Based on what I heard and saw at several stores, it doesn't seem so.

In a later post I'll say more about mobile phone sales in Nanping and whether Xiaomi is a threat to Apple as some people have claimed.

A Very Late Night / Early Morning Fish in Zhuhai

My body decided it would be a great idea to be awake at 4:30 a.m. and hungry. So I went outside and planned to stop by a local convenience store to pick up a snack. However, I saw a nearby dining establishment was still open.

I felt right at home with the stools.

They had a few items left to grill, and I placed my order .

The view from my table

The veggies came first, and then the fish arrived.

Fish on sticks

The fish cost just 10 kuai, about US $1.60. It is a common fish in Zhuhai, but every place I've had it prepares it a slightly different way. This one was on the garlicky side.

The experience is nothing remarkable in China, but it's part of what I enjoy here. The "no frills" environment suited me just fine today. And most importantly, the fish was good.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The October Beer Street Festival in Zhuhai

During a visit to a shopping district in Zhuhai's Nanping Town yesterday, I felt a craving for potatoes, but none of the street food vendors had anything of interest to me. I then recalled unexpectedly stumbling upon a German restaurant a week or two ago. I thought it might do the trick, and it was only about a 10-15 minute walk away.

Upon reaching my destination, I discovered it was my lucky day as it was the location of Zhuhai's three day October Beer Street Festival--probably the closest thing to Octoberfest in Zhuhai. The St. Pauli Kommune German Restaurant & Bar was participating and had a special selection of food outside.

tent selling food and drink outside of the St. Pauli Kommune German Restaurant & Bar in Zhuhai, China.

Several other tents sold non-German food. And one tent sold selections from Finsta--a German family-owned distillery based in Xinxing County several hours away from Zhuhai. After sampling the offerings, I left with my first bottle of red lychee brandy--good stuff and not too sweet. Lychees will never be the same for me.

young woman holding a bottle of finsta alcohol

My initial goal was food oriented, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that potatoes were included in the meal I ordered from the St. Pauli tent.

small German meal on a paper plate

Given that the meal was a smaller portion and it passed muster (including the potatoes), I decide to sample another selection. This time, though, I accompanied it with some Hofbräu draft beer.

small german meal of sausages and a dunkel Hofbräu draft beer

Of course, the festival included music and dancing appropriate for the "party" theme of the day.

singers and dancers on the stage at Zhuhai's October Beer Street Festival

The crowd steadily grew through the night, with the focus mostly on the stage.

crowd at picnic tables for Zhuhai's October Beer Street Festival

Although sometimes the performers came out into the crowd.

singer standing on a large box

adults and children in a conga line

man and woman singing surrounded by children

Similar to experiencing a bit of China in Germany, it was fascinating to see the mix of very different cultures. And I'm glad I had an unusual craving for potatoes, or I probably would have missed it.

Zhuhai Night

night scene at a street food restaurant in Zhuhai, China

Friday, October 18, 2013

Not-So-Smoky Smoking Sections in Macau

Looking down at The Venetian Macau's casino.

In an earlier post I described Macau's attempt to reduce the number of smoking areas in its many casinos, including requiring casinos to designate at least half of their public space as non-smoking. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to take a look around two of Macau's larger casinos at The Venetian Macau and the Galaxy Macau. They had clearly marked non-smoking and smoking areas, and people could be found playing in both. I didn't notice a single person smoking in a non-smoking area, but it was the smoking-areas which most caught my eye, or actually my nose. Especially in the Galaxy Macau, I was impressed that as I walked through the smoking areas I rarely smelled any smoke at all, even when I was close to smokers. It was a very different experience from most other smoking areas I've been in. Plenty of people were smoking, so I surmised the casinos must have excellent ventilation systems.

It would be interesting to see air quality readings of the smoking areas, especially due to a thought that went through my mind while I meandered through them: "The air here seems better than an average day outside in Beijing or Shanghai."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Homework in Zhuhai

two girls sitting on stools at a small wooden table doing homework
Two girls working on their homework in Zhuhai, Guangdong

I need to finish some homework of my own before finishing a post about Xiaomi and Apple. I haven't posted during the past couple of days partly due to trying to better understand a not-so-small matter that was unfolding in the U.S.

I am proud to say my country had the grand idea to not implode itself, at least for now.

More of the usual themes here are on the way.

Monday, October 14, 2013

External Hard Drive Woes and a Waterside Scene

Today I was not able to access one of my external hard drives.  I am not sure whether the problem was related to either a recent experience of data uploading much slower than usual or dropping the hard drive from the height of a typical desk. Since I deliberately chose a hard drive with military-grade shock resistance that "incorporates a vibration- absorbing silicone outer shell, a reinforced hard casing, and an internal hard drive suspension damper as a last line of defense" and that "is rugged enough to protect against excessive vibration or sudden jolts", I had thought the drop would not be of any consequence, especially since it seemed rather inconsequential in military terms.

Whatever the case, I now get an I/O error when trying to access the disk and this: "diskarbitrationd[13]: unable to mount /dev/disk1s1 (status code 0x00000047)". None of the the simple tricks I have tried allow me to see any data. However, the computer can at least recognize the brand of the hard drive when I take a look under the "Volumes" directory using a Terminal window. If none of this makes sense to you, no worries. On that note, the reason I have shared this exciting news is I thought a reader might have some insights to offer. If anyone has grand advice for how I personally may be able to at least recover the data using a Mac, I'd certainly appreciate hearing from you.

One of the side effects of today's fun was not writing a post I had planned for today. So instead, I will share a photo I took this evening in Zhuhai while taking a waterside walk to clear my mind after a day of unexpected travail.

waterside night scene in Gongbei, Zhuhai, China
No travail for me here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The NRA in Zhuhai, China

As I enjoyed a street side late night meal of barbecued fish and vegetables in Zhuhai, China, yesterday, a shoeshiner walked by. My sandals weren't deserving or in a need of shining, but he decided to sit down with me for a chat. I asked if I could take his photo since he was wearing a hat that was remarkable to see in China.

man in Zhuhai, China, wearing a baseball cap with the word NRA

He did not speak any English and had no idea what the words on his hat meant. As I started to explain "NRA" to him in simplistic terms--"they like guns"--he looked at me like I was crazy. I realized that explaining gun rights and organizations with political interests in the U.S. could take a while.

I had fish to eat. He had shoes to shine. So I dropped the topic, especially as he didn't seem particularly interested.

It's just his hat.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Still a Variety of Mobile Phones for Sale in Nanping, Zhuhai

In addition to an Android Store having changed since my visit last year, the selection of mobile phones for sale and which brands were most promoted in a shopping district in Zhuhai's Nanping Town changed as well. I will share here some of what I noticed during two recent visits. It is not intended to be an exhaustive review, and it represents only one shopping district in Zhuhai with a large number of mobile phone stores.

1. Last year many of the stores had Nokia storefront signs, even though they sold a variety of phones. Many, if not all, of those signs have been changed to something else. A few of the stores now have a China Mobile sign similar to the ex-Android Store. Some stores still have Samsung storefront signs.

mobile phone store with Samsung storefront sign

2. There are several Chinese brand-specific stores for smartphones. For example...

ThL has a brand experience store:

ThL mobile phone store in Zhuhai

Oppo, a brand that had a striking marketing campaign including Leonardo DiCaprio, has a store:

Oppo mobile phone store

Zopo has a store as well.

Zopo mobile phone store in Zhuhai

3. Vivo, Doov, Xiaomi, and HTC are all more prominent at stores selling multiple brands.

mobile phone store in Zhuhai with Vivo and Doov promotions outside

mobile phone store with displays for Xiaomi, HTC, Apple, Android, Oppo, and other brands

International brands common elsewhere in the world can be found as well.

4. As before, a variety of cheaper feature phones are available, but I think the selection of Chinese brands differed. The following photo includes Kliton, Ouki, Siwer, Fmee, Youme, Telsom, and others:

Kliton, Ouki, Siwer, Fmee, Youme, and Telsom mobile phones

For examples of other Chinese mobile phone brands (and some creative imitators) I saw a couple of years ago in southwestern China, see posts from Chengdu here, Zigong here, and Zhaotong here.

To sum it all up: Some of the brands available have changed. The "favorites" have changed. More smartphones are available. What has not changed is the great variety of brands available.

I will have more to say on these points later.

An Early Morning Scene in Zhuhai, China

tricycle cart, electric bicycle, and woman walking with a little girl

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Fate of the Android Store in Zhuhai, China: Part II

A year and half ago I took a random bus ride in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and ended up in the town of Nanping. As I explored the area, in a shopping district I stumbled upon a store that caught my eye and wrote about it posts here and here. At the time, there was much buzz about a fake Apple Store in China. As I later pointed out, a large number of unlicensed stores selling Apple's products and to varying degrees looking like Apple Stores could be found throughout China.

However, the store in Nanping seemed especially unique to me. For a refresher, here is the first photo I shared of Zhuhai's Android Store:

Android Store in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Ah, the memories...

Four months later I returned to Nanping and found the Android Store remained and now had a imitator nearby.

Recently, I was able to return to Nanping yet again. For the Android Store's fans, I have some difficult news to share. Although it retains some of its previous spirit, the Android Store had a bit of a makeover:

Android Store now with a China Mobile sign
At least there's an Android inflatable arch.

A number of other nearby stores also had changed to China Mobile storefront signs as well.

Despite the change, Android Store fans may be able to take heart from something else. The imitator down the street remains mostly the same on the outside and in Xiangwan, another part of Zhuhai far away from Nanping, I saw this store one evening:

store with Android storefront sign and a large Samsung sign inside
It didn't only sell phones with Android though.

In a later post, I will provide a look at some of what the above mobile phone store and others in Zhuhai are now promoting and selling. There are some notable differences from last year.