Saturday/ Shanghai’s World Expo is open

I made it in to HK last night with the bus.   (Some co-workers asked – you are going there again?  Well, yes.   What’s the matter with going back several times to a place with history and culture and lots of people?). Last night marked the opening of the Shanghai World Expo that will run through October with a ceremony that the newspaper reports rivalled the Beijing Olympic Games’ opening ceremony.   It’s seen as Shanghai’s bid to re-stablish itself as a world city; they expect 7o million visitors.  The first picture is from Google’s Hong Kong home page.

The three sharply dressed Asian girls are from a billboard in the subway: the people on the bus are on Yee Wo Avenue where this weekend’s hotel is (the Marriott Courtyard was full!);  that’s the mirrored ceiling in the hotel lobby I used to take an impromptu picture, and there’s a map of the Hong Kong trams. 

This weekend’s mission is to ride on a tram.  Hong Kong Tramways is a tram system in Hong Kong and one of the earliest forms of public transport in Hong Kong. It is notable for being one of the three tramways in the world that have regular operation of double-decker trams—the others being Blackpool tramway, in England and the Alexandria Tram system in Egypt—and is the only system that runs exclusively using double-decker trams.

It’s Friday

The first picture is of the Shatoujiaou Port right west of Dameisha on the Hong Kong side.   There is a border crossing into Hong Kong right there which is now my preferred route of going to Hong Kong.  (Yes, I will go there tonight).   The other way – through Lo Wu train station in Shenzhen – could make one end up in a big-city traffic snarl-up, especially on a Friday night.

The second picture is of one of the dozen or so tunnels dotting the road between Shenzhen and Dameisha.    None of the tunnels are very long and it seems preference was given to keeping the road straight and flat, instead of making it curve around the hills on the coastline.

Thursday/ the Chongqing nuclear cave

Location of the Municipality of Chongqing within China

Here’s a note I got from a colleague here.   The 816 underground nuclear plant in Chongqing’s Fuling district, named by some media as “the world’s largest man-made cave,” opened for the first time in more than 40 years to visitors, the Chengdu Daily reported Monday.

The plant, totally hidden in Fuling’s Jinzishan mountain, saw its construction work start in 1967, but in 1984 when it was almost completed, the country called it off due to a favorable international environment for China. The plant was declassified in April 2002.

It is more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) long and has a total building area of 104,000 square meters (26 acres). It also has 18 large main caves and more than 130 roads, branch caves, tunnels and vertical shafts. More than 60,000 people have worked for the plant during its 17-year-long construction.

There are roads for cars, wind tunnels, drainage channels and warehouses for storing weapons and food. In order to prepare for potential wars, the cave can withstand 8.0-magnitude earthquakes and atomic and hydrogen bombs, said a tour guide.

Now only the nuclear reaction hall, which is the largest cave in the plant with a height of 79.6 meters but accounts for only one-tenth of the whole cave, is open to the public, said Hu Lindan, a person in charge of the plant’s maintenance.

Although the cave is open to visitors, there are strict limitations. There are soldiers standing guard at the entrance, and visitors are allowed in only when they have required certificates.

Wednesday/ feeling a little bullish? moo!

It’s actually a little ox about 3 inches long and 2 inches tall representing the Year of the Ox,  my birth year.

I bought it at the Chinese Arts and Crafts Center in Hong Kong after some hesitation – it was not cheap!   It is made of a colored glass called lazurite glass.     The mineral lazurite in its pure form exhibits  intense, deep, azure-blue, violet, light blue, or greenish-blue colors.

Tuesday/ the elusive blue laser pointer

The coolest color in laser pointers is blue right now – just out for commercial use reportedly after 8 years of research.  It uses a gallium nitride crystal to produce a 473 nanometer blue laser light which is sure to make all other laser pointer owners green with envy – those with green ones as well as the red ones which are so cheap now that I picked one up for ¥20 /US$3 in Shenzhen some time ago.

Our project manager has found a shop that sells blue laser pointers in Shanghai for ¥500 /US$80.   Should I get one?  (Should I get you one? Let me know by Friday).    I see the website thinkgeek sells them for US$500.


Just a few more pictures from the weekend before I dive into the work week.   A colorful mushroom from an art gallery on Hollywood Ave in the antique district; I only discovered the area this weekend.   The Peninsula has been voted the world’s best hotel on several occasions, and is widely regarded as one of the region’s legendary properties.    New glamorous wall poster of a chic Asian gal clutching her HP notebook computer designed by Vivienne Tam nearby the Peninsula.

Sunday/ weekend pictures

I will let the pictures tell what I was up to this weekend.   I finally found the best way to get to Hong Kong : there is a luxury coach bus that leaves from the Sheraton Hotel and lets all of us go through the border, and picks us up again on the other side : very convenient.   Yes, it costs a whopping ¥75 (US$10) compared with ¥12 (US$2) for the municipal bus, but it’s worth it.

Pictures from the top : second visit to the Peak station, this time provided a very nice view of the city below.   Artsy display with T-Rex and Vitamin water at Peak station store; not sure what the connection is though.   Got me some Marmite at an international grocery store in Kowloon.  It was positioned between the American equivalent, Spam spread (didn’t know there was spam spread) , and the Australian : Vegemite !   How about some black-skinned chicken?  What makes the skin black? I don’t know.   Yes, the iPad is for sale here even though Apple says it is not : ).   It runs HK$5,000 (US$625) – too pricey to take a gamble on and buy here.  And the packaging looks a little suspect.  Poster from the department store SOGO.  It’s their 25th anniversary.   The two symbols for the Chinese ‘Thank You’ (third from the left) is pronounced  ‘shee-shee’.   Blurry over-the-heads steal picture I took in the night club Volume on Saturday night.   The dance floor was actually too crowded for any dancing.  You just drink your beer or cocktail and ogle all the people.   And listen to Lady Gaga singing Pokerface.

Friday/ black sesame

How about a black sesame green tea latte?  (The sign is from Starbucks at Hong Kong airport).  So!  I wondered : is there even such a thing as black sesame? Well, there is.   Black sesame soup is a popular Chinese dessert that can be widely found throughout China and Hong Kong.   In traditional Chinese medicine black sesame is thought to be beneficial for the liver and kidneys.

Since there is a rumor that we will start working Saturdays from next weekend, I’m heading out to Hong Kong tonight.  My friend Doug from Seattle will be there to say hello to, as well a group of people from work.    My Chinese colleagues chided me for going to Hong Kong when I could have gone to Ghangzou (4 hrs by train from Shenzhen) .. well, it takes preparation and some extra time to tackle that for a weekend travel project.     It’s been a rough 4 days at work with more to come next week, so it will be nice to go to the Marriott Courtyard and its neighborhood that I know well by now.   I love the little 7-11 store downstairs with its great selection of snacks and drinks, and some English newspapers and magazines to boot as well.


Happiness at home is a clean kitchen, right? .. and sharp-eyed readers will notice that I cheated and smuggled in some ‘Post’ Great Grains cereal from the USA (gasp!).   It’s on the fridge in front of the microwave oven.

I took the photo below my stroll outside on the street last night.    The bright white sign is a new LED sign at the supermarket.   I was sad to see the neon sign that it replaced go, since neon signs of Chinese characters are interesting to see up close.    It takes the art of bending the glass tubes to a new level !   I’ll dig up some pictures from Hong Kong and post them.

Wednesday/ Day of Mourning

Beijing declared today a day of mourning for the more than 2,000 victims of the Apr 14 earthquake in Jiegu in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region.

These photos from CNN’s website by Bruce Foreman.

Tuesday night/ some kě kǒu kě lè for you?

That’s Coca-Cola.   Recognize the last character?  It’s the happy character.  And kǒu means mouth so I guess Coke makes one’s mouth happy.   That’s my little tiger piggy bank keeping it company.   (The tiger does not look too happy!).

可口可乐          kě kǒu kě lè     Coca-Cola


My team has been kicked upstairs into cubicles here in the building where we work, an upgrade from the shoulder-to-shoulder desks in the big room where we worked until now.      We have several important meetings this week, some of which will address the work method we follow and take a hard look at where we are with the detail blueprint design.

Monday night/ back in Dameisha

Here I am, back in China.    ‘All’ it took this time was : 25 min taxi from home to Seatac airport, 2hrs wait, 40 min- prop plane ride (picture taken at Vancouver airport after arrival), 30 mins in Canada passport line, 1 hr detained at Canada customs, 1 hr wait for boarding, 13 hours in Cathay Pacific 747 business class, 20 mins in Hong Kong passport line, 30 mins drive in van to China border, 20 mins in China mainland passport line, 2 hrs in Shenzhen Monday evening traffic.

Yes, Canada customs had an icy reception for me – shunting me into a waiting room with 30 other passport offenders.  The reason (I was told only after a 1 hr wait) :  I was refused entry into Canada in 1995 on my South African passport. I recalled the incident only after I was finally allowed to go through : a group of us working for Spearhead Consultants in Rochester NY at the time, drove  down to Niagara Falls, then thought we’d try to look at it from the Canadian side.   When I presented my South African passport was told I need a visa, and I just turned around.  That’s a reason to stop me from setting foot in Vancouver 15 years later on my US passport?  Keep in mind I had come in and out of Canada multiple times on my South African passport after 1995 !   And was that customs agent RUDE.    I think it’s time we made Canada a Special Administrative Region of the United States, the way Hong Kong is of China.

The laser picture is taken from my back balcony.   I think a laser show is part of the close-of-day show at Outside China Town park which is close by.

Sunday/ at Seattle-Tacoma airport

The horse with jockey picture is from the Emerald Downs racetrack here in the Seattle area where my friends and I went to check out the horse races yesterday.   I bet a total of $21 and won $5.25 on the races .  ( I suppose I should keep my day job,  right?).

The street sign I saw on my walk in the neighborhood by my house had a nice cobweb with dew drops (which might be hard to see on the smaller picture).    As I turned to cross the street a guy on a bicycle almost crashed into me.   The street was eerily quiet, and so I didn’t even look up to check it was safe to cross.    I’m sure that would have put a dent in my travel plans out today!  Check and double check before crossing !

So here I am at Sea-Tac airport, ‘roughing’ it before I step onto Cathay Pacific in Vancouver.     I have no ‘status’ (as frequent flyers call it) on Alaska Airlines or Cathay Pacific, so when I walked up to the security line I had to join a line with oh, a 100 people.  Then I thought I’d check the other security point because I know all security points gets you to all the departure terminals and sure enough, there were THREE people in line at the other one.    Once inside though, I have no business class lounge access, so I’m in the main dining/ shopping hall with the huge window overlooking the tarmac.

Saturday/ packing my bags

I’m getting ready for shipping out tomorrow .. looks like the havoc that the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull is wreaking on European air travel will not affect my flight tomorrow.   More great pictures of the volcano on the link below.   It’s a new route that I’m trying – flying to Vancouver first and then to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. (Delta files direct to Hong Kong from Seattle but the flight is very expensive).  The Seattle-Vancouver-Hong Kong route a little shorter than the one through San Francisco.

Friday/ at the office

I’m making an appearance at the office today .. got to pick up some spare adapters for my teammates and take care of an expense report or two.    The first picture is close to my house, the little green leaves sprouting from the trees and the air crisp and cool in contrast to the warm and muggy air I’m going to on Sunday again.    The second one is on the way to downtown on Pine Street.   The Bauhaus coffee shop is a good non-Starbucks place to tune out over a book with a cup of coffee and looks a lot older than its 1993 start date.     Of course once I arrived at work I had to get my double tall soy vanilla latte here at one of THREE Starbuckses in the building : ), surveying the 8.00 am crowd waiting for their caffeine fixes along with me to get made –  and appreciating that I could understand all the chatter and buzz going on around me, cultural references included.    Come Monday I’ll be as dumb as a doorknob again among the Chinese people in the restaurant and in public !   I need to learn to speak Chinese, but where to find the time?  Maybe on the bus-ride to work and back with my iPod.

Thursday/ the Red Magic C.i. sports boys

The travel back and forth to China and Hong Kong has turned on my collector’s impulses : for pictures, for souvenirs, for currency bills and for little items such as these below which are part of the toy culture there.     Red Magic is the company and the C.i. boys sports series has figurines dressed in 12 different sports costumes, with all kinds of facial expressions. The little guys are only two inches tall – sold in little boxes, wrapped in foil, so only when one opens it, so you see if you actually got a new one for your collection.   I buy them at Hong Kong airport.

So from left to right :

Migu ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ (his stick horse is sucking on a beer bottle ! ), Uni the athlete, Poka the weight lifter, with a drop of drool or foam in the corner of his mouth : ) and Deri the tennis player.

Wednesday/ very early :)

It is barely Wednesday here at 12.48 am but I’m taking a break from work.  Yes .. my days here in Seattle from China have morphed into 2 hr or 4 hr sessions of work, sleep or something else around the clock.   I do try to make it to bed by 2 am and then I sleep in a little.   Like my pose on my back deck?  I just swept it.  (And is my hair really so grey? Must be the project.  I’m starting to look like Anderson Cooper from CNN.  He has a full head of white hair).  The laurel hedge behind me has been trimmed back well clear of the phone line coming into the house by my contractor-friend Paul, so I don’t have to worry about it interfering with the lines for at least a few years.

There is word today from China’s Qinghai province of a 6.9 earthquake, loss of several hundred lives reported so far. : (   It’s far from where we work in Guangdong province in the far south east of the country.

Tuesday/ King Ottokar’s Scepter

Here is my collection of ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’ Tintin books  with the addition of the Chinese language version (came out only in 2007).

Recognize the languages?  Clockwise : German, Slovak, Chinese and Afrikaans.  So where is the English one?  I made a mistake up on my last trip to South Africa and bought a second Afrikaans one (Tintin books are generally not sold in book stores in the USA, so I will order one from Amazon).

So .. is this just for the novelty, or am I serious to learn some written Chinese?  Let me get back to you on that.   It’s just so hard to figure out a written phrase because I cannot reproduce the characters easily.   I have to tease out the meaning of the Chinese characters from the English side.  What I have so far on the title panel of the book (never mind the 62 pages of cartoon strips with text inside! oof), is  :

王  wáng king or monarch / best or strongest of its type / grand / great (interestingly this is also used for the ubiquitous surname Wang in Chinese)

The last two characters 權  +  杖 = quán authority / power / right / temporary +  zhang crutches / crutch / walking stick,  together makes for ‘scepter’

Monday/ breakfast in America

Yes, I had to do a ‘breakfast in America’ post after the ‘breakfast in China’.   This is a bowl of All Bran Corn Flakes with granola, raisins and strawberry, with vanilla soy milk.  (Soy milk so that I can eat a little yogurt and get a latte from Starbucks later in the morning without getting a complete diary overdose).   Usually I put banana in my cereal but the grocery store ran out of the regular ones.  So I grabbed some red bananas from Ecuador, without knowing what they taste like.   These ones are evidently not ripe yet.  I only read on-line afterwards that the skin becomes bright red and the flesh soft and sweet.   Sounds good! so I will see if they ripen up in the next few days.