If You Ride the Maglev from the Pudong Airport, Beware the Cabbies at Longyang Station

Many foreigners visiting of living in Shanghai have learned about the Maglev, the rapid train that connects the PuDong International Airport with a location closer to the center of Pudong. The 50-RBM ride (40 RMB if you use a metro card) from the airport to the Maglev’s other end at Longyang Station takes only about 8 minutes reaching a brisk speed of 300 km/hr, whereas it would take about 40 or so minutes on the metro (Line 2) and would take over 30 minutes by taxi, depending on traffic, and would cost over 100 RMB. So a great way to get to downtown Shanghai is to take the Maglev to Longyang Station, and then take line 2 or line 7 from Longyang to get to other parts of Shanghai. If you are brave and perhaps foolhardy, you can take a cab from Longyang. In my experience, it’s the worse place in town to take a cab.

The problem is not that cabs are hard to get–there are a lot of them anxiously waiting for foreigners. The problem is that it’s hard to find honest cabs, the ones that use the meter and charge you fairly. Cabs almost everywhere else in town can be expected to use the meter and comply with the law, but not at Longyang. You tell them where you want to go and then they act like illegal black cabs, telling you the price they will charge without using a meter. A ride that normally would be 35 RMB, for example, will be quoted at 100 RMB, and almost always at least twice what the real rate ought to be. And you probably won’t get a receipt for the ride, either. The taxi is a “black cab” for that ride. It’s illegal, but they do it at Longyang as their standard operating procedure, mainly to prey upon gullible tourists getting off the Maglev.

Do not get into a cab that isn’t going to use the meter. If you can’t speak Chinese, say “meter” and point to it and make sure they will use it. If it’s not on when you get in, stop and get out. I think “dabiao” is the Chinese way to indicate the ride will use the meter.

You can find cabs willing to use the meter there, though you may have to walk past the line of snakes waiting to prey upon you and go beyond the taxi stand area out toward the main street and wave one down there.

Don’t encourage the snakes to keep preying on foreigners by giving in and paying double to triple fare to a cabbie in a normal cab illegally acting as a black cab. Better to take an unmarked black cab than a marked cab where the cabbie has dishonestly turned off the meter. When you let a dishonest person take you for a ride, it can turn out poorly in several ways. The excessive 100 RMB fare he quoted you might become 100 RMB per person. You might get taken to the wrong place. Why take further risk?

Don’t be in a rush. Plan on taking at least 10 extra minutes to find an honest cab, or take the subway instead of the Maglev, if only to get to a new location where the cabbies are more honest.

Tailored Clothing in Shanghai: Great Deals, But Be Cautious About Leather

One of the great things about Shanghai for foreigners is being able to have tailored made clothing at prices much lower than is possible in many other nations. Here you can have a suit made for around 800 RMB, around US$140. Lower-end off-the-shelf suits in the US often cost $300 to $500, and custom-made suits are even more, so it’s an attractive option to have them made here. If you are going to be in China for 3 days or more, consider ordering a suit. It usually takes 3 days to get them back. There are many shops in Shanghai that can do this, but the most popular areas with a big concentration of competing tailors are the South Bund Fabric Market and the Science and Technology Museum.

The South Bund Fabric Market is 南外滩轻纺面料市场. Address is 399 Lujiabang Lu, near Nancang Jie. Chinese: 南外滩轻纺面料市场, 陆家浜路399号, 近南仓街. It’s probably enough to just tell the cabby “Qing Fang Shichang” (轻纺市场, meaning light wovens market). This is not far from the Nanpu Bridge subway stop on Line 4, about 5 minutes, and you can walk through old-city chaos from Xiaonanmen station on Line 9, maybe 10 minutes. The Science and Technology Market is very easy to reach. It’s right on line 2 at a station of the same name. You don’t even leave the station. It’s there, underground, with dozens and dozens of shops. But not always the best prices.

It’s good to get the advice of long-timers or frequent customers to get a recommendation for a place that can be trusted. But I’ve tried a couple selected rather randomly and still had fairly good results.

Of the two major centers, I think I prefer the South Bund Fabric Market. The prices may be a little lower. I suggest going to the second or third floors for the best deals. I think the first-floor shops get more business and may charge a slight premium. Not really sure on that.

For men, you can have a custom suit for 800 RMB. I suggest getting two pairs of pants with the suit, which will cost another 150 RMB or maybe 200. Add a shirt for about 100 RMB.

Based on reviews I’ve read, I would suggest that you avoid having leather goods made there unless you have a recommendation and have seen what was made. Make sure it’s real leather. The shop may show you nice high-quality leather, but what you receive from their tailor might be fake leather and poorly made. With suits and dresses, they are at least probably going to use the same material you selected. Be sure to try it and make sure it fits. The shops don’t have changing rooms for the most part, but can put up or in some cases have one or two people hold up a screen for you to change behind. Don’t be shocked to see some people changing without any privacy barrier, but don’t do that yourself.

For leather belts (or fake leather belts) with the new ratchet mechanism, go to the accessories and crafts market at 399 Renmin Road, across from the main gate leading to Yu Garden. In this five-story complex, you will find hundreds of shops with all sorts of too-dads and crafts, but on the 3rd or 4th floors to the right of the escalator as you come up is a shop selling belts at an asking price way below what you will negotiate at the popular fake goods shops or clothing complexes. 35-50 RMB versus 150 to 250 RMB. Give it a try.

Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) Thai Restaurant Opens at Hongyi Plaza Above East Nanjing Subway Station

Today I had lunch at the new Thai restaurant, Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) above the East Nanjing subway station on the 6th floor of the Hongyi Plaza, directly above Exit 3 of the station. Wonderful place with good prices and service, plus delicious food. I ordered a shrimp curry set meal for just 32 RMB. A large serving of a delicious mild yellow curry dish with large shrimps and a good mix of veggies with a little pineapple, too. One of the best curries I’ve had in China, for my tastes. There was also some pretty good fried fish, a lilttle bowl of some limp greens, and a little serving of fruit. The bowl of rice that came with it looked more like Basmati rice or a real Thai rice and was quite good. A pleasant surprise overall.

The only disappointment was an herbal tea I ordered for 18 RMB. They served it in a regular glass and it was much too hot to handle. Needed a handle on a cup to drink this. Also didn’t have much flavor. This was a Chinese data and rose mix that didn’t have enough of the dates to contribute noticeably to the flavor. But it was certainly pretty.

Will definitely go back for dinner sometime, and certainly for lunch.

Another Scam in China: Worthless Foreign Currency (and One More Sip of the Popular Tea Scam)

Thailand-currencyAn American friend of mine visiting Shanghai was shopping at Yu Yuan (Yu Gardens) and bought something from a pushy salesman on the street. He paid with a 100 RMB bill and was given several bills as change. What he didn’t notice was that the  bills he received was worthless currency from some foreign nation (he thought it looked like Arabic but I’m guessing it was from Thailand). So instead of paying 20 RMB, he paid 100. Rip off.

Make sure you know what real Chinese currency looks like so people won’t had you bogus currency for change. Look, verify, and count. Don’t be so trusting and gullible, like many of us Americans are.

Other Basic Scams at Tourist Attractions 

The day before my friend went to Yu Yuan, I warned him about some of the scams he might encountered. I told him that anytime someone approaches you there or at other major tourist sites and speaks English to you, no matter how friendly and attractive they may be, they are probably sales people whose job is to separate you from your money. I warned him that there are people who try to engage foreign visitors by asking them to take their photos, and then some sort of scam is likely to follow. Just say no politely and walk away, I said. I also warned him of the ever-popular and often successful tea ceremony scam, where gullible foreigners are lured by attractive English speaking girls to join them at a traditional tea ceremony for a cup of tea. In this scam, after a few minutes of tea, a gargantuan bill is presented, accompanied with solid Chinese muscle to enforce payment for what was allegedly a rare and exotic high-priced tea. One cup might cost you hundreds of dollars. Never fall for that, I warned. Stay away. Beware. Don’t go inside.

The next day at Yu Yuan, my friend ran into a couple of cute girls who spoke English and asked if he could take their picture. Being friendly and always wanting to help, this young man took the photos and chatted with them. “We are tourists from Beijing,” they said, “and have been to all these major Shanghai attractions on our tourist map except for one, a traditional tea ceremony right around the corner. It’s a great way to experience Chinese culture. Would you like to join us for some tea?”

“Well, I guess I can just take a look,” he said, and followed them into a tea house. But eventually, he later told me, my warnings began to enter his thinking–finally–and he realized he had better check a menu and see what the prices were before he did anything. He asked for a menu and saw that there was a 30 RMB service fee posted in addition to some high prices for the tea. But now he felt pressure to not just walk away, though he explained he didn’t drink tea and needed to leave, so how much did he need to pay for just taking a look as he had done? The waitress was puzzled and went to check with the owner, and came back saying that he needed to pay 200 RMB. That’s for absolutely nothing–what crooks. He said no way and gave them 30 RMB as I recall and left, but they were angry. I think he was lucky the muscle hadn’t shown up yet.  The result could have been much worse.

When you see young people at Yu Yuan waiting with cameras at busy corners or on busy streets, and out of all the thousands of passers-by, they choose you, the stand-out foreigner, to get someone to take their picture, know that the last thing they want is your photographic assistance. It’s a scam. Feel free to take their photo on your camera so you can let others know who these scammers are, but don’t let them lure you anywhere. They don’t want photos, just your cash. Lots of it. And they will use deception and force if you give them the opportunity.

Qibao, a Not-Too-Ancient Water Town in Shanghai

Qibao: A Shanghai Attraction You Must Not Miss

A fun attraction in Shanghai that many foreigners overlook is the ancient water town of Qibao, a 5-minute stroll from the Qibao subway station on Line 9. It’s over 30 minutes away from downtown Shanghai, but is definitely worth the trip. As a water town, it’s views aren’t nearly as scenic as those in the famous water towns like Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang, and lacks the many attractions of Suzhou, but it has plenty of excitement for a half-day visit and can be a fun place to shop and try unusual foods. There are some good photo ops there, but what I like best are the many vendors on the pedestrian street. There are also 8 museums you can visit with one 30 RMB ticket, but they are small and not all that interesting for the most part, though it’s cool to say you’ve been to the Cricket Museum (featuring some calligraphy about cricket fights and a table display with real crickets in real formaldehyde), and there are some interesting items in the memorial hall for Qibao’s famous sculptor, Zhang Chongren and some fascinating  miniatures in the Miniatures Museum.

Here are some photos from recent visits to Qibao:

When you visit Qibao, go to Exit 2 of the Qibao Station on Line 9, then go left to the corner and turn left again. No need to cross any streets. You go may 200 meters and then you will see a big gate for the Qibao area. Go down that street another 200 meters roughly and on your right you will see a big fountain area made from rocks and a small pagoda. Turn right there and follow the stream of people down toward the narrow street close to the rocky fountain that is the beginning of Qibao’s interesting pedestrian street. Follow it to a bridge over the canal. This is a good place for photos. You can wander over to the right to get a good photo of this main bridge, then do on the bridge and take photos, then cross and go over to the left for another good spot for photography. Then continue down the pedestrian street to see the throng of vendors and other attractions.

At any of the little museums that are easy to miss, you can buy tickets for all 8 attractions or just pay the 5 or 10 RMB for individual museums you want to see. Or skip them and focus on food and photography.

One food tip: At #21 on the main pedestrian street, there is quite good gelato or ice cream for just 10 RMB a scoop. I tried the chocolate and found it as good as any chocolate gelato I’ve had in Shanghai, and less than half the typical price. Not bad!

Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

Backside of the Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

Artistic Bags from TheMozaik.com: New Company from a Friend in Shanghai

An example of a bag from TheMozaik.com

Example of a Mozaik bag

One of my friends at work has left the company (APP-China) to become an entrepreneur in Shanghai. Rinnie, a very sharp and artistic girl, has founded TheMozaik.com, a company focused on beautiful, unique bags, purses, and related goods. I ran into her recently and learned a little more about what she is doing. I was impressed with her tastes and want to give others a chance to check out TheMozaik.com.

You can buy TheMozaik products in Shanghai at several locations, including Yaang Life shops at The Cool Docks and K11, or Inshop.

You can also see more products and a photo of Rinnie herself on her Tumblr page at themozaikcollections.tumblr.com.

The Quest for Italian Food in Shanghai: Two More Tries

There is new Italian place on the Bund, almost next door to Lost Heaven Yunnan on YanAn Road is a classy little place that is easy to miss: Goodfellas at 7 YanAn East Road. Elegant modern interior with lots of black and white photos, possibly from various Italian gangster movies. The lunch menu offers two set meals, one for 68 RMB and one for 98 RMB. I tried the more expensive one to get a better taste of what the restaurant can do. I’ve heard a good report for the food here, but personally I was disappointed. First, the bread was cold and not especially good, just one small roll. The balsamic vinegar was the thick, not very tart variety that I think is made by boiling down vinegar. Not the best, IMHO. First course was mushroom soup, which was OK except the mushrooms had the smooth, rubbery feel of canned or overcooked sliced mushrooms. OK, but not delicious. Then came a generous portion of pan-fried sea bass and mashed potatoes. The sea bass was tender but not flavorful, possibly too low on salt (I prefer low salt cuisine normally, so it must have been really low). The mashed potatoes were OK but had the flavor and texture I get sometimes when dried potato flakes have been used instead of real potatoes. That makes no sense, though, because potatoes are so cheap and abundant here, so it must have just been a little too dry or something. Everything was OK, but nothing was really pleasing. That’s too bad. For 98 RMB, there are a lot of exciting lunch options in this town.

Another place I tried recently and liked is Luccio’s on DanShui Road, a little north of FuXing Road and almost next door to La Creme Milano. Luccio’s also has a classy, comfortable decor and excellent service. They have a good menu with pizza, pasta, steak, and other items. We tried a couple of pasta dishes and were generally pleased. The bread was quite good and included several different kinds, including a black roll that we learned is colored with squid ink. Delicious and creative. The pasta is fresh and homemade with a good consistency. Nothing to complain about. It was good, though not necessarily outstanding. But we’ll go back and try more of their menu. The proprietor is from Italy and adds charm to the place.

By |February 19th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: |0 Comments

Good Gelato in Shanghai? Yes, It’s Possible!

After a vacation to Italy, I was anxious to see if somewhere in Shanghai there might
be gelato approaching the incredible quality that abounds in Italy. Gelato is
different from ice cream. It has less fat and more flavor, generally prepared with
simple, natural ingredients, and is served at a warmer temperature (around -14 C vs.
-18 C for ice cream) so it is less icy and melts in your mouth easier. It has a
smoother, silkier texture. Some of the “gelato” sold in Shanghai is pretty much just
ice cream or sherbet, but real gelato does exist with surprisingly good quality.

Of the places I’ve sampled so far, Le Creme Milano may be the best. I tried several flavors and
found none to be bad and several to be really excellent. I thought their chocolate
was too rich, but felt that the coconut, strawberry, pumpkin, and Creme de Milano (a
special house flavor similar to flan) were excellent. The person in charge when I
went spoke excellent English and was interested in chatting, which made our visit
extra fun. The shop were tried was at 262 Danshui Road near Xintiandi, just a few
yards north of Fuxing Road and a few hundred meters from the Xintiandi subway
station on Line 10.

Origin at Tianzefang was highly rated by some other foodies in town, but when we
were there they only had four or five flavors and of those, the coconut was
definitely impaired by the presence of added food starch that made the base gelato
grainy instead of smooth and creamy. The chocolate, though, was excellent, as was
the strawberry.

Mr. Eggie’s at the large Dapuqiao food court (an underground area adjacent to the
Dapuqiao station on Line 9) has pretty good gelato also with some Asian flavors like
black sesame and green tea. The chocolate was smooth and flavorful, though its
texture seemed a little more like ice cream.

I will keep reporting as new finds come along. Any suggestions? I’ve heard the
Freshary at the IFC Mall in Lujiazui is excellent, so it’s on my list now.

Related resources:

By |February 9th, 2014|Categories: China, Products, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |0 Comments

Dining in Shanghai: Xintiandi’s 1930 Offers Inexpensive Chinese in a Prime Location

The main restaurant stretch along Xintiandi’s pedestrian street offers numerous great places to eat, but they are typically quite expensive. Polauner’s, the German restaurant, is surprisingly good with prices around 150 RMB per person, making it a relatively affordable option with fast service. But our biggest surprise in finding affordable food in that area was the Chinese restaurant very close to the cinema, 1930. The restaurant 1930 offers live entertainment in the form of jazz, I understand–wasn’t there when we ate around 6 pm on a weeknight, but it looked like some performers were preparing to play later when we left. What surprised me was that the Chinese food offered there came with price tags fairly typical for higher-end Chinese establishments in more ordinary parts of town. My wife and I ordered 4 items, two main courses, a veggie side dish and some dumplings, and the cost was a little under 200 RMB total. Not bad at all, though still twice what we would have paid in an ordinary corner shop in many parts of town–but the quality was excellent and everything tasted great. The menu is rather limited, though, and the fare is pretty simple. My twice cooked pork was flavorful but not extraordinary. The dumplings were nicely done. The garlic kale was tender and tasty. Service was meticulous and friendly, and they do speak English. A pleasant place with nice ambience, popular Western oldies being played, good food and fast service, and fresh air (at least when we were there). Now we need to try it when there is jazz being played.

By |March 26th, 2013|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments

Dental Work in Shanghai: Dr. Zhou is a Professional Offering Low-Cost

Expats in Shanghai often wonder where to go for dental work. Many go to Parkway Dental or others catering to expats, but you can pay much more than you should at such places. When I learned that I needed a filling to be repaired, I recently went to Dr. Zhou, a dentist with good English who has her practice in XuJiaHui. The filling work cost about 1/4 of what Byer Dental quoted me, and I was happy with the techniques and results. But one expat had a bad experience there, so before deciding to go, you can read what he experienced. Much different than the friendly, professional service I encountered.

By |February 3rd, 2013|Categories: Dental, Shanghai||0 Comments

Piro Restaurant: Hamburger Heaven in Shanghai’s French Concession

When you need American food, or are stuck with a group intent on American cuisine in Shanghai, one of my favorite choices is Piro Restaurant in the heart of the French Concession (91 Changshu Road, a couple blocks north of Changshu Station on Line 1 and Line 7). This has the feel of a neighborhood restaurant with great service from very warm staff. We first tried Piro just because a friend of ours, Gina, works there, but we gladly came back for the food, too.

Piro apparently uses imported American meat in their hamburgers (so I read somewhere), and it sure tastes that way. They also understand how big, thick juicy burgers ought to taste. But if you’re not ready for a cholesterol high, they have a variety of meat-free portabello burgers that are amazingly juicy and rich in flavor. I’ve tried both the portabello burgers and the real hamburgers, and am torn: both are scrumptious.

Salads are also excellent, but you may be surprised if you order a salad and a burger since a pretty hefty portion of salad comes with your burger already.

We tried a chocolate milkshake tonight, and while it was the best milkshake we’ve had in China so far, it still falls short of the American dream shake. Part of the problem was a big load of fake whip cream on top that was just too greasy, unlike real whip cream. But the body of the shake was at least partway towards real shakedom.

A fun thing about Piros is that you can sit in the richly wooden inside or sit outside on the lively and rather noisy street for a great sidewalk cafe experience.

Burgers start at 55 RMB and go up to about 80, plus you can pay more for additional toppings. Salads are around 45 – 65 RMB. My shake was 55 RMB. So, on the slightly expensive side, but a lot less than many places with Western food, and a lot better. Give it a try! Very popular with expats, but plenty of Chinese hang out there, too.

By |October 8th, 2012|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments

Shanghai’s Best Bakery: Nancy’s Bakery on Weifang Road, PuDong

At 68 Weifang Road near the east side of the Bund in PuDong is a little strip of restaurants including my favorite bakery and diner, Nancy’s Bakery. It’s the favorite spot of one of Beijing’s elite business leaders whom I have met there a couple of times. It’s a place where many foreigners go who want good bread and food made with top-notch ingredients. Nancy is a bubbly Shanghai woman who has been trained in Europe and Brazil. She offers a menu with outstanding dishes such as a special lasagna and magnificent desserts created in partnership with Eddy, her chief baker. Her breads are worth the trip and are made from imported European flours, not the genetically modified grains that might be behind the gluten allergies that many people face these days. One person I know who was sensitive to gluten found that she could eat Nancy’s bread without difficulty, apparently due to its superior grain content. True story.

Tonight my wife and I stopped at Nancy’s after a meal at the Xinjiang restaurant near our apartment on Dong Tai Street, just south of Fuxing Road. Our local Xinjiang place is terrific but quite authentic (that means lots of bones). Bold flavors, wonderful barbecue, and a lot of things that many Westerners would be shocked to see on a menu (sheep’s head dishes, cold sheep stomach, etc.). We took a taxi through the Fuxing Road Tunnel, made a right turn at the first light, and then right again a couple of blocks later onto Weifang, and there is Nancy’s on the left. Tonight we tried her new coconut-white chocolate-mango cake (awesome), a chocolate eclair, and the best fresh squeezed orange juice ever. This is a good season for sweet oranges in China. Best of all was the chance to chat with Nancy, a warm and vivacious friend.

By |September 14th, 2012|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments