Where to buy glasses in Shanghai

Need new peepers? If you have your script handy there are plenty of places around town to get a stylish pair of glasses at a fraction of the cost you’d pay back home.

When I was a wee new expat I was scratching my head at some of the asking prices of glasses around the centre of town in Shanghai – it seemed like prices were almost a 3rd more expensive than back home. Considering the amount of people in Shanghai who wear glasses and relative income of locals this just didn’t make a whole lot of sense – were people spending almost half a month’s salary on a new pair of glasses?

“Of course not!”, I was soon told by my Shanghai friend more than a year ago now – and that week I was introduced to the world of cheap, cheap glasses in China.

While I’m only slightly short-sighted, keeping up appearances that I’m a nerd smart guy is important, which is probably why I’ve puchased almost 4 pairs already – all of them still in good working order.

For better or worse, here are my recommendations on where to buy glasses and some extra tips you may want to consider before forking out your hard earned RMB.

- Glasses shops which offer cheap glasses are all through the city. I visit my local shop in Jing’an where I get a good price for helping the shopkeepers son practice his English while I wait for my lenses to be put in the frames. Like most things in Shanghai, the better you know the shop keeper, the better the price.

- There are whole glasses markets around town. For foreigners the easiest one is the markets just near Shanghai Railway Station on Meiyuan Lu – it’s called 3yes Optical and located on level 5F – there are two levels of camera equipment below it which is also worth checking out. It’s full of fashionable glasses made to order but you need to bargain to get a decent price. Most shopkeepers understand English and foreigner’s poor Chinese. If you’re more adventurous there are more markets located north of town – prices are actually about the same but no English.

- It does cost more for better lenses. An 80RMB or 100RMB pair of glasses will probably include cheap lenses.

- The frames are most probably fake. Personally, I hate having brands on my glasses but I’m guessing that the D&G branded glasses and the like are probably imitations. If you have a moral objection to it then it might be worth avoiding these shops and paying 3000RMB+ for a pair of original frames.

- Get your eyes tested by a professional. I’ve never had my eyes tested here but when a friend was in town recently they did their testing and it was off slightly. It might be best to get your eyes tested by a doctor back at home or someone who is professionally qualified in China. I’m guessing the people at the markets may not be university qualified (but I’ve been wrong before).

- Don’t spend too much. Unless you’ve got some seriously complex eyes I wouldn’t be paying over 500RMB for a pair of glasses at the markets.

Feel free to add in further tips in the comments section below.

The source of the polystrene box bikes

Everybody knows that the tourist authorities in Shanghai have a constant flow of locals riding bikes overloaded with polystyrene boxes for foreigners to take pictures of and post to their Facebook friends.

On a recent jaunt to the northern outskirts of town I’m happy to report that I found a whole street of these bikes getting loaded up for the tourists. It was absolutely no coincidence that the boxes were being turfed outside the fruit and vegetable markets.

Video: The Bund’s Wonka ride

One of the most convenient, expensive, and kooky ways to travel across the Huangpu River in Shanghai is the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. I finally got around to doing this late last week armed with a regular point-and-shoot digital camera.

The results are a bit sketchy but I’ve borrowed Gene Wilder’s voiceover from the boat ride scene in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to give readers a better feel for this attraction.

What: Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Where: The Bund roughly near Nanjing Road on Puxi side
Times: 08:00 – 22:00
How Much: 30 RMB

Photos: Trip to Wuxi

Last week we went on a short jaunt to Wuxi, an industrial town with a population of a lazy 4 million people and situated just an hour north-west from Shanghai. Known for it’s peaches, gardens, enormous Buddhas, and 3 kinds of white dishes the trip didn’t disappoint.

When I get time I’d like to write up a reasonable guide to getting to and from Wuxi from Shanghai and a short list of things to do. I can safely say that the latest edition of Lonely Planet is already out of date and the descriptions were way too cynical and short to give the city the justice it deserved.

In the meantime here are some pictures:










WuxiClick on the Image to see the full album on Flickr.

Shanzhai iPod Nano vs real Nano

Shanzhai iPod Nano

In Shanghai it’s not uncommon to find shanzhai MP3 players at the various fake and tech markets, but, have you ever wondered if they actually work? I recently did a review of a 4th generation Shanzhai iPod Nano and compared it to the real thing for Australia’s biggest technology site, CNET.com.au.

Today the photo gallery comparison of taking a Shanzhai iPod apart next to a real Apple iPod was published and you can find it here. Later this week I hear the site will publish my full review of the Shanzhai Apple good. I won’t spoil the surprise so you’ll just need to check back when it’s live.

Update: Okay the review is now live and you can read it here.

Bloggers beware: dogs attack

Material for a blog in Shanghai is a pretty easy task, simply walk down the street and you’re bound to walk into some sort of funny business – whether you were searching for it or not.

And so it was a joyous occasion last week when I came across a small-ish pooch wearing a pink dress. The hilarity I was keeping inside was more than enough to fill this blog for another entry. Being a guy who appreciates privacy I asked the canine’s owners if I could take a few snaps, of which they obliged, and we made small talk about the dog’s name which was ‘small something’ – I didn’t get the second part of the name in Chinese.

Anywho, as I bent down and took out my camera to take a few pictures the pup snapped. The angry bark took me by surprise but I reacted calmly – dogs are bound to get pissed at strangers, right? I took a step back to give the dog some room but that wasn’t enough, he(or she) went for my shoes and started having a good angry gnaw.

The owner started yelling in Chinese at the dog and tried to brush it off while I tried to keep my composure – but the dog wasn’t calming down. It was at about this time I remembered reading a recent article about rabies in China – it’s not uncommon for infections to happen here. Okay, maybe not here in Shanghai, but I wasn’t really thinking of the details at this point.

I half thought of kicking the dog but that would definitely mean being barred from doggy heaven. So what I did was give my leg a shake and run for the hills. Yes, my cankles ran away as fast as they could from a dog in a skirt. A pink skirt. A pink skirt with frills.

To the dog owner’s credit he did try and call me back to say it was okay – but I wasn’t having a bar of it. Luckily the canine gave up after about 40 metres – my peak distance. Any further and I would have been done for.

I did happen to take a rather bad snap of the culprit though. Bloggers, beware:

Miniature Shanghai – Tilt Shift Time Lapse

Sometimes when people with amazing talent are jobless they can muster some seriously interesting work. Take this time lapse of Shanghai from multiple angles by a guy named Joe Nafis. Pretty cool stuff:

Amazing stuff. You can follow Joe via his Vimeo Page. Go on, give him a job so he can do more of these.

Rubber reviews

Safe sex is a serious issue in China. In Shanghai, just about every convenience store has a huge range of penis protectors and there’s even vending machines conveniently located near hairdressing salons on many of the inner city streets.

Now, I’ve casually seen some of the names of the condoms available and had a good chuckle. And when I say chuckle, I mean giggle like puberty boy – especially at the packaging which would suggest there are some locals that are so awkwardly well-endowed they must be bow-legged.

I digress.

So, I’ve never actually been close enough to read the devil in the details of these packets until the weekend when I found a box of “No.1 American Choice” brands in our hotel room:

“Feel better than wearing nothing” is the slogan, and it’s been “triple tested”.

However, what I like is that they’re giving some highlights of the reviews the condom has been getting back in the US of A – and boy are they popular. The New York Times say it’s a “Triumph of Excess”, Men’s Health reviewed it twice saying it was a “must-try” and has “sensitivity A+”. The female magazine Cosmopolitan also gave the rubber a run and said it was “Oodles more sensation”. And just in case you were wondering if it was safe for M2M action the San Francisco Boy Guardian gave it it’s “Highest Rating”.

Well there you have it. Who would have thunk that there are editors at these media outlets in the USA giving these a good shag testing for the folks having dirty weekends in Wuxi.

Happy National Day, China

Today is the start of a week’s holiday in China to celebrate 60 years of the People’s Republic of China and the Autumn Festival, collectively known as Golden Week. Expect fireworks. Expect parades. And expect to eat moon cakes.

For those in China, you’ll hear many people saying “Guó qìng jié kuai le” which pretty much means have a happy national holiday day. Be sure to say it back if someone says it to you. There seems to be a lot of happy faces around this week – mostly because many have the week off and get to hang out with their family and friends. People we talk to are also nationalistic and very proud of where China is in the world right now.

For us, we decided to catch the fireworks which kicked off in Century Park last night. I’ve heard there will be fireworks on the 3rd and the 6th of October as well. Tickets to get into the park are 200RMB but if you stand outside the gate of Century Park you can easily see the same view.

More from Golden week later. Happy Birthday China.

Update:To see the whole parade see the video on YouKu here. Also, here are some fantastic photos on Flickr by Shian Chen:

Update #2:Here’s a nice time-lapse of the video from the UK’s Gaurdian:

China’s 60th Anniversary national day – timelapse and slow motion – 7D and 5DmkII from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

National Day photo exhibition

To mark 60 years of the People’s Republic of China the Shanghai Exhibition Center is showing off some of the nation’s triumphs in photo form.

We accidentally came across the show while taking a shortcut though the exhibition centre grounds – many locals were lining up to get in which is usually a tell-tale sign of something good is going on. We’re not sure if were were supposed to pay but it looks like the event is actually free (Read: nobody askef for us for money).

Once inside the exhibition starts at the beginning of the People’s Republic of China back in 1949 and follows the history of the current nation in many fantastic photos.

If you’re walking past the area it’s worth popping in just to see the photos. All of the descriptions for the photos are in Chinese so if you cannot speak or read the language then it might be worth grabbing a friend who can help. Here are just a few of the pictures from the event:

Shanghai 1990 – 2009

I can’t imagine another city has seen such crazy growth as this. Perhaps Dubai.

Deng Xiaoping with Margaret Thatcher

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