Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spring Festival Hangover

Just a few more photos from Spring Festival in the area.

On our way back from Bali, we stopped off in Hong Kong. Near the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple we came across these happy looking cows for the new year.

On the eve of Spring Festival, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. They had set up a market selling decorations and other wares for the holiday. We quickly discovered there was nothing left as everyone celebrated. This was probably the cleaner area of the market--the side street looked worse.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Uluwatu Sunset

One of the top destinations for tourists in Bali is Uluwatu--a Hindu temple on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean--otherwise known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu. It is the southernmost point in Bali and the views from the walk through here are beautiful.

Most visitors go to Uluwatu to watch the sunset and enjoy a Hindu performance known as Kecak. While we were there, the sunset was extremely painful--no shade and clear skies. We also didn't sit high enough in the theater to get the best view (though the front row was good for the performance--there was the chance for interaction with the performers).

On the way to Uluwatu, we were warned that the monkeys are thieves. Our guide told me to leave my sunglasses in the car, so I was left with only my regular glasses without which I am nearly blind.
After more than three years in what many consider the crime capital of China without any incident, I figured I was prepared for the monkeys. Well, it seems these monkeys are better thieves than anyone in Shenzhen. The fat one on the wall by the cliff snatched the glasses right off my face. It cost about $2 to get them back with the help of a guy trading fruit for the inedible glasses.
I'm fairly certain this was the thief.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebration Continues

The fireworks industry in China doesn't appear to show any signs of economic trouble--plenty of people around Shenzhen have been shooting off fireworks in every corner of the neighborhood the last three nights. Last night was rather quiet after about 1 am, with loud bursts every now and then to wake us from slumber.

Here's a video from our 16th floor window. Can you tell that the fireworks are going off about 20 feet from us? Jia is playing the guzheng (Chinese zither) in the background. Sorry for the quality, it's an older digital camera.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another Niu Year

How many times a year can I celebrate the new year? Apparently three. Tonight is the beginning of Spring Festival and the year of the cow. 春节快乐 to all.

There are some amusing aspects of seeing this year. The first being the joke that keeps getting less amusing every time you hear it. The Chinese word for cow is 牛 niu (sounds similar to "new"), so happy 牛 year! The other one is the presence of the golden cow everywhere. There are a lot that resemble the Wall Street bull. There are also many more that are cute and cartoonish. Many foreigners are a little disturbed by the sight of a golden calf being sold at every store.

Anyway, break out the baijiu and dumplings, put on your lucky red undies, and gather 'round the TV to watch CCTV's Spring Festival festivities.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

About a Tour

There's only one reason why Jia and I joined a tour to Bali: price. The tour package was only slightly more expensive than the flight from Hong Kong, which meant we would save money on hotels and such. I was prepared for the worst after hearing horror stories from expats on Chinese tours. 

The biggest challenge I saw going in was that there were 26 of us. That's a rather large group to organize. I know how difficult it can be to get people to arrive anywhere on time--it's even worse with tour groups. Our group was rarely on time, but not overly late, so it wasn't too bad. Another problem with a large group is having a large bus--complicated by the narrow, winding roads of Bali (I blame the British for building roads like this).

I quickly discovered why our tour was so cheap--shopping trips. They had some pretty bad stops for us. The only one I sort of enjoyed was to the coffee factory (which wasn't really much of a factory, more like a warehouse). Unfortunately, there wasn't a deal for the coffee--not much cheaper than buying it in China or at the airport. One surprising shop was the traditional Chinese medicine shop--where some of the group paid a few hundred Yuan on things they could buy in any city in China.
We also had to change hotels during the short trip. The first one, The Grand Mirage in Nusa Dua, was wonderful and convenient. The second was far from anything (almost a mile to the nearest store), which provided the tour guide a way to convince the group to sign up for an overpriced spa and dinner day on our "free day." Jia and I skipped that and saw the real parts of Bali.

Despite the problems of the tour, it was still worth it. We did see more on our free day with a rented car than we did on the actual tour. Now, we just have to find a way of getting back.

Next time, more details stories of the sights.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Paradise Lost

I have returned from Bali (and a couple days in Hong Kong on the way back). It was an amazing trip and much too short. The only downside was the food and the tour--it was a cheap tour for Chinese, so I shouldn't have expected too much. Three of our meals were really bad Cantonese restaurants and we spent too much time in worthless shops rather than sightseeing. But again, the whole trip was only about $500 (including flights, hotels, and food), so it was still worth it.

I'll be busy editing photos for a while (I didn't take as many as I did in Malaysia, but there are still plenty). Tomorrow I'll get into details of the journey through the island paradise of Bali.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another Holiday

Jia and I are leaving in a few hours for Bali. I'm looking forward to eating my way around the island. We'll be there for four days and then head to Hong Kong for a couple more before returning to Shenzhen to celebrate Spring Festival with friends. This is our last big holiday for a while--we need to save some money to go to the US and search for jobs (those plane tickets ain't cheap).

Helping J. yesterday plan his trip to Fujian got me reminiscing about our last holiday back in October. Here's a photo from one of the Hakka villages with a tulou in the background. I don't know what the flowers are, but they are supposedly used in tea and are very fragrant--the fields emit a wonderful aroma.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sniffin' It Up

It seems China is getting serious about preventing drug use. The PRC has introduced Labradors at airports to sniff out drug smugglers. They've even given the pups cute uniforms. No word on how many people have been caught.

According to J., the drug sniffers have been used for at least two weeks at the Shekou ferry port. He said he was stopped at the border because a dog mistook a Zip-lock bag containing coffee as drugs. I'm wondering what drug in the world could possibly resemble the scent of Hanukkah Blend coffee.

Perhaps the smugglers are using stinky tofu to mask the odor. I know I wouldn't want to get within a hundred yards of that sewage stench.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


It can be difficult to gauge just how bad the US economy is from reading the doom and gloom articles online. It helps to actively seek employment in the US to get an idea of how hard the publishing industry has been hit.

Last night, I got the best reading of how the economy really is. I was talking with my parents about moving back in March and how difficult it is searching for jobs. I mentioned that if a job comes along in China that offers me at least $30,000 a year, I'd be willing to stay here. My mother agreed. This is shocking because my mother has been begging me to move home since I got here. If this is her response, I know things must be really bad back in the states.

Russian in Shenzhen

The other night I decided to try a new beer because it was on sale at Jusco for 6.8 RMB ($1). They had four kinds of the same brand, Baltika, from Russia. I couldn't tell what kind of beer I was buying because the labels were in Russian and Chinese (I have to admit I don't know the Chinese for porter, lager, pilsner, etc.).

On the night our friends left Shenzhen, we had a selection of Baltika beers--we sampled Numbers 3, 4, 6, and 7. Number 3 was a tasty light beer that resembled an ale, but it was not as bitter as an IPA. Number 4 was a darker smooth beer. From the companies description, it's made with pale carmel, which is probably the flavor I was trying to identify while drinking it. Number 6 was a strong porter that reminded me of Victory Storm King from Pennsylvania (though Victory's beer is stronger than Number 6's 7% alcohol content). Number 7 was the only one that I didn't particularly enjoy--it tasted too close to Tsingtao for my liking.

As long as Jusco continues to run the sale on these beers, I'll go back and buy some. It's certainly better than paying 8 RMB for a bottle of Asahi Black Beer, and it tastes a bit better. I'll probably stock up on Numbers 4 and 6 before Spring Festival.

Friday, January 09, 2009


You'd think people would learn from others and stop being so stupid...but, then another jackass gets bitten by a panda.

This is the third idiot that Gu Gu the panda has mauled at the Beijing Zoo. The first being a drunk, the second being a teenage migrant worker, and now a father who chased after his kid's toy. And it was merely two months ago that a university student decided to hug the panda at another zoo in southern China.

With bamboo forests vanishing from the Chinese landscapes, the pandas are being forced to alter their diets and human flesh is plentiful in these parts. In a new taste test, 9 out of 10 pandas chose Soylent Green over traditional bamboo.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

English Education

I was helping Jia translate a picture dictionary for a friend and had to tell her what some of the objects were in English so she could look them up in Chinese. We were using a common translation program online--something I've seen co-workers use before. It usually has some good translations.

We had to look up "blowtorch." After finding the translation, I noticed that the site provided a sample sentence. "He have all the apparatus, including a blowtorch, for freebasing cocaine."

Not only is this sentence grammatically incorrect, but it is definitely not promoting the harmonious society that Hu Jintao has been promoting since I arrived in China.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

IP Show

The Intellectual Property Police (not the Thought Police from 1984) in Shenzhen have taken down a Microsoft piracy scheme in a show of force that China Daily claims, "showed China's resolve in global intellectual property rights (IPR) protection."

Eleven people were convicted of "sophisticated" piracy of Microsoft products that were sold around the mainland and Hong Kong. The key word is sophisticated. This operation printed up fake certificates of authenticity to be sold with the software. No word on if the authentication codes that were sold worked.

The difference between this operation and the millions of others around China is that this one tried to pass off the product as genuine. Apparently, it's still OK to sell pirated software as long as it's poor quality and obviously fake.

This dog and pony show was for Microsoft's benefit before the PRC gouges the company for millions of Yuan for its previous effort of fighting piracy on its own.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Shenzhen Drivers

Plenty of people have commented on the driving habits in China. Almost every day I witness a new driving maneuver that would make my head explode if I thought about it long enough.

I had a short conversation about this with my boss on the way to our department's end-of-term lunch--and saw a car making a turn on the wrong side of the street through traffic (sure proved our point). She agreed with my analogy that driving in China (particularly Shenzhen) is organized chaos.

On the news tonight, we saw our neighborhood--over by the Poly Theater. Caught on a security camera was a security guard standing behind a car and being yelled at by a woman. Apparently, she and her husband weren't allowed to park in the space they wanted, and the guard was telling them to leave. Then the woman shouted to her husband to just park. This meant that the car had to back over the security guard.

No word on where the couple was taken after the incident (I bet it wasn't pleasant though).