Monday, March 10, 2014

Smart Wife Swords in Yangjiang

Before arriving, I knew Yangjiang was known for knife manufacturing, in particular the company Shibazi. So I was not surprised to pass an apparent competitor to Shibazi one day while walking through the city.

Smart Wife Knives store in Yangjiang, China

But the name of the company, "Smart Wife", did attract my attention. I briefly pondered the challenges their branding would face in a market like the U.S. and took the above photo. As I stood there, I saw something in the store which compelled me to go inside.

It wasn't their giant knife.

giant cleaver at Smart Wife Knives in Yangjiang

It also wasn't their questioning whether you would dare touch the blade of their knives with your tongue.

knife package with image of a man's tongue nearly touching the blade of a knife

And toy canons would also not have been enough to draw me inside.

toy canons

Instead, it was their display of swords and axes for sale.

swords and axes for sale at Smart Wife Knives in Yangjiang, China

As I examined them more closely, I noticed they all had blunt edges. Although they could presumably still cause damage, they probably wouldn't get you far in Middle Earth. But at least touching them with your tongue shouldn't be a problem, and they can serve well for wall mounting.

One sword had an especially curious design I would not have expected to find in Yangjiang.

Star of David symbol on hilt of a sword for sale at Smart Wife Knives in Yangjiang, China

I asked one of the staff about its Star of David symbol. She said she didn't know its meaning, so I refrained from asking if it was a Maccabean sword. I later noticed other knife stores in Yangjiang with similar swords for sale, but I didn't see any others with the Star of David.

That concludes this light look at a Smart Wife store. In a later post, I will highlight a different side of Yangjiang's knife industry. Somebody has to make the knives.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Missing Plane in Asia

Sometimes you wake up, open an Internet browser window, stare for a few moments, and then think "Oh no ..."

Such was the case today when I learned Malaysia Airlines flight 370 carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had gone missing. It's not a positive sign when hours after losing contact with a large plane an airline says, "At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now." As currently listed by Malaysia Airlines, a majority of the passengers are from China:

154 including infant
3 including infant
New Zealand

I have flown on Malaysia Airlines several times--roundtrip from Shanghai to Chennai with a layover in Kuala Lumpur and another time from Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh. Reuters reports Malaysia Airlines "has one of Asia's best safety records", and, similar to James Fallows, I have a positive impression of the airline. I'd rate all of my experiences flying with them as better than average.

An international effort to find the plane is underway, and the U.S. Navy is sending the destroyer warship USS Pinckney and a P-3C aircraft. After over 12 hours since contact was lost and daylight now gone, no signs of the plane have yet been found. Assuming the plane has crashed, there are a variety of possibilities for the cause (HT James Fallows).

One week ago in Kunming, China, there was a horrendous massacre at a railway station. It seems this week in China will end on a sad note as well. My thoughts are with everyone affected in China and elsewhere by either event.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Far Away Place in the Middle of Yangjiang

I have shared photos of people playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) in Changsha here, Zhuhai here, and Liuzhou here. More recently, I saw two men playing the game in Yangjiang's Beishan Park atop a lush hill. They kindly welcomed me. As I watched, I enjoyed a sense of peacefulness in a place that felt much farther away than the several minutes walk from the city surrounding it.

two men playing xiangqi (chinese chess) under a pagoda in Beishan Park, Yangjiang, China

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thirty Yangjiang Scenes

I arrived in Yangjiang (阳江), Guangdong province, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) westward from Zhuhai and Macau along Guandong's coast, with little knowledge about it (map). Some of the upcoming posts will focus on what I found and learned in a fascinating city.

This post includes a set of scenes from the most developed area of Jiangcheng District (江城区). If you take an intercity bus to "Yangjiang" this is likely where you'll end up. The photos were all taken within an approximately 10 square kilometer (4 square mile) area, and I walked to all of the locations. Along with showing some slivers of everyday life, they highlight the area's variety of environments and modes of transportation. It's not difficult to go from a wide road for new apartment complexes to a narrow alley winding by old traditional-style homes.

Many scenes would likely be labeled as mundane by Yangjiangers, and that's fine. The aim is not to provide material for a promotional video like Dongguan's but instead to provide a more down-to-earth look at Yangjiang and some context for later posts.

section of older traditional style homes with other newer apartment buildings in Yangjiang, China

woman and little girl looking at a motorbike in an alley in Yangjiang, China

three young men riding a motorbike in Yangjiang, China

man riding down a street with many plants in Yangjiang, China

woman driving a motorized tricycle cart in Yangjiang, China

buildings overhanging a sidewalk with motorbikes and bags for sale in Yangjiang, China

bridge over the Moyang River in Yangjiang, China

house boats on the Moyang River in in Yangjiang, China

dirty narrow river in Yangjiang, China

narrow paved road through a field in Yangjiang, China

elementary school girls walking down a narrow pedestrian alley in Yangjiang, China

two men on a motorbike in Yangjiang, China

woman carrying a tray on a street in Yangjiang, China

Yuanyang Lake West Road in Yangjiang, China

man on motorbike on bridge over Yuanyang Lake in Yangjiang, China

city scene in in Yangjiang, China

motorbikes at an intersection with a large yellow building in Yangjiang, China

motorbikes and cars crossing an intersection in Yangjiang, China

intersection with wide streets in Yangjiang, China

newer apartment complexes in Yangjiang, China

new apartment complexes being built behind an empty lot in Yangjiang, China

older traditional style homes in Yangjiang, China

woman pulling a wheel barrow in Yangjiang, China

boy playing with a badminton racket in Yangjiang, China

young woman on a motorbike riding by small stores in Yangjiang, China

older man riding a bicycle past a building with images of fashionably dressed young women in Yangjiang, China

street with adidas store in Yangjiang, China

riverside walkway in Yangjiang, China

man looking across the river in Yangjiang, China

motorbikes, a car, and pedestrians in an evening road scene in Yangjiang, China

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Brief Return To Zhuhai and a Longer Return to Mainland China

After arriving in Hong Kong over a month ago, I took advantage of an opportunity to learn more about the city and its people. More than two weeks ago, I departed, and after a hour-plus ferry ride I arrived in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. I continued to blog about Hong Kong since there was still much I wanted to share.

I noticed a few changes in Zhuhai since my previous visit last year, such as my favorite place for Wuhan-style noodles tripling in size ...

restaurant with "Sichuan" in its name
The restaurant's name includes "Sichuan" and the name of a another dish, but they still have a decent Wuhan regan mian.

... and the addition of countdown timers for pedestrian crossing signals at an intersection where I previously encountered much noise and dust.

people crossing an intersection with a timer in Zhuhai
No gravel blowers were in sight this time.

I also returned to one of my favorite places for a late night meal, where the owner continued to display his penchant for mumbling about my taste in beer. My stay in Zhuhai was brief, so I didn't have the opportunity to treat him to one of the craft beers for sale there.

But I didn't come to Zhuhai for beer, and the locally produced Haizhu beer I drank elsewhere was enjoyable in its own way.

an opened bottle of Haizhu beer sitting on an outdoor table in Zhuhai
The logo is based on a famous statue in Zhuhai.

While more about Hong Kong will likely appear, I don't expect to say much more about Zhuhai, featured in numerous past blog posts. I already left there to visit several Chinese cities which are new to me and unknown to most people outside of China. The journey provides an opportunity to return to several old themes and start some new ones.

Much more soon ...

Food vendor resting in Zhuhai near an advertisement for McDonald's
Food vendor taking a rest in Zhuhai

A Hong Kong Sunset at the Cyberport Waterfront Park

people looking at the sea and a biker riding by as the sun sets at the Cyberport Waterfront Park in Hong Kong

Different Styles in Hong Kong

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Zhuhai Gets a Little Crafty

Hong Kong was not the only place I have had a positive beer-related experience in Southeast China. One day late last year in in nearby Zhuhai, Guangdong province, I went to a Carrefour, a French hypermarket chain, and saw this in the imported foods section:

wide variety of foreign beers at a Carrefour in Zhuhai, China

Although Zhuhai has an October Beer Street Festival, finding American craft beers from brewers such as North Coast Brewing, Rogue Ales, and Saranac was shocking and a stark difference from anything else I had seen in Zhuhai or any other comparable Chinese city.

I wasn't planning to remain in Zhuhai much longer, so I didn't want to buy too much from the imported foods section. But that didn't stop me from leaving Carrefour with a few select difficult-to-find-in-Zhuhai essentials.

Red Seal Ale, Saranac White IPA, Nature Valley granola bars, 80% dark chocolate, and a bottle of carbonated San Benedetto water in a basket

The beer was room temperature, but the staff at my hotel agreed to chill the bottles after they took photos of them. Later that night, I enjoyed a cold Saranac White IPA at a favorite late-night outdoor eating establishment.

a bottle of Saranac White IPA next to a plate with grilled fish and vegetables on an outdoor table

It proved to be an excellent mix. Saranac, a beer friends tell me is difficult to find in parts of the U.S., never tasted so good. One side effect, though, was that it left an unintended impression on the owner/cook. To this day he disapprovingly mutters to himself about me thinking American beers are better than Chinese beers if I don't order a Tsingtao beer from him, even though I never again brought my own beer.

Maybe next time I will treat him to a Saranac so he can decide for himself. It might even inspire him to start selling it and save me from making a trip to Carrefour*.

*It would be another surprise, but one can dream.

Friday, February 28, 2014

They Can't Kill Us All: An Attack on an Editor in Hong Kong

In an earlier post about people voicing their desire for democracy at a Hong Kong Lunar New Year fair I wrote "But many Hongkongers are not content with the additional freedoms they enjoy, some of which are deteriorating or are threatened." The last part of the sentence linked to an article about journalists marching "through Hong Kong to oppose to what they say is the 'rapid deterioration' of freedom of speech."

Around the same time I was writing the post, there was darker news:
The former chief editor of a Hong Kong newspaper whose dismissal in January stirred protests about press freedom in the Chinese territory was slashed Wednesday morning, the police said.

Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former chief editor of Ming Pao, was slashed three times by an attacker who fled with an accomplice on a motorbike, said Simon Kwan King-pan, the chief inspector of the Hong Kong police. The attack happened shortly after 10 a.m. as Mr. Lau was walking from his car in the Sai Wan Ho neighborhood. Mr. Lau was listed in critical condition at a local hospital with a wound in his back and two in his legs, and doctors said he faced a long recovery.
Although the attackers remain unidentified, many in Hong Kong believe the target of the attack was not a coincidence. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported:
Two police sources said the nature of the attack on Lau left little doubt that it was designed as a warning.

One said: "If they had wanted to kill him, they would have." The other added: "It was a classic triad hit. They went for the back and legs to warn him."
Despite concerns the attackers will not be brought to justice, "Hong Kong journalists have vowed not to be intimidated". Journalism educator Yuen Chan documented some of the response from students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Chinese University of Hong Kong students holding sign reading "They cant kill us all"

The attack has received attention in Hong Kong, abroad, and to a degree in parts of mainland China, but it's a different story in Hong Kong's neighbor, Guangdong province:
News of the violent attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to was conspicuously absent from Guangdong media yesterday because of a gagging order from the party censor, according to several editors.
Lau's condition has stabilized, and hopefully he makes a full recovery. But whether or not police identify the attackers and determine their motive, the vicious assault on Kevin Lau Chun-to has brought yet more uncertainty to Hong Kong.