Life in a Low Cost Labor World

Living in a world where labor cost is relatively low – especially those low end labor like Ayi cleaning or Express man, is very different from the developed country.

Some people suffer from the absence of effective and secure way to transfer goods. The EMS by China Post Service does not work as I expected. A package from Shanghai to Changsha cost me 3 days. It is not even a guaranteed delivery time, while UPS or Fedex can deliver the same package to any large cities in the world in 24 hours. The surface mail with 0.60 RMB postage is worse. It is something like UDP package in the TCP/IP protocol – you send it but there is no guarantee that the package will be received. :-D

However, other people are enjoying the low cost delivery already if the destination is at the same city. It is called Kuai Di or the Express man. The market price for a common service is 5 RMB per delivery. They ride motor-cycle or even electronic empowered bicycle. They are flexible enough to deliver the good to everywhere – even somewhere without an address – they can find it by calling the recipient. :-) Express man has been the standard department for many organizations, no matter foreign-owned or small private business. The typical scenario is: “Hey. I have the contract ready. I can ask my Kuai Di to deliver it to you or you ask yours to come to my office to pick it up?”

Ayi is another good service that is not comparable in any city in the world. Due to the high demand, the large supply (many woman come to Shanghai and pick Ayi to be their first job), it has been a very powerful business. The standard price for one hour of work is 5 RMB in Xuhui district, and it is 7 RMB in Pudong (Why? I guess more Ayi wants to work in Puxi)

You can ask them to help – from cleaning the house to taking care of the baby, from cooking dinner to doing the repeatable work. It is quite amazing how Ayi changed the life of people in Shanghai.

Ayi as an occupation can be classified as servant in modern terms. But they are more flexible. They are paid by hour and one Ayi can serve more than one family or company at the same time. It is highly commercialized industry. Many companies hire Ayi to keep the office clean, serve tea, and help employees on their personal stuff, like paying the electricity bills or fetch the laundry clothes. As everyone is so busy with their own business, to ask an Ayi to help do the simple work seems to be effective than doing it by themselves. Companies, whether small or large, has find it very effective to hire Ayi.

Many broker help to connect the Ayi and the host together and charge commission. Some professional Ayi or Express man management companies emerge, so it is no longer the personal business of the Ayi or the Express man. It is the same for Safe Guards.

Express man is a frequently used method for e-commerce in Shanghai. Ayi has been a more cost effective way to do many things than IT solution. For example, I once thought of inputting all the ISBN number of the books I have into a database. Besides the system, I need to buy a bar code scanner, which is at least 200 RMB. Later, I found with 200 RMB, I can hire an Ayi to help me do the work. If they are given a computer and 10 minute of training, they can pick up a book, check the ISBN from the book cover and enter the ISBN numbe into my Excel. It only costs several hours. It reminded me the experience of my friend. After he moved to his new apartment, he paid 200 RMB for after-renovation clean up. That morning, 20 Ayi showed up at his door and worked for the whole morning. It was quite amazing.

My Favorites in Shanghai

My favorite place for afternoon tea: Xian Zhi Xuan (Ambroise)

My favorite book store: Ji Feng Book Store

My favorite working lunch restaurant: Wei Qian La Ma

My favorite bus line: 926

My favorite place for wireless Internet access: Starbucks

My favorite Starbucks store: People’s Square store

My favorite Hunan Cursion: San Xiang Masion

My favorite tea house: Tian Qu at Dong Fang road

My favorite restaurant in Pudong: Qin Feng Tang Yun

My favorite road: Hua Shang Road (the section between Urumuqi Road and Jiang Su road)

My favorite university campus: Shanghai Acdemic of Theatre

My favorite theatre: An Fu Road Theatre

My favorite hotel building: Ritz-Carlton Portman

My favorite office building: Corporate Avenue

My favorite car make: Volkswagon Polo

My favorite gallery: Shanghai Gallary of Three on the Bund

My favorite luxrous store: Three on the Bund

My favorite book: The Art of Travel

My favorite hotel to stay: Ressainance Hotel

My favorite airport for business: Hong Qiao Airport

My favorite express way: A30

My favorite new area: Biyun International Community

My favorite church: Shanghai Community Church

My favorite Sichuan Cusion: YuXing

My favorite gym: Physical

My favorite view: The turning point from Yan’an Elevated Highway to the Zhong Shan East Rd.

My favorite furniture design: IKEA

My favorite Karaok: Cashbox

My favorite swimming pool: Sports Hotel

My favorite tennis court: Shanghai Tennis Center

My favorite car rental: Shijong Rental

My favorite airline agent: ctrip

My favorite number to call: 114

My favorite newspaper: Oritental Morning Post

My favorite technology book store: Only Bookstore of Shanghai Jiaotong University

My favorite broadband provider: ADSL from Shanghai Telecom

My favorite mobile service provider: China Mobile

My favorite taxi company: Dazhong Taxi

My favorite hosptial: Hua Shan Hospital

My favorite English Magazine: That’s Shanghai

Update: Related posts on this topic Feb 28, 2005

  • Micah posted his favorite list immediately after my post.

  • BingFeng’s Tea House also posted a list
  • Fons proposed “My Favorites in Shanghai” as the next Shanghai Weblog Meetup topic
  • I encourage people to write on this topic and notify me so I can add your list to this update

I can Recognize Orders Now

I’m reading Shi Jian’s The Soul of the Land (《大地之灵》) (Chinese book, ISBN 7-80603-252-5). I learnt the three orders or organizational systems of classical western architecture. I am very happy about the new knowledge. Whenever I look at a western style building now, I can quickly recognize the language they use – it’s like a secret code between the architect and me, so I get more information about the building.

I browsed my old photo gallery on my computer. Many buildings in Shanghai borrowed the orders from Greek. I admire the small country who spread its culture to the world.

Photo 1: The transformed Doric Order of the Shanghai Exhibition Center:


© Jian Shuo Wang.

Photo 2: The Ionic order of the Shanghai Concert Hall:


© Jian Shuo Wang. The Shanghai Concert Hall before it was moved to the new location

The Shanghai traditional resident buildings are mixture of both Chinese and western architectural style. I took the picture below on Oct 21, 2004 in the area near Xintiandi. Look at the Ionic orders on the second floor. It is a resident building with traditional Chinese roof and Ionic orders. This should be the last photo of this beautiful house. It was tore down about one month later. It is the typical fate of nice Shanghai traditional houses. When one small apartment of the building on the same land raises to 7000 USD/sq. meter, who can resist the offer to tear them down and build something new? When I was interviewed in New York, I talked about this issue.


© Jian Shuo Wang

The area in Luwan District still remains large areas of such houses. Take of the picture below. I hope after 2 years from now on, they are stil there.


© Jian Shuo Wang. Large area of old houses in Shanghai. Taken from the top of the Corporate Avenue Building

Next time, I will visit the Bund again. I believe it will no longer be the previous Bund I saw.

I will continue to read about the Chinese traditional architecture part and hopefully, be able to read more from the silent houses. Maybe I will visit the Zhuo Zheng Yuan for the third time with the new knowledge.

Shanghai Weblogger Meetup – Feb

I am happy to meet K W (blog://K W in Shanghai). We talked about his first impression of Shanghai: “Not so boomed city with crazy taxi drivers.” :-)

Michel also blogged about the event. I am so happy that some one use eloquent to describe me (when I am talking in English). :-)

I missed Maria‘s other four cats who were sent to others. But I enjoy the drinks and the place as such as the previous meetup.

It was a great time to chat with Tek, Vicky, Lucy and others who attended the meetup. To view the same city in a traveller’s view or expat’s view help me to be more senstive, cheerful to stay in the city.

I LOL when Tek shared his story with Wendy – as a native speaker of English, he went to Jin Men of Hunan Province to teach English, but he really had hard time to communicate with the local English teachers. That is the reason why students studies English for 12 years but still cannot communicate with foreigners. :-D

Calling Card in Shanghai

Making phone calls using the fixed-line telephone for local calls is cheap (0.12 RMB per minute?) but it is expensive for international phone calls. Here is the standard price:

Normal time

International phone call: 0.48 RMB / 6 seconds

Domestic long distance call: 0.07 RMB / 6 seconds

Between 0:00 – 7:00

International phone call: 0.48 RMB / 6 seconds (for 15 countries, including U.S, Japan, Australia, France…)

Domestic long distance call: 0.04 RMB / 6 seconds

Source: Shanghai Telecom

Calling Card

I am not sure how the foreign carrier’s’ calling cards work in China, such as AT&T, MCI cards. In China, there are many IP cards that can save money. For example, Unicom 17910 IP Card (0.30 RMB/minute DDD or 2.40 RMB/minute IDD to U.S. and Canada (3.60 RMB/minute IDD to other countires), Unicom 193, China Mobile 17950 IP Cards… The best thing with these cards is, if you buy it online, you can easily get 50 RMB of value with less than 20 RMB. The website I use everyday is I can use my credit card to pay there and they send me the card number and the password. I can directly use the card at the fixed-line telephone in my home. No card deliver required. It is really cool.

Buy the Card?

Besides the online store, telephone card dealers can be found at Pudong or Hong Qiao Airport. You can find it at the Arrival Hall (Pudong, Hongqiao).


Skype is a much better alternative to fixed-line. It offers around 0.20 RMB/minute to telephone everywhere around the world. It is even cheaper than the mobile phone in China (0.40 RMB/minute). Just use the SkypeOut feature.

Yes. It Snowed in Shanghai

My friends outside Shanghai didn’t believe it snowed in Shanghai. I can understand that, because the last time I clearly remember it snowed in Shanghai was in 1996. OK. Let me proof it.


© Jian Shuo Wang. Goudaner covered by snow.

The picture was taken at 1:01 PM, Feb 19, 2005. It snowed at the night of Feb 18 and my car looked like this when I walked to my car in the afternoon. It took me quite some time to clear part of the window so I can drive the car to somewhere in the Sun. Very soon, it all melt so I can start my journey.

It is rarely snow in Shanghai. The year of 2005 is abnormal. It snowed many times – I guess more than 5 times already. The temperature varience is big. It was 0°C on Sunday and today, it is 11°C already (all according to the meter in my car).

Professional Web Hosting

It is prooven that professional web hosting like iPowerWeb is really better than the hosting environment at my home :-D and better than my previous hosting company. I was suffering for server down [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] at the begining of 2004. Then I migrated the server to professional web hosting service. The cost doubled but the result is better than tripled. I checked the availiablity report today and the result is not bad:


From the table, we can clearly see since April 2005, my server was not restarted so the uptime continued to grow. Before the migration, the uptime was in a mass, as shown in the number – the 90 day average never reached 15 days. :-(

Blogger Meetup this Wednesday

I will attend the Shanghai Blogger Meetup this Wednesday. This is the second time I join the meetup and I definitely enjoy my previous one. A new friend Matt is among one of the best archivements that night. The topic for this Wednesday night, as Fons put it, is:

What makes you blog? We already covered “making money” last time, now this seems a nice follow-up. How often do you write, and how do you pick your subjects every day? Do you have an audience in mind when you blog, and who is that? What is your philosophy for using links?

If you are a blogger and want to join, I guess it is OK to register on the website. RSVP required. I will be there around 7:00 PM.

More Cats in My Garden

Recently, it keeps snowing or raining in Shanghai. Meanwhile, I found more cats in my garden. Besides the original two (I have named them), three more often drop by and eat what I feed. Since my parents are here and they can cook something other than the cat food I bought from super market, we can offord to help more cats.

If you take my garden as a country, I will say, Huahua and Liangliang hold the passport of my garden, so they are the permenent citizen and enjoy the well fare I provide (including food, home, water and sometime my time with them). The other three are visitors holding visa I granted. They can enjoy the food, but there is no home for them. :-D

When looking at these small animals, I forget about all the troubles I have. Just like what William Wordsworth said: “Animal helps to keep the peace of our mind…” True.

P.S Shanghai News.

To keep the public service for those who comes here for real time Shanghai information, let me summarize what is going on in the city in short sentences.

1. It snowed. It is 0°C outside, according to the meter in my car.

2. It has been raining since end of Jan (with only two days exception)

3. The Spring Festival can be claimed to end by next Monday – many people will take vacation in the next few working days after the vacation.

Is This London Undergrand?

Microsoft launched series of “Realize Your Potential” print advertisements to communicate about its mission “Enable people and business to realize their full potential”. Among them, the ad named HAT got Eric‘s attention when we talked about Subways in New York. “Which subway station was the picture taken?” He asked.


© Microsoft Corporation. Src

I didn’t know the answer before a picture on the Shanghai Weekly came into my sight. It was a report on the city of London with some pictures and a subtitle – “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – Samuel Johnson. The picture shows another underground station in London. It seems very similar with the one shown on the Ad.

From the Ad, I can only tell ULAS from the wall. I guess it may be a station near Universities of London Air Squadron (ULAS) in London? Is it the underground station in London named “Brompton Road Underground Station”? If anyone who can recognize this picture, it is appreciated if you can confirm where it is.

Curiosity on Life

This is a vivid example of curiosity for life – the rational motivation for many things we did. I enjoyed the time to search for the answer for the simple question “Where is this station”, and enjoyed the excitement when I happen to see the picture on my dinner table. The research time and the excitement moment are quite rewarding to me. It brings something new to life, so the life is not boring at all. Sometime the reason we travel, ask, research, and study is simply out of curiosity. Curiosity is the genuine human being’s instinct that must be satisfied. The city life, sometime, has killed the passion so people feel boring, while there are millions of poorer people who are happier.

To raise the question is more important than the research. Eric gave a good question (and interesting one) so I want to continue to research like a Sherlock Holmes. The other projects I participate sometimes are also started as good questions. For example, there is a question on the website of Confluence Project web page: What does the point 30N 119E look like? The only thing I knew was, it is a point in the Zhejiang Province which is 300+ km away from Shanghai. To find out the answer (or to satisfy my curiosity), I spent two days traveling there and one night at the miserable 10 RMB per night hotel. Upon my return, I recorded Incomplete Visit to 30N 119E. There is nothing to do with money, nothing to do with project schedule, or customer, or work item, or coding, or anything that is common in daily life.


Samuel claimed that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. It is true. I would rather further state the same sentence to be “When a man is tired of ______, he is tired of life”. There is a blank space there and you can put almost every place name or even any noun to the blank space and I still believe the statement is near the truth. For example, we can put the follow terms. Try to read it again with the new terms.

  • Shanghai

  • Xujiahui
  • Pudong
  • China
  • my neighborhood

It is a simple philosophy many books kept telling. Some uses extreme samples. Xavier de Maistre wrote the Journey Around my Bedroom (mentioned in Art of Travel) revealing how much he could discover within his own bedroom – he got more than people travel to the world. The same philosophy was repeated in Helen Keller’s Three Days to See. It is purely about the way we treat life. Both set us thinking, wondering what we do under similar circumstances.

Update It is Paris Subway Feb 20, 2005

Thanks DongXi and Carsten to confirm the subway on the poster is Paris Subway. To be more accurate, the Porte de Lilas Station. I recognized te Lilas to be ULAS. The subway of the subway in these two cities are so similar.

Look at this picture castern found for me. It is exactly the station the poster was taken – it is even from the same angle to take it.

Image in courtesy of CREDS report

Thanks! I know I will get an answer within two days.