Three Chinese cities in top 10 most costly places for expats

Three Chinese cities in top 10 most costly places for expats
JISHOU, HUNAN — Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing are among the ten most expensive places to live for expats, according to Mercer, a global business consulting firm. Hong Kong is #1, with Shanghai in seventh place and Beijing in tenth. Other Asian cities in the top ten are Singapore and Tokyo, in fourth and fifth places respectively. Jishou is not included on the list, but it would be near the bottom, as rents are quite cheap here compared to the larger cities in China. Citing the Mercer study, the BBC reports that a two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Hong Kong rents for US$6,800, compared with $5,100 for a comparable apartment in New York. A cup of coffee in HK will set you back about US$8, but a hamburger meal is about $5. Some of the cities are expensive, because of their fearsome cost of living generally. Many Chinese, for example, have trouble affording housing in the nation’s largest cities. Other cities, such Luanda, Angola (#2) are in countries with weak currencies, which hurts expat pocketbooks. Mercer says it evaluates expats’ cost of living in some 200-odd cities by taking into account housing, education for children, transport and everything needed to live ...

NZ photog uses quadcopter to shoots Beijing, meets police

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, this photographer from New Zealand, Trey Ratcliff, had a great idea: visit Beijing and take bird’s-eye-view images of the city’s landmarks using his remote control quadcopter. One example is shown here. But he forgot one tiny detail. Beijing is not just the location of hundreds of historical sites, like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. It’s also the national capital, which means there are lots of government buildings and official residences. The authorities don’t look too kindly on aerial photography of these sensitive areas. I’ll refer you to his blog about the whole adventure. He wasn’t arrested, but the police did pull Ratcliff and his interpreter — both very personable sorts — in for questioning. His quadcopter was confiscated, but returned to him before he flew out of China. In all, Ratcliff was a very lucky fellow, and the photos he took with his setup are gorgeous! Take a look.

Video ad for a Chinese T-shirt company

Don’t worry, there are subtitles. It’s a long commercial for Beijing-based Plastered T-shirts. You can see some scenes of hutong life in it.

Team JiDa takes on Beijing, part 2

Team JiDa takes on Beijing, part 2
BEIJING — Now that Team JiDa was complete, we had to decide what to do for the next few days. We had at our disposal four full days and for three of those days, clear and dry weather, so shopping and tourist attractions beckoned. Though we had all gone to bed in the wee hours Thursday, we were all surprisingly alert by 9 am. First up, a walking trip to the Bank of China east of the hotel to exchange American greenbacks for Chinese yuan. Then, we took a not-so-successful trip to price cell phones in Zhongguancun 中关村, got lunch at Pizza Hut, and visited Yuanmingyuan 圆明园, which is a short subway ride away. Yuanmingyuan, also known as the Old Summer Palace, was the site of the Imperial Gardens, which the British and French ransacked and burned to the ground in 1860 during the Second Opium War. Now, the Gardens of Perfect Brightness are one of Beijing’s many tourist attractions, and Westerners — even British and French ones — are welcome to visit. Friday was our day to visit the Forbidden City. Though Sally, Vanilla and I had been to Tian’anmen Square twice so far, we saved the Forbidden City ...

Team JiDa takes on Beijing 6

Team JiDa takes on Beijing
BEIJING — I’ve been to Beijing now on four other occasions, two because I had to visit the US embassy and two just for kicks, hardly adequate qualifications to be a tour guide. Nevertheless, I am “leading” two Chinese students and three newly arrived Americans around the capital like I know what I’m doing. Hoo boy. A few months ago, my son told me he was going to visit me in China, so I advised him to come in through Beijing. Shortly afterward, I learned that Max, Karen and daughter Haley would be coming to Jishou U. So, I suggested they could arrive about the time my son would leave from Beijing, so I could drop him off and pick them up. Instead, ticket prices rose, and James couldn’t come this year, but I decided to stick to the second part of the plan and visit Beijing anyway. While I was riding around in a car in Anhui province the week before, I was chatting on QQ. The foreign affairs office at JiDa wants us to fly in and out of Changde now, instead of Changsha, since the Changde airport (though small) is two hours closer to Jishou than Changsha’s. ...

All aboard! 5

All aboard!
TIANJIN, CHINA — I have set a land speed record, for me, anyway. Last Sunday I went nearly 209 mph (334 km/hr), in complete comfort. No, not in a car. In one of China’s bullet trains. Last weekend, I had to visit the US Embassy in Beijing (for reasons I will explain below), and I had set aside one day of my three-day junket to sight-see. While my hotel was fairly close to the Bird’s Nest and the Olympic Park, I decided to add another city to my list of visited places — Tianjin, a historic city that hosted foreign concessions as far back as the 1860s. I would have skipped Tianjin for a more propitious time, but the idea of zipping along at an average speed of 150 mph was really appealing. I love trains. China is completely gonzo about high-speed rail services. Already blessed with an extensive conventional rail network, China is building new HSR lines to connect the provincial capitals and major cities. One such HSR line is the 73 mile (117 km) run between Beijing and Tianjin. China’s bullet trains are built by China High-speed Rail (CHR) using technology and designs shared by French, Japanese and ...

Passport (under) control, part 2 2

BEIJING — I cut short the previous post, because I realized what time it was: the beginning of rush hour! The time flew by while was writing; it was already 5 pm when I left the Starbucks. Rush hour in Beijing is like rush hour in any big city. As an experienced New Yorker, I knew what I was in for: commuters packed like sardines in a rolling tin can. It was either brave the commuting hordes, or sit in Starbucks for another hour to wait rush hour out. I decided to brave the crowds. Onve you have experienced the arcane, century-old NYC subway system, any newly designed (aka modern) system is a piece of cake. Beijing’s subway is no exception. Pardon me while I bore you with details. My hotel, part of the 7 Days Inn chain, is in Sihui, near my friend Katrina’s Beijing home. It is neat, no frills place, a bit like a Super 8 or a Motel 6. You get cable TV, a nice bathroom, a kingsize bed, free Internet, a smallish room, and free breakfast for 169 RMB a night. My stay here was a total of 1014 RMB for six nights, or about ...

Passport (under) control

BEIJING, CHINA — I am violating my no-Starbucks rule and chilling at the pervasive overpriced coffee house just a few blocks from the US Embassy. A caffe Americano (plain black coffee) here is 24 RMB, about $3.50. Some things are universal. The clientele is bit more international than in Louisville, of course. Within earshot were two women speaking German, a group of businessmen and women speaking Chinese, two Americans and one Caucasian woman fiercely intent on her iPod and laptop. This place, attached to a swanky hotel, is a bit more upscale than some SB’s I have visited, too. But then, that seems to be the norm here. (The Pizza Hut I visited earlier this week looked like a 4-star restaurant.) The purpose of my visit to Beijing now fulfilled, I can take time to record the last few days’ activities. Nothing really exciting happened, unless you count the afternoon spent shopping for a new laptop (which I am now using). My passport expires in September, but I have decided to stay longer than a year. At some point I needed to renew my passport, so I can renew my Chinese residence permit. It expires in early July, so first ...
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