Monday, 31 December 2018

Beyond Your Imagination

What does this advertisement mean?
With Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou being released on bail pending an extradition hearing next year, tensions between China and Canada are tense to say the least.

This was coupled with basically the kidnappings of two Canadians and a third one who will be retried for drug smuggling because the judge deemed his sentence of 15 years as too lenient.

Do these images entice you to go?
But no worries! We will let the rule of law take its course in China...

In the meantime, why don't you Canadians consider visiting China?

Yesterday's Vancouver Sun had two full page ads, the front cover saying: "Amazing China: Beyond Your Imagination". Then underneath, "Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver".

Turn the page over and there's another full page ad that repeats the same slogan, with the requisite images of pandas, Temple of Heaven, Shanghai, Tibet and a Peking Opera performer. It seems like a hastily arranged advertisement with lots of money thrown in.

There is no other message, or explanation of how China is "Beyond Your Imagination" except for the fact that its government's actions when it comes to rule of law really are beyond your imagination.

Would any Canadian want to go to China on their free will these days? 


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Peppa the Pig Politically Rehabilitated


Peppa the Pig and her family celebrate Chinese New Year
The Chinese Communist Party has from time to time, banned certain things or people and later on decided they are kosher again and rehabilitated them politically.

Such is the case for a cartoon pig -- Peppa the Pig.

Earlier this year in the spring, the Chinese government banned Peppa the Pig, from tens of thousands of cartoon clips, to even the hashtag #PeppaPig, claiming the porcine character was associated with 社会人 or "society people", a slang term for lowlifes and gangsters.

Back in May Peppa the Pig was banned from China
According to state media outlet Global Times, people who upload videos of Peppa Pig tattoos and merchandise, and make Peppa-related jokes "run counter to the mainstream value and are usually poorly educated with no stable job. They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the [Communist] party tries to cultivate."

So that was the end of Peppa... until now.

With Chinese New Year around the corner -- guess what? It's the Year of the Pig!

And just in time for the Lunar New Year holiday, one movie that will be released is called Peppa Pig celebrates Chinese New Year.

She was a symbol for slackers that the government didn't like
The film will feature traditional Chinese customs during the festival, including a dragon parade and fireworks.

Interestingly the film, co-developed by Alibaba Pictures and a Canadian media company called Entertainment One, will feature the entire Peppa Pig cast and two new characters called Dumpling and Glutinous Rice Ball...

Wonder what happens to these two characters in the end...

Friday, 28 December 2018

MSG-Loaded Shanghainese


These delicate xiaolongbao are loaded with a really hot soup inside
Yesterday we had a late lunch at Long's Noodle House, a small Shanghainese eatery on Main Street in Vancouver.

When we arrived, we not only got street parking nearby, but also scored an empty table -- soon after a line started forming outside. The owners are a husband and wife team: he mans the kitchen, while his Mrs is the commander-in-chief of the dining area and proficient in both Chinese and English.

This place is well-known for its authentic Shanghainese dishes
We quickly made our order -- drunken chicken, xiaolongbao, zhajiang dan dan noodles, guotie or fried dumplings, and a thin savoury pancake wrapped with beef and fresh coriander.

The xiaolongbao were fantastic. We watched the woman making them right by the cashier. Not only were the wrappers thin, but also held a lot of soup too. We also liked the guotie with its meaty filling and crunchy doughy exterior.

Drunken chicken is another favourite, as the small, thinly sliced poached chicken is thoroughly marinated in Chinese wine, and the meat is hardly fatty.

We liked the noodles too, very hearty and slightly spicy with a minced pork sauce. The noodles were a challenge to wrestle with chopsticks, but we managed in the end.

The husband and wife who own the eatery work long hours
Then we ordered another round of xiaolongbao, along with pea shoots stir-fried with garlic that were delicious and fresh, as well as stir-fried river shrimps. However these were more baby shrimps than the Shanghainese ones; nevertheless they were cooked just right, not quite opaque and were quite crunchy.

Later that evening our dinner consisted of dishes we ordered take out from Long's Noodle House. The braised lion head featured salted egg yolk in the middle, while the short rib was delicious, oh and another round of drunken chicken.

However, in the middle of the night my brother suffered a terrible headache from the MSG in the food; perhaps I managed to dodge that bullet because I drank a lot of water just before going to bed.

The zhajiang dan dan noodles, though laden with MSG
So -- the lesson is eat at Long's Noodle House with caution and perhaps order a Coca-Cola to go with your meal...

Long's Noodle House
4853 Main Street
Vancouver
(604) 879 7879

Thursday, 27 December 2018

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Ma Jian, the former spymaster was jailed for life today for corruption
Chinese President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption continues with a vengeance. Today a former top spy chief was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of accepting 109 million yuan (US$15.8 million) in bribes, and crimes related to insider trading and forced share transfers.

Ma Jian was appointed deputy head of China's Ministry of State Security in 2006, in charge of counter-espionage operations. However, the crimes he was convicted of spanned a 15-year period, between 1999 and 2004.
Ma accepted bribes from Guo Wengui

After four years of detention was tried at Dalian Intermediate Court in northeast China, where he was also fined 50.5 million yuan.
The court ordered all of Ma's personal property confiscated and demanded the return of his ill-gotten gains.

During the trial, Ma confessed to the charges and said he would not appeal.

He received bribes totaling 109 million yuan to benefit several associates, including the brash tycoon Miles Guo Wengui, who is in self-imposed exile in New York City.

Ma is the highest ranking security official to be jailed since Zhou Yongkang, a former Politburo member who once oversaw the government's security operations but was jailed for life in 2015.

The ex-spy has the same name as novelist, Ma Jian (above)
One would think this story is straight forward, except that some media outlets have used the wrong picture of Ma and used the one of novelist Ma Jian -- who had trouble presenting his novel China Dream in Hong Kong in early November.

Both the former spy chief and the novelist have the same Chinese characters in their names (马建) which makes it all the more amusing and the latter has joked about it on Twitter:

"My children are puzzled to learn that I am not the author of China Dream, who has just made them seaweed dumplings for supper, but am instead a former spymaster who has just been jailed for life for accepting 'extremely large bribes'," he wrote.

Ma tweeted his amusement at being "jailed for life"
"This is a strange China Dream. Am I a banned novelist dreaming that I'm a corrupt spy chief, or am I a corrupt spy chief dreaming that I'm a banned novelist?"

Perhaps this is potential fodder for Ma -- the novelist's -- next story.

Justice for Wang Quanzhang?

Wang Quanzhang, his son and wife Li Wenzu before he was detained in 2015
While the rest of us celebrate Christmas -- from the birth of Jesus to Santa Claus getting you exactly what you want, to gathering with loved ones -- China uses that day to convict and jail people it deems a threat.

Most famously it was pro-democracy activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on December 25, 2009, and two years before that well-known Aids and environmental activist Hu Jia was arrested on Christmas Day and later sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.

Liu Xiaobo (right) was jailed on December 25, 2009
In 2015 Pu Zhiqiang, a lawyer who had represented artist Ai Weiwei was handed a three-year prison sentence just before Christmas, and in 2011, writers Chen Xi and Chen Wei were sentenced to 10 years and nine years in prison respectively on December 25. 

This year it was human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang's turn.

He was held incommunicado since July 2015 and only yesterday was tried in a secret trial that neither his wife nor his supporters could attend.

His wife was prevented from leaving her apartment in Beijing to go to the trial that was held in nearby Tianjin. Before his trial, she and other lawyers were prevented from visiting him to see how he was doing.

However, It seems Wang is still in strong spirits -- it was somehow leaked that he fired his lawyer in the courtroom which may have caused a delay in the proceedings.

What has he done wrong?

Li shaves her head in protest of Wang's detention
He is accused of "stirring up trouble", representing the banned group Falun Gong, colluding with a foreign-funded group to "propagate methods and tricks for resisting the government", and was one of the many lawyers who was rounded up in 2015 in a crackdown against human rights lawyers for "subversion of state power".

Meanwhile his wife, Li Wenzu is doing her best from the outside to draw attention to her husband's situation. She and other supporters have tried to go to the detention centre where Wang was being held, and this month they shaved their heads to protest what they said was the judges' failure to enforce Wang's rights under Chinese law.

The mandarin word for hair sounds similar to law.

"In Chinese, having no hair sounds like having no law," Li said. "We meant that we can do without our hair, but we can't do without law."

The fact that Wang has been held so long is a violation of China's own laws, as well as international ones.

She is denied access to her husband in detention
Michael Caster, a human rights advocate who previously worked with Wang in Beijing believes Wang's stubbornness "kept him going through years of abusive, incommunicado detention and given him the strength to refuse a forced confession. He was never one to be intimidated by threats from judges or by the physical abuse of police."

If there are angels, we hope they are watching over Wang. His story is being spread around the world.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

How to Keep Warm in China

Keep your uterus warm this winter with this patch
A friend just told me that during wintertime in China, many people who need to work outdoors manage to stay warm thanks to pocket warmers, like Hot Shots, or HotHands, or Zippo Hand Warmer.

There are ones specially designed for hands, and for inserting in shoes, and even to keep one's belly warm for up to eight hours.

Apparently there are ones specifically designed for women, and what are they called? 艾草暖宫贴 (ai gong nuan gong tie), literally -- uterus warmer.

Too amusing! What if a man uses it?

The End of Microflats?


Can you live in a space the size of a parking space and stay sane?
Finally the trend of squeezing into inhumane spaces is ending.

Some developers who got onto the bandwagon of offering microflats are now left holding the bag, as many have several units that still haven't been sold and buyers are demanding more space for their buck.

A staggering ratio of two of every three homes built in Hong Kong since 2016 were built this year, of these 976 units, 461 were still unsold, most of them microflats.

The trend started in late 2014, with demand so high and not enough flats available, some developers started carving up big flats and making them less than 200 sq ft and charging up to 14 percent more when another block of flats were released into the market.

Flats in Tuen Mun that were subdivided even smaller
The highest price for a microflat was set this past May when a 190-sq ft flat from developer New world Development in Sai Ying Pun was sold for HK$6.52 million, or an eye-watering HK$34,315 per sq ft.

And can you believe that one developer was thinking of making flats less than 100 sq ft and selling them for HK$1 million in Tuen Mun, but then logistically it was impossible for construction workers to be able to physically fit the flat with all the amenities necessary.

In the end the developer squeezed out 356 units in a 19-storey building, which meant an unbelievable 29 units per floor at 130 to 140 sq ft each -- smaller than a standard parking space at 134 sq ft or a 20-ft shipping container at 158 sq ft.

Another developer, Filipino tycoon Lucio Tan's Eton Properties was ordered by the Hong Kong Lands Department to stop leasing co-living spaces at the prestigious address of 53 Shouson Hills.

18 luxury flats at 53 Shouson Hill were subdivided into 500
Eton had converted three luxury properties into more than 500 subdivided units, measuring between 60 and 1,200 sq ft with rent starting at HK$4,000 a month. The authorities ordered Eton to return all 18 flats to their original design.

One young couple, Joshua Lin, 27 and his wife, bought a tiny 160 sq ft flat in North Point. He took out a mortgage to pay for half of the HK$4 million cost of the flat, his parents helped him with the remainder. His mortgage payments are HK$8,500 a month.

"It's a challenge to fit a bed and a wardrobe into such a tiny apartment," Lin said, where the living room measures 97 sq ft. While the one-bedroom flat should be turned into a studio, it's worth more if it has a bedroom...

It's already a challenge for one person to live in 160 sq ft, let alone two people. Is this what Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had in mind as a way for young people to establish their lives in Hong Kong?

It's enough to depress and frighten them away from the prospect of trying to earn enough to get a bigger flat, and to have children.

Owning a micro flat because that's all they can afford is hardly something to aspire to...

Sunday, 23 December 2018

A Christmas Reading


Hearing A Christmas Carol read again brought back memories of high school
So I've put up the Christmas tree, wrapped all the presents and have put the turkey in the brine, but have now done another festive thing -- attended a Christmas reading.

Specifically, it was a reading of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

I read the story back in high school, but haven't listened to it in one go. A reading was held in a neighbourhood church this evening so I decided to check it out. Also, two of the readers are ex-colleagues of mine I haven't seen in years so it was a nice way to catch up.

Chains were dragged on the floor for extra sound effects
Despite the CAD$25 (HK$144) ticket -- with all proceeds going to a local children's charity -- the church was almost full and I arrived 15 minutes early. I managed to snag a seat near the back and waited for the event to begin that also included some songs.

The rector welcomed everyone and invited everyone to sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing before the reading of A Christmas Carol began. It was split up among five readers, and to make it even more fun there were sound effects too.

There were door knocks and door slams, bells ringing, dramatic laughing, and for the appearance of Jacob Marley's ghost, the rattling of chains dragging on the floor could be heard.

While it was fun listening to the story being told, our posteriors were uncomfortable sitting on the hard wooden pews! Nevertheless in the end the reading was about an hour and a half long and was run was efficiently as possible.

The story has humour that's still relevant today
I didn't remember the sly comments Dickens made in his story, that still hold up very well today. I forgot there were bits of humour in it, only remembering Scrooge's horror of seeing Marley's ghost and how terrified he was of seeing his own dead body.

Listening to A Christmas Carol is a nice reminder for us to think about how we want to be remembered -- that will determine how we treat others.


Friday, 21 December 2018

Flying Air Canada's Dreamliner


Air Canada's Dreamliner that flies from Vancouver to Hong Kong
I flew back to Vancouver yesterday on Air Canada's new Dreamliner Boeing 787.

There are good and bad points. For us in cattle class, it's very cramped, though there seems to be enough overhead locker space to hold hand luggage, and even for someone vertically-challenged like, me, you will need it.

I found myself not having much legroom after putting one hand luggage underneath the seat in front of me despite being in an aisle seat. When people walk by and especially when flight attendants wheel carts through, there's no extra room.

The economy seats don't allow for much legroom
The seats are OK -- there's a USB charger for the phone, but unlike Cathay Pacific, it doesn't have an extra space to cradle the device while you're eating, for example.

The woman next to me in the middle seat complained of condensation dripping on her despite her and her partner trying to wipe down the source of the drip. The new Dreamliner claims to have superior humidity control, and in general I was fine with the temperature -- it wasn't too cold when covered with a blanket.

An interesting aspect is that the windows were never covered throughout the flight -- that's because the Dreamliner has smart glass windows that darken to allow passengers to adjust the amount of sunlight that is let through.

It was never too bright, and when the aircraft was dark, there was a blueish tinge coming from the windows. One wonders if it was colder sitting by the window without the shade to cover it.

Nevertheless, there are two washrooms at each section, and they are slightly larger than the typical ones, one is even wheelchair accessible, though you can easily hear passengers' conversations next door.

There isn't much entertainment variety
Overall the flight was alright, though at one point after collecting trays from our first meal, one flight attendant tripped a few rows behind me and couldn't get up -- a male flight attendant had to haul her up and she was incapacitated for the rest of the flight.

Another good service with Air Canada was the flight attendants coming through often with water -- this was hardly the case with Cathay Pacific especially from Rome back to Hong Kong; we had to ask for water.

But back to the Dreamliner -- is this another way to get passengers to pony up more cash to fly premium economy or business? We can't afford it!


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Xi's Unswerving Devotion to Rhetoric

This year marks the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up of China
China is marking the 40th anniversary of opening up and reform, though President Xi Jinping has warned no one can boss the Middle Kingdom around, in a veiled reference to the United States.

At one point during the one hour and 30-minute speech at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party, Xi said: "没有可以对中国人民颐指气使的教师爷", which means: "Nobody can be the teacher master of the Chinese people."

Xi told the country to continue reforms... what about the US?
He said China should continue reforms and opening up, however painful this may be. "We must, unswervingly, reinforce the development of the state economy while, unswervingly, encouraging, supporting and guiding the development of the non-state economy."

During the speech, Xi also reaffirmed the ruling Communist Party's leadership in all aspects of society, and said reforms should be in line with the overall goal of improving the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.

"Opening brings progress, while closure leads to backwardness," he said.

Despite the rah-rah speech to rally the country in this milestone anniversary, the stock markets weren't impressed and dropped -- while Xi was speaking.

The Shanghai Composite index fell 0.8 percent, while the blue-chip CSI300 index lost 1 percent, tracking broadly lower Asian shares.

Deng Xiaoping was the godfather of China's opening up
Some analysts and investors were hoping Xi would indicate "clearer priorities to counter economic headwinds and trade tensions that have flared with the United States," says the Times, but they were disappointed.

"Instead, he used the meeting, broadcast live on Chinese television, to stress that only the party's dominance would allow China to continue its stunning transformation into the decades ahead."

Perhaps Xi was not going to let the US and Trump get in the way of his political rhetoric on this historic day, but was Xi aware or even care his words would have such a negative effect on the stock market?

Seems that the Chinese president is all about rhetoric and no clear plan. Or maybe senior officials still haven't figured out what they're going to do -- just yet.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Christmas Banned in a Chinese Town


The grinch has arrived in Langfang, Hebei province in northern China
The local government in Langfang, a Chinese town in Hebei province, is the Christmas grinch this year.

Officials have ordered the removal of all festive decorations and banned shops from holding sales to "maintain stability".

The statement from the city management office of Langfang also appealed to the public to report anyone "spreading religion" in parks and squares, though it didn't specify which religion.

All Christmas decorations are banned from the city
Christmas isn't a recognized holiday in China, though for many particularly young people it's an excuse to hang out with friends at restaurants and bars, or buying gifts.

Langfang isn't the first place to ban Christmas -- in December last year, members of the Communist Party's Youth League at the University of South China in Hunan province were asked to sign a code of conduct that they would not participate in Christmas-related celebrations.

In the case of Langfang, local officials said anyone caught selling Christmas trees, wreaths, stockings or Santa Claus figurines in the city would be published, while shops are prohibited from holding Christmas performances or promotional sales.

This ban comes after the government has been cracking down on people practicing Christianity. On Saturday morning, more than 60 police officers and officials stormed a children's Bible class in Guangzhou.

Langfang may be trying to please Beijing through the ban
The authorities also shut down the 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing in September, and Chengdu's 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church last week. In the latter case, about 100 worshippers were snatched from their homes or from the streets in coordinated raids.

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon the recent raids on churches reflected the government's attitude towards Christianity, and the move by Langfang officials in Hebei may have been intended to impress Beijing.

"The authorities in Langfang might want to show how much they are ready to please the central government by banning Christmas decorations and sales.

"However, it also shows their ignorance about what Christmas really means for Christians, which is not about shopping or party celebrations, but it's the time to manifest their faith."

It's also interesting to keep in mind China manufactured and exported 60 percent of the world's artificial Christmas trees in 2017, according to Xinhua.

Why isn't that banned?

Monday, 17 December 2018

A Bizarre Dining Experience

My unforgettable dinner tonight at Lei Garden in IFC
This evening, I attended an event at the Four Seasons Hong Kong in IFC mall. There were some small dishes to eat, but nothing substantial.

A friend, M, who arrived late was very hungry and another friend A suggested we have dinner at Lung King Heen, the hotel's fine dining Cantonese restaurant that continues to retain its three Michelin-star rating after 11 years.

However, the staff told us the restaurant was completely packed, so we decided to head to another restaurant in the mall, Lei Garden.

Our kale was supposed to look like this -- but ours was burnt
The restaurant has many branches around town and this one did not receive a Michelin star -- only two of its branches did. Nevertheless we were happy to find at 8.30pm there was a table for us.

We ordered some simple home-style dishes: soup of the day, stir-fried kale with ginger juice, steamed minced pork patty with salted egg, and chicken cooked in a clay pot with garlic and shallots.

The waiter soon came back and told us the daily soup was sold out. He suggested some other soups available, but we decided not to have any.

Then the plate of kale arrived and the three of us were shocked. The stir-fried kale was burnt and the leaves had turned yellow -- whoever cooked this dish did not know how to stir-fry vegetables and chose kale that was not fresh.

My friend A immediately called the server over and complained, saying the kale was burnt and yellow, and how could a well-known restaurant like Lei Garden in IFC serve a dish like this? We are not eating in a dai pai dong or street-side eatery! The server didn't apologize and explained that was the way it was cooked.

We ordered this dish but it was not prepared for us
We were flabbergasted. Stir-fried vegetables are supposed to be burnt?

M tried to take a bite of one while we were complaining and found it very bitter and couldn't finish it.

The fact that the server was unapologetic made us even more annoyed. She suggested we order the pea shoots cooked in chicken broth -- a safer choice.

I should have taken a photo of the kale as evidence, but we were so shocked at the time it didn't occur to us at all.

The chicken cooked in the clay pot rice was fine, and the pea shoots were on the bland side, but at least not burnt.

Then we asked where our steamed minced pork patty was.

The server returned and said it would be another 10 minutes. Excuse me? We ordered this at least half an hour ago! Someone in the kitchen completely forgot our order.

We gave up and paid the bill which came to HK$420 for three including a small bowl of rice.

What a bizarre experience in a well-known restaurant! We're not going back there anytime soon...

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Wanda Gets on Red Tourism Bandwagon


"Red" tourists take part in re-enacting the Long March in Yan'an
Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin is back in the limelight again -- this time to show off his patriotism.

His company Wanda Group announced this week it will build a theme park in Yan'an, the birthplace of the Communist Party to cash in on "red tourism".

The description of the project already sounds like an eye-roller -- located in the loess plateau of Shaanxi province near Gansu and Shanxi, the theme park will feature shopping malls, indoor parks, theatres and hotels built in the style of the 1930s, when Yan'an was the headquarters of the Communist Party.

Wang Jianlin's Wanda will promote "red tourism" in Yan'an
Construction on the 1.26 square kilometre project will begin in the first quarter of next year and expected to be completed in 2021, in time for the party's centenary celebrations, Wanda said.

"Wanda is committed to the Yan'an spirit and will turn the Yan'an Wanda City into a new brand for red tourism," Wang said in a statement.

For the past year the developer, China's wealthiest man in 2017, according to Forbes, was laying low, after he dispersed his US$9.4 billion in hotels and tourism assets to rivals Sunac China and Guangzhou R&F Properties to relieve Wanda from its heavy debts.

In October, Wanda disposed of its last remaining stake in its tourism projects for 6.28 billion yuan.

The company had attracted the scrutiny of China's banking and securities regulators for over leveraging acquisitions it made overseas, such as for yacht builder Sunseeker, AMC chain of cameras, real estate around the world, and even Iron Man races.

Mao Zedong's modest cave in Yan'an during the Long March
But now it seems Wanda and Wang are back in the government's good books with another 20 billion yuan project in Lanzhou, the start of the ancient Silk Road, and this Yan'an theme park, that would take advantage of the 484 million tourists who pay homage to 436 historical sites around China that hold special significance to the Communist Party.

Yan'an is revered in particular, as it was here towards the end of the Long March that became the focal point of Chinese Communism. In 1935 Mao Zedong took the Red Army from Jiangxi province on an over 9,000-kilometre trek to Yan'an in 370 days.

We can't wait to see what Wanda does with its "red" theme park...










Wanda came under the scrutiny of China’s banking and securities regulators for the outsize leveraged acquisitions it undertook overseas, for such assets as the Sunseeker yacht builder, the AMC chain of cameras, real estate around the world and even the Iron Man races.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

A Lucky Break

A man (on the left) is seen throwing out banknotes from the top of a building
If you were in Sham Shui Po this afternoon, you would have seen something out of a movie -- thousands of HK$100 banknotes falling from the sky.

People on Fuk Wa Street scrambled to collect the money -- it looked legit -- though the police warned the public to handover the cash. In the end the police collected around HK$5,000 and didn't arrest anyone.

There was a rush of people trying to collect the money
It is believed the incident was a publicity stunt by a man known as "Coin Young Master", whose real name is Wong Ching-kit, who is believed to own Epoch Cryptocurrency, a Facebook page that promotes cryptocurrency.

In a Facebook video post after the stunt, Wong claimed he was "robbing the rich to help the poor". He also asked where else people would like to see the "strange phenomenon" or money falling from the sky.

Some people were worried he was causing a disturbance, while others were concerned about the source of the money.

Groan.

Sham Shui Po is Hong Kong's poorest neighbourhood, and he did intend to give it to people, so if you are there to collect the falling banknotes, why not?


Friday, 14 December 2018

Late NIght Shopping

There's a lot of people out shopping in Causeway Bay for Christmas
This evening after work I headed out to do some Christmas shopping in Causeway Bay.

I prefer shopping in the evenings because in general there are fewer people in the stores, though with Christmas less than two weeks away there were quite a lot of people with the same idea.

When I headed to Sogo department store there were fewer and fewer people the higher up the floors I went, which was a good thing. In the kids' section there were discounts, but for shops like Ferrari, Kenzo, Gucci and Paul Smith -- since when did he do kids' clothes, the prices were over HK$1,000.

Cute Paul Smith clothes for kids that I want to wear!
And Gucci even had those loafers lined with fake fur... really? At that age?

I went to one boutique for adult sportswear and was interested in buying some items when I looked at the time and it was 10.10pm.

I apologized to the saleswoman for keeping her late.

"Oh don't worry about it. We're open until 11.30pm today," she replied, explaining if Sogo wants to be open until 11.30pm, all the shops inside must stay open too.

I was shocked. "Who actually buys things at 11.30pm?" I asked incredulously.

Check out these Gucci loafers with fake fur
She replied she didn't know, but perhaps she wanted to prevent herself from complaining.

However, she did let it slip that from December 22-24 they would be open until midnight.

"Midnight!" I gasped. "Are there really people buying at that time?"

Again she and her colleague held back from giving their opinion on the matter. They had a job to do, and it was for however long they were expected to work.

So when you go shopping this holiday season, think of all the sales people who have to stand around until the wee hours to serve you. They deserve a break too.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

China's Boom in Airports?

Imagine the number of planes at the new Beijing Daxing International Airport

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), by 2035, China will have 450 airports -- nearly double the current number. If this projection is realized, then the Middle Kingdom will overtake the United States as the world's largest aviation market.

Would that really happen, given the dearth of pilots to be able to fly that many planes to keep all these airports busy?

Chinese express carriers are also struggling to secure landing rights at some of the country's busier airports, such as Beijing Capital International Airport, and instead turning to neighbouring Tianjin's Binhai Airport.

There is an ever-growing number of Chinese traveling by air, but is there enough qualified manpower to service them all?

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Meng Wanzhou's Life in a Bubble


Sabrina Meng Wanzhou was released Monday evening in Vancouver
A judge in Vancouver has granted bail to Huawei Technologies executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou. She had to pay CAD$7 million in cash, CAD$3 million surety made up of properties from four associates.

As part of her bail conditions, she has to stay at home on West 28th Avenue everyday from 11pm to 6am and must be monitored 24-hours a day with a security entourage and electronic ankle bracelet.

She will be staying in her home in the west side of Vancouver
She must also surrender her passports and can travel within Vancouver, the North Shore and parts of Richmond except the airport.

After she was released, she sent out a message on WeChat: "I am in Vancouver and back with my family. I am proud of Huawei, I am proud of my country. Thank you everyone who is concerned about my situation."

No doubt the local media will be camping out near her home everyday to monitor her too... it's attention she might have to get used to...


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Macau's Gigantic White Elephant

The enormous (and empty) new Taipa Ferry Terminal
If you go to Macau from Hong Kong, don't take the ferry that goes to the new terminal in Taipa.

Although it's a relatively new building (construction was postponed for several years) that finally opened in June last year, it's a giant white elephant that is hardly passenger friendly.

Wear comfortable shoes to walk the very long terminal
First of all it's so massive -- the size of 25 football fields -- that people need to walk forever just to get to the immigration counter; the people movers along the way are turned off and barricaded. For elderly travelers, it's their worst nightmare to have to walk for ages. And if you're carrying luggage or heavy bags, it's a marathon to test how strong your biceps are. Believe me I just tried it.

Once you get through immigration, then it's another long walk to get out of the terminal and to the free hotel shuttle buses that seems like another kilometre away. And these buses aren't in an area that is sheltered from the elements, so if there is heavy rain, good luck trying to stay dry waiting for the next shuttle.

The immigration area is absolutely cavernous
And then when you are leaving Macau, the ferry terminal puts the food court right at the entrance -- but they aren't even busy -- not even McDonald's. You have to decide then if you're going to get sustenance or not, because after that, the options are dire.

Again there is the epic walk to the gate -- if your ferry is at gate 16, good luck. It's far, far away.

The gates themselves have a small food stall, but it's pathetic to say the least. There's tea eggs and soy braised chicken feet, and sandwiches with one slice each of orange-looking cheese and pink ham. How delicious.

The hotel shuttles aren't sheltered from the elements
It cost 3.8 billion MOP to build this Taipa Ferry Terminal that is capable of handling 30 million passengers a year, but a year and a half later it's practically empty...