The Mysterious Angels of Lujiazui Park Watching Over Shanghai

In the midst of the tallest buildings in Shanghai, in the heart of mighty Pudong, lies an unexpectedly serene and generally overlooked park with one of Shanghai’s most intriguing mysteries. It is a beautiful but small park, offset against the towers on all sides. But within its borders lies the mystery of two unusual figures, rising and hovering over the city.

Angels? In a public park in a Communist nation? Yes, angels, with wings, cleverly sculpted so they appear to rise from the earth as trees, then transform into feminine angels watching over and nurturing the inhabitants below.

Angels are not only a symbol from Christianity or Judaism. They play a role in numerous cultures and beliefs, and even for a formally atheistic society, I believe the Party leaders here recognized that angels of this kind can be widely appreciated symbol of protection and favor of China, be it heavenly favor, cosmic, spiritual, or whatever. Yes, there can be a touch of mysticism and cosmic imagination here without subverting official policies. And for those of us who wish to see further dimensions to the art, I welcome the concept of heavenly favor of China. May real angels watch over this grand nation and its peoples!

 
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Lujiazui Park

A Protective Angel Watches Over Shanghai

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The Angels of Lujiazui Park

The Angels of Lujiazui Park

By |October 25th, 2014|Categories: Photography, Religion, Shanghai|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Young Single Adult Tours in Shanghai, Fall 2014

For the large group of young single adults coming to join us in Shanghai on a certain weekend this fall, here are the basic tours we are offering.

1. The QiBao ancient water town tour: visit a popular and historic water town with some pretty bridges, a bustling pedestrian street, great street food, quirky museums (ah, the cricket museum!) and many photo ops. Tour begins at the QiBao station way out on Line 9, Exit 2, meeting underground and leaving at 10:00 AM sharp. Leave early to get there on time. This station is about 35 minutes from downtown. Your tour leader, D. R., will cover the tickets for a gondola ride and the funny little museums in Qibao.

2. Shanghai’s Biggest Hits: See the Bund, Yu Gardens, the matchmaking market at People’s Park, and the skyscrapers at Lujiazui. We meet at People’s Square, Exit 1 at 9:45 AM, departing at 10:00 AM. Note: the matchmaking market is a remarkable Shanghai tradition that strikes some foreigners as very odd. Absorb and look but don’t giggle or take too many photos. Be respectful, polite, and relatively quiet even thought it’s a pretty lively and noisy place. You’ll have time to discuss and comment later. (Some of you may wish to sign up some of your friends, but it’s best for foreigners to not try their luck with this system.)

3. Arts and Culture in Shanghai (great for bad weather): see the famous Shanghai Museum, see arts and crafts at Yu Garden, and visit the China Art Museum or several small museums near the Bund (details depend on group size and interest). Starts at People’s Square also.

4. Quirky Shanghai: Unusual sites most tourists miss. Includes the matchmaking market at People’s Park (observe the rules mentioned in #2 above), the mysterious angels at Lujiazui Park, great architecture and art in places like the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the cricket market, the Dong Tai Antiques Market, and the surprisingly calm Confucian Temple in the heart of the wild old city. I’ll lead this group. We start at People’s Square, departing at 10:00 AM.

Bring some money for lunch and dinner. We’ll show you places where you can eat for around 35 RMB or less. We’ll also have subway cards for using the metro system at now cost to you (if all goes well). Tours will go from 10 to 3 PM. Then you’ve got a meeting and, in the evening, a dance.

Stay safe and healthy. Don’t get lost. Stay with the group. Know the phone numbers of your tour leaders and where you will be going next in case you are separated. Use the buddy system. Keep a water bottle with you and get plenty of fluids. If there are health issues, let me or your tour leaders know right away.

Know the basic scams to watch out for (the tea ceremony scam, etc.). Use caution when crossing the sometimes dangerous roads. Watch your feet and your head, especially on the streets of the old city, and watch for motorcycles that can come from any direction.

By |September 11th, 2014|Categories: Shanghai, Surviving|Tags: |Comments Off

Bukhara: Marvelous Indian Food Near Lao Wai Jie: Great Indian Restaurant in Shanghai

Lao Wai Jie, literally “Foreigner Street,” is a walking street in the Hongqiao area of Shanghai that is lined with restaurants catering to foreigners. It’s a popular but sometimes overpriced place. You can get to it from the Longxi Road station on Line 10 and then heading south on Hongmei Road, crossing Yan An Road and the elevated road above it, then turning left into the Lao Wai Jie area. But before you get there, right after crossing Yan An, you’ll see a lovely Indian restaurant on the right side of the street: Bukhara. The address is 3729 Hongmei Road. Their website is bukhara.com.cn and their phone is 6446 8800.

We had a lamb curry and a chicken curry dish that were among the best I’ve tasted. The mango lassee was too sweet and didn’t have much mango, but the carrot pudding dessert rich in butter (ghee) was truly a surprise and very delicious. Main courses are typically around 90 to 110 RMB each. More expensive than many places, but typical prices for the area.

The environment is beautiful, relaxing, and pleasant. Service was outstanding with an English-speaking waiter from Indian who gave us lots of background information about our food and other issues. A very kind young man.

The flavors we found at Bukhara were some of the best we’ve had in Indian food anywhere. Really delicious. A terrific Indian restaurant in Shanghai.

By |August 31st, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |Comments Off

Foreigners in China: Get the VIP Internet Service from China Telecom to Improve Access to Foreign Websites

We recently upgraded our Internet service to the fastest available: 100 Mbps service for 248 RMB a month. Even with that high speed, we noticed that accessing foreign websites was still painfully slow and unreliable. When we turned on ExpressVPN, our generally good VPN service, the speed was even worse and was essentially blocked, or so it seemed on many days.

Then I learned about China Telecom’s VIP service for foreign websites. This service costs an extra 50 RMB per month and gives you “more stable” access to websites in the US, Japan, Europe, and Hong Kong. Desperate. we tried it, and it has made a huge difference. Foreign websites now upload much faster. We still need VPN for sites like Facebook, but that also seems much faster than before.

To change your service, you need to be on their monthly billing plan. We were on a prepaid plan, having prepaid for a year, so we needed to make a change. How we got on their strange prepaid system is a long story of itself: someone in our real-estate agent’s company handled this and possibly tried to rip-us off, paying for the lowest-speed service instead of the highest and pocketing the money. Only we caught the “mistake” and insisted on correcting did the upgrade happen, and then they only prepared for one month and possibly tried to pocket the difference again. We finally got all or nearly all of the money we had given to show up in our Telecom account. Don’t let intermediaries do this for you! Our mistake.

To switch to monthly billing, you would think it should just take a phone call and the flip of a digital switch. Nope. I had to go a special office in person–not the closest one, but one that is authorized to handle the VIP account. That office is at 500 Jiangsu Road, close Yan An Road. It’s inside an electronic store on the second floor. Right next to the escalator is a round desk with an English speaking young man working there, and he was great.

To get the VIP account, I had to cancel my entire previous account and have a new line installed. That meant a big service fee or getting a year-long plan. Since I heard that 50 Mbps with the VIP service was better than 100 Mbps without, I accepted a special deal they had on 50 Mbps (no similar deal for the 100 Mbps unless I would take a two-year plan). So now I’m paying about 150 a month plus 50 for the VIP service, less than the 289 a month I was paying for the 100 Mbps service. They had to come and install a new line and put in a new cable modem. But the new service with VIP magic is definitely better. Finally, we can use the Internet, even in the evening, and access foreign websites with acceptable speed. We even were able to watch a movie on Netflix. Wow, it’s a new world for us here in China.

We had 1100 in our account that was closed. To get a refund, we had to take our old modem back in with my passport and apply for a refund. The same guy was very helpful. They will call us in a few days when I can come in and get my cash. They cannot just put the money into my account. That, I’m afraid, would be far too easy. But overall, the process wasn’t bad and I’m delighted with the mysterious yet effective VIP service.

Some folks at ShanghaiExpat.com discuss this as “GFW-free” service. No, it is not free of the Great Firewall. VPN is still needed if you want to access things like Netflix or Facebook. But you might have much better results, I think, than you are getting now. If you are about to abandon hope because of slow Internet in China, try the VIP service from China Telecom.

By |August 16th, 2014|Categories: China, Internet, Products, Shanghai, Surviving|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Restaurant Recommendations for Special Occasions in Shanghai: TMSK, Whampoa Club, Banana Leaf, More

Recently we had some virtually miraculous evenings with special guests where a visit to a restaurant was memorable, remarkable, and far beyond our expectations. Three of the most enjoyable of these events occurred at TMSK in Xintiandi, Banana Leaf at the Super Brands Mall at Lujiazui (floor 6 or 7), and Whampoa Club in Three on the Bund. Of these three, for our next special night out, TMSK is the one I’m most likely to return to.

The Whampoa Club has beautiful art-deco design inside with a great view of the Bund from the 5th floor of Three on the Bund (3 Guandong Street). Beautiful and fun just to be there. The menu is horrifically expensive, in my opinion, but the set menu on the Chef’s Sampling Menu is more affordable. That menu is 289 per person. But note: you must reserve this ahead of time. If you show up, even with reservations, and have not specifically reserved the sampling menu ahead of time (preferably 24 hours or more ahead), they may turn you down. In my case, I called on the same day to make reservations for the evening, and asked about their sampling menu. They said yes, it’s available, no problem. But when our party of four arrived, we were told that the sampling menu was not available and we’d have to order off the menu. I explained my situation and asked them to reconsider. The waiter had to check with management, and came back a few minutes later saying yes, we could. That was a relief. Otherwise we would have walked.

The food that came was highly impressive and tasty. My favorite may have been a large, succulent prawn in batter with a sauce over it. Really delicious and filling. The many samples that came left us full and surprised at the variety of flavors and textures available in this high-end Chinese place.

Banana Leaf at the Super Brands Mall surprised us with the quality of food but mostly with the beautiful private room we were able to walk into without reservations, while dozens were lined up waiting to get in. I had a group of 7 on a Saturday afternoon in Liujiazui. After walking tour of Lujiazui Park, we went to Super Brands Mall where we were planning to try Bellagio’s on the top floor. But one floor before we got there, I saw Banana Lead and, recalling a positive experience in the past, thought maybe my group might like this instead. While there were many people lined up outside waiting to get in, when we told them we had a group of 7 and asked how long the wait would be, they said there was no wait, just go on in, What? But there was a large, beautiful private room that was just waiting for a large group to come–I guess all the people waiting were couples or other small groups too small for the private room. So all 7 of us were seated immediately in luxury. We ordered and food was coming right away. Everything we ordered was delicious. We have a real feast for around 70 RMB per person.

TMSK is one of the most beautiful and interesting places to eat at. They have Chinese and Western items, but I think the Chinese dishes are most outstanding. The roast beef is so tender and delicious. Mama Yang’s noodles surprised us all with the flavor — so much so that we ordered a second helping. We had a lot of food and beverages, including wine for one of our guests, so the total bill was higher than normal, 790 RMB for 4, but it was worth it. TMSK is the one that I’m most anxious to try again in the near future. The fact that I really like the people there is part of the draw. And so beautiful.

 

By |July 17th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Slow Internet Connection in China? Tips for Service and How to Measure Local Speed

The most challenging aspect of life in China for many foreigners may be the Internet. In addition to many of our favorite sites being blocked by the Great Firewall of China, the Internet here can often be painfully slow. Here are some tips for dealing with both problems.

The Firewall can be overcome with VPN, allowing a direct port to a foreign server to be established with encrypted communication. I use ExpressVPN (https://www.expressvpn.mobi/). It costs money, but it’s worth it and I believe it to be the best service with the best technical support to help you deal with the challenges of connecting. It also adds some extra security since data to and from your computer is encrypted, so it’s good to use for online banking and other sensitive issues. It slows everything down, though.

The general problem of a slow Internet connection in China may be due in part to the heavy work of monitoring Internet usage and to rapidly expanding demand on existing infrastructure. There’s a lot of data requiring a lot of surveillance. But many times foreigners living in China don’t realize that the service they are getting in their apartment can be upgraded to faster service. The base local speed (China to China connections) may range from 10 Mps (10 megabytes/sec) to 100 Mps. If you need higher speed, contact your provider (often China Telecom, reachable by dialing 10000–and yes, they do have English speaking support) and check into an upgrade.

Understand your connection speed by doing speed tests. A good test that might not load for you in China (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t) is SpeedTest.net. This service can use servers in China to test your latency (ping delay), download speed, and upload speed. If your download speed is limited to around 10 Mps, using the Internet is going to be painful. Upgrade. In Shanghai, you can use a China Telecom service at http://sh.189.cn/support/netreport/ to test you download speed with local servers to see what your maximum speed is likely to be. It’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand Chinese to use it. Click on the green button that says “开始测速” (begin testing speed). The numerical result is in Mps. You can also use other speed tests that measure data transfer involving US servers. Numbers will be lower than using Asian servers, of course. ATT has a speed test and so does Comcast (Xfinity).

For best speed, make sure you have background processes off (things like software updates, online backup, etc. can slow you down) and don’t have too many browser windows open. For best speed, bypass the slight delay of a wireless router and plug directly into the Ethernet output jack on the back of your cable modem or router — but the gains will often be minor. Also beware of prime times when everybody else is trying to download movies or play games: the Internet can really bog down in China from about 7 PM to 11 PM. And weekends, lunchtime, and so on.

By |July 7th, 2014|Categories: Shanghai, Surviving, Webmasters|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Food Poisoning: Beware of Hamburgers and Other High Risk Items

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Was it the meat? The mayo? the lettuce? Or maybe the shake? It’s hard to know with food poisoning.

I had a call at 2:15 AM this morning from a victim of food poisoning, a friend who had just been taken to one of Shanghai’s many hospitals with quaint names. This one was the Armed Police Hospital of Shanghai on Hongxu Road near Yan An Road in Hongqiao, not far from where we live. He had been out with some friends eating at Munchies, a popular joint serving basic Western food like hamburgers, shakes, and fries. I ate there once a few months ago and thought it was OK but not interesting, and avoided the hamburgers due to my concerns about the risks of food poisoning. Hamburgers are already a common source of food poisoning in the States, and I think the risks will be higher here.

My friend had eaten a hamburger, shake, and fries. He guessed that his food poisoning came from bad oil in the fries or bad cream in the shake. My guess is the hamburger was the culprit. Hamburger is so often contaminated with bacteria and is too easy to undercook or recontaminate with sloppy handling. But who knows, it could have been bacteria on dirty lettuce in the burger. I doubt that bad oil would give the violent food poisoning reaction he had, with hours of pain and loss of everything in his digestive tract.

He eventually became so dehydrated and weak and in so much pain that he realized he was in medical trouble, so he called for help and soon was being carried away in an ambulance. In his weakened state, he forget to bring a wad of cash with him. Mistake! Bring lots of cash when you go to the hospital. Bringing an ATM card can work, but if there is trouble, then what? He was so weak when he got to the hospital that his fingers kept slipping as he tried to enter the long password code for his bank card, and after 3 tries, his card was locked and unable to be used at all. He called the bank to clear it, but was told he had to come in personally when the bank opened again later. Not good at 2 AM when you need to pay now for urgent help.

In China, if you don’t pay upfront or have proof of adequate insurance (that may not work in many cases), you aren’t going to get treatment, as far as I know. Understand that and be prepared. The hospital staff suggested he call a friend. I normally put my phone in silent mode when I go to sleep to prevent unwanted calls in the middle of the night. Last night was an unusual exception, and I’m glad I didn’t. I was able to rush over and help out, handling the payment. 650 RMB is all it cost for him to get a lot of good attention (once payment was made), an IV with several bags of fluid, medication, etc. The kit of supplies I received for him after payment was really impressive. Treatment was good, the place was clean, and the staff were efficient and friendly. Pretty good for a public hospital in the middle of the night. Remarkably low cost. Not bad.

What is bad is food poisoning. It can really hurt and make life miserable. Staying hydrated when you are hit with it is a real challenge. Drink lots and lots of fluids, even though you might lost them swiftly. Gets some salts also. Gatorade might be a good beverage to keep on hand for such cases. But do your own research to prepare. Keep some cash in your wallet or in a handy place at home to take with you to the hospital, along with one or two bank cards, your cell phone, and a cell phone charger, etc. Be ready. And especially be careful about what you eat. It’s a key to surviving in Shanghai, China.

By |July 6th, 2014|Categories: Consumers, Food, Health, Shanghai, Surviving|Tags: , , , |Comments Off

More Tips on Moving in China: Trucks, Boxes, Etc.

When you are moving in China, there are several things to do to prepare.

First, review your current rental contract and make sure you give adequate notice and comply with other terms needed to ensure you have a good chance of getting your rental deposit back. It’s often two months of rent, so you don’t want to lose this money. Be a good tenant, give adequate notice before the end of the contract so they have time to find a new tenant (if leaving mid-year, you may not be able to get your deposit back at all). Make sure you leave the place clean and handle outstanding bills for utilities (this may include leaving enough money in the hands of the landlord to cover estimated costs, or taking other steps).

Second, prepare well in advance with the supplies you will need such as boxes, tape, bubble wrap, scissors, string, etc. If you move, you may want to get a lot of boxes. These can be hard to find on sale, but you can get them at B&Q for about 15 RMB each. Cheaper is to track down a recycler carrying loads of boxes and boxboard down the street. He’ll sell you boxes for maybe 2 RMB each. Cheaper still is to go to department stores or other places discarding boxes and take away used boxes for free. Keep some boxes around the house–they often come in handy and can be a pain to find when you need them. Also prepare by getting bubble wrap, newspaper or wrapping paper, and lots of good packaging tape, which isn’t always easy to find. When you see it, get some well in advance. You can also order boxes and tape online at Taobao.

Third, arrange for help such as a moving service to get you and your stuff to your new place. This often involves using a local moving service. Order a truck that is bigger than what you think you need so you can avoid two trips. A medium truck going across town might cost you 700 RMB if just one or two people are needed. Since we were moving a piano, we had a large truck and a crew of four, which costs us more than we expected: 1700 RMB. But it was a solid half-day of work for four people, and the extra-large truck had a 500 RMB surcharge. But had we negotiated ahead of time as we should have, I think we might have only paid 1300 RMB or maybe 1400. Lesson learned, maybe. While arranging for moving muscle, it’s also wise to hire an ayi or two (maids) to provide cleaning muscle for your new place and your old.

Fourth, pack early. Don’t wait until the night before the move. Your stuff is important and you don’t want to lose it or misplace it through careless packing. Mark boxes so you know what is where. Wrap delicate things carefully and be prepared for rough treatment. Make sure you don’t take things that are part of the apartment, either. Spend a few hours every night for a week to get prepared, if you can.

My experiences in moving in China have been limited to Shanghai, but the principles should apply to other large cities as well.

Related posts:  Tips on Finding an Apartment in Shanghai, Renting in Shanghai

Related pages: Surviving in China

By |July 1st, 2014|Categories: China, Consumers, Housing, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Prepare For Your Trip to China With Scam-Prep 101: Beware the Karaoke Scam, the Tea Ceremony Scam, and Other Scams in China

I’ve written before about the dangers of the “Tea Ceremony Scam” in China where attractive girls or other friendly young people invite foreigners to join them as they attend a nearby traditional Chinese tea ceremony. After a few tiny samples of tea, you’ll be billed for hundreds of dollars, and there might be some tough muscular guy there to enforce payment. This scam is actually dangerous, and if you fall for it, you’ll literally be in a den of criminals. It’s one of the most common scams in China.

It is important to know that there can be several variations of this scam. An important variation has come to my attention with the recent news story in the Shanghai Daily, “15 members of karaoke crime gang detained” (June 24, 2014). In this scam, friendly people invited victims to join them in karaoke. After some entertainment, a bill was presented for something like 30,000 RMB (US $5,000). In the case in the story, the man paid $1,000, everything he had, but this was not enough, and they were forcibly taking him back to his hotel to get the rest of his money. He managed to escape on the way and get help from the police, who eventually captured the gang. But there are probably many similar gangs in operation.

Whether you are in Shanghai, Beijing, or any other place that gets significant tourism, you have to be wary of friendly strangers who want to invite you somewhere. Don’t go with them. Don’t let merchants or others lead you down isolated alleys or remote floors of buildings to see their mystery shop. Don’t let them lead you into a room where they can lock the door to prevent you from escaping–something that happened to someone I know well. Fortunately for her, they were just keeping the police away from their fake goods operation, and the woman was able to get out unharmed. But don’t take those risks. Avoid the scams in China, but recognize that the scammers can be very polished, alluring, and highly trained–they are part of a well-oiled scam machine run by real professionals who have mastered effective systems that keep duping foreigner after foreigner, making loads of money for the scamlords.

Be alert. Make sure he change people give you is real Chinese money. Make sure the expensive product you buy is actually put int he package. Make sure the cab you get into you is a real cab using a real meter. If the meter is off and they quote you a price to get to your destination, don’t accept that unless you know what the real price is and it is close enough to be acceptable to you, otherwise you can many times the real price. Don’t prepay for rides because you might get dumped off for some other low bidder to take you, only to find additional fees on the way (yeah, I experienced that).

When you’ve been robbed by falling for a scam, you’ll feel really stupid and pained by how you were used and cheated. That’s a lot of stress that you can avoid in many cases by being alert and reducing your risks.

The Chinese people are generally honest, friendly, and decent, but the handful of exceptions are the ones who will be watching for you. They are organized and know you are coming. Be ready and stay safe.

 

 

By |June 27th, 2014|Categories: China, Scams, Shanghai||Comments Off

Finding an Apartment or Moving to a New Apartment in Shanghai

After 3 great years in the Lao Xi Men area of Shanghai (West Gate Apartments on Xizang South Road a little south of Fuxing Road), we have moved close to the Yili Road subway station on Line 10, which puts us in the Gubei area. It’s quieter, cleaner, and with a surprisingly high concentration of fun restaurants and beautiful spots such as the marvelous New Hongqiao Park. We moved because my wife already has too long a commute, and I just found out that my office will be moving to a location closer to where she works, so, as our previous contract was coming to a close, it made sense to move rather than renew. We were delighted with what we found, and it even saves us money.

Finding an apartment in Shanghai begins with finding a good real estate agent. Quality varies wildly. Some are inexperienced and not very helpful, while others go the extra mile to get your the right place at a good price and make your move a success.

Our move to a new place was greatly assisted by one of the best real estate agents I’ve ever worked with. He speaks terrific English and goes the extra mile to help, not just before the deal is closed but especially after. After the deal was signed and his fee pay, he continues helping us. He has helped us set up our Internet service, he made the calls to get our budget TV subscription turned on, he helped us solve some other minor problems, he told me today which office to go to and what to bring to register with the police after our move, he picked up and delivered our fapiaos, and he even came over to show us how to change the combination on our door. He’s extremely kind and really committed to serving his clients. He can help clients anywhere in Shanghai. I can give you his cell (email me at jeff at jefflindsay d0t com)if you wish.

When you are looking for an apartment, start with the region you are interested in and find an agent that serves that area. A good company like David’s can access broad listings and work local connections to help you find candidates where you want. Some just have listing for fixed regions, but they can he helpful, too. Your agent will take you to view available places. A lot depends on whether you want furnished or unfurnished. Then you need to set a budget (ouch, they are expensive here!) and determine what total area you want to consider (e.g., around 50, 100, or 150 square meters) and how many rooms you want and what other features you want. The more places you look at, the more you can recognize what features are important.

For us, having a big kitchen with either an over or a space where we could install one was important because we do a lot of entertaining and a lot of cooking, and our style of cooking often requires an over, something most apartments in China do not have. China is a nation of stove-top cooking. Ovens in apartments are rare. But you often can take out the ubiquitous and worthless “sterilizer” unit in many kitchens and replace it with an over, though electrical connections will have to change and the landlord must be on board (and make it clear what happens with the unit when you move away). In our last place, we agreed to a higher rent in return for the landlord buying an over that would stay with the apartment–good deal for him. We’re buying the oven in the new place. Will cost about 4800 RMB.

When you rent, you will normally be asked to pay a deposit of two months’ rent in addition to one or two months rent up front, so you really need a wad of cash to get started. Foreigners coming to work in China often don’t know this. In addition, the renter will typically pay the commission to the agent, which is normally 1/3 of a month’s rent, sometimes a little higher. Before you rent, make sure you negotiate any significant changes that are needed like painting the walls, repairing things, replacing or adding furniture, etc. Make sure you know how to handle utilities, how to get Internet and TV, how to register with the police, etc. If you need a fapiao, this costs 5% of the month’s rent, so make sure you know who is paying for that (it is normally included in the monthly rent).

Everything can be negotiated, so perhaps you can close a deal for less (typically around 10% less) than the asking price. Ask for too low, though, and the landlord will throw you out and not negotiate further.

Landlords in China might often own just one rental apartment that they rent out. It’s a precious piece of property to them and they may be evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the unit. If you seem too demanding, slovenly, or irresponsible or do anything to create a negative emotional reaction, they might not rent to you, even if you accept the asking price. I know two Chinese guys who were planning to rent an apartment together and had agreed on the price, but the landlord got nervous about how clean two men would be and decided at the last minute to turn them down. End of story. For best results, dress nicely and radiate “clean, responsible, friendly” if you can.

When you close the deal, you’ll sign a contract, typically in Chinese and English, and it’s almost always for a year. Have someone you trust review it. In this case, the contract was standard from Oriental Real Estate which we already trusted, and it worked out fine.

If you move, you may want to get a lot of boxes. These can be hard to find on sale, but you can get them at B&Q for about 15 RMB each. Cheaper is to track down a recycler carrying loads of boxes and boxboard down the street. He’ll sell you boxes for maybe 2 RMB each. Cheaper still is to go to department stores or other places discarding boxes and take away used boxes for free. Keep some boxes around the house–they often come in handy and can be a pain to find when you need them. Also prepare by getting bubble wrap, newspaper or wrapping paper, and lots of good packaging tape, which isn’t always easy to find. When you see it, get some well in advance. You can also order boxes and tape online at Taobao.

I also recommend hiring an ayi (local maid) to come in and clean your new place before you move and also to clean out your old place after you move out, leaving it in good condition to keep a landlord and the next tenants happy.

By |June 24th, 2014|Categories: Consumers, Housing, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off

Kakadu Australian Restaurant at Bridge 8 on Jiaguo Zhong Lu: Great Food

My wife and I took a friend from Namibia to my latest restaurant discovery, Kakadu, an Australian restaurant with interesting imported items, top-notch ingredients and great flavors. This place is hidden away in the Bridge 8 complex at 8 Jianguo Zhong Lu, just a few yards west of Chongqing Road (below the elevated ring road), on the north side of Jianguo Zhong Lu (middle Jianguo road). We were there on a Friday night. As we walked into the bar area, we saw that this is a popular place for foreigners. The bar was packed and there was a lot of good food being served there to the patrons. The restaurant area, though, still had seating for us though it was pretty busy also. We went there at 6:45 PM without reservations–dangerous, given its popularity, but we were lucky to get in and be seated quickly.

The menu has a good mix of meat dishes such as Australian steak, hamburgers including Austrialian beef, crododile, kangaraoo, and emu, salads, and so forth. I had the emu burger (98 RMB), while the others had spicy chicken salad (nicely barbecued chicken) and smoked salmon salad. My emu burger was delightful. Thick, flavorful with a touch of cumin, and pretty healthy. The burger was creative with a beetroot paste and interesting flavorings. Good bun also. I tasted the salads and like them as well. Also tried the pumpkin soup–perfect and creamy. The berry smoothie was also good, with a bit of ice cream in there, the way I like it.

My favorite item was the scallops that we ordered as an appetizer. Three succulent scallops came on a surprising bed of flavorful mashed green peas with a little maple syrup poured over it. Really a creative surprise and it was delicious and beautiful.

The experience was excellent, in spite of little slip in service that resulted in my burger coming about 30 minutes too late, having obviously sat on a counter cooling off the whole time. I pointed out that it was cold when it came and the management kindly and quickly brought me a new one that was fresh and sizzling hot. All is forgiven, and the experience overall was great.

Service gaps are a common problem in China or anywhere, probably: food you order might get overlooked or the order might never get placed, so it can sit or disappear. You need to check with the staff repeatedly sometimes to find out what’s happening with your food. Sigh. I checked with our waiter 3 times and he assured me it was coming, but had he checked more carefully, I think he would have found that it was there and waiting to be brought to the table. Or something.

For 3 of us, the bull was 395 RMB. Definitely plan to return.

By |May 18th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off

Best Value for Italian Food Near the Bund: Marissa (Marisa) Italian Below Henderson Metropolitan

Directly accessible from the East Nanjing subway station and hidden beneath the Henderson Metropolitan Mall on the lowest level (the same level as the subway foot traffic between lines 10 and 2) is my new favorite place for inexpensive Italian food, Marisa Italian (though I would prefer the spelling Marissa). This new Italian restaurant has really excellent Italian food at budget prices. It is run by a Chinese man from Milan, Italy, who has brought real Italian cuisine to Shanghai with great imported ingredients. My first meal there introduced me to outstanding seafood risotto, my favorite Italian food, for around 50 RMB. Later I tried an inexpensive set meal for about 30 RMB featuring perfect pesto and a good salad. Last night I took my wife there on a date where we had a great meal for 151 RMB. I had the rack of lamb and was really impressed. Perfectly grilled with a flavorful outside featuring a lot of fresh rosemary, and very tasty grilled vegetables. My wife’s lasagna was hearty and good. We shared a large bowl of mushroom soup which is made from a lot of fresh mushrooms without being too fatty, just the way I like it. The fresh apple-carrot juice was also good.

The owner pays attention to service, and service is quite good.

You can get there directly from the East Nanjing subway station by taking the Henderson Mall exit opposite from Exit 2. Or enter the Apple Store on East Nanjing Street and go through it into the mall, then down two levels via the escalator.

The Bund offers several good places with Italian food, and Shanghai has many great Italian choices, but for value and flavor, Marissa Italian is hard to beat. You’ll get twice as much for your buck there as in many other places.

Update, May 21, 2014: I took an Italian friend to Marisa Italian for lunch and he loved it. We had pizza, pasta, and mushroom risotto. Earlier this week, I took a group of 12 people there for dinner. What fun they had! We had several great pizzas that we shared, plus pasta and risotto dishes, and some deserts. The panecotta was remarkably good! The bill for 12 people was 669 RMB, which is amazing.

By |May 8th, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |Comments Off