100% Guaranteed Original Quality

I’m not completely convinced that this DVD I found at a market stall in China is legit.

Click for bigger, and check out the blurb









Oh, and check out the blurb on this Iron Lady / Tomb Raider crossover:

Click for bigger to read the blurb on the left. You know what? It almost makes sense.

Cuppa Tea, Guvnor?

– “Hi”.
“Can you take photo of us?”
– “OK”

And so starts the classic Shanghai adventure: The Shanghai Tea Ceremony Scam.

The Scam, in short, involves finding a lone traveller, taking him to see a tea ceremony, and then presenting him with a huge bill at the end. Scammers will pay up as though the price is completely normal. The police, so I’ve heard, are entirely uninterested (which makes sense given the 4 or 5 couples I see regularly on one street).

Unlucky tall Spanish dude gets tea scammed. And no, I wasn't going up against four people to stop him. Apparently, victims end up paying anywhere between €10 and €250 for a cup of tea.

Having an office at People’s Square (or “peep hole square” as the disembodied voice of the Shanghai Metro charmingly pronounces it) certainly has its advantages: a beautiful park, close to entertainment, lots of expensive eateries (including an excellent teppanyaki place in my building). But its dark side is all too near the surface.

As a tourist (particularly as a lone foreign male), I’m approached twice daily either with offers of, “You want sexy lady massage very nice look very young”, or the far less direct, “You take photo of us?”.

Thankfully, I’d been warned about this by my colleagues B and U beforehand. I decided to see, for science’s sake you understand, exactly how it goes. Something like this:

Charming young couple at Peep Hole People’s Square ask a lone foreigner (in this case, the eponymous hero of today’s tale) to take their photo.

It’s at this juncture that I should point out the following: if *you* wanted someone to take your photo, wouldn’t you perhaps ask a local person, who are (a) abundant –particularly so in the world’s most populous nation–, and (b) more likely to speak your native tongue?

Foreigner takes photo.

What I should have done, at this point, was have a look at the previous photos on the camera. It would have been quite interesting to see them.

“I’m showing my cousin here around Shanghai. It’s his first time.”

The cousin, it turns out, is from a nearby city and in his twenties. If he can afford a nice digital camera, he can afford the €12 Nanjing-Shanghai train journey more frequently than once every twenty-three years.

“Where are you going?”
– “I’m walking to meet my friends”, I lie.
“Ah, we were about to go to a traditional tea ceremony. It starts soon, so we should hurry”, as they expertly direct me towards the tea house (I barely noticed that we’d started walking: kudos to them).
– “Well, as I said, I’m going to meet my friends”.
“Call your friends, maybe they want to come too”.
– “They’re Chinese. They’ve seen plenty of tea”.

… and on and on it went until I started walking off and just ignored them. I did stop long enough to see them approach their next unsuspecting victim, but had to make off pretty quickly when the ‘cousin’ noticed me trying to get a picture.

Next time, ‘cousin’, next time.


And finally, as a footnote, an interesting post and subsequent discussion about the Chinese education system and the tea ceremony scam.


Traffic Laws

There appear to be none.

Having spent about ten days here now and done much walking around, I was ready to accept that at some point in my short stay here in Shanghai I’d probably end up in a mangled heap on the asphalt and swear never to come back ever again.

On closer inspection though, there does in fact appear to be just one traffic law in China:

force equals mass times acceleration

Simply put, the larger, faster vehicles will probably win. Certainly the bus and taxi drivers behave as though this is the truth (and who am I to argue with such a strong case?)

Shanghai Traffic

A quiet day for Shanghai, by Shanghai Sky (via flickr)

Crossing the road is rather more, shall we say, “entertaining” than in places like Germany or the UK. In such countries, the red light stops the traffic and the people cross and everyone takes turns and it’s all very civilised (if a tad slow), and pretty much everyone comes out of it with their vehicles/limbs etc intact.

But, let’s be perfectly honest here: Where’s the fun in that? Let’s take a closer look at transport methods here in Asia.

Here, it works like this:


Lanes don’t really mean much: they’re more of a guide really. There’s an extra outside lane that’s fenced off on each side of major roads. This is mostly used by bikes, mopeds, etc. They travel in whichever direction pleases them.


Taxis are cheap and plentiful. You can even use your Shanghai metro card on them (take note, London). Changing lanes is done with utmost efficiency, thus menacing all other road users.

Taxis appear to be powered by their horns.


E-bikes, mopeds and the like are very popular due to their low price and cheap taxes. They use the main lane of major roads, the extra outside lane, and the pavement. They are also silent. At night, to save fuel, they keep their lights off.

Minimum occupancy: three persons.


The standard load is as follows: 10 cubic metres of cardboard boxes / steel poles / bamboo / chickens. Riders are encouraged to be on the phone, holding an umbrella, or both at the same time. At night, to save batteries, they keep their lights off.

Minimum occupancy: two persons.

Traffic lights

  1. Green light does countdown.
  2. Taxis, buses, mopeds, bicycles  speed up to avoid being caught at traffic light.
  3. Light changes to red.
  4. The last few straggling taxis and buses that didn’t quite make it continue anyway so as not to cause too much of a queue at the red light they just left behind.
  5. People now begin to cross.
  6. Bicycles, mopeds, taxis turning a corner on a red light (sometimes left, sometimes right, sometimes left across 6 lanes) continue to do so.
  7. Wildebeest strategy now comes into play: the edge of the herd is the most dangerous place to be. So, I ensure that there are at least a couple of people between me and the oncoming vehicles: preferably children or the elderly. This is to ensure that I’m not the first one to get mowed down.
  8. Red light does countdown.
  9. Pedestrians now speed up as much as possible because…
  10. … at about 3 seconds to go, the taxis, buses, etc will start to drive through the junction (because almost-green is pretty much actually-green)

And there you have it. A condensed guide to city traffic in China. I’m no expert yet: I’m still perfecting the confident-stride-through-bike-lane, but that will come with time and practice.

Send him to the tower!

I’ve arrived. Shanghai is a pretty impressive place. I like to describe it as “four Londons next to each other, each as tall as Manhattan”.

[Warning: nerd information lies ahead]

In fact, I noticed that the Shard (not to be confused with the shart) opened this week in London, and at 300-or-so metres is the tallest building in the EU. I’d like to point out that Shanghai has at least 3 buildings over 400m and the new Shanghai Tower is going to be coming in next year at a whopping 630 metres! Take that, London.

by Huseyin Huseyin

A little bit taller than London

I’ve now settled into the 31st / 28th / 27th floor of my skyscraper office building. The building, Ciro’s Plaza, is names after Ciro’s dance hall, which originally stood on the site around a hundred years ago. The hall moved sites a few decades back, but they have kept a small reminder of the former site in the skyscraper’s name.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say in the coming months about working in a skyscraper. The major differences I’ve noticed so far:

  • ears popping in the lift,
  • much less space than I’m used to (if I lean back in my seat, I end up knocking into the person behind me),
  • and a much more interesting view out the window. No corn fields here!