Tag Archives: Shanghai

Shanghai Metro gets sharks, no frickin’ laser beams

There’s many restrictions when you get inside the metro system in Shanghai – no explosives, hand guns, fireworks, and you’re not even allowed to smoke. In fact, you’re not even supposed to spit.

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But sharks? Well they are more than welcome:

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It just goes to show that you don’t need to put too much gel in your hair and hang out at pretentious bars near the Bund to see Sharks in Shanghai.

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What: Sharks
Where: Jing’an Temple Metro (Underneath Haushan Lu)
How much: Free

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

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.

Julu Lu hostess bars getting shut down

Guys (and girls?) who like playing dice, pool, and drinking games with hostesses on Julu Lu might be upset at the news that the bars on the street are being shut down next month.

That was the groundbreaking news I received on the weekend from one of the girls we know who works there (it isn’t what you think). Apparently this is the last month of bars like Pretty Woman, Badlands, and others I can’t quite remember the name of on the western side of Julu Lu.

I couldn’t get a straight answer as to why these are being shut down. Maybe to clean the city up for the Expo, maybe they are illegal, or maybe they don’t adhere to the fire escape laws? Who knows. And does this mean the end for the nearby dodgier street – Tongren Lu?

And what of the pink hairdressers, five star KTV establishments, or even the seemingly ‘above board’ bars like Hooters and the Big Bamboo who make their waitresses wear skimpy gear?

It could be the beginning of the end for the Pervy McPervpants’ of the city.

I heart Shanghai taxi

Personally, I love the Shanghai taxi drivers – they almost always seem to know where to go even when a laowai like me is pronouncing the streets in the wrong tone. They even know where I’m meant to be going even when I say south instead of north. They are also pretty cheap by western standards – a trip from one end of downtown to the other on the Puxi side of town will put you back about US$3.

Oh yeah and they generally have little regard for seat belts, speed limits, pedestrians, and play whatever the fuck they want on the radio -it’s always fun stuff and never a dull moment.

Anywho, after football (soccer) on the weekend I got a driver who had his music blaring while racing through downtown and the outer suburbs, beeping away, and almost running into a few bikes and other drivers – all while it was raining outside. I don’t normally take videos with my camera but this time I thought it might have been my last Shanghai cab so I decided to capture the end moment. Apologies for the crappy quality.

Taser tennis, anyone?

For one reason or another it seems like this summer we’ve had quite a few bugs visit our apartment. For a couple of Australians this isn’t such a big deal – back home you grab a bottle of mozzie spray and poison yourself and others around you so the bastards don’t eat you alive at night.

I was about to follow this tradition in Shanghai until I found the type of fly squatters the locals use and sell in China. A fly squatter probably isn’t as accurate as saying ‘Bug-killing-tennis-taser-funstick’.

And all this for 20RMB…

Alternatives to satellite TV in Shanghai

Chances are, if you had a western satellite TV provider then lately you may have noticed that just about all the channels have been blocked. Before forking out between 3000-5000RMB for an ‘authentic’ system – these won’t come with any guarantees by the way – maybe think about divvying up your budget with these alternatives.

TV Shows

Local Chinese Websites – cost=$0
Youku.com and Tudou.com (and there are others) – These Youtube-like sites have full episodes of the latest western tv shows (and movies). The quality is about the same as the satellite TV providers. If you don’t want to watch tv in front of the computer learn to hook it up to your TV or use the browser on a Sony PS3 or Nintendo Wii. Seek out your nerdy friends and pay them in attention if you’re not quite sure how to do this.

Pros: Fast streaming, costs nothing, legal (I think)
Cons:Quality not HD, have to connect to the Internet before use

Western Websites – cost=$0
Hulu TV.com (mostly US) BBC iPlayer(UK) and ABC iView(Australia) and others – These online players offer the latest TV shows for free over the Web. The catch is you may have to be on a US, UK, or Australian IP address to view the shows properly. If you just read that last sentence and thought: “What’s an IP address?”, then you may want to pay another visit to your resident nerd friend.

Pros: Free, usually offered in good quality, it’s legal (I think)
Cons: Sometimes slow streaming or downloading and may need a native country IP address to work.

Bittorrent – cost=$0
There is a lot written about bittorrent on the Web so no need to repeat it here. It’s also a legally gray area that I’m not sure about in China. Do some Googling and visit Mininova.org and I’m sure you’ll catch on quick.

Pros: Usually high quality video than streaming, can download and burn to dvd/use on multiple machines.
Cons: Probably illegal, can be slow to download programs if they aren’t popular – those old episodes of CHIPS may take a while…

Legal downloads – Cost: few dollars an episode
If you feel strongly about people getting paid to do what they do then there’s no need to be a pirate. You can actually purchase legal versions of TV shows at the iTunes music store and places online.

Pros: The feel good feeling that at least some of the people who created the content are getting paid, guaranteed content, usually high quality.
Cons: You have to pay for it, Digital Rights Management on some TV shows means you can only watch it a certain amount of times or copy it to a certain amount of devices before it doesn’t work anymore. (The industry is moving away from this crap way of thinking, though)

DVD Shops – Cost: 5-12RMB per disc
If you’re not blind you may notice quite a lot of DVD shops around town. Inside they offer whole seasons of TV shows, including shows I’d almost forgotten about – Airwolf, anyone? For TV past and present its probably the best way to watch television series in Shanghai if you’re not up to the savvy stuff of downloading or can’t be bothered with it.

Pros: Usually good quality, cheap, huge range of shows, convenience, much less nerdy than messing around with computers.
Cons: Its probably piracy (I actually don’t know for sure), occasional dodgy discs, have to wait for a whole TV season to finish before its in the DVD shop

Use your Satellite to tune into free channels
If you have the equipment the know-how you may be able to set up your satellite to tune to free channels which broadcast in the area. For example, the Australia Network broadcasts for free. Whether you are allowed to do this is I’m not sure (personally I haven’t been bothered to try).

Pros: Free
Cons: A hassle to set up, might have the local police tearing down your satellite dish.

Sport

The Pub – Cost: 20-80RMB a drink
Sport is a tricky one. You don’t really want to watch the replay so unless there are Websites with live streaming then the best place to go is your favourite pub which will show your team.

Pros: It’s sociable, most venues have big screens and there’s plenty of places with good pub grub
Cons: You have to wear pants (go outside) to watch your favourite game on TV, Booze costs and subsequent hangover after your team wins the championship.

Movies

To grab the latest movies you have a few choices. As to prevent repeating myself, you can use some of the methods above to watch movies, including; bittorrent, DVD shops, local Chinese Website streaming, international Website streaming. The methods are pretty much the same. However, you can also:

Go to the movies – cost: 20-100RMB a ticket
Just like at home there are plenty of places in Shanghai to watch the latest blockbusters and even independent films. You may have to do some research on the Internet before heading out to the movies on where to go and what to see as it changes weekly.

News and Current Affairs

If you’re not into watching news from CCTV9 or ICS on the local channels (I don’t think they are too bad) then it’s all internet. Depending on what you want to know its best to source the latest video from the TV network’s channel directly. If you’re more into reading the news then no doubt you have your favourite news sources already bookmarked and don’t need the help.

Go outside, get a hobby, do something different

Let’s face it, you’re in China and you want to watch ‘Lost’ or something similar? TV isn’t everything, so let go of the laowai TV and get involved in Shanghai and China – chances are you probably won’t be here forever so pick up the TV shows you missed at the DVD store on the way out.

Even more crazy ways to keep cool in Shanghai’s summer

Sweating your arse off? Me too. Being a ginger I get all beetroot- faced at just the thought of the dial hitting 30 degrees. This week it’s been clocked at over 40 – well over ginger exploding point.

To help the stupid foreigners our apartment complex recently distributed a magazine in English with a helpful article titled “How to keep cool in summer”. The article included such tips as; eat duck, drink hot tea, drink vinegar, swim, and eat duck.

Yes, they said eat duck twice – and I thought it was a typo the first time.

Call me crazy but however much I love the fatty bird, its not the first thing I reach for when my back starts to sweat in the shade. Nor is fresh cup of hot tea the first drink I think of to replace the liquids seeping out of every pore. And drinking vinegar? Well just a dash in the gin and tonic, Jeeves.

So, to turn the tide of recent neglect of this blog I thought it was time to pass some other, clearly useful ways, to keep cool this summer.

Have a dip in the Huangpu
Sure, there might be 150 years of industrial waste and 7 different kinds of poo but we’ve heard its good for the skin.

Just add hotpants
Girls seem to be quite comfortable wearing these around town so why not the guys?

Oh wait. I know why:

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Drink beer in the local All Days
Purchase your favourite long neck bottle of beer, go the counter and purchase that thirst quencher, then stand in front of the shop’s icy cold air conditioner and polish it off. Repeat as required.

Dress like a monk not a Taoist
I’m not really religious nor want to poke fun but the Buddhists seem to have the right idea when it comes to keeping cool.

Go skiing! (65RMB 2 hours)
Yes, the Yinqixing Indoor Skiing Site is open. Get that all body ice cream headache feeling and practice your turns for next winter at the same time.

1835 Qixin Road near Gudai Rd in Xinzhuang; 021-64788666

Have more? Feel free to put them in below and I’ll update the post.

Shanghai’s 1st Pride Festival

I’ve heard and read so many conversations about this week’s anniversary (all in English, mostly by idiots) that I’m not sure adding my 2 cents – especially while living in China – is worth anyone’s useful time. So, for a moment, I’d like to talk about gay penguins.

Yes, gay penguins – hear me out. If you didn’t read the news this week here’s a quick overview: Back in 2005 male penguins were spotted trying to mate with each other and attempted to hatch offspring from stones. Back then it caused a bit of a sensation as nobody really knew penguins could be gay. The limp flippers and that one older one in leather chaps and a biker cap should have tipped off scientists earlier.

Anyhow, a German zoo decided to give one male couple, “Z” and “Vielpunkt”, a rejected egg. According to the zoo “since the chick arrived, they have been behaving just as you would expect a heterosexual couple to do. The two happy fathers spend their days attentively protecting, caring for and feeding their adopted offspring.”

And there you have it – those poofter penguins can raise perfectly healthy babies.

So, I’m not going to talk about China. I’m not going to talk about being straight, gay, bi, lesbian, or transgender people. Why? Because it takes just one couple of happily gay penguins to show how ridiculous people are worldwide. And when I say worldwide, I mean my own country – Australia – because I don’t like to tell other people from other countries how to live.

Which brings me to the point of why I’m posting this here – Shanghai is hosting its first gay pride festival starting this Sunday. Promising to be a mix of events and partying the organisers say they “want this to be an entertaining and fun way to get to know people in our community and celebrate the diversity and talent of the people who make up the ShanghaiLGBT scene.”

Events will include documentary screenings, an open mic night, panel discussions, queer olympiad, and of course – celebrations.

As the first of its kind (that I’m aware of) it’ll be interesting to see how this goes. I mean, history shows the gays know how to put on a great party, but what about the impact outside the foreigner community? The feeling in some circles in Sydney and San Francisco is disappointment on the overly party nature of their respective pride events – that the original message gets lost amongst the good times.

So I wish the community and organisers much luck this next week. For more info on getting your gay on in Shanghai visit Shanghaipride.com.