Month: May 2017

The Dragonboat Festival

The Dragonboat Festival

The Dragonboat Festival

There are quite a few holidays in China and currently we are celebrating the Dragonboat Festival. The story behind this holiday is long and tragic, interestingly a lot of people here know all the details. The very short summary is that this day commemorates the death of a famous politician and poet, roughly 300 B.C. He was exiled for treason when he opposed an alliance with another state. He later committed suicide when exactly this state invaded the city he was exiled to.

He was popular at that time and when he jumped off a bridge, his supporters rushed to their boats to save him. When they saw it was impossible, they wanted to at least recover the body unharmed. They threw loads of sticky rice balls in the water so the fish would eat the rice instead of the body.

Guess what people do today? Exactly. Race boats and eat sticky rice balls.

Since the holiday is on a Tuesday, it is quite normal to work Saturday to make up for an extra day off on Monday. That leaves a three day weekend and the city is absolutely packed – especially the standard tourist spots, exactly where I ended up taking pictures.

Pudong

The historic center of Shanghai (or what’s left of it) is on the west side of the Huganpu River. The skyline the most people associate with Shanghai is on the east side and is called Pudong.

Most of the iconic highrise buildings are in Shanghai’s financial district. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the front is some 20 years old. The world’s tallest building, the Shanghai Tower, has just been finished in 2015. [Edit: It is not the world’s tallest structure, there it only comes in third, it has the world’s highest usable floor, which would be level 127… ]

I went to the Huangpu River to see a Dragonboat race. After following the river for more than 5 km on a Mobike, I realized I must have missed the biggest race. In the morning I had to wait for a furniture delivery (not everybody is on holiday) and unfortunately it was too late when I made it to the river.

Pictures of Dragonboats will follow, I promise – this won’t be the last Dragonboat Festival we spend in China. Enjoy the view of Pudong instead!

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Top apps you need in Shanghai

Top apps you need in Shanghai

Android to Apple

When I moved to Shanghai, I also changed the platform for my phone: For the first time in my life I am using an iPhone. That’s because of one simple reason: The great Chinese (fire) wall. You cannot really access google’s services and I wasn’t sure about the availability of high quality alternatives. Since the phone is about to replace credit cards here, safe sources for apps were my biggest concern.

I still have my old Android phone, and it feels you need a constant VPN connection for it to work properly. Keeping your apps up-to-date is not fun. (Why is a minor incremental app update several hundred megabytes large anyway?!?)

A lot of people here use Android, especially on phones of Chinese companies like Xiaomi, Huawei or Oppo. It works, somehow, but I wasn’t willing to take that risk.

But, without further ado: Here are the top apps you need in Shanghai:

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Our new neighborhood: Jing’an

Our new neighborhood: Jing’an

Our apartment and its neighborhood

The lease has been signed and if everything goes according to plan, I can already move in this weekend. That leaves some time to prepare everything until our air freight gets here. Once I get the key, I will of course take some pictures of the view from our 17th floor window.

We will be living in a residential area in the city center, you can see it highlighted in the map. The district is called Jing’an and just a little more than 320.000 people live there. Only half the people that live in Stuttgart – but with more than 14 times more people per square kilometer. The apartment is just south of the Yan’an Elevated Road, which is the road that cuts through the southern tip of Jing’an.

That leaves us close to districts like the French Concession or Xintiandi, and very close to sights like the Jing’an temple. In the area around the apartment are many bars and small boutiques were designer sell their own clothes.

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My first Chinese tea ceremony

My first Chinese tea ceremony

Linhai and its historic city center

In the historic city center of Linhai we found a place that obviously sold tea and everything you need for a traditional tea ceremony. When we entered the store, two Chinese guys invited us for their ceremony. What sounds like the start of the standard tourist scam in Shanghai, was a very nice gesture in Linhai. At the end we spend almost an hour there, drinking ten year old Pu’Erh tea. We talked about tea and the perfect way to prepare it.

In case you were wondering, here is how you make the perfect Pu’Erh tea:

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Hiking in remote Chinese mountains

Hiking in remote Chinese mountains

Wanderlust

This weekend I was invited by a colleague to join him on a hiking trip. I didn’t  really know what I was getting into, he let me choose the trip based on pictures on some Chinese website. I did, and we ended up on a bus to I still don’t know what it is called exactly. There is no English translation or anything remotely helpful on Google. It was a mountainous area somewhere around a six hour bus ride from Shanghai, the closet summit with a name is called Kuocang Shanmai. I was the only 老外 [lǎowài] in the group and only few others spoke English.

We started our trip in Shanghai at 7 in the morning and were ready to hike around noon. In the worst heat of the day. I didn’t bring much equipment, and I was lucky to have enough room for loads of water. Since the airfreight hasn’t arrived yet, I didn’t have much to chose from anyway, and ended up wearing running shoes and shorts.

Some Germans I met in Shanghai the night before told me that I’d be alright. The Chinese tend to make every mountain peak very accessible. “There will be stairs”, they told me. Well, there weren’t. Our hike lead us through very green and beautiful paths, every once in a while super steep and rocky, with magnificent view points along the way. Everything you can wish for on a hike. If it weren’t for the heat, mosquitoes, ticks and leeches. Lucky me, wearing t-shirt and shorts.

We had three guides,

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Arriving in Shanghai: About Bikes and Food

Arriving in Shanghai: About Bikes and Food

My First Days

I can’t believe I am finally here. Shanghai. Together with anything between 19 and 24 million other people. No one really knows. Everyone is mostly stuck in traffic anyway. It’s my second week, and it has been crazy. When I arrived on the first day, we immediately went to sign up for a Chinese phone number: And this phone has been the best investment so far. I’ve just counted, there is a total of 17 new apps now, apps that I didn’t have before.

Bikes

Mandatory of course is everything that helps you navigate the city: maps in Chinese and in Pinyin, the metro, taxi and uber-like services, and my favorite: bikes! They are everywhere. The streets are plastered with bikes in yellow, orange, blue and green. Your app unlocks it immediately and you are good to go. Start and stop where ever you want.

I have not used the taxi when I was moving around town alone since I came here. Currently my answer for everything is the bike. (Let’s see what I say about that in a few days when it’ll be much more than just around 25°C and raining constantly.)

What confused my colleagues was when I asked them to help me order me a helmet on taobao.

“Why do you need it?” / “Well, I ride the bike at least four times every day.” / “I know, but WHY do you want it? No one wears a helmet.”

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