Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 25, 2011

Although the technology has not yet been proven, the Chinese Leaf car is dubbed as a "carbon negative" vehicle that emits oxygen into the air, as water vapor, as it drives. The roof, which is shaped like a leaf and gives the car it's name, is made of photvoltaic cells that take in energy from the sun. The wheel turbines generate energy as they spin when the car is moving, and work best when the car is going downhill. It's on display at the Chinese Pavilion in Shanghai
at the site of the 2010 World Expo.

Picture of the Day - March 24, 2011

So, we don't know this guy. But he wanted, for some reason, to take a picture with Tiffany. A little weird, and we're not really sure if he thought Tiffany was a celebrity, or if she was just some pretty American girl...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 23, 2011

Parking can be a little hard to find here in Shanghai,
but there is plenty of space to park on the sidewalks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 22, 2011

The China Pavilion at the site of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Also known as "The Crown of the East", this structure exhibits the dougong style of brackets, an architectural technique common in China over 2,000 years ago.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Week 21

Hello, Hello, Hello again! Hope everyone one is doing well in your part of the world, things are certainly good in Shanghai. With April just around the corner, the weather here over the past week (and at least for the next few) has been beautiful. Trees and flowers haven't started blooming yet, but people are planting really colorful flowers everywhere and it's nice. Although I'm not looking forward to the humidity of summer that is soon on it's way, walking around the city over the last few days has been totally serene and comfortable.

We have received a few emails from people regarding housing, with particular questions about rental prices, certain locations, and the general process of signing contracts and moving in. We thought it might be a good idea to take the time (while it's nice outside) to do some apartment hunting and write about what we find this week and next. Hopefully you guys will find it interesting, please let us know if there is anything else you would like to know about!

Our situation for finding housing was somewhat serendipitous, since we literally jumped off the subway and walked straight into a building we thought looked "livable". Fortunately it turned out that we found an apartment in that building that we really liked. But I'm not sure if most people have the same experience, especially if one comes here with no idea of which locations are better than others (like us). Many people have the opportunity to come to Shanghai for work, in which case the employer might have an apartment set up ahead of time. Tiffany had an opportunity to take an employer-provided apartment when we came, but it wasn't, shall we say, the most ideal living conditions. Other people come here and have to beat the street to look for an apartment through a real estate agent, which is probably the most efficient way of finding a decent place. You have to pay a fee for their services and it's definitely negotiable. I wish we would have known that before we paid 1700RMB (Approx. $260) to our agent because, after all, we found the apartment ourselves!! (Note: Some apartments are only rented with the assistance of an agent, even if you find it yourself, hogwash). But even if you have to pay a fee, I think it's definitely worth it to go with an agent.

So we decided to contact a couple agents and take a look at some of the apartments that are currently on the Shanghai market, and we ultimately found a good agent in the Jing'an District through a friend. We told Linda, the agent who spoke good English, that we were looking for a one-bedroom place in the Jing'an District for around 3000-3500RMB (Approx. $500). After saying that she could help us, she immediately asked us if we could increase our budget. We told her that we wanted to see apartments in our price range and we'd think about increasing the budget. Since she spoke good English, I assumed she heard the price range we were looking to stay within, but apparently she missed that because she ended up showing us apartments that were in the range of 4000RMB ($610). Of course, she didn't mention that until we were inside the apartment, which sort of made me feel like I was on a used car lot, but whatever. One good piece of information we learned is that if your rent is paid by an employer (who receives an invoice for your rent and then pays it for you), there is a 5% increase in your monthly rent for taxes. The agent says something about this in the video's "Apt. #2", but I thought that was particularly noteworthy. Anyhow, I'll talk more about the apartments after the video, but they were all definitely losers in terms of what you're getting for the price. You be the judge:


So all of the apartments we looked at were in that one building, which is apparently where all the foreigners like to live. All came furnished, some better than others. The wallpaper in some apartments was coming off and running up the side of the wall, probably because it was trying to get away from the stench coming off the furniture. The bathrooms were nice, except for the infamous transparent window that separates the bathroom and kitchen (It's Ningbo all over again). I mean seriously, is that complete nastiness or what?! Needless to say, we didn't like the choices in this building, so we asked the agent to look for places within our price range (again) in other areas. She thought we wanted to stay in places like the compound because we were foreigners, so we had to let her know that we were totally comfortable staying in places where locals reside. We are actually looking forward to seeing these places next week, since they are promised to be more "traditional." Who knows, these places might actually end up being pretty cool, we'll have to see. We'll keep you posted in next week's blog.

This week we also had the chance to soak up the some of the Shanghainese art scene, something for which the city is well-known. Located near Suzhou Creek, M50 is one of the fastest growing art markets in the world and many of the artists on display have international reputations. Some of the older artists at M50 have endured hard times in China, especially during the Cultural Revolution, which makes their pieces worth seeing. Over the last 30 years, the M50 warehouses have been transformed from laborious manufacturing mills into structures that house some of the most freely creative individuals on the planet, which actually turned out to be good for the neighborhood. Since both of us love the arts, this place has been on the top of our "To-Do" list for quite some time. We finally found a nice day to go check it out!


Tiffany has been begging to bring stray puppies and kittens home since the day we arrived in Shanghai (don't ask), which explains why she's been following the story below very closely:

We've all heard about China's controversial "one-child policy." On March 15, 2011, however, a "one-dog policy" was also put into place in Shanghai. The government is attempting to control the number of dogs in the city. Apparently all dogs now have to be registered with the city. However, recently the number of unregistered dogs has risen to almost 600,000! The problem with unlicensed dogs is many of them end up wandering the streets, homeless. There have been many complaints of people getting bitten by these unlicensed dogs and their poop is being left all over the place. So from now on, each household can only have one licensed dog! The law also includes a hefty fee for not scooping your dog's droppings and bans breeds that are not considered safe, such as the English Bulldog. But don't fret; those households that already have two or more licensed dogs will be able to keep them all!! Thanks so much for tuning in this week, please come back!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Visit the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China
For all of you history buffs out there, the Site of the First National Congress of the CPC is the perfect place for you! Located right next to Xintiandi at No. 76 Xingye Road, this historic site is a great place to visit and learn about the party's beginning. The building is a traditional Chinese Shikumen (stone-gate house) from the 1920's. It became the birthplace of the Communist Party on July 23, 1921, when the First National Congress was held. It is full of relics, artifacts, and pictures that tell the story of the CPC. And what could be better....admission is free!!

Maybe It's Just Me

This is Shanghai, and I realize that it's a fast paced city with people that need to get where they are going. But there are some things that would make even the most inconsiderate Los Angeles driver act right.

Below is a picture that I took just outside of my apartment, and it depicts an ambulance with it's lights on stuck in traffic. I'm standing on the sidewalk next to the driver-side window of the car in front of him. It was a little awkward taking the photo, because I was wondering whether I should take the photo or yell at the guy to "get out of the way!" Unfortunately, it's surprisingly common.

I've been away from the States for a while now and, maybe it's just me but, if an ambulance has it's lights on behind you, it's probably a good time to stop smoking that cigarette and pull over to let it go by, you know, in case someone is....ummm....dying?!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 17, 2011


Sending lots of love and thoughts over to Japan. This picture is from our trip to Japan a few weeks ago. This is the Nagoya Eiffel Tower with Oasis 21 in the foreground. It's just so beautiful there! We hope all our friends are safe and doing well in Japan!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 15, 2011

Smoking a cigarette with a mask on? Is it just me, or does this seem like an oxymoron?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 20

What's up everybody! I wanted to take a minute and reassure those who have called and wrote in the past few days that we are safe, and everything is okay. It's a little troubling that we were in Tokyo, Japan, just three short weeks ago, and that today it stands as a seemingly different place in many ways. 49+ countries around the world came to the immediate aid of Japan in the aftermath of the country's largest earthquake, which goes to show that the world is behind them. I can't imagine what things are like there now, but our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.

So the last few days in Shanghai have been really nice because the weather has been perfect! 60 degrees with very little humidity is a lot better than the 30-40 degree weather we've gotten used to over the last few months. Before we came we heard a lot of horror stories about the unbearable humidity of Shanghai but, so far, it's been fine. In fact, the only time in the last few days that we've noticed the humid weather is at night, when the fog is heavy and thicker than a milkshake.

Throughout the time I've been writing this blog, I've tried to avoid talking about politics, mainly out of fear that I (not Tiffany) would alienate readers who are either uninterested or might not agree with certain views. But those who know me best also know that politics is one of my passions, and I often look at the world with that topic in mind.

Having said that, one of the most interesting subjects I studied in college was the case of China, so prior to coming here there were certain preconceptions I had about the country and system we would be living in. Shanghai was one of the first "Special Economic Zones" in China, which are areas designated by leadership to serve as centers for business and trade. These zones are given more latitude in an economic and regulatory sense, and this flexibility is what makes them especially interesting to me because they embody what makes China's system so unique: These zones are where the ideals of Capitalism and Communism intersect. It has been fascinating over the last five months to see first-hand the daily life of ordinary folks in a Communist system, particularly in Shanghai given it's special status. Below are some photos that I've collected while roaming the streets, and they capture what I think is the essence of Capitalism: entrepreneurial spirit. After crossing paths with these people, and many others like them, it seems to me that there is no shortage of people in China who want to start businesses, look for ways to profit off of their productivity, and, well, capitalize. Alright, I'm done boring you, please don't hold it against Tiffany!

This guy was selling everything except the kitchen sink -- rice, meat,
drinks, DVDs, CDs, etc. What's more, he is waving me off
because he wanted to charge me for taking photos of his stand, haha!
Young people using brochures to sell everything from
watches to clothes to vacation packages.

Last week we decided to check out the Dongtai Antique Market, a well-known place to buy "antique" Chinese trinkets and other stuff. As the name suggests, it's on Dongtai Road, just north of Fuxing Road. The Dongtai Antique Market is the last flea market in Shanghai that's dedicated to selling antiques, and even though many items may be fake, there is a chance that a trained eye could get something authentically old. But for us, it's still a great place to get some things that look old, haha, so we can decorate our empty apartment with cool Chinese stuff! One downside to the market is, not surprisingly, dealing with all of the aggressive vendors, who pull you into their stores and won't leave you alone if you're looking at something interesting. It's a little difficult to enjoy browsing through things when you're constantly telling a vendor, or the traveling shoe-cleaner, "no." But if you can go into the market knowing that this is simply the way things are, and keep a smile on your face, you can have a pretty good experience. We are starting to become pros in the art of "Shopping in China", haha.

Tiffany has been watching the news a lot lately, so she wants to start talking about News in China for our blogs:

The culture of marriage in China is quite different from that of the United States. One big difference that I’ve noticed so far is that, in China, the family does not typically meet their child’s significant other until after they have gotten engaged. A friend was so shocked that my family had met Mike already. He exclaimed “but what if they don’t like the person you’re dating!” This made me laugh, since I know this happens all the time in the U.S. 

Another big difference in marriage is that in China a man should own a home before he enters into a marriage. Also, women after being married once, and then subsequently divorced are unlikely to ever get remarried. Therefore, the home becomes an issue in the case of a divorce. In the 1950s a new marriage law was written in China. This law encouraged free marriage and marrying for love by abolishing practices like arranged marriages. This law was supposed to protect women by making any property brought into the marriage the property of the marriage and, in the case of a divorce, a 50/50 split between the couple. However, because of the rising prices of real estate in China, families have begun to buy the homes for their sons so they can get married. So recently another new marriage law was enacted stating that whoever's name is on the title to the home, gets the home in the case of a divorce. This law, in effect, protects the family or the individual who purchased the home before the marriage so they can get it back in the case of a divorce. Many people in China have been outraged by this law and have stated that it is taking away from a woman's rights. On the other hand, it does seem fair if the husband or husband's family had purchased the home and the wife hadn't contributed anything at all! What do you think? (Feel free to leave comments explaining your position on this controversial issue in China!)

Thanks for reading our blog this week! Please check out the poll we've included in this week's post, as we're looking to get your feedback on the type of content you guys find interesting! Until next week, take care!

Things To Do in Shanghai

Enjoy the Shanghai Art Scene
Shanghai is known for its wonderful art collections. From small sidewalk galleries to large city museums, all types of galleries can be found here. The Shanghai Art Museum (www.sh-artmuseum.org.cn, 325 Nanjing Xi Lu) was originally built as a horse racing clubhouse in 1933 and now hosts a wonderful collection of modern Chinese art. The Shanghai Art Museum is home to the Shanghai Biennale and Kathleen's 5 Rooftop Restaurant. Art Scene Warehouse (www.artscenewarehouse.com , 2/F, Bldg #4, 50 Moganshan Road) is located in Suzhou Creek artists’ quarter and is extremely reputable for their modern and emerging Chinese artists. For more information on the best galleries in Shanghai, please visit: www.best-shanghai.com/shanghai/art.html

Maybe It's Just Me

I'm a big fan of sleep, and I'm not usually one to criticize anyone for a quick snooze. The day we arrived in Shanghai we had a big job: find an apartment as soon as possible (especially because we only had our hotel reserved for two nights). So we immediately beat the streets and looked for a place to stay. We found one building that looked pleasant, so we walked into the lobby and found the whole staff asleep -- behind the desk, sitting on chairs in the lobby, and one person slumped over on the floor. We didn't want to wake them, and we decided to look somewhere else. After all, who wants to live in a building where anyone can get in because the staff is sleeping, right?

We eventually found a great apartment with a lively staff in the building lobby. But recently, we've gotten home late from being out and noticed that a certain security guard has been making herself at home:

At least she's facing the screen that displays all of our security camera footage...

We have to type in a code to get into the building, and it is right outside the security guard's door. We type in a code and get buzzed in, which can be a rather loud process, and it would even be tough for me to sleep through. It's a little funny that this security guard wasn't phased at all when we came in the front door, got buzzed in, opened and shut the door, and then took photos of her. Maybe it's just me, but isn't it somewhat of a red flag to supervisors if a security guard brings a blanket and pillows to work?!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 12, 2011

A beautiful photo of the Golden Pavilion under a blanket of snow in Kyoto, Japan.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 10, 2011

The butcher says, "A little cigarette ash on your steak never hurt anyone."
We won't be going back to this guy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Picture(s) of the Day - March 9, 2011




Please notice the prices. Regular imported General Mills Cheerios are 82.5RMB ($12.55). Nestle Cheerios are 16.5RMB ($2.50)!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 8, 2011

Kaidangku, otherwise known as open crotch pants, are very popular for children here in Shangahi and in China in general. These pants are extremely convenient for the toddlers and parents alike and a great cost-savings measure. No Diapers Needed!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 7, 2011

Mike with a Chinese guard at the China Expo Pavilion! Unlike the guards in London, this guy actually cracked a little smile after we took the picture.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 19

It's week 19 and things are still moving pretty fast here in Shanghai -- the first restaurant that Tiffany and I went to (Everyday U.S.A., just down the street from our apartment) has already closed down and re-opened. It doesn't seem all that unusual, however surprisingly, as so many other places we knew to exist just a few months ago are now gone and have since put new signs on their front doors. I suppose it doesn't bother me too much, especially for restaurants because, as it is the case for just about everywhere, there is always another one just around the corner. But we were a little thrown off by one of our favorite stores closing down here in Shanghai.

Before coming here we wanted to try and bring as little as possible, since we didn't know what we would be getting into or having to lug around. We thought that by carrying around as little as possible that we wouldn't have to deal with extra weight on our long, urban-hikes.We thought it was possible that, you know, we might get stuck in the middle of Shanghai and have to rub sticks together to make fire. Compound this with our romantically cavalier attitude of "Let's go to Shanghai with nothing!" and you can understand our current problem: we have one laptop as our only source of entertainment (outside of watching a television that only has one English-speaking channel). As a result, we decided it was best to bring one laptop as our only computer, and now we're paying for our minimalist approach because we need to get another computer. We both like using the computer to be productive, so we're fumbling over each other trying to schedule in times for using it. We decided that we would go down to Best Buy, which is just down the street from our apartment, and buy another small computer. I wasn't crazy about getting a computer in China, but we really needed one. We looked into ordering one through a company online (i.e., Hewlett-Packard.com), but then someone told us we needed to be careful with that because Chinese Customs might charge us the import tax, which is a hefty 45%. That was a big drawback, so Tiffany decided to go to Best Buy and check out some prices. There was only one problem: All Best Buy stores in China have been recently shut down!!

I went to Best Buy the other day down on Zhaojiabang Lu to browse the computer department. However, when I got there I was surprised to find guards instead of friendly guys dressed in blue at the door. The guards, clothed in black uniforms with menacing looking helmets, eyed me as I walked into the store. The surprises were not over yet, as I entered the store there were no items on the shelves. Instead, there were white sheets creating an isle leading strait to the cashier stands. I felt extremely uncomfortable not knowing what was going on so I made my way back to the front to ask the guards where Best Buy was. They all looked at me like I was crazy, laughed, and said "Wo ting bu dong" which means I don't understand. As I walked away confused, I spotted a sign in English stating that EVERY Best Buy in China had been shut down. I guess I won't be buying a computer there anytime soon!


This week, Mike and I also made our way down to the Shanghai 2010 World Exposition site where there was still one remaining pavilion: China. Over 70 million people from over 250 countries visited the Expo from May 1 to October 31, 2010. The China Pavilion, also called the "The Oriental Crown", was the largest and tallest pavilion in the expo and was designed by He Jingtang. A large emphasis in the design of the building was on green design and technology; incorporating a green roof, large overhanging eaves, and a rainwater harvesting system. We had heard horror stories of 8 hour queue times and decided to not go during the Expo. However, The China Pavilion, almost 5 months after the Expo was over, was still extremely busy and packed inside. People on tours, school children, and locals alike were all waiting in line to see what the hype was all about. It turned out to be a pretty amazing experience and definitely worth a 30 minute wait. Check it out:


Over the past four months of writing this blog we have gotten readers from around the world, and are happy to report that we're about to hit our 5,000-click mark. This means that people like you have hit our site more than 5,000 times in the past four months, which is very exciting for us!! We've also received a lot of comments from people regarding Shanghai and their own experiences here, and have (hopefully) provided some entertaining and helpful information for people that haven't been. This past Friday we were delighted to meet a few of our readers for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants: The Grape, on Xinle Road. Katie, Ashton, and Allison (from left to right) are here from the United States because Ashton is on a modeling contract here in Asia. They found our blog and contacted us with some questions, and we were SUPER happy to pass along information we've gathered since living here. We want to give a special thanks to Allison, Katie, and Ashton for sharing a wonderful dinner with us, and wish them all the best during their time in Shanghai!!


Things To Do in Shanghai

Ride the Shanghai Magnetic Levitation Train
In 2004, Shanghai opened to the public the first commercial Magnetic Levitation train in the world. The train, which can travel up to a record breaking speed of 311 miles per hour, runs from the Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road metro station, where passengers can easily pick up the metro train to travel almost anywhere in the city. At an average commercial speed of around 220 miles per hour, the train cuts down the commute time between the two stops to just over seven minutes instead of a 30-40 minute car ride, not including traffic. A one way ticket on the Maglev costs 50RMB (~7.50USD). However, if you show proof of a plane ticket purchase, you can ride the train for just 40RMB (~$6.00USD). According to rumors, the train might be extended all the way across the city to the Hongqiao Airport, cutting that trip down to just 45 minutes! Keep your fingers crossed!

Maybe It's Just Me

Traffic accidents are handled a little different here in China compared to what I'm used to back in the U.S. As some of you may have seen, I posted the next photo as a Picture of the Day back in December, which depicts an accident I witnessed on Christmas Day.


The lady in the forefront hit the scooter on the ground, which was carrying the lady on the ground and her child. After the accident, people circled around and tried helping the lady off the ground, and otherwise caring for her well-being. The interesting thing was that the lady on the ground refused help and insisted on staying where she was. Apparently in China, after people get into an accident, both parties try to keep everything in its place so as to preserve the scene for authorities when they arrive. The authorities then use the parties' stories, and the scene itself, to determine who was at fault. The appropriate damages are to be paid by the person who caused the accident. I guess this lady thought that she might not be able to college damages if she accepted help and moved from where she was. So she stayed put. I was a little surprised that she did that since, after all, her scooter and child were just run over by an SUV. As I was shooting the video, I kept thinking to myself, "What if she has serious injuries, or her child for that matter?" Maybe it's just me, but it seems a little silly to risk long-term health in order to "preserve the scene" and collect a little money.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Picture of the Day - March 1, 2011

Not sure of the reason but, in China, graffiti is almost non-existent.
So when we got to Japan I just had to take a photo to remind me of Los Angeles.