Monday, December 9, 2013

Just Another Dinner in Zhuhai

A nighttime dinner scene in Zhuhai, Guangdong province:

plastic wrapped table setting on an outdoor table with a young woman smoking in the background in Zhuhai, China

Yet again, more soon...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Just Another Lunch in Changsha

A lunch scene from a restaurant in Changsha, Hunan province:

three people sitting on benches eating lunch in Changsha, China

If you're curious about the benches, last year's post here about stools in China provides some related context.

More soon...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alps Water from Northeast China

In one of Changsha's more upscale grocery stores, I saw these bottles of water for sale:

bottles of water with the name "Alps" in English and "阿尔卑斯" in Chinese

I was looking for carbonated water, but water from the Alps* was tempting. Curious about the name, I took a closer look at the label:

close up of label information for Alps bottled water.

I can't say I was surprised to discover that the water is not actually from the Alps. Instead, it is from Jilin province in Northeast China.

Since it wasn't rocket science to figure out the disconnect between the water's name and its place of origin, I wondered how it might impact sales. On a related note, in the Journal of Marketing paper "The Double-Edged Sword of Foreign Brand Names for Companies from Emerging Countries", Valentyna Melnyk, Kristina Klein, and Franziska Völckner wrote:
Because current regulations in most countries mandate displaying the country of production, producers from emerging countries should be aware that using foreign branding for hedonic products may backfire significantly, whereas using foreign brand names for utilitarian products may work. For example, a Chinese company may successfully export electric appliances (utilitarian products) with German brand names but might have a more difficult time selling decorative cosmetics (hedonic products) under French names.
Although I would consider water to be more of a utilitarian product, the higher priced Alps bottled water might be better considered in this case as a hedonic product. However, the authors' claim does not address the possible impact of a Chinese company using foreign branding on sales within China.

So perhaps Alps water will do just fine Changsha. It could be a very different story if they try to sell it in Switzerland though.**

Finally, the bottle lists the company's website at I will refrain from commenting on the website, which is worth a look, but I will point out that ".so" is the internet country code for Somalia. I'm guessing this reflects the challenges of acquiring "alps" as a domain name and not another attempt at foreign branding.

*Note: The red characters "阿尔卑斯" above the word "ALPS" is the Chinese name for the Alps.

**If anyone has seen it for sale there, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unexpected Service in Changsha

In Changsha, Hunan province, a Chinese friend I hadn't seen in a long time offered to take me to a restaurant with Hunan-style food. We first met in a familiar shopping district, and I wondered if the restaurant would be familiar to me as well. However, as we headed down an alley I realized I was about to have a new experience. Given the fascinating discussions I've had with this friend about China's government, I suspect her choice of restaurants included a touch of humor.

Our waiter didn't seem easily humored though.

Locals often know the best places to eat...

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Long Thanksgiving in Changsha

I don't have a story to share this year like my Thanksgiving experience last year in Changsha. I'll just say I ate a delicious holiday meal yesterday including items such as turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and bullfrog. Despite appreciating some of the charms in another person's experience, I feel fortunate it didn't take place at a KFC.

And for those who are disappointed the holiday is over, perhaps a visit to ID Mall in Changsha is in order. After all, I saw this sign a couple of weeks ago there:

mall entrance in Changsha with a Thanksgiving themed banner saying "Happy Thanksgiving Day 11.16-12.8"

It looks like they'll be celebrating for more than another week.

Pumpkin pie may be impossible to find, but all should be fine if you're seeking a taste of spicy bullfrog.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A New Scene With a Familiar Bridge in Changsha

I have been preoccupied with other-than-blogging activities the past week or so, but I hope to soon return to posting more regularly. For now, here is a photo taken from the western side of Changsha's Xiang River:

evening view of a bridge over Changsha's Xiang River with brightly lit buildings in the background

The bridge has made an appearance here before in a post describing some problems I was having with other "bridges".  The earlier photo was taken from the eastern side of the river.

I don't believe the buildings on the left have appeared here before, though, and they are a newer part of Changsha's skyline. They may be part of a later post about the changes I have seen in Changsha since last year's visit.

And on that note, more soon...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Greetings from Buddha and Mao in Changsha

I previously shared several recent scenes from an outdoor antique market in Changsha, Hunan province. Although much seemed the same, in one way my experience there was quite different from a visit last year. This time two different sellers asked me to take a photo of one their items for sale.

The first man held a statue of Buddha:

man holding a statue of Buddha

man with his items for sale at an outdoor antique market in Changsha

The second man held a colorized photograph of a young Mao Zedong, which according to several Chinese sites (here and here) was taken by American journalist Edgar Snow:

man holding a framed colorized photo of young Mao Zedong with the words "一九三六,毛主席在陕北", which translates to "Chairman Mao in Shanbei, 1936"

The men's requests were especially interesting for me, since for research purposes I'll sometimes ask people to hold a "special" item for a photograph. It's unusual for me, though, that the other person makes the request, even at a market. Whatever the men's motives may have been, I'll just say I appreciated their openness. And there's also something to be said about being "greeted" by both Buddha and Mao Zedong within a short timespan. Like the friendly sellers, it is not an experience at odds with Changsha's culture.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Return to an Antique Market in Changsha, China

Last year I described a weekend outdoors antique market surrounding the more permanent Tianxinge Antique City in Changsha, China. This past weekend I returned. Most seemed the same, although the concentration of sellers seemed to be different in some areas. Like before, I will share photos which capture some of the variety of items for sale, not all of which were antiques, and a bit of the life at the market--including sellers using their mobile phones, eating, sleeping, and of course trying to sell something.

For more scenes, see last year's post here.

various sellers at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

seller wearing a Chinese People's Liberation Army "Mao" cap at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

seller at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

man peeling an egg at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

woman looking at her mobile phone at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

man selling tree branches and bamboo at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

man having his shoes cleaned at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

crowd surrounding a seller at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

seller smoking from a metal pipe at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

man and boy looking at items at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

seller sleeping at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

UV protecting glasses for sale at an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China

view of an outdoor antique market in Changsha, China, with tall buildings in the background

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Trip Northward from Zhuhai by High-Speed Rail

Previously, I wrote about my experience traveling by high-speed rail from Guangzhou South Station to Zhuhai when the main Zhuhai station did not exist and I had to take a long taxi ride from Zhuhai North Station to a more central area. I later shared what I saw at the under-construction Zhuhai Railway Station and provided an update when I read the station had opened.

Three days ago I went to the Zhuhai Railway Station.

Zhuhai Railway Station

I wasn't there just to visit, and after passing through some light security I stayed in the waiting area.

waiting area inside the Zhuhai Railway Station

After a quiet wait, I boarded a high-speed train.

passengers boarding a train at the Zhuhai Railway Station

And I enjoyed the scenery as I headed north.

a view of apartment complexes and fields through a train window

Guangzhou was not my final destination, so I had the opportunity to visit the waiting area of Guangzhou South Station again (scenes from an earlier trip here).

Guangzhou South Station waiting area

I would have preferred to eat some of Guangzhou's delicious food, but the station's offerings seemed more mundane. So I picked up a passable tuna sandwich from FamilyMart, a Japanese convenience store chain I became familiar with in Shanghai and Taipei.

Later, I boarded another high-speed train, but this was one of China's faster G line trains. Again, I enjoyed some of the views as I headed further north.

scenic view of mountains from train window while heading from Guangzhou to Changsha

Not all of the scenes were as clear as above, though.

Upon arriving at my destination, I could taste air pollution like I never tasted in Zhuhai. I also noticed a few changes at the train station such as a new area for boarding taxis that is far more orderly and efficient than before:

taxi line with rails

The taxi I rode provided several signs of my new destination, include the fair starting at 6 RMB instead of Zhuhai's 10 RMB and the bust of Mao Zedong proudly sitting on the dashboard.

a bust of Mao Zedong on top a Changsha taxi dashboard

During the taxi ride, a highway sign provided an unexpected reminder of where I had started the day far away.

sign in Changsha for G4 highway and the destinations of Beijing and Zhuhai

Finally, I arrived at my hotel. Upon stepping out of the taxi I saw a hotel security man probably in his 50s approaching me with a huge smile. Despite it having been a year since my last visit, I immediately recognized him. We created a bit of a scene high-fiving each other.

I've never seen a FamilyMart in this part of China, but I didn't need one. Later that night, I enjoyed a meal at one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

Liuyang style restaurant in Changsha

Unlike my arrival here last year, I will not do a "guess where I am" post. I'm back in Changsha, Hunan province. The train portion of my journey from Zhuhai to Changsha took less than 5 hours, including a one hour layover in Guangzhou. The new station in Zhuhai certainly made traveling to Changsha more convenient. Given Changsha's traffic, though, I am now looking forward to the opening of something else under construction: the Changsha subway.

I will not be in Changsha as long as my previous stay, but I should have ample time to make some comparisons between then and now. I have already seen much that has changed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Views of Zhuhai Without Fences and Walls

For a change of pace from the previous post, here's a view of Zhuhai from Macau sans fences and walls:

Looking westward towards Zhuhai's Hengqin Island across the water from Cotai in southern Macau

And here is a view of Zhuhai without borders:

Looking northward from the square in front of the Gongbei Port immigration checkpoint in Zhuhai

One can continue in this direction for thousands of kilometers before needing to worry about another immigration checkpoint. Though you may first encounter a famous wall.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fences and Walls Between Two Cities in China

Despite Macau being a part of China, mainland Chinese need a special permit to enter it. I've pondered the border between Macau and Zhuhai, the neighboring city in mainland China, both while looking at Macau from Zhuhai and while looking at Zhuhai from Macau.

I recently visited the western half of Macau's northern border. I found it provides a stronger impression of the border than many other vantage points due to the long stretches of human-made barriers in both Macau and Zhuhai. This area of Macau is connected by land to mainland China or only separated by a narrow strip of water. At most other locations wider bodies of water separate Macau and the rest of China, and no long stretches of border fences or walls exist.

Below are eight photos I took from this area in Macau in the order they were taken as I headed west along the border. In all of them Zhuhai can be seen in the background. If a fence on the Macau side is not visible, it means I stuck my camera through the gratings. See the three links above to earlier posts for more scenes and for more information and thoughts about the border between Macau and mainland China.

Man looking at the new Zhuhai Railway Station from Sun Yat Sen Park in Macau
Man looking at the new Zhuhai Railway Station from Sun Yat Sen Park in Macau

A partial basketball court in Macau in sight of apartments in Zhuhai
A partial basketball court in Macau in sight of apartments in Zhuhai

a sign in Macau providing notice of video surveillance at the border with mainland China
There is video surveillance along the border.

Farther away view of the Zhuhai Railway station with Zhuhai buildings on the left and in the center
Farther away view of the Zhuhai Railway station with Zhuhai buildings on the left and in the center

Looking westward from the same location as the previous photo

triangular shaped building at the border between Zhuhai and Macau
This appeared to be a building for border police.

Public exercise equipment and a child running by
Public exercise equipment and a child running by

a strip of water with mountain and apartment complexes in the background
Mountains and new apartment complexes are easy to find in Zhuhai

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Please Do Not Urinate While Riding the Xi'an Subway

In response to story a mother from mainland China helping her boy urinate into a trashcan at a Hong Kong subway station, last month I shared a photo of a "no peeing" sign I recently saw in Macau, China. As I later mentioned, many times in China I have seen an adult helping a small child urinate in a public place such as a sidewalk. Although I didn't expect to return to the public urination & subways topic, yesterday my friend Chiaki Hayashi Kato shared a photo of a sign which I think deserves being added into the mix.

She saw the sign in Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi province best known for its famous Terracotta Army. In contrast to its bounty of historical treasures, Xi'an has recently experienced several forms of modern development including the addition of a new subway system. The first line opened in 2011 and a second line began running two months ago.

Building a subway system is one thing. Teaching people how you want them to use it is another. According to the Xian Metro's website (Chinese), a variety of campaigns have been carried out to influence passengers' behavior, such as instructing people to stand in line for arriving trains and cracking down on people who are eating or drinking. A current campaign even offers rewards for photographs of "uncivilized" behavior.

What counts as uncivilized behavior? While riding the subway in Xi'an, Chiaki noticed a sign which apparently provides one answer:

"no peeing" sign inside a Xi'an subway car

In addition to the charming image of a woman helping a little boy urinate on a subway door while two other passengers look on, the poster includes the message:
A rough translation is:
All subway stations have toilets. Please don't allow children to urinate or defecate inside the subway cars.
I didn't ask Chiaki, but I feel confident she followed this advice without much inconvenience. And based on her comments, she didn't witness other people not following the advice, so I guess she won't be receiving a reward soon.

Children (and sometimes adults) urinating or defecating on floors while using public transportation may not be best described as "common" in China, but, as an online search will show, it happens. The sign directly confronts an issue that can be uncomfortable for some but difficult to address without drawing more attention to it. If the Xi'an Metro wants its subway cars to be urine-free and excrement-free, the sign strikes me as a rather pragmatic and somewhat colorful attempt to improve the odds. And if the sign is part of an effective campaign, the benefits should outweigh any negative perceptions related to people wondering why such a sign is needed in the first place.