Friday, February 29, 2008

One Free Extra Day This Month..

...So One More Post About The Olympics

Anywhere else in the world it would be considered harassment but we are in China…

China searches for Olympic medal ceremony hostesses with ideal looks (Xinhua)

"SHANGHAI - Young Chinese women whose "eye length is three-tenths of the face" and who have leveled shoulders and curvaceous thighs now have a competitive edge in joining the Olympic Games in August.
In another example of meticulous planning for the Summer Games, organizers are scouting for 40 hostesses among students in Shanghai's 10 universities -- with extremely detailed standards in appearance and body shape, local media reported.
According to the requirement, candidates should be between 18 and 24 and 1.68 and 1.78 meters in height. They should have a "ruddy and shiny complexion", "elastic skin" and "a plump but not fat body".
They should be built in such a way that helps demonstrate "the healthy and encouraging beauty of human bodies", added the requirement.
It also set strict standards on facial features, including the ratio between the "width of the nose and the length of the face", "width of the mouth and width between the pupils", Shanghai's Xinmin Evening News reported.
The candidates would also be judged from their demeanor and intellectual qualities by a panel of experts and have to go through three rounds of competitions before being selected.
Shanghai is the only place other than Beijing where Olympic organizers are searching for medal ceremony hostesses."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pick A Date...

...We'll Find An Etiquette Campaign

I just love the headline...

BEIJING - Kate and Leo did it on the Titanic, so why shouldn't Chinese? After all, the habit goes back five millenia.

Liu Ying, a Beijing Municipal Bureau of Health official, noted that spitting was a major cause of the spread of respiratory diseases, especially in spring, echoing a Chinese slogan: "Spitting kills even more than an atomic bomb." (…) "I think it's healthier to spit rather than to swallow," said a netizen who called himself Mop Paparazzi on the Liu, however, said people didn't understand the purpose of the drive. "We are calling for stopping the rampant spitting on the pavement, not urging everyone not to spit at all," she explained. "You can wrap your spit with a napkin and throw it into a trash bin," she added. (…) The Olympic host has taken a series of measures to curb spitting, such as the distribution of spit sacks and a 50-yuan (US$7) fine for spitters.

A recent survey by the Beijing-based Renmin University found that in 2007, 2.54 percent of people surveyed in Beijing still spat in public, down by 2.36 percentage points from 2006. Or at least, that was how many admitted doing so. Many Chinese take the practice for granted.

I’m pretty sure that those 2.54 percent all live in my neighborhood!!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

To Drive Or..

...Not To Drive

I read the following article a few months ago in “That’s Beijing” Magazine:

Checking out that new McDonald's drive-thru in Changping District has just gotten a little bit easier for foreigners due to a new regulation. Temporary driver's licenses can be acquired for a maximum of 90 days, applicants are exempt from the tests normally required, and there are no limitations on the number of times a driver can re-apply – all starting this year.

The reason for this change, speculates Jeff Jia, Director of Beijing Easy Business Services, is for the convenience of visitors descending on the city for the 2008 Olympic Games. "If everything is convenient for tourists – tourist information systems, road conditions, road networks and traffic signs, road markings – more people [will be] interested in driving … [especially] those people who want to discover the real China." According to Jia, fees for this service have yet to be set by the government. At press time, temporary visa applicants need only pay for their photos, medical examination and other materials that need to be submitted.

But don't retire those hitchhiking thumbs just yet, as only foreigners in possession of visas with a validity period of three months or less are permitted to apply. Not ideal, but at least the three-month F visa finally has its benefits.

Didn’t think much about it until I read this other article last week:

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tourists seeking their own Olympian challenge while attending the Beijing Games this August might be tempted to get behind the wheel of a rental car and take a spin on the roads of the Chinese capital. For these intrepid tourists, here are some tips about how to drive in Beijing, a city with three million vehicles on its roads. Those who find the road rules overwhelming can ride the subway or take taxis, buses or limousines to sports venues.

1. Physics 101
Beijing drivers seem eager to challenge the physics principle that no two objects can simultaneously occupy the same point in space.
For instance, lane markers are largely ignored, serving no real purpose in keeping cars apart. When drivers want to get a good look down the road but the view is blocked by cars in front, drivers don't think twice about sliding halfway into the next lane and then straddling two lanes for as long as seems comfortable.
It's also not uncommon for drivers who have missed their exits to simply put the car in reverse and back up into traffic.

2. No-Look Turns
Some countries have rules allowing right turns on red lights. Beijing has something unique: No-look turns. That's right, they follow the maxim that "if you see me, you're responsible for not hitting me," and its corollary, "if I don't see you, it's not my fault if I hit you."
As a result, drivers regularly come flying into streets, merge onto highways or even switch lanes without the slightest attempt to check whether the way is clear. This habit seems a direct extension of China's bicycle culture, whereby every move is a calculated negotiation among throngs of cyclists flowing at roughly the same speed and in the same direction.
Keep your eyes open.

3. Emergency Lights
Don't panic if you see a police vehicle's flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. As a Chinese friend explained, police and other emergency workers typically turn them on just to show they are on duty. If there's no accompanying siren or honking, you can ignore them. Everyone does.
China may be an authoritarian state, but that doesn't mean authorities get much respect. Certainly, on the road they have to fend for themselves. Ordinary drivers can be seen honking and flashing bright lights at patrol cars that were deemed to be going too slowly.

4. Lost in Beijing
Reading maps is critical for anyone navigating a foreign city. But newcomers to Beijing may want to familiarize themselves not just with Beijing's main streets but also its bridges. That's because major intersections are known by the names of the overpass bridges that link intersecting streets.
Strangely, English maps give only the names of the roads, not the bridges. Road signs, however, give distances to upcoming bridges, not the roads. Go figure.

5. Give An Inch
Perhaps it's understandable in a country of 1.3 billion people that you don't get ahead by patiently waiting your turn. On the road, as in other aspects of their lives, Beijingers tend to grab opportunities whenever they appear. Such chances might come in the form of a few inches of space between cars in the next lane, just enough to squeeze in the car's nose and present the driver behind with the dilemma of giving way or causing a collision. The good thing is that Chinese drivers are generally not aggressive, and the high-testosterone road rage that is common on many U.S. highways, for instance, is not typical in Beijing.

6. Now Exhale
To its credit, Beijing is trying to keep drunk drivers off the road by making random spot-checks. Officers armed with portable breathalyzers jump from the curb when cars stop for red lights, forcing drivers to exhale into the machines. Unfortunately, the mouthpieces are used over and over as the officers move down a row of cars. When this driver made a feeble attempt to blow into the machine without making contact with the mouthpiece, an impatient officer suspected he'd caught a transgressor. He ordered me to the curb-side for a more thorough check. This time, though, he took a new mouthpiece from its plastic seal before the second test, which gave me the all-clear.

Happy driving, but be careful out there!

Well it doesn’t help me… since I’m not here on a tourist visa so if I ever want to drive I’d better go back to that funny translation of the Chinese Driving Code (more about this later!).

Anyhow this article made me wonder which one of the tourists who just stepped out of the airplane or the residents who have been living here for a few months, years and start to grasp the concept of driving by the Chinese, are more qualified hence allowed to drive in China.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Cube, Some Water

...And A Few (Synchronized) Divers

The Water Cube, formally known as the National Aquatics Center, opened to the public a month ago (28th January). The building is recognized for its unique, bubble-like out padding made of ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene plastic pillow. It’s a 11,000-seat venue and apparently "The water in the pool is even better than drinking water." (!!). It cost 1.02 billion yuan (€102 million or $150 million) and was mostly funded apparently by wealthy Chinese living outside of the mainland.
We decided with a group of friends to take advantage of the Good Luck Beijing events that are going on (a good way of testing the new venues) and check out the venue ourselves before the crowds next August (check here if you don’t know what I’m talking about!!).
Our impression: due to Beijing weather and pollution (really Beijing is polluted?) the outside structure looked already dirty and worn and the interior was nothing to brag about. We thought that the cube looked more appealing from a distance and it apparently looks amazing at night when the bubbles are lit up.

The Outside !
The Pools!
The Inside!

At Night (Photo: China Daily)

At night time

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's Over...

(No, We Are Not Moving!)

It’s just Lantern Festival today which means the end of “It sounds like I’ve been living in a city under siege for the past 15 days”…. Because of the firework that is to say. One more big bang tonight and from tomorrow people can go back to a peaceful night of sleep. It personally didn’t bother me because I can sleep through any noise!!

Again if you want to know about Lantern festival… refer to last year post. Updating the blog this year is going to be so much faster… just need a few link to last year posts and here you go!!

Great time to buy them… they are on sale!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Did We Do?

...There must be some big meetings going on

Pekin Accueil web site blocked for the first time

Click on the picture to enlarge
Click on the "Back" button of your browser to come back to this page

Even Gmail chat wasn't working...

Click on the picture to enlarge
Click on the "Back" button of your browser to come back to this page

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Since We Are On The Subject...

...Not that Valentine OR playboy has anything to do with the following but:

Condoms no longer evidence of prostitution in China (as of December 2007)
"Now police departments at all levels no longer take condoms as the proof of illegal sex activities in entertainment venues" said Han Mengjie, secretary of the National Center for AIDS Control and Prevention
All hotels in Beijing will be required to provide condoms in every room by the end of next year, though so far they are only available in 133 hotels out of 700 in Beijing, according to local government statistics.

And we all know what they do with used condoms!

There are even fake beauty salons!! (Reuters, Sept. 2007):
Beijing has launched a month-long crackdown on unlicensed beauty parlours and other common fronts for prostitution and gambling to sanitise the city ahead of a key Communist Party meeting next month.
Unregistered karaoke bars and bathhouses would also be targeted in a blitz across the city launched by 11 government departments, Friday's Beijing News reported.
"One third of the prostitutes detained by police in Beijing this year have come from these illegal beauty parlours," the paper quoted an unnamed police official as saying. "These salons make up 50 percent of all the prostitution dens in Beijing."
Police have also instructed China's growing ranks of property owners not to rent out their homes to people who "stay out late" and have "irregular lifestyles", the China Daily said in a separate report
The advice comes a week after Shanghai housing authorities drafted rules urging landlords not to rent rooms to unmarried couples and gays.(…) Other campaigns have included stripping highways of billboard advertisements for luxury goods that might fuel discontent among Beijing's poor, and cleansing local airwaves of "vulgar" and unpatriotic content.

Friday, February 15, 2008

...And Playboy

(Not that there is any correlation)

It all started with an interview of China Publications Import and Export Corporation vice-president Liang Jianrui who told China Daily: "We will provide most of the world's top-selling newspapers and magazines." So far nothing to stop the press since the relaxation of curbs on magazines and newspapers follows Olympic protocol. Previous host cities like Athens, Sydney and Atlanta were also asked to ensure journalists and athletes had access to all leading international publications. But then Liang also distinctly mentioned Playboy this way: "Our law forbids Playboy and we should obey this, but we can't rule out the possibility that it might make its debut (in China). There might be a demand for it." Although several influential domestic Chinese newspapers have since reported that they could not get official confirmation of the executive's remark --I presume no one would announce such a decision under the circumstances, even if there were one –

Beijing is going all out on a PR offensive to show the world next summer that it is an international city and is ready to bend the rules to give visitors a more comfortable stay. In addition to implementing a citywide clean-up campaign involving taxi-drivers and social etiquette lessons, it is ramping up English learning across the city, recruiting an unprecedented number of volunteers for the Games and doing its utmost to sanitize the environment and food hygiene levels in the city.
The good news for athletes, tourists and journalists during the 2008 Olympics is that they will be able to find many of their favorite paperbacks at downtown bookstores, while also being able to catch up on the latest news from the nine designated kiosks only hours after publications like the Financial Times are printed in Hong Kong. Popular Asian newspapers such as Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Singapore's The Strait Times and France's L'Equipe will also be available, said Liang. Liang said his company is also talking with leading newspapers including The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times to keep down retail costs and make sure the papers arrive in a timely manner. These two dailies do not have access to printing presses in Hong Kong and must be flown from the United States to Beijing.

Each kiosk will retail over 100 kinds of newspapers and magazines, including publications that are difficult to find like The New York Times, Newsweek and Britain's The Sun famous for its topless Page 3 models. In the illustrative map published in China Daily, there were nine kiosks. Six of these are close to the National Stadium. There are three in the Olympics media village, one each in the Main Press Center, the Olympics Village and the International Broadcasting Center. Another one is at the Huabei Hotel, which will accommodate unregistered journalists. The one in Qingdao city is also located in the media center. It would seem that apart from the one kiosk at the Olympic Green, all the other kiosks are in places for journalists and athletes.

Conveniently located for the Athletes AND Journalists

One other blog made the following comment:
It shows that the authorities have come to the laughable conclusion that when foreigners complain about the lack of freedom of the press in China they are referring to pornography. (we’re talking about the BBC being constantly blocked.)
Even better than the fact that China appears to think that allowing porn equals free press, there seems to be an implication that the foreign athletes will go crazy without a playboy for a few weeks. The impression seems to be that after years of training, during the most two important weeks of their young lives these athletes will be hunting the city’s news stands for girlie mags.

I sure will keep you posted on the availability of the bunny magazine in Beijing next August. In fact I might have to send Jeff to find out since I will be in France where I’m pretty sure it is available (not that I would know!)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


This is the one post every year that is dedicated to my loyal male reader(s?).

February Marie Claire Supplement

Dear you, if after looking at this magazine cover far too long (I know you did!) you plan on buying lingerie for you lovely wife/partner/mistress (?, we are in China!), feel free to download the user-friendly chart guide provided in last year post

* Magazine cover and idea for the post from camille

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Right Or...

...Wrong Left

That driving on the wrong, sorry left, side of the road in Thailand made me wonder how many and which countries do indeed drive on the left and why?
A little google-ing and here’s part of the answer:

About a quarter of the world drives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly old British colonies. Up to the late 1700's, everybody traveled on the left side of the road because it's the sensible option for feudal, violent societies of mostly right-handed people. Jousting knights with their lances under their right arm naturally passed on each other's right, and if you passed a stranger on the road you walked on the left to ensure that your protective sword arm was between yourself and him.
Revolutionary France, however, overturned this practice as part of its sweeping social rethink. A change was carried out all over continental Europe by Napoleon. The reason it changed under Napoleon was because he was left handed his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and any opponent.
From then on, any part of the world which was at some time part of the British Empire was thus left hand and any part colonized by the French was right hand.

In America, the French colonized the southern states (Louisiana for instance) and the Canadian east coast (Quebec). The Dutch colonized New York (or New Amsterdam). The Spanish and Portuguese colonized the southern Americas. So the British were a minority in shaping the 'traffic'. The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was anxious to cast off all remaining links with its British colonial past.

Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Channel Islands changed sides from left to right to conform to German practice during World War II. The last European country to convert to driving on the right was Sweden on September 3rd, 1967. And more recently, the Falkland Islands drove on the right during the period of Argentine occupation in the early 1980s (they are driving on the left side of the roads again!).

China changed to the right in 1946.

FYI: Egypt had been conquered by Napoleon before becoming a British dependency, and its traffic goes to the right. About Japan, the English minister to Japan achieved the coup of his career in 1859 when he persuaded his hosts to make keep-left the law.

Only 74 countries drive on the left side of the road. If converted to population, 34% (2 billion) drive on the left and 66% (4 billion) drive on the right. Right side wins. Left-side drivers do indeed drive on the WRONG side of the road… and all that because of the French!

Pick your side

Drive on the left side: Anguilla ; Antigua and Barbuda ;Australia ; Bahamas ; Bangladesh ; Barbados ; Bermuda ; Bhutan ; Botswana ; Brunei ; Cayman Islands ; Channel Islands (Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Lihou, and Brecqhou, Ecrehous rocks and Les Minquiers) ; Christmas Island (Australia) ; Cook Islands ; Cyprus ; Dominica ; East Timor ; Falkland Islands ; Fiji ; Grenada ; Guyana ; Hong Kong ; India ; Indonesia ; Ireland ; Isles of Man; Jamaica ; Japan ; Kenya ; Kiribati ; Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia) ; Lesotho ; Macau ; Malawi ; Malaysia ; Maldives ; Malta ; Mauritius ; Montserrat ; Mozambique ; Namibia ; Nauru ; Nepal ; New Zealand ; Niue ; Norfolk Island (Australia) ; Pakistan; Papua New Guinea ; Pitcairn Islands (Britain) ; Saint Helena ; Saint Kitts and Nevis ; Saint Lucia ; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ; Seychelles ; Singapore ; Solomon Islands ; Somaliland ; South Africa ; Sri Lanka ; Suriname ; Swaziland ; Tanzania ; Thailand ; Tokelau (New Zealand) ; Tonga ; Trinidad and Tobago ; Turks and Caicos Islands ; Tuvalu ; Uganda ; United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) ; Virgin Islands (British) ; Virgin Islands (US) ; Zambia ; Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


...Part II

Thailand: 65 millions people, 514,000 km2 (or 198,000 sq mi), about the size of France or larger than the State of California. Capital: Bangkok. Driving on the wrong side of the road and another “weird” way of writing!! And by the way isn’t it terrible when you go to another country and start missing Chinese characters, well when they are not using roman letters at least.

So paradise looks like paradise anywhere. And with an airport as cute as this one, we've probably landed not far from it!

But here we got a little closer to paradise with our private bungalow right on the beach. And that’s pretty much all we did:

We did take a break one day and explore a little bit of the island:

On our way back home (Beijing!) we stopped in Bangkok (so we can cross it off of our list: “Been There, Done That!”) and visited some temples…Isn’t it what tourists are supposed to do?:

And because it’s Thailand… the traditional chocolate on the pillow in our room had a different flavor:

*Thailand in Thai

Monday, February 11, 2008


...Part I

So we are back from another trip. Yes it’s only been a month since our last “adventure” but I promise no more exotic trips for a while; next time “exotic” will come to us since my sister and her family will pay us a visit from St Barth (if you don’t know where it is, just open any gossip magazine and you will probably see at least a few celebrities lazing on its beach in the winter when they are tired of skiing in Aspen in the States or Gstaad in Switzerland and waiting to catch some rays in St Tropez in July/August).

Well back to me since it ain’t my sister’s Blog, is it? … While south of China was strangled by heavy snow (they apparently hadn’t seen that in 50 years) and the chaos that followed with the departure of millions of Chinese trying to go back to their home towns and family for the Chinese New Year holiday (a real institution here) we decided to escape the craziness of Chunjie (Spring Festival or Chinese New Year as it is known here) and migrate to Koh Samui in Thailand. Before showing you some pictures I would like to give you a brief geography lesson on the area because I cannot trust CNN and their maps for that*!!

In red: china (ie our home for the last 18 months)
In green: Vietnam (ie our xmas vacation)
In Blue: Thailand!!

In Blue: Bangkok & Phuket (for reference)
In Red: Koh Samui

Next post: The Suiter’s in Koh Samui. Because I’ve already talked wrote too much on this one.

*Europe and France by CNN:

What's it NOT supposed to look like

What it's supposed to look like

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy New Year

...4706 in China but 2551 in Thailand*

I could have told you 新年快乐 Xin Nian Kuai Le (like last year) but my Chinese is so much better this year (cough, cough) that I prefer to use the very local 您吉祥 Nin2 Ji2 Xiang4, which apparently roughly translates as “wishing you luck and health in the new year”.

Because there is nothing better to wish a Happy Chinese New Year than with the cover of the free English magazine “That’s Beijing” (that every Expat looks for frenetically at the beginning of each month) so here it is just like last year. By the look at it, it seems like it’s the year of the rat… so if you were born 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84 or even 96 years ago this is your 本命年 “BenMingNian” (“special year”, you are supposed to wear something red, be your underwear or just a string, for protection and good luck). More about Chinese zodiac here.

That’s Beijing Magazine

* Thai New Year, called Songkran is the ancient New Year's Day and it's celebrated between the 13th and 15th of April. The reference point is Lord Buddha's birth 543 before Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I'm Telling You...

...It's Spring Time

Just to keep you informed because you might not have read it last year (shame on you!) but it’s spring time here in China. And since I don’t want to repeat myself, just check last year’s post on the topic.
And because spring starts before the (Chinese) New Year something horrible is supposed to happen… It should have been the same last year but nobody was talking about it in 2007, probably because they were just too happy that the Golden Pig had returned after 60 years!

Saturday, February 2, 2008


...& Carla

  • Packing… check
  • Passport… check
  • Plane ticket… check
  • Husband… check
  • Kids…check
  • Finally boarding… check
  • Newspaper… check

Oh no, he’s making the headlines in this newspaper too!!!

Click on the picture to enlarge
Click on the "Back" button of your browser to come back to this page

Update: it turns out he did get married the day I was reading the article (02.02.08)… but let’s not go there!