Sunday, December 10, 2006

All Hail Toyota!

Sell your GM stock, they’re doomed. Ford too. When I was in Tokyo I visited the Amlux Toyota Showroom, a 4 floor showcase of everything Toyota sells in Japan. It’s a full house. It’s no secret that Toyota is stomping domestic rivals in North America. But now I see that in the North American market Toyota is playing with one hand tied behind it’s back. In Japan they sell everything from a small scooter to the Toyota Century, it lists for close to $100,000. They sell more different kinds of SUV’s in Japan then they do in the US and their US lineup is fat with SUV’s. In Japan Toyota sells small cars, large cars, even a small car with a passenger seat that doubles as a wheelchair. Great looking Toyotas with goofy Japanese car names like Alphard, Ipsum, Passo, Fielder, Ractis, Wish, Brevis, Progres (not a typo), Rush, and Spacio. All this in a small country where gasoline costs close to $5 for a US gallon. Although I saw a Japanese made Camry at the Amlux Showroom I don’t think I saw one on the streets of Tokyo. It’s commonly accepted that Japan is a small country with expensive gasoline and the Japanese drive small cars. Some do but I saw plenty of big cars, both Japanese and European, plying the streets of Tokyo. There was no shortage of large Mercedes, Audis and BMWs, even big expensive ones. I did see one Chevrolet Suburban in a parking spot on a Tokyo street and there was overhang of the marked parking space both front and rear. Another surprise was the small number of Priuses (Priii?) I saw on the streets of Tokyo. I saw some but it doesn’t seem to be the statement of fashion, environmental righteousness and virtue in Japan that Prius ownership implies in the US where gasoline costs half as much as it does in Japan. From what I sawToyota pretty much dominates the market. They have a car for every market niche and if market conditions in North America change Toyota will be waiting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Putting the Toothpaste Back Into the Tube

I wrote this on the flight from Narita to Seattle. And so it’s over. For now. Time to mentally put the toothpaste back into the tube, go home, put the ring back into my nose and get back to my same old used to be. Back to responsibilities of work and home ownership and being a 21st century civilized adult male. Oy! If I’ve learned one thing on these recent overseas trips it’s that age brings more impairment than wisdom. My feet hurt. I’m tired. No, I’m exhausted. And my feet hurt. They ache in that kind of needing to have them soaked and massaged kind of way that I’ve never experienced before. Instead of feeling my oats I’m feeling my age. I’m still not sorry that I go to a foreign countries and hit the streets brute force solo. But I fear that soon I’ll have a bigger appetite for overseas travel than my feet can carry. Asia is still calling me. I don’t know why but it still does. And I don’t want to answer that call from a window seat on a tour bus, I don’t want to be spoon fed. The only time I’ve ever taken an organized tour was back in 1984 when I went to Guangzhou because the xenophobic ChiCom (Chinese communist) government of the day said that tours were mandatory for American citizens, no solo travel was allowed. Will I go back to Asia and do it my way again? Hell yes. While I still can.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

Akihabara and Christmas

Akihabara (or Akiba) is the well known Tokyo geek neighborhood. It’s home to gizmo, tool, electrical supply, manga and anime shops. For me it was must see JP. While there’s plenty of selection in Akihabara the prices are high, maybe 30% higher to someone used to shopping at Costco, New Egg and EBay in the US. It’s either a happy coincidence or price fixing but prices are pretty much the same from shop to shop. Whatever it’s failings the USA is a shoppers paradise. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t score anything in Akihabara. I couldn’t leave without a USB coffee warmer and a USB fan. No sign of the elusive USB butt warmer or USB butt cooler but maybe my shopping techniques are more set to shop but not to drop. I know that they’re out there somewhere in Tokyo because just about everything electronic and is. Japan’s industry is world famous for good reason. And Japan was well built with Japanese made precision tough tools. With so many lousy tools on the market back home I bought several Vessel screwdrivers. I also scored a few electrical plugs and connectors that are made for tight and/or angle installations, Home Depot and Lowes carry crap. I steered clear of the anime and manga shops. I peeked into a few and saw a staple of Japanese men, soft core pr0n comic books. I had heard that some of the women handing out flyers on the main drag of Akiba, Chuo-Dori, were dressed as French maids. It’s true but I have no idea why. One of the French maids I saw was handing out flyers for a restaurant called Melty Burger. The Japanese seem to borrow freely from other cultures. Americans borrow too but in the USA it’s because we’re borrowing from people who brought their culture to our culture when they came to the US and it gets smushed together somehow in the diversity we always hear about. Not so in Japan, aside from African and other exotic prostitutes the country is pretty much closed off from the immigration and melting pot ways of the USA. Japan is a homogeneous country, just about everybody here is Japanese. There’s a small Korean minority and the Japanese supposedly don’t let the Koreans forget who’s number one (and it's not the Koreans). So the Japanese are free to pick and chose whatever cultural elements they want, often from TV, and to interpret it any way they want. How they interpret a teenager in a frilly French maid’s outfit handing out flyers for a restaurant is beyond me, please email me with any suggestions. The Japanese have also adopted Christmas. It’s Christmas Jim, but not as we know it. For one thing, except for a small minority there’s no Christ in Japanese Christmas. Never had it, probably never will. But they go nuts with gift giving and trees, ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, Santa Claus and many of the usual trappings of the season. TV this morning was wall to wall with live shots of Christmas lights in Los Angeles and the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York. This year a special guest will be showing up in Tokyo, one who loves little children and knows what they want in the true spirit of the season. Michael Jackson is coming to town. Just because it has no religious significance doesn’t mean that stores treat it any differently here. At least in the US we pretend that the holiday is grounded in religion. Sometimes. But in Japan they don't even pretend. Stores play wall to wall Christmas music, some of it with quite religious lyrics. Since most of the population has no idea what the words mean the religion in some of the songs means nothing to them. Maybe the Japanese have more in common with we Americans than I originally thought.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Morning Coffee Tokyo Style

This is a Doutor Coffee shop. One difference from home is that coffee shops don't open until 7am in Tokyo. Another difference is that smoking is just fine in some coffee shops in Tokyo, smokers doesn't seem to carry the social stigma that they do in the US. You can light up nearly anywhere here without getting nasty looks or being considered a pariah. I sat down with my small cup of coffee ($2.20 US) and smelled cigarettes. The salaryman next to me was puffing away. And so was everybody else. The only person in the place who seemed to give this activity more than a passing thought was me.

One woman who appeared to be in her early twenties walked in wearing a surgical mask. Many people here do so that wasn't all that unusual. She ordered her drink, sat down, pulled the mask down exposing her mouth and instead of sipping her drink she lit up and began to puff away. So I guess that not everybody here who wears a surgical mask in public does it for health concerns, maybe it's just a fashion statement.

Mmmm, German Dog, Lettuce Dog and Bacon Spicy Dog.

Tokyo - Arrived

Greetings from Tokyo. My hotel room may be the size of a closet but it has Internet access and one of those squirting electric "washlets".
To go or not to go, that is the question. But first I'd have to eat something and so far the food looks kinda strange. I got in late and it's raining. Good thing that there's a 7-11 near my hotel. 7-11's and nearly identical convenience stores are everywhere, at least in this neighborhood (Nihombashi). I bought some food (I have no idea what) at the 7-11, I don't think I'll ever get used to having the cashier at the 7-11 bow. The hotel clerk who checked me in also bowed. I have a feeling that there will be more bowing in my immediate future Tokyo is neat and orderly. I could see it while the plane was still in the air, in parking lots cars were parked neatly with exactly the same amount of space surrounding them. The roads were orderly. Every time I've flown in the states in the last few years people whipped out their cell phones the minute the wheels touched the ground. Not so when my plane landed. I walked around for an hour or 2 and have yet to hear a car horn. The train from Narita airport had signs on the windows telling people not to use their cell phones and I heard nobody disregarding that request. There was lots of texting going on though. Bicycles are left in the street without locks, everybody waits for the WALK sign, nom matter how dead the traffic, people place wet umbrellas into holders outside of a store and know that the umbrella will be there when they return. This bears further investigation. But I've been up for nearly 24 hours, time to crash.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pandamonium

After my breakfast of peppered peanuts and noodles I decided to head out to the Chengdu Panda Research station, just outside of town. My map said that the 302 city bus would do the job. The man at the hotel front desk who spoke some English said that I'd need to take 2 buses just to get to the 302. He wrote it all out for me but I decided that I'd be lost forever and maybe even crushed and steamed, those buses look awfully hot and packed. Some of the Chengdu buses say "City Boat" on them, others "City Bus". I don't get it. I'm all for public transportation but in China I can't read, write or speak and that makes public transportation a big problem. Besides, taxis in China are cheap. So I took a taxi. Driving in China is like the Chinese language, it's based on a philosophy that I just don't understand. And like the Chinese language Chinese driving works, sort of. The last time I was here I was in province and I didn't see a stop sign. Chengdu has stop signs but I might be the only one who's noticed them. Moving obstacles, either other cars or people are avoided in a kind of mechanized ballet that looks deadly to me, because I don't understand it. We dodged pedestrians and trucks and buses, nothing unusual for China. My driver was yacking on his cell phone when he cut off a cop. No problemo, the cop had been yacking on his cell phone too and may not have noticed. On the way I saw 3 wheeled trucks and some guy hauling large slabs of meaty ribs piled onto the back of his bicycle. Chinese driver lay on the horn so much that it's just background noise now and some drivers have taken it to the next level by installing incredibly loud truck horns in their cars. How bad is the driving? This morning when I walked in on the local TV news in the hotel's dining area they were showing a scene of burning devastation. News from Iraq? No, some awful traffic accident that involved trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and burning store fronts. Vehicular safety here must be in its infancy with no Communist Party version of Ralph Nader to prod it along. I've only seen one motorcyclist wearing a helmet, he was a cop. Kids riding as passengers on bicycles sometimes stand up and hold on to the driver for balance. In the US their parents would kill them, in China their parents are pedaling the bicycle. The panda has some problems. Their habitat has been encroached upon by China's 1.3 billion citizens. Pandas are finicky eaters too, they eat only several species of bamboo. They have a reproductive problem too. How can I put this gently, if male pandas had email they'd be awash in spam claiming the ability to help them. Male pandas just don't get the job done. But the panda has an ace up it's sleeve, it's cute and we as a species love cute animals. The panda is a bear but he's given up the eating of meat for a peaceful life of chomping bamboo, lots of bamboo. But they still have big jaws (bamboo is incredibly strong stuff) and big claws and they don't call them Giant Pandas for nothing. The red panda is so small I thought it was a fox. But it's a shrunken bear that's very endangered. More about the Chengdu research facility and pandas here: http://www.panda.org.cn/english/eindex.htm

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Axis of Evil - Part 1

Dandong - Mao

That's Chairman Mao himself outside of the train station in Dandong. When I decided to focus much of my travel on China I knew that a must see destination would be the northeastern city of Dandong. I wanted to get as close as an American citizen can to Asia’s founding member of the “Axis of Evil”, North Korea. I’ve long been fascinated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK. The DPRK has been described as a Stalinist Theme Park. If the communism in today’s China can be described as Communism Lite, the DPRK is old school Commie Classic. Stalin’s USSR had no cell phones and neither does the DPRK, they’re banned. Electricity is a sometimes thing as is food. After a bad harvest a few years ago and resulting famine that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives one of the government’s slogans was, “Let’s all eat 2 meals a day”. Anyone with a fast Internet connection can watch canned broadcasts of the nightly news from Pyongyang (http://www.elufa.net/) and understanding Korean isn’t a requirement to notice that things are just a wee bit odd in the DPRK. Since the DPRK is a one party state ruled by the Korean Workers Party and the head of the party, Kim Jong Il, is known as the “Dear Leader” most of the news is about his comings and goings, such as his visits to army bases or to collective farms to dispense “on the spot guidance” and tell farmers in person what they ought to grow or not grow. Or the historic comings and goings of his father Kim Il Sung, the “Great Leader” because the DPRK is the world’s first communist dynasty. In the dead of winter the news often shows office workers in winter coats and vapor streaming from their mouths because in the energy poor DPRK if it’s cold outside it’s cold inside. Does a rocky hillside have to be moved in preparation for new construction? No problem because although the DPRK lacks modern earth moving equipment I’ve seen workers on TV breaking big ones into little ones with sledge hammers and chisels while others dutifully carry off the debris in baskets. I’d love to go and see all this for myself but there are several obstacles:

  • American citizens are forbidden entry because although there's an armistice the US and DPRK are still technically at war.
  • Tourists that do make it into the DPRK are assigned minders and their itineraries are set by the government, wandering off alone and mingling with the locals is strictly prohibited.

  • Why give money to to aid and strengthen brutal dictators? We’re not talking Gitmo here. Read the Aquariums of Pyongyang; if you don’t catch snakes, lizards, rats and insects to eat while you’re in a North Korean labor camp you die of starvation. After a day of forced mining or logging committing the speeches of the ruling Kim clan to memory is mandatory.

OK, so I couldn't enter the country but I could get up close and peer in. To do so I had to go to Dandong. Dandong is on the Yalu River in Liaoning province and was once a staging ground for Chinese “volunteers” who fought in the Korean War against the US. Today there’s a museum there with the pretentious cold war name of Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea.

Dandong is a Seattle sized city of roughly 500,000 people and is the eastern terminus of the Great Wall of China. The Yalu River forms the border between China and the DPRK, right across the Yalu is the North Korean city of Sinuiju. I booked a "Riverview" room at Dandong’s only 4 star hotel, the Zhonglian, a room with a view, a view of North Korea. Dandong on the Yalu: Hotel view

See those 2 bridges that my riverview room looked out on? Actually it’s just a bridge and a half. The austere bridge on the left connects Dandong and Sinuiju with one reversible lane for motor vehicles and one railroad track. The half bridge on the right was built during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and was bombed during the Korean war by the US Air Force in 1950 and was never rebuilt. On the DPRK side only the footings remain. Today the “Broken Bridge” is a tourist attraction, admission 20 Yuan. My admission ticket is below.

 Bridge mangled 3

Sinuiju has a slightly smaller population than Dandong but at night it might as well not exist, it's absolutely invisible. At night Dandong is alive with lights, cars and people on the streets or in their electrically lit homes living their lives. At night Sinuiju appears to be dead, maybe the Dear Leader sucked the life out of it. I saw no lights at all except what appeared to be somebody welding. I did see some diffused light off in the distance, I’ve since read that it’s the statue of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung which has the only artificial light in town.

Directly above and below is Dandong as seen from a boat on the North Korean side of the Yalu. It's so prosperous it even has air pollution.

  

There's not much to see on the Sinuiju side of the Yalu. Plenty of rusting hulks, a few propaganda slogans (this one supposedly proclaims that Kim Jong Il is the light of the sun) and not much else. If rigid communism has any benefits they weren't evident from just offshore.

Truck traffic between Dandong and the DPRK. No clue on what's in the trucks. I saw carpeting heading into North Korea and a refrigerated truck from a Japanese meat company come out.
The Great Helmsman bids you farewell.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Axis of Evil - Part 2

When I was quite sure that I had seen all of North Korea that Dandong had to offer I remembered that Dandong is also the eastern terminus of the Great Wall. I certainly couldn't leave town without seeing the Great Wall so I asked the concierge at my 4 star hotel, the Zhonglian. Her English was passable, certainly better than my Mandarin but she had no idea what I was talking about. She called over a bellboy and they chatted in Mandarin about this strange laowai request. The bellboy also had no idea what I wanted. Temporarily defeated I retreated to my riverview room.
Traveling with a laptop is puts the world at your fingers, even in China where the central government has the nasty habit of censoring the web. Some things on the web were conspicuous by their absence; some blogging sites were unreachable as was the cache option at google.com. A little research revealed that in these parts the Wall was referred to as Great Wall at Tiger Mountain. I returned to the concierge with my rephrased request. She still had no idea what I was talking about. But the English speaking bellboy did. "Oh, Great Wall!", he exclaimed. He explained it all to the concierge. I had them arrange for a taxi to take me there. They told me that it would cost 130 Yuan. They didn’t seem to recognize the term “round trip” so I didn’t know whether the driver would just abandon me out there or not. She wrote my destination for me in Chinese, the bellboy summoned a cab and I was off to the Great Wall. If I worked for a government entity with a world famous attraction in my jurisdiction one of the first things I’d do is make sure that the road from the biggest city around to the attraction was paved. Once my driver and I left the Dandong city limits the road became a dusty, rutted, potholed path, only the bridges were paved.

Admission to the tourist zone cost me another 30 Yuan; I passed on paying for admission to the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid (North) Korea. When we arrived I paid my driver, he indicted that he’d wait for me. Would he? With the language barrier I was nervous. I had a train to Beijing to catch that evening and with the place deserted if he took off I'd be marooned. The Great Wall in this region is in great disrepair so if I worked for that government entity, the 2nd thing I’d do once I got that road paved is to spruce the place up a bit, put the missing tiles back into the footpaths and put in new ladders to replace the dangerously rotten wooden ones.

Above: my driver walks back to his red cab. The parking lot was almost empty OK, so the place needed some work. But this is the Great Wall of China! I looked around, it seemed that I had the whole place to myself. But I didn't want to let that cab out of my sight. But there was still plenty to see.

 

When I got back to the entrance my driver was still there, smoking a cigarette and listening to the radio. He looked at me and asked , “Choson?”, pronounced in a fast bark, Chow-sien. I already knew that the word Choson meant North Korea and thanks to the Internet I knew that the border in this area was just a small creek; perhaps he was offering to show it to me.

He took me to the creek that forms the border between China and the DPRK and pointed out 2 armed soldiers from the Korean People’s Army in the distance. He started to shout and wave at them. At first they ignored him but they soon started walking our way with their rifles slung over their shoulders. When they got closer a woman selling tourist nick-nacks from a cart indicated that I should buy a carton of cigarettes from her (around $6 US) and throw them across the creek. The soldiers asked who I was, the driver replied that I was an American. The woman indicated that now was the time for me to hurl the carton of smokes into North Korea. I hit the shore with the carton, the soldiers pretended not to notice. But when I lifted my camera up to my eye to get the shot they noticed that and protested loudly. When they walked away without the carton the woman who sold me the cigarettes gestured that it was alright to take a picture. I had read that the soldiers would come back for the cigarettes when there was no one around. So that’s 1/3 of the Axis of Evil. I didn’t see any actual evil on either my boat buzz of Sinuiju or my encounter with the KPA but perhaps the Kim family is keeping their reservoir of evil someplace else where I couldn’t see it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Life as a Tourist in China

I first went to China on a lark. In 1982 I was in Hong Kong with some time on my hands so I arranged a 3 day tour of Guangzhou. I made the trip on a ferry sailing up the Pearl river that was boarded by several nervous PLA sailors brandishing AK47s when we crossed into Chinese waters. I don’t much care for organized tours but when China first parted the bamboo curtain that tentative first crack after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 Americans were only allowed in as part of tour groups. My second trip to China in 2005 was on another lark. I wanted to go somewhere exotic, but not so exotic that the language rendered me functionally illiterate or where I’d be confronted by a strange kind of toilet. I’m an American after all, I have my standards. Hong Kong was just what the doctor ordered. Although Hong Kong became the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) in 1997 when the British handed it back the Chicoms in Beijing it has maintained many of its differences from the mainland under the “one country, two systems” policy. That means that unlike on the mainland cars in Hong Kong still drive on the left and have the steering wheel on the right British Empire style. Even though it isn’t widely spoken English is still one of the official languages in Hong Kong, which keeps occurrences of Chinglish down.

Hong Kong is a spectacular world city, for me it was China on training wheels. I enjoyed Hong Kong but I was restless to see what was on the other side of the border. Because even though the Hong Kong SAR is now part of the PRC proper the old pre-handover border remains. Hong Kong has its own customs and immigration services that are separate from those on the mainland. Getting to the border is as simple as boarding a KCRC commuter train and getting off at the last stop, Lo Wu. But I couldn’t cross the border without a visa. In another “one country, two systems” quirk American citizens need no visa to visit Hong Kong, just fly into the airport with a valid US passport and you’re in. But Americans do need a visa to cross the border from Hong Kong to the mainland, even to visit for just a few hours. Lots of inexpensive goods come from China but for American citizens a Chinese visa isn’t one of them. I arranged one through my hotel that cost me more than 800 Hong Kong dollars, that’s more than $100 US. But I wasn’t going to turn up my nose at a day trip to Guangdong province because of the cost. I wanted my all day pass to Chinaland. There are times in one’s life where you just have to open the wallet wide and do what needs to be done. The city on the PRC side of the border is Shenzhen, a bustling metropolis of 5 million that was just a fishing village at the time of Mao’s death. Deng XiaoPing used Shenzhen as a test bed for China’s economic liberalization that in retrospect was wildly successful. Unlike the rest of the mainland, Shenzhen lived economically under communism-lite and its industrial buildup was bankrolled by investors from Hong Kong looking to expand somewhere close to home and attracted by a cheap, Chinese speaking workforce. Wages were low by Hong Kong standards and labor and environmental laws were lax. Shenzhen stoked China’s economic expansion and made the then common “made in Hong Kong” label rare today. I passed through Chinese immigration and out of the train station into Shenzhen and was immediately almost hit by a car. Welcome to Chinese driving where use of mirrors or even eyes is optional and pedestrians have no rights, except maybe to be targets. I passed through Chinese immigration and out of the train station into Shenzhen and was immediately almost hit by a car. Welcome to Chinese driving where use of mirrors or even eyes is optional and pedestrians have no rights, except maybe to be targets. I found the place fascinating. Chinese buses with strange insect antenna-like mirrors plied the streets loudly belching out black exhaust. One Chinese bus manufacturer has the unusual name of “King Long”, which to me sounds better suited to a male porn star than to an outfit that makes mass transit vehicles. Look, here’s Deng Xiao Ping and one of the new businesses in booming Shenzhen:

Because China is the wild, wild east and anything goes, except anything contrary to the edicts of the Communist Party. Just ask the Falun Gong.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Littlesheep

China may not have had any advertising during the time of Mao but they’re making up for lost time. There are billboards everywhere, subway cars adorned in NASCAR like advertising both inside and out, abundant commercials on CCTV state television and even a cable shopping channel. Many of the faces used in advertising to the Chinese people are Cantopop or Taiwanese pop stars but a significant number of the faces used in Chinese advertising are Caucasian. Why? When I brought this to the attention of an instructor of a mandatory race and social justice class at work she explained that it was just another example of white racism and white privilege. But she’s never been to China and white racism seemed to be her answer to every question in the spirit of, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Here’s an example, on trips to China I bought a bag for my laptop and a small belt bag made by a company called Littlesheep. The bags were of good quality and very reasonably priced. Here’s the tag that I clipped off the computer bag, both front and rear (click to enlarge):

The couple in the picture probably don't live in China and they don't look like 99.9% of Littlesheep's target market. But my guess is that to the average Chinese shopper they represent the good life, one filled with lots of stuff and plenty of leisure time and after decades of suffering and sacrifice caused by the economic missteps of clumsy communism who wouldn't want that? Here's another example from Shanghai that I shot in November 2005 on HuaiHai Rd, Shanghai's main fashion street

Here's the webpage of Haagen-Daz China. See anybody Chinese there? It's not just foreign companies that do this either. Here's the website of a Chinese clothing manufacturer, Vider. No Chinese faces here either. Zhonghuacar is a subsidiary of Brilliance Auto, a Chinese company that makes BMW and Mitsubishi knockoffs as well as genuine Chinese made BMW’s. It’s definitely a Chinese company, Zhonghua in Chinese means China. Does anybody have an explanation for this?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Pandas!

They sure are cute but, they're bears. They eat bamboo and not much else. Before I visited the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province I'd never seen bamboo growning before. The Chinese government has sent a few giant pandas to North America.

Pandacams: You can see the pandas at the National Zoo in Washington, DC here: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/default.cfm?cam=LP2 The San Diego Zoo has giant pandas too, you can them here: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/ex_panda_station.html

Richgate - "Kinging the Shanghai Buildings"

Meet Satan, Shanghai condo developer. This poster flogging this condo project, supposedly the toniest in Shanghai, strikes me as sinister. Who else but Satan himself could get away with a name like Richgate in a supposedly communist country?

Naturally a development this gaudy and over the top deserves an equally gaudy website (in Chinglish).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chinglish Choice

I get it, leave valuables in the hotel safe or they could get stolen.  Or, “be ready for lose”. 

Every blog on China seems to have some obligatory Chinglish and it would be bad ju-ju for me to upset this tradition. As for just what Chinglish is check out Wikipedia's extensive entry Many humerous examples here: http://www.engrish.com/ There's no need to hunt down Chinglish in China, it's everywhere so it finds you. It's usually well meaning on the part of the writer and I still wonder why the Chinese think it's necessary to have English (or their own unique interpretation of it) everywhere. I'm glad that they do it, it means that I can read street signs and figure out where I'm going on the metro and get just a little bit less lost.

Behold! Maybe this is the origin of the phrase "Chinese Fire Drill". I found this on the inside of the door of my room at the Jin He Hotel in Chengdu.

Like most Chinglish the true meaning can be grasped after some thought. I found this one outside of a monorail station in Chongqing. It shows 3 businesses that have done well in the shopping center by the monorail. So "Tertiary Is Happy" probably means that good things come in threes. Or not.

Just a misspelling, I hope.

From Beijing: I have no clue of what they were trying to tell me. Change for parking? Since only a complete stark staring suicidal lunatic would attempt to drive in any Chinese city I didn't have to concern myself with whatever this is.

This one's from Hong Kong. English is one of Hong Kong's official languages so they ought to know better, unless I'm not up on my art and fashion and there is something called a digital perm.

Check this guy out, I shot this billboard in Chengdu. The text says, "The strongest potential makes the Chinese arrogant Men's clothing brand". Change the word arrogant to confident and it suddenly makes more sense.

This is from Dandong on the North Korean border. I found it outside a men's room. It means more than just keep the place clean.

The message is helpful, noble yet strangely phrased.