Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Great Firewall Update: Google+ Blocked Again

Last month I explored a variety of web sites to see whether they were freely accessible in China. In short, from my location in Guangzhou I found that:

  • Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube were all completely blocked.
  • Amazon China, eBay, MSN, NPR, and Windows Live loaded without apparent problem.
  •, Bing, CNN, Gmail, Google+, Yahoo!, and this blog had a variety of problems but were not completely blocked.

For more details see here.

Recently, there have been reports of Google+ being accessible in China and that it led to an outburst of Chinese language comments on President Barack Obama's Google+ page (see here for a news report that includes some of Jeremy Goldkorn's insights on the Chinese language comments). I was surprised numerous reports claimed that Google+ had only recently become accessible since I was able to access it last month in Guangzhou.

In light of the news, a few hours ago I did a quick check of some of the sites I tested last time. I conducted the tests on two different operating systems from my location in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. The tests were conducted while while using a non-local DNS server and without a VPN (for details on what that means see the earlier post). The results on the two operating systems were the same. It is possible some of the results would have been worse with a local DNS. It seems unlikely any would have been better. This is what I found (changes from previous testing in bold):

  • Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube were all blocked.
  •, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo! loaded without apparent problem.
  • This blog loaded with the same problems as described before.

So, while Amazon, Gmail, and Yahoo! all fared better than last time, Google+ is now blocked.

For me. In Zhuhai. Today.

My understanding is that I am now not the only one being blocked from accessing Google+. It is also worth noting that my VPN is working just fine. When I want to "get through" the Great Firewall I can do so without problem.

My guess at the moment is that the Great Firewall underwent some recent updates and that there were a few bugs in the rollout. However, there are some peculiar aspects regarding the reported recent accessibility of Google+ that make me wonder if there is more to the story.

But for now, I will return to trying to get that video to work.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Seeing What is "Out of Sight"

In the "About Me" section of this blog I wrote "I'm fascinated by the similarities and differences in how people 'see' the world around them." And in a previous post I shared how following a dog led me to some interesting discoveries in Yuli, Taiwan. In that spirit, here is a short animation made by three graduates of the National Taiwan University of the Arts about what a little girl "sees" while searching for her very helpful dog (no Chinese required and thanks to a Taiwanese friend for introducing it to me):

Update: For those who cannot watch YouTube due to the Great Firewall here is a version on Tudou (possibly not the same quality):

[Update 2: the Tudou version no longer loads so it has been removed. If you are here now, the Great Firewall likely isn't a big factor for you now anyway.]

The "Out of Sight" website  can be found here:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beach Inconveniences in Hong Kong

Two signs I saw last November at a Cheung Chau (長洲) beach in Hong Kong:

Sign 1 - Suspension of Lifesaving Service. Lifesaving service for this beach has been suspended in winter and will be resumed from 1st April, 2012. Sign 2 - Notice. The shark prevention net was dismantled for maintenance on 01-11-2011. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
Note: 01-11-2011 in Hong Kong format is 1 November, 2011.

Despite it being a warm and sunny day, I did not go in the water.

Friday, February 24, 2012

From Video Mishaps to Hong Kong, Open Plan Offices, and Text Messaging Legal Woes

I had hoped to have a post today about the parade in Taiwan I mentioned here. However, I am having some bizarre problems creating the video. It looks completely fine in the edited preview, but in the final version some sections get stuck rapidly alternating between just a few frames. Other sections are fine, though. I will give it a whirl again this weekend. If all goes well I will put up the post on Monday. Otherwise, maybe I can just add some techno music to the video, and it will go viral.

For now I will do something I have not done in a while -- a quick review of some random links I had been holding onto for potential deeper commentary. Since I may never get to them, here are a few in no particular order (previous post of assorted links here):

1. I have previously discussed (herehere, here, and here) the barriers mainland Chinese face visiting Macau and Hong Kong. Bo Gu of NBC News describes her own first visit to Hong Kong. Her story about how she obtained the necessary permit highlights both some of the challenges in obtaining a permit and provides a taste of how "official processes" can work in China.

2. An article by Julian Treasure on The Sound Agency website discusses research indicating that open plan offices can hurt work productivity, even when they have been designed in the hope they can promote "creative thinking and better problem solving". I have not yet had a chance to review the original research papers, so I do not want to comment specifically. I will just say that what is reported is consistent with other cognitive psychology research I have conducted/reviewed in the past.

3. A Reuters article by Patricia Reaney warns:
Couples who may be heading for a nasty break-up should be careful about texting because it could end up as evidence against them in divorce court.
I appreciate the concern from a legal perspective, but it strikes me as somewhat ironic. I am no relationship expert, but it would seem to be that if one wants to save a marriage that reducing lines of communication may not be in a couple's best interest. Also, the advice to not put anything in writing seems easy to follow -- just speak your thoughts. However, sometimes people are better able to express themselves through written means (and sometimes very specific forms of writing). I have conducted research that... well, I cannot share details so I will just say that I think there may be some opportunities for innovations here. And they will not necessarily only apply to troubled couples.

That is all for the links. Now hopefully I can sort out the video problem.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Taiwanese Perspective on Michele Bachmann

Early last September when I was in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, I spent an evening with a Taiwanese friend who lives there. While driving to a cafe for desserts my friend told me she was fascinated by Michele Bachmann and hoped she would continue her campaign to be the Republican nominee for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. I found it surprising that a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives and strong supporter of the Tea Party movement might not only be known to at least some people in Taiwan but also have some followers.

The ensuing conversation proved rather enlightening. I will share it here since it provides an example of how American politics are perceived in a part of the world that in recent decades has seen a variety of democratic reforms and last month had an important presidential election of its own. To be sure, my friend's opinion is just one voice out of many in Taiwan, and I make no claims as to whether it is representative.

I recently communicated with my friend and everything she wrote is consistent with my memory of our earlier conversation. So, I will simply provide her recent written responses. [I have made some very minor edits for clarity since my friend is not a native English speaker. I have also reorganized the text for better flow since some content is the result of requests for her to elaborate.]

How do you know Michele Bachmann and what is your opinion of her?
Michelle Bachmann is a public figure so it was hard to ignore her when all of the spotlights were on her. I first noticed her when she appeared on the cover of Newsweek. It seemed she was being bullied by some of the media so I started to wonder if people had been unfair to her. But it turned out she’s a very interesting individual.

She had my attention particularly for her very conservative speech as well as her ambition for the presidency. I understand ambition is sometimes a good thing. It’s the very same quality I see in Hillary Clinton, but she’s not like Clinton at all! I mean, it’s just hard for me to relate a “submissive” wife to also being an ambitious / calculating politician. That didn’t sound very convincing to me.

What also amazed me was that she seemed to have loads of followers/supporters. She won Iowa, right? [She did not. My friend may be thinking of the Ames Straw Poll] I don’t understand why people voted for her. I was confused and also curious. Later I decided to give up wondering why. Like I said, I enjoyed seeing her. Every time she was on the news I had so much fun, like I was enjoying a daytime soap opera. She’s not dull at all!

As a matter of fact, it’s not Bachmann that I am interested in. It’s the world politics that attracts me, and I am particularly fond of US politics because of all the conflicts between parties and all the ups and downs in the recent Republican primary. It brings me a lot of fun.
What makes Michele Bachmann seem like a soap opera?
She's funny. She likes to put things in a dramatic/exaggerative way, and her talks are mostly odd, absurd and ridiculous… and I guess those are the crucial elements of soap opera?
Would you want Bachmann to be President of the U.S.?
NOOOOOOOOo I don’t want her to be the president of the US. I can’t imagine her being the leader of a super power. I think one good old Bush is good enough for all of us.

She and Bush are equally silly, only Bush is funnier (his choking on a pretzel or wiping his glasses on some poor woman’s clothes...). If she became the president, I am afraid the US would return to medieval times, gay rights would be banned, girls would not be allowed to wear bikinis, wives would have to be submissive to their hubbies....
So, Michele Bachmann may feel a little pride in knowing that her celebrity has spread all the way to Taiwan, although maybe not in the fashion she would likely prefer. And I assume my friend now has mixed feelings to know that Bachmann dropped out of the Republican primary after a poor performance in the Iowa caucuses.

I would be curious to hear what others think about my Taiwanese friend's views of Bachmann. In an upcoming post, I will share some photos (and probably video as well) of a large parade I saw in Taipei after I had left Kaohsiung. It highlights an issue that my friend fears would worsen in the U.S. if Bachmann became President. At the very least, I am pretty sure the people in the parade would not agree that they were celebrating, as Michele Bachmann has described it, "personal enslavement".

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cigarettes, Noodles, and Diapers: Profiting from China's Internal Borders

At Zhuhai's Gongbei Port (拱北口岸) in China's Guangdong province one can see a steady stream of people exiting immigration at the border between Macau and mainland China.

people exiting the Macau border control building in Zhuhai

Numerous people pass through the border for a variety of purposes. One of those purposes is very pragmatic.

Sometimes it is apparent that many people are openly carrying at least one of several items. For example, these three women were each carrying a box of instant noodles and a box of cigarettes:

three women each carrying a large box of noodles and a box of cigarettes

While some people may be bringing these items from Macau for themselves or to give away as gifts, it is clear many have another goal in mind -- selling them as part of a large grey market in mainland China.

For example, some people will sell their box of cigarettes to buyers on the other side of the street from Gongbei Port:

buyers near the Zhuhai-Macau border waiting for people selling boxes of cigarettes
People with larger colored bags are just some of the buyers that can be found in this area.

Though at other times, people can sell their cigarettes immediately upon exiting the Gongbei Port building:

numerous cigarette buyers at the exit of the Macau border control building in Zhuhai, China
Buyers (in this case all have plaid-patterned bags) quickly clear out if people with the appropriate uniforms arrive.

Especially for selling other items, some walk a little further and head down an alley with a warehouse-like building including many individual "stores". The sales patterns can vary from day to day. On one day there was a store where people could sell a brand of Japanese instant noodles (出前一丁) without waiting in line. However, people carrying another item had to stand in a long line:

people waiting in a line in Zhuhai, China

In Chinese I asked one of the men apparently working in the area, "What is this?"

He replied, "This is nothing."

I did not feel the need to continue the discussion since it was already clear that this "nothing" was in fact people selling a highly desired item in mainland China: Merries diapers from Japan.

Merries diapers from Japan

Why do these items need to be brought from Macau? Due to their status as special administrative regions, both Macau and Hong Kong sell goods that for a variety of reasons are not available (or as easily available) through official channels in mainland China. However, in some cases a grey market sales network in mainland China exists as I previously described for the iPhone 4S. The border at Macau and Zhuhai is particularly convenient for transporting some of these goods since both cities have urban areas immediately adjacent to the border. Not surprisingly, many of the stores in Macau near the border sell the very items that are most desired by mainland Chinese.

There can be a variety of reasons as to why these goods are in particular demand. For some, such as the diapers, it is due to the perceived safety and quality of equivalent products made in mainland China. The article "What Chinese Shoppers are Buying Online" on Forbes discussed this issue:
Recalling the terrible fall 2008 mass poisoning incident when six Chinese babies died and hundreds of thousands of children were sickened by melamine-tainted milk, it is no surprise that Japanese-made infant powdered milk is among the top-selling products. Some Chinese believe that direct Internet sales and home deliveries of powdered milk products would ensure that the contents had not been altered...

Also in the “baby” category are best-selling Japanese diapers, including the Kao “Merry” or Unicharm “Moony” brands (128 yuan/US$19)–again, priced higher compared to local brands. Chinese parents believe that the diapers contain no harmful chemicals that cause allergies or rash, and the materials are top-notch, preventing spillage.
And it is not just Chinese who are concerned. Some foreigners residing in mainland China have also turned to the Internet to purchase baby supplies produced elsewhere (see here for one perspective).

Based on what I saw, it appears that due to customs' restrictions people are very limited in the number of items they can bring to Zhuhai (I rarely saw people carrying more than one package of the above-mentioned items). However, last August Dan Harris on the China Law Blog commented that the situation was far more flexible at another border at that time:
An interesting thing is happening on the "border" between Hong Kong and China.


Let me explain.

Like virtually all countries, China has various limits and duties relating to what can be brought into the country. China is generally quite good at enforcing these limits and duties.

Except for quite some time now it has been looking the other way when it comes to food imports from Hong Kong. If you go to the border between Hong Kong and China, you will see what I mean. There you will see many, many people bringing back into China massive quantities of baby formula and the customs people are doing nothing. Nothing. The same is true for all sorts of other packaged foods being brought into China.
It is not uncommon for the various border "policies" to change (sometimes without official notice) so this difference comes as no great surprise.

There appear to be several other fascinating aspects of how the various grey markets seen at the Zhuhai-Macau border operate such as people being typically paid in Macanese currency, sellers reportedly making multiple trips in a day across the border, and variations on which items are "popular" from day to day. I will refrain from commenting on them, since I am still fuzzy on a number of issues. Regardless, it is striking that a grey market can apparently thrive for items such as instant noodles that need to be carried one by one across two immigration checkpoints.

So, like the Shanghainese reader who expressed an understanding for Macau's and Hong Kong's borders due to concerns over protecting cities' cultures, there are other mainland Chinese who may have their own reasons to appreciate the borders. While some mainland Chinese are not supportive of the policies which restrict their travel within China, for others the borders combined with special rules for Hong Kong and Macau provide an opportunity for profit.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Should Shanghai Have Borders?

Today, as I saw this scene of people in Zhuhai looking across the harbor (Qianshan Waterway) at Macau:

view of Macau from across the harbor in Zhuhai

I recalled a scene from last summer in Shanghai of people looking across the river at Pudong district's modern skyline:

view of Shanghai's Pudong district from the other side of the river

Despite the similarities in the two scenes, including a bit of smog, while mainland Chinese need a permit to enter Macau, no permit is required for them to enter Shanghai's Pudong district -- one of China's most developed areas. Regarding Shanghai, a Chinese reader from there responded to my post about Macau's border with mainland China with these comments [English slightly edited for clarity]:
I can understand why Macau and Hong Kong have these rules.

I don't want my own culture to be changed, even my own city [Shanghai] will be captured. Lots of people are too aggressive here. So many people come here but they actually don't like it. They condemn our city, our language, our rules, and they want to change things here. They hate Shanghainese.
In response to the title of this post, no, she does not feel that Shanghai should have borders separating it from the rest of China. And though she will need a permit to do so, she hopes to visit both Hong Kong and Macau someday.

The reader's comments provide much fodder for discussion. For now, I share them simply to highlight a mainland Chinese perspective on the borders that may not have been expected without a deeper understanding of China. I am sure there are a variety of other perspectives that could be found in China and Shanghai as well. In the post about Macau's border I wrote [emphasis added]:
Despite growing up in a cultural environment very different from most Chinese, I suspect I would be asking questions very similar to those that some people in China are now asking.
The "some" is of course very key in terms of appreciating the variety of views held by China's people. Additionally, there can be a diverse set of factors guiding these views. Just the comments above from a single person touch on several very important issues for China such as the rapid pace of change, the variety of cultures, and the divisions between certain groups of people. Even an issue that could seem so straightforward from the outside, the views of mainland Chinese on borders restricting their own travel within China, is full of complexities. Once again, there are many layers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

So Close Yet So Far: Chinese Citizens Without Permission to Visit China's Macau

While walking along China's Pearl River Estuary (珠江口) in Zhuhai, Guangdong province I briefly spoke with these two young women:

two young ladies in Zhuhai with sea and Macau in the background

This couple living in Zhuhai:

young couple siting on park bench in Zhuhai

These two tourists from China's Hunan province:

two young ladies posing in front of sea in Zhuhai

And these two young men visiting from China's Jiangxi province:

All of these Chinese had one thing in common: they were not able to visit the location seen in the background of the first and last photos -- Macau -- despite it being part of their own country and within reach by an easy overland walk. None of them had the appropriate special permit. Even if they had a passport they would not have been allowed to enter. Macau, like Hong Kong, is one of China's special administrative regions with its own laws, currency, police, and immigration policies. And like Hong Kong's border, Macau's border can be a blockade to people from mainland China.

However, if you are not from China getting into Macau can be much easier. According to a table on the website for the Macau Public Security Police Force's Immigration Service people from the following countries are currently exempt from needing to apply for any visa or entry permit and only need their passport:

AndorraIndonesiaBosnia and Herzegovina
EgyptMacedoniaSouth Africa
EstoniaMalaysiaSouth Korea
IndiaNetherlandsUnited Kingdom
Cape VerdeNew ZealandUruguay
Commonwealth of DominicaBulgariaU.S.A.
San MarinoMontenegroBrunei
-(a total of 69 countries)-

Additionally, Hong Kong residents are exempt from needing a visa or permit.

There are some minor loopholes to the restrictions for mainland Chinese. For example, if a mainland Chinese citizen has a passport, proof of an onward flight from Macau, and an entry visa to another country then they are able to enter Macau for a period of up to 7 days. In other words, in China a visa to another country can open the door to a section of one's own country.

Despite the restrictions, it could be argued that relative to Macau's population a large number of mainland Chinese have had access. In fact, as currently noted on Wikipedia "According to the 2006 by-census, 47% of [Macau's] residents were born in mainland China, of whom 74.1% were born in Guangdong and 15.2% in Fujian." Also, mainland Chinese play important roles as tourists and workers, especially for Macau's famous and very large gambling industry. The Independent reported several years ago:
Two-thirds of Macau's gamblers are mainland Chinese, most of them from just across the border in the prosperous province of Guangdong...

Only Macau residents can work as croupiers in the casinos, but pouring the tea, emptying the ashtrays, building the new casinos and guarding the loot as it is transported off to the banks is the enclave's army of 98,000 foreign workers. Like the gamblers, most of these migrant workers come from across the border in Guangdong...
As the article suggests, whether the permits for mainland Chinese are approved fairly is another question.

Whatever justifications there may be for the permits, their effects may be broader than they initially appear. In addition to impacting the travels of many mainland Chinese, these conditions may also affect people's sense of identity and self-worth. Some Chinese are publicly asking why people from a variety of other countries such as Japan, India, and Mongolia can more easily visit some parts of China than is possible for themselves. Some are also asking how they can expect to be treated as equals abroad when they are not even treated as equals within their own country.

It is not clear whether any significant changes are imminent and whether it is an issue of prime importance for many in country that faces a variety of immense challenges. Regardless, I could not stop myself from wondering what it is like for the people I met to gaze upon one of the more developed areas of China and know that they do not have permission to even walk along its streets. I try to imagine what it would be like for me to stand in the U.S. state of New Jersey and look across the water at New York City knowing that I would need to apply for a government permit to visit even though a Chinese citizen with a passport could enter at any time. Despite growing up in a cultural environment very different from most Chinese, I suspect I would be asking questions very similar to those that some people in China are now asking.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amazon in China: A Clear but not Always Affordable Choice

In the previous post about my trip from Guangzhou to Zhuhai I mentioned that I needed to wait an additional 30 minutes to catch a train. The extra time was well spent, though, due to meeting this pair of young women in their mid-20's:

Outside Guangzhou's South Train Station

We met because they asked me to take a photograph of them together with one of their cameras. Afterwards, we chatted about a variety of topics.

During the conversation, the person on the right side of the photo mentioned Dangdang, a Chinese electronic commerce company. One of its competitors in China may be more familiar to those outside of China, It was relevant to some research I have done, so I asked her about her perceptions of the two services and how much, if at all, she used them.

She said that when she had been in college she always used Dangdang and almost never used Amazon's Chinese website. The reason was simple -- price. As a college student her funds were particularly tight and the lower prices she found on Dangdang were a very important factor in her choice of book sellers.

However, now that she has a job and is making money she is more likely to purchase her books from despite still finding their books to be more expensive. The reason she is willing to part with more of her hard-earned money is that in China it is possible to buy paperback books of varying quality. Now that she can afford it, she said she buys books from Amazon because she has found they sell better quality books which are easier to read than the books she has bought from Dangdang.

I have not personally compared books from Dangdang and Amazon, but based on the quality of other books I have seen being sold in China I could appreciate her comments. Especially for books that are not likely legal copies, such as those often sold at the mobile bookstores I mentioned last year, the paper and print quality can be very inferior (there can be varying degrees of quality). Sometimes, the blurriness of the print adds a noticeable strain to reading, pages stick together, or the print easily smudges.

Another reason she shops at Amazon now is that Amazon is cheaper than another alternative -- buying equal quality books at brick-and-mortar bookstores. While she is happy to be making money, she feels it is very little and is motivated to find ways to save on her book purchases as long as quality is not sacrificed.

A final and very key element to her choice of Amazon is "trust". She knows the books will arrive quickly and that they will be the best quality possible.

Of course this is just a single case and based on her self-reported behavior and perceptions. And I have come across some very different opinions of Amazon elsewhere in China (possibly a post for another day). Regardless, this captures some key themes I have repeatedly seen in China.

The evolution of this woman's shopping habits is of particular interest to me because being able to buy lower quality paperback books is not a typical option in countries such as the U.S. (used books are another story). The difference touches on an issue important for companies such as Amazon to consider: the value they can provide in China may be different from what they provide in other countries.

The issue of "trust" also caught my eye. For now, I will just say that it takes on a very special significance in a country where fake or poorly made products are easily found. While some companies are negatively hurt by fake/imitation products in China, it also presents a key opportunity that I think many are failing to fully seize (again, a post for another day).

Price, quality, and trust. Important factors all around the world, but they can play out in their own special ways in China. And for this particular woman's book needs right now, Amazon has hit a sweet spot.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From Guangzhou to Zhuhai to Macau

[Update at end]

I have not posted during the past couple days due to some travel. It started in Guangzhou where I took a 40 minute subway ride to Guangzhou's South Train Station, one of several train train stations in Guangzhou and one of the many mammoth new train stations that can be found in a number of cities in China.

When I arrived I first sought out these machines to purchase a ticket:

automatic train ticket machines at Guangzhou South Train Station

ID is now required to purchase tickets. Unfortunately, the scanning system for the machines appears to only read Chinese Resident Identity Cards and not passports. After discovering this fact I went to the old fashioned ticket windows in a different section of the station:

ticket windows at Guangzhou South Train Station in China

Anyone familiar with Chinese train stations will appreciate my relief in finding such short and well defined lines. The scene would be very different in many other train stations in China. Even with the short wait, though, the train I wanted to ride had sold out since I had checked it on the automated machines. Fortunately, a few first class seats were remaining on the train departing only 30 minutes later. Some high speed rail lines in China have reported low ridership numbers. All I can say is that with trains departing every 15-30 minutes this line appeared to be very busy that day.

After purchasing the tickets I entered the sprawling main departure hall:

main departure hall at Guangzhou South Train Station in China
If only I had roller blades with me.

And after passing through security I was in the waiting area:

waiting area at Guangzhou South Train Station

But there was no need to wait and I headed directly to the train:

boarding train at Guangzhou South Train Station

While the train line I rode is sometimes referenced as "light rail", the trains do not in fact fit that classification. So, I will call it by its more proper name: the Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway.

Traveling at speeds up to 200 km/h (124 mph) I arrived in about 50 minutes at the terminal station -- Zhuhai North Station. Apparently the line will someday extend to a more central location in Zhuhai. One can only hope. As it stood, after paying just 44 RMB (about US $7) for the train ticket I paid almost double that for the long taxi ride into town. City buses were available for only 1 RMB but they did not go exactly where I wanted and included many stops. Also, they were already full with recently arrived passengers, and I was not sure there would even be space for me when the next ones arrived. While I enjoy trying to ride "local" in China, this was a time where I decided to take a pass. Fortunately, I got my money's worth as my taxi driver apparently had aspirations to be a Formula One driver.

The day after arriving in Zhuhai I went to Macau. Similar to what I explained in my post about the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, you must pass out of mainland China through immigration in Zhuhai and then take a short walk before going through immigration once more to enter the special administrative region of Macau, despite it being part of China. And like Hong Kong, mainland Chinese need a special permit to enter Macau while many foreigners, including myself, only need a passport. From the time I left my hotel, walking to the border, going through two immigration channels, and finally arriving in Macau took less than one hour. It was even faster when I returned to Zhuhai due to shorter lines.

So, as you can see I've been busy moving about. No complaints from me though. The food in Macau is great:

African Chicken Macau Style
African Chicken Macau Style

And pretty decent food in Zhuhai can be very inexpensive:

dish of squid, fish, vegetables, and rice in Zhuhai, China
Squid, fish, vegetables and rice for about US $1.40

I share all of this not only to provide a "taste" of some of my recent meals but also of some of the travel experience one can find in China. The high speed train ride was certainly a very different world from many other travel experiences I have had, such as a horse cart in Xizhou, Yunnan province.

More posts, including some about Guangzhou, Zhuhai, and Macau soon.

Update (July 25, 2012): For more about the extension of the Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway see the newer post "The Future Intercity Railway Station at the Macau-Zhuhai Border".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Store Cats in Guangzhou, China

It seems like some readers have a strong desire for cat photos. So, for this weekend post I'll share several photos of cats I've recently seen at various small stores in Guangzhou, Guangdong province (cheesy captions added at no additional charge):

This cat is skeptical that you really know what you want to order...

cat in China appearing to look down at items on the ground
but still willing to see if it's in stock.

cat with bottled and canned drinks in the background
Only serves drinks

kitten on a leash in China
Being a kitten doesn't absolve one from work...

mushrooms and herbs for traditional Chinese medicines
at a shop for traditional Chinese medicines.

cat meowing in China
This cat was at a small convenience store but...

was more interested in getting attention then selling anything.

cat sitting near a wheel of a cart outside
Not at a shop but possibly playing hooky

Five cats is enough, right? If not, you can see some cats in Sichuan province.

Cats don't appear to be as common of a pet in China as in the U.S, and I've noticed that people who do have cats often don't interact with them as closely as commonly seen in the U.S. The friendliest cat above was certainly the one seen meowing. After it determined I was "good" it climbed up me so that I'd hold it (and of course pet it). One worker in the shop reacted as if she'd never seen someone hold the cat that way before.

Anyways, if you're a dog person, I have material for a post I'll tackle one of these days. For now I'll just say it's a more in depth and complicated Chinese story to tell. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Posts Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

I haven't had a chance to post recently and when I was ready the Internet and/or Chrome decided to go haywire. I am now using Firefox with a slow Internet connection, so I'll do a preview of what's ahead.

Before continuing on the themes started with the stories about Xiaoxin, I will take a detour early next week with a couple of Taiwan-related posts. One is a post I've already promised about Michele Bachmann. Why would this, um, "colorful" Republican member of the U.S. House Representatives come up in a discussion I had with a friend of mine in Kaohsiung? Stay tuned...

A later post will be about a parade I saw in Taipei a few months ago. It will be particularly appropriate to share at that moment since the parade was about an issue of great concern to Michele Bachmann -- although I doubt she would have agreed to participate. Again, stay tuned...

After those posts, I'll get back to the earlier theme and share a story that can add some perspective to why Xiaoxin was so excited about her payday.

To finish off this post I was going to add some gratuitous photos of cats in local Guangzhou shops. However, now Picasa is behaving very peculiarly. I'm using a VPN at the moment so I don't think my problems are related to blocking from the Great Firewall, but I can't be sure.

I'm just going to go to sleep and hope this is all magically resolved when I turn on my laptop tomorrow.