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Around the World China

Buying an iPhone in China

Lately it was the time that I had to replace my old PDA with something new because I dropped it one time too much on the floor. Because we had business in Shanghai and found a shop with “original” iPhones we decided to switch to iPhones.

The first question when you buy something like an iPhone in China is: How can you be sure it really is an Apple iPhone and not a chinese clone? First I would suggest to search for some detailled pictures of original iPhones, they are very slim and have a characteristic position and border of the embedded camera. But I think the easiest way to identify an iPhone is the software on the phone. If you make a photo with the phone and scale it with the multi-touch ability of the iPhone the image scales and corrects the image resolution at the same time so that you can hardly see pixels while zooming.

So we went into this shop and in total bought 3 iPhones. The iPhones were neatly packed, seemingly in original, brand new boxes and my test showed that they were real Apple iPhones.

Before I bought the iPhones I didn’t now anything about jailbreaking and unlocking. I just tried my chinese and my german SIM card in the phone and both worked.

Back in the hotel the problems started. I reconfigured my phone and it didn’t work with any SIM card any more. So we went back to the shop and they made it run within 5 min and gave it back to me. While leaving they told me better not to update the software on the phone myself which finally made me really curious and back in the hotel I started an internet research to find out if the iPhones where original ones.

Especially the Apple Service and Repair webpage was very helpful. One of the iPhones was a replacement part without any guarantee, the other two were already several month old. Conclusion we bought refurbished iPhones sold as new ones. When the battery life of the replacement part showed that the battery was already quite old we decided to go back to the shop another time and ask the sellers directly about the fact that they hid that they sold refurbished iPhones.

The result was not really satisfactory. They changed the replacement iPhone with the damaged battery to another one but that was all.

Because one of us was really pissed off, she called the police later to ask them what to do. The police forwarded us to a special unit which deals with these matters and they told us that only China Unicom is allowed to sell iPhones in China and therefore they will do nothing about our case.

After we got this information I finally understood what happend to my iPhone which suddenly didn’t work any more and had a closer look on the installed software. The iPhones were original China Unicom phones which have been jailbreaked and unlocked!

As final resultI can only warn you to be aware that most phones, even in official China Mobile Reseller Shops like the one where we bought our phones, are fakes or refurbished. This puts the price we payed into a complete new perspective!

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Around the World China

Tropical Thunderstorms

When I arrived in Haikou a year ago my only experience with a tropical region has been 6 month on Martinique between my studies in physics and the start of my computer science studies. On Martinique the rainy season is about 3 month and the rest of the year there is more or less sunshine.

The September in Haikou last year has been nice even though it was quite warm with around 38°C. In October the Taifun season began and I can tell you that we got drown in our apartment in the fourth floor. The wind pressed the gigantic amount of water which has been carried along with the Taifun directly through the windows into the apartment. This rainy period continued more or less until mid December. The rest of December and January have been dry but unusual cold, specially because there is no heating in the apartment.

In February it started to rain again. First only sometimes and after a while more and more. Since two month now we have temperatures above 30°C and about one thunderstorm every day. The record has been three thunderstorms in a row during one afternoon. When you are outside in such a storm, there is no protection. When you wear a slicker you are wet from your own sweat, otherwise from the rain. The water in the road can easily raise to a torrent of more than 10cm depth. There is no sewer which can take that much water in such a short time even though the city of Haikou is cleaning them all the time. A gaze through the window shows me grey in grey during such a storm and I can hardly see the neighbour building which is only about 30m away.

I never imagined that on a tropical island like Hainan it could be more rainy than in northern Germany where I come from and which I once left because of the “bad weather”. I think life is really funny and we should enjoy this fact much more ! 😉

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Around the World China Misc Politics

Joke about EU request to stop internet filtering in China

This can only be a political joke!

I was pointed by the german netzpolitik.org and Die Neuen Menschen blogs to an article you can read in the news at N24 or Deutschlandradio about a statement from Viviane Reding, commissioner for media of the European Union, about the chinese internet filters.

“Das Blockieren oder Filtern bestimmter Internet-Inhalte ist für die Europäische Union völlig inakzeptabel.”

or in english translation:

“The blocking or filtering of certain internet content is completely inacceptable for the European Union.”

I mean the enforced distribution of the “Green Dam – Youth Escort” software is discussed in China as well and the installation is not mandatory any more as stated by the chinese government.

But I would suggest the European Union to first stop all internet filtering within the Union before pointing out that they think that internet filtering is inacceptable !!!

The internet citizens in Europe are laughing about this sentence. 😀

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Around the World China

Nice to live in China

It is very nice to live in China!

The weather during the last days on Hainan was around 34°C so you don’t have to freeze.

The food is not expensive, even though I have no idea about the quality because it seems not to be controlled who puts what on the plants, into the animals or products.

And I don’t have to fear too much disturbance from the internet. Most of the time I am not able to see pages like wordpress or other blogs, I have no access to my twitter account and confusing political statements about human rights like the ones from anmesty international are by courtesy of the chinese government completely taken out of the internet information stream.

In exchange I am living on a beautiful island in the south of China as can be seen on this picture I found:

The question is: Is it as real as the rest of the living in China?

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Around the World China

One Child Policy Enforcement

I wrote already about the “One Child Policy” in China. What I want to make absolute clear is that this is a policy of the Kommunist Party of China (KPC) and not a chinese law! There is no law in China which forbids families to have more then one child and so nobody can be forced by law to make an abortion when a woman is expecting her second child.

That much to the legal situation. But in China a policy of the KPC is much stronger than any law.

There is the Birth Control Bureau in China which is controlling the compliance of the One Child Policy. This Bureau has its own tactics to force people to obey the One Child Policy. It convinces women who are pregnant with their second Child to make an abortion, even in a state where the unborn child is already considered to be a human being in the western countries.

I just heard about one case where a worker from the Birth Control Bureau said:

This was an easy case, it took me only 20 days of talking to get the agreement for an abortion.

The woman was already high in her seventh month !

In another case the woman insisted in refusing to take an abortion but her younger brother was working for the government so they simply lowered his job until the woman finally agreed with an abortion.

Politicians, Churches and Human Rights Organisation criticize the situation of the human rights in China emphasizing on Tibet or the death penalty of criminals. But where is the lobby for an unknown number of unborn babies which are killed like this every year in China?

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Around the World China

Guangzhou

I just came back from Guangzhou where I had to go for a week. Guangzhou is a city with about 10.5 mio. habitants and when you arrive there coming from Haikou the impression is that of a very busy and dirty city. There is much more traffic and the air is simply not comparable to the fresh sea air in Haikou.

The pace in Guangzhou is much higher than in Haikou. You can see it when you have a look at the people who are hurring into the Metro or when you see the speed of the cars and busses in the streets. Even in the restaurants I have seen that during a normal lunch which took us about 30 min. on our neighbour table three groups of people have been serverd their lunch during the same time.

But luckily you can feel very safe when you are guarded even by the police during a coffee break at KFC 😉

One thing I really liked in Guangzhou are all the good restaurants. There are plenty of them and in all chinese and even many stranger country styles. Fortunately we didn’t have the time to visit more than two of them per day 😉 There were also some restaurants which offer specialties where I had to pass. For example one famous snake restaurant, … Therefore we found a very small but extremly good goose restaurant and got very big and yummy goose dishes for 25 RMB.

And Guangzhou is ideal for shopping. We have seen shopping malls which were bigger than half of the shopping malls of Haikou together.

Wherever you go in Guangzhou, its crowded. I have been in several big chinese cities but I think Guangzhou is only comparable to Shanghai when it comes to the crowds walking through the streets and shops and if you try to find a table in a restaurant during normal lunch time be prepared that you might wait for some minutes until one becomes free. But as I stated already you don’t have to wait for long 😉

Transportation is always a subject in China. Guangzhou has a very modern and fast Metro which covers already the main directions and is continuously extended. The regions of the city you cannot reach by Metro are very good covered by many bus lines.

Even though the traffic is already full of trucks and small transporters with supply you can still find the more traditional chinese transport systems as well. I had the luck to see this bicycle transporter with empty boxes which even found a solution against the rainy weather.

chinese transportation solution

At last we found an old european quarter. The houses are still more or less in the old european style which I am used to from Germany and old houses are repaired in the same way to conserve the unique style of this little island. We spent a nice an quiet afternoon on the terrace of the Starbucks with a good coffee and many muffins.

On this little island you can find restaurants from Italy and Germany but be prepared for the more european prices as well.

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Around the World China

Living on a Construction Site

On Haidian Island in Haikou where I am living they are constructing new buildings all the time. I guess the result will be a complete and modern part of Haikou because the old houses, step by step, have to give place to construction sites.

Unlike in Germany or Europe the chinese companies are not building and decorating a complete building until it is finished but they are building the the structure and normally enter windows and doors and than they are finished for the moment.

When an appartment is sold the new owner has to decorate the appartment, construct walls in the appartment to seperate it into rooms, kitchen and bathroom, lay a floor, make the electricity and so on until the appartment is ready for living.

This proceeding gives the customer the freedom to decorate the appartment exactly as he likes. The disadvantage of this naturally are the living conditions I am living in because as long as there are still undecorated appartments there will be the noise of construction work to finish them.

Here turnes up another habit in China. Unlike people in Europe the workers in China work seven days a week. There is no such thing as free weekend for normal workers. Except for the Spring Festival when the whole China is traveling home for holiday there is the noise of construction around me every day.

I take this as motivation to work nearly every day too 🙂

The good point, specially when you come from Europe, is that you can go shopping every single day in the year and this from the morning to the at least 22:00 and also your favourite restaurant will not have a day off when you choose to eat there which I had often when I thought about having dinner outside on sundays while I was still living in Switzerland 😉

At last I would like to show you an image of the new driving range not far from me with some old barracks still inhabited in the front and the new buildings already in the back.

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Around the World China

Lijiang

Naturally our journey in 2008 was to see the old town of Lijiang which is said to be one of the most beautiful ancient towns in China. Lijiang lies on the old tea horse trail and still has its characteristic system of waterways and bridges.


We took the bus from Kunming and it was a long drive even though the landscape of Yunnan was quiet beautiful. Finally we reached our small hotel in Schuhe which is a small town beside Lijiang and is nearly more interesting then the old town of Lijiang itself.

The hotel was a converted farmhouse which had two distinct houses  connected by stone walls which surrounded the court. In the whole town you can find rapid flowing waterways which even nowadays are used to clean vegetables or cool beer.


At night many restaurants are open and people are sitting on the paths or in the open bars, chatting eating and having fun. Lijiang together with Schuhe and two other small towns are UNESCO heritage sites and therefore protected directly by the Chinese Government. You can see everywhere that the tourism is booming and new houses are built in the old style to accommodate stranger and chinese visitors.

Lijiang

Apart from the old town Lijiang is a modern city and has many tourist attractions in its region.

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Around the World China

Tiger Leaping Gorge

In 2008 we made a tour to the famous old towns Dali and Lijiang in the Yunnan province in the northwest of China.

While visiting Lijiang we took the opportunity to make a trip to the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge of the Yangtse River which is about 60km from Lijiang. The gorge is a narrow gap of about 25m width in the valley between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Xueshan which has to be passed by the Yangtse River.

Together with some other visitors from our hotel we chartered a driver with a small van who brought us to the begin of the trail along the river. On our way we had the opportunity to take some pictures of the Yangtse from above during a gap in the clouds who accompanied us in the morning.

The path along the river is well maintained and flat and is said to be around 12km long with a dead end at the gorge. Parts of the path are dangerous because of possible rockfall and frequently you are asked to walk more on the mountain side.

The weeks before our visit have been very rainy so that the Yangtse water was yellow brown and the river was fast running carrying a lot of water.

Sometimes the path was cut through the mountain because the old path along the river has become too dangerous and was closed now. We could even see some huge boulders lying on these parts.

Finally arrived at the gorge we could enjoy a spectacular view of raging water rushing through the gorge as if it was boiling. There was so much thunder that even the ground was trembling below our feet.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

This view really was worth the trip 🙂

It is said that the name come from a tiger which escaped his hunters by a jump over the gorge. At the time we visited the gorge the poor tiger would probably have been cought by the hunters. The next image shows you the “normal” flowing Yangtse through the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

I copied this picture from Wikipedia where you can get more information about the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

On this picture you can see some huge boulders lying in the riverbed which might have been used by the tiger to cross the river. There are no visible boulders on my pictures. 😉

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Around the World China

Mount Huang

Last year we have been traveling to one of the primary touristic sites in China, Mount Huang in Anhui.

We started by taking a train from Changzhou to Huangshan, the nearest city to the mountain. Unfortunately we choose the friday evening to leave Changzhou because we could not imagine that the night train would be that full of people. We had bought tickets for seats but we were lucky to be able to enter the train after all. A little bit more crowded and we could have tried only by entering through the windows. No chance to get through to our seats at first.

The chinese people, used to such situations, are very patient and helpful but everybody watched the stranger as if I came from Mars. After about an hour standing in the door, unable to move or enter the compartment a train conducter squeezed himself through the crowed loosening it up enough that we could finally, with the combined help of all people standing in the corridor between us and our seats, reach the seats and sit down.

Around lunchtime next day, after an exhausting night in this train, we reached Huangshan where we changed into a bus for another two hours to go to our destination Tangkou at the foot of Mount Huang.

This night I was happy to see my bed because beeing squeezed like a sardine in a can is not really relaxing for me with my nearly 2m.



Next day we relaxed a little bit in Tangkou, bought some supply for our trip up the Mount Huang, had lunch and dinner in nice restaurants and our first impression of Mount Huang who is dominating the view.


But before we attacked the Mount Huang we tried our strenght on a smaller walk up to the site of the Nine Dragon Waterfalls which is near Tangkou too.

Here for the first time I realised the difference between me taking photos and the chinese tourists. When I take a photo mainly I take subjects of the surrounding area and views, if I can without too many people in the image 😉 The chinese tourists seem not interested in taking photos of beautiful views themselves. They only make photos if they are standing in front of the view to show where they have been.


Actually it was about 30°C warm and very sunny and I sweated a lot and got a little sunburn which made me not really confident for the next day when we wanted to start our big tour up the mountain.


Next day we started in the morning with a taxi which drove us to the eastern gate of the mountain area. Luckily the sunshine was not so strong and many of the stairs which lead up this trail lie in the shadow of trees.

The whole Mount Huang region would be unaccessible if there were not stairs, stairs, stairs up and down the steep hillsides which lead into the mountain.

Did you ever try to climb stairs for about 5-6 hours? That is walking up to the Mount Huang 😉 There was another small inconvenience especially for me. My shoe size is 48 and exceeds therefore the standard chinese size a little bit. Many of the stairs, specially in steep parts, are that short that sometimes for a good while of the track I could only walk on my tiptoes like a ballerina 😀 Now I understand better why they are always so slim, its really exhausting to walk like this in particular up a mountain.

But there were others who were completely unimpressed by the stairs. Because the stairs are the only way besides the cable car to transport things into the Mount Huang there are many people making their living from carrying supply into the mountains. From my own experience I can tell that they transported everything from food, drinks, clothes to wooden bars, electric cables and pipes.

As we asked they told us that each of them is carrying around 80kg at each ascent and if they can get payload, also on their way down. There were legions of these small men walking up the mountain and we could hardly match their incredible speed. While we only made it up the mountain during the day they went up and returned in the evening.

When we were still in the small town we were told to take our own supply with us because the prices on the mountain are very high. Therefore I was carrying my big backpack stuffed with food and water. Actually when you see how everything is transported up the mountain and try to carry your own part up these steep stairs I think the prices on the top where quiet reasonable. 🙂

Finally we made it to the top and walked on a more or less flat walkway to our camp where we have rented a tent for the night.

Next morning we got up extremly early at about 4 to see the sunrise over the mountain. We could see some sunrise but we were not lucky enough to have a free view without clouds as seen in many touristic images about Mount Huang.


Because we were so early and there was not so much to see we decided to make the tour through the western canyon which is famous for his thousands of stairs before we went home.

As a resume I would say don’t carry much supply, only take a snack and a bottle of water and even though there are no real maps of the region you cannot get lost because everything is very well maintained and there are signs everywhere indicating the directions.

Further information can be found on Wikipedia.