View before May Holiday

This is the view outside my window – the view before the May holiday. The cloud came and rain is not far away.

Photograph by Vince Zhen

In the middle is the Shentong Plaza. Before it are the buildings in Shanghai Jiaotong University. You can see the playing ground on the left and the libary (the white tall building). On the right is the People’s Square area….

Very Tired Recently

Recently, I am very tired. There are many things to think about, and got cold a little bit. Let me take a short break tonight.

May holiday is approaching. May 1 to May 7 is the official holiday in China. All business closes. Don’t worry. It is the best season for hotels, shopping malls, airlines, and consumer businesses. They are still open.

BTW, I hope I have the equipment like Justin: It must be fun.

Areas to Visit in Shanghai

This is the typical day-to-day questions I got in my hotmail email box. You know what, I am going to pick this one and answer it publicly.

Hello Jian Shuo,

I have come across your bog and I’ve been reading it for hours. Thanks for sharing all that wonderful information about your country.

I apologise for taking the liberty to bother you with questions. But next week I will have the opportunity to visit china for the first time in my life. I will be spending 10 days in shanghai mainly for work, but before my work sessions start I have 3 free days, and I was wondering, since I will be spending the rest of the week in shanghai and surely visiting most of the city sites, what would be your recommendation for a 2/3 day trip.

I guess it’s a very general question, I understand shanghai is a very modern city, and after all I’ve read in your blog I was wondering what would be the one city or area you would recommend to visit from shanghai.

Thanks in advance for your time and attention.

Regards,

Name removed

This is not an easy question. Everyone has its list of “must-see” for a city. This is mine. I am trying to imagine what a new visitor in Shanghai may feel interesting about the places, so it may not be the same list I will give for the second time visitors, or visitors we enjoy exploring the city itself instead of site seeings.

So, here is my list.

  1. The Bund. The bund is must-see place in Shanghai. It is like the name card or the portrait of Shanghai (Every city has a partrait photo that is widely recognized in the world, like Eiffel Tower in Paris, or looking across the bay to Bank of China tower in Hong Kong). So go to the Bund first.
  2. The Lujiazui Area. You need to set food to Pudong, the Lujiazui area to claim that you see a complete Shanghai. You may want to try the Pearl Tower (visit the top) or the top of the Jin Mao Tower.
  3. Yu Garden. Most foregiens like Yu Gardern. That is the answer to the question: “Where can I find the best China element in this morden city?”
  4. Huang Pu River. Get to a boat and do cruise on the river. Highly recommended.
  5. Huai Hai Road, especially the area near Shaanxi South Road area. The shopping center.
  6. Xintiandi. The newly built area featuring old Shanghainese style lane houses, and bars. It is a tourism place now.
  7. Xujiahui. Either go there for shopping – best for computer parts, or for the villa area.
  8. Nanjing Road. Oh. I almost forget it. It is named the No. 1 Street in China, because of the concentration of shops.
  9. Bridges. There are many bridges like Nanpu Bridge or Yangpu Bridge. There are even climbing activities on Lupu Bridge

That seems a lot of a two day trip. This is the most popular places, that second time visitors may not be interested, but definitely worth a visit for the first time visitors. They are the iconic places in Shanghai.

Welcome to Shanghai!

How I drive in Shanghai – Part II

After I drive back to home at 12:23 AM and check my blog, I saw many comments – comments from really concerned people. Calm down, please.

This is not the first time I saw this kind of situation. So take a break and let me try to explain it better. Shockr, thanks for your point. That helps a lot.

I Do Follow Rules

I did an evaluation, and believe I am absolutely the top 5% drivers who follow the rules most. Seriously. There is no question about it.

I reviewed my last post, and it seems I broke every rules. Wrong impression.

Believe it or not, I am the kind of person who stopped at a broken red light at deep night (11:00 PM) for 15 minutes on my way home, and later was interviewed by TV because of it … I believe I follow the rules much better than most people, including expats, in Shanghai. Don’t get me wrong about it.

I learnt a lot during my driving experience from U.S. and Australia – frankly speaking, that experience helped me a lot to under how the traffic rules should work. As you can imagine, I feel I am driving under the spotlight most of the time (as my life is on Internet, and I am trying very hard to do the right thing), so I follow the rules.

Before I continue, let me correct some misunderstanding in the comments:

  • I always yield to pedestrians, always!

  • I pass by zebras slowly and with great care, always.
  • I stop at stop sign, when it is not dangerous to do so.
  • I respect speed limit, when it is possible.

What I was trying to communicate in my previous post was, there are limited but real situations that I cannot follow the rule.

Situation #1: The rule is correct, but by following the written rule, I am putting the life of myself or other drivers at danger. (I know many people don’t believe that this situation ever exist in the world. “Follow the rules is the only safe way to do it!”)

Situation #2: The rule itself is the wrong rule.

About Turning Right at Red Light

For this part, I have to make it more clear, since I found the statement in my last post misleading. The reasons I gave (resources v.s. demand) was to justify Why it is Allowed to Turn Right at Red Light instead of Why drivers don’t give way to pedestrians. I hate drivers who didn’t show any respect to pedestrians, as a driver and as a pedestrian. That is what I was talking about in many posts. I said, it is still not practical to BAN any right turn in Shanghai as Europe is doing now. Anyone tell me why in many countries (including U.S.), it is allowed to make right turn at red light? I was a strong advocator for banning the right turn before, but after talking with transportation experts, I was convinced that it is not realistic in the current situation.

What I am talking about – in a frank matter – was, to wait for all pedestrians to leave the zebra is also just impossible at certain intersection (not all). It takes, as one commenter said, hours for the road to clear up. The most troublesome problem I have is, even if I stop, people still yield to me, and we run into a situation of dead lock. That was really bad situation. So, in this situation, the way people do is to wait for the first round of people to pass, and see the space, and then the cars go, and then pedestian.

Anyone been to Cambodia? The traffic of the whole country worked (although not well) without any traffic light! (Just a few on the road of capital). I don’t think traffic light is the only way for a peaceful transportation.

What to do with the Bad Rule?

Then there is another situation that people not driving in Shanghai may not face: when the traffic rule is the wrong rule and it causes great danger to traffic. “Is there any situation that you are not able to follow the rules?”. That is the point. Read about my last entry and find out some situations.

For the speed limit and the stop sign, I have to say, the rule or the sign were badly designed. The statement of “Always follow the rule” is incomplete, since it is in the situation where the rule is the right rule.

One commenter mentioned the Nazi example. Really good people don’t follow the rule set by Nazi, just as I don’t follow the censorship rule in China government. I break the bad rule and do the right thing. Traffic rules are completely another thing than the Nazi rules. I know that, but think about a traffic sign that is improperly designed. Just as I sad, how many minutes would you wait at a broken (always on) red light? I waited 15 minutes. How about you? 30? One hour before a broken red light? What I did was to call the police, call the media, and to make some small impact. Still remember that I called almost everyone to fight against typo in Metro? Talking is easy, as everyone in the last post did.

In current China, due to well-know political reasons, there are huge number of bad rules. To build a better world, people need to use the right rule to replace the bad rule. This is what many people are doing.

On day, when I was thought about the ethics, I even asked myself, do I want to do something to have 4 collisions per month just to proof that I follow the rules? People’s life (including mine) or rule, which is, in practice, more important? What is the final value of a rule? I completely see where people come from, and in most places, to follow the written rules means safety. If you firmly believe so, you should go to see certain circumstances that it is conflicting. Just as Google’s don’t do evil rule works great in most places, but in China, because of the Great Firewall, it is against user experience. It is a hard problem to answer, and I am deeply disappointed that Google is trying to solve user experience issue and give up it value. Hehe.

I am so blessed to be able to sit in the middle of the conflict of the two cultures (western and eastern), so most of the cultural conflict results in an inner mind conflict inside me. This gave me a chance to see the world even better.

To conclude, if you can find out any driver who show respect to pedestrians and follow rules when possible, we can drive together, and I am sure I am doing a better job than he/she does. After writing so many articles about traffic problem in Shanghai and thought about it for 4 years, I still know what to do. Just keep this in mind, and then see the real situation we are facing everyday. What I want to do is to present the real situation every driver in Shanghai will face, and thus people can understand the situation much better than what the text book tells.

Keep all the criticism coming. It seems everyone just pouring all the frustration about bad traffic to someone who stand up first and claim “I don’t always follow rules”. Don’t worry. I share the same frustration, and the point is, what we can do about it. Me? I think it is my responsibility to bring the topic to everyone’s attention so we can discuss about it.

How I Drive in Shanghai?

When I talked about Reasons of Bad Traffic in Shanghai, people asked me about how I drive in Shanghai. This is a good question. Very good one. As a daily driver, and as someone who is highly concerned about traffic rules, and the chaos traffic, let me explain how I drive. I don’t want to be political correct at all – don’t expect me to tell you that I follow all traffic rules – I just want to share exactly how I drive and why. This helps better than telling everyone how I SHOULD drive.

Stop Signs

First thing, I don’t stop and stop signs.

As I described in this post: On Ethic, to stop at stop signs create chaos.

I do slow down at stop signs.

There are two reasons for this. Not many drivers in Shanghai respect stop sign, and to stop at stop sign is exactly as to do a full stop on the road. The car behind you can easily hit your car, or offended. Whenever I stop at stop signs, and if there is a car behind me, they may either horn, or flash the front lights, or more often, turns and pass me.

The second reason is, stop signs work better for road with not-so-wide bicycle lanes, or with fewer bicycles.

Taking the exit of my residential area as an example. If I stop at the stop sign, just before the bicycle lane, there is no way for me to see whether there are cars on the main road, because it is still 2 meters away, and the cars are completely hidden behind the green plants which separating the main road and the bicycle road.

If I move on a little bit, and completely stops at the bike lane, this is very like the stop sign position in US. Then I can see whether there are cars on the road, but the problem is, even if there are cars on the main road, I have to move on (slowly) since I have completely jammed the bikes. There is just no way for a car to stay in the middle of a bike lane (it is as wide as a car).

I do stop sometimes, at certain places (like the one behind Grand Gateway) every morning – only when there is no cars behind me.

Turning Right

I do turn right even when there are pedestrians on the zebras.

This is even more complicated. There are also two reasons.

Reason No. 1. Traffic rules are mutual agreement. I do stop at the zebra, and wait for pedestrians. Most of the time, they would stop and wait for you. Waving hands and gave signs for them to go first do not always work. In my experience, the working ways is to yelling at people and say, “go first”, and people hestitately move on. This is not a big problem though. The rule of thumb is, either decide to stop and stop firmly, or decide to go, and go carefully. Never get into the middle – when I stop, people stop. When they go, I go – too dangerous in this situation, even worse than directly go (but carefully).

The second reason, there are so many cars behind you. If you don’t go on, for example, at the Guangyuan Road and Gongcheng Road in Xujiahui, it is pretty sure that you will never be able to turn right. It is the same at Huaihai Road and many other roads in Shanghai. It is OK to stop for the first group of pedestrians, but to wait until there is no pedestrians on the zebra before you go is just impossible.

The Pedstrain go first rule does not work in crowded city like Shanghai. The only working rule is, go carefully, and gave way to pedestrians as much as possible.

I remember there was hot debate about this on newspaper – why it is allowed to turn right at red light? Many people propose for cars to stop at red light – just as in Europe. The explanation was, if Shanghai has this rule, the traffic will completely stop.

I thought twice, and believe this is a reasonable answer. It is all about resources. There are so few roads, and so many cars, and people. People have to accept the fact is, not everyone has 2 sq. meter of space in this city. It is just like in a village, there are totally 1000 USD there, and there are 100 people. The reality is, everyone only have 10 USD. We can either increase the total social wealth (by building more road) or reducing population (by limiting car numbers). When these two factors are not changed, people have to accept the fact that cars are allowed to make right turn at red light.

Having said that, I am not saying the current way is correct. Drivers must show respect to pedestrians at any time, and give ways as often as possible.

It is like the “PUSH to walk” button. In many places, there are such button. The intention of the design was to keep the traffic light system more efficient. it turns out that most of the buttons were not used, since it is pressed all the time all day – there are just too many people that the button does not help.

Speeding

I don’t drive too fast. I respect most of the traffic signs, like 80 KM/h on the elevated highway, 110 KM/h on expressway.

There are some exceptions. One is at the Puxi part of Nanpu Bridge, heading toward Puxi. It makes 40, but when everyone is running at 60, to keep at 40 means intentionally mess up the traffic. I tried to keep at 40 KM/h, and in the 2 minutes of my drive, more than 10 cars behind me changed lane, passed me, and change back to the lane before me. That means because of me, the traffic was turned into a mess. To keep a rule that is not in effect and create real chaos, or to break the rule but be part of peaceful, and ordered traffic, that is a question for any driver.

The other is the Wanping Road Exit of Inner Ring. There are 1000 meters with speed limit of 30 km/h. The left lane has limit of 80 km/h. You can imagine what happens if I suddenly slow down to 30 and keeps that. The same problem.

While we see many “wrong rules”, the choice is, whether to follow the rule and create chaos, or to follow the reality. This is not an easy question to answer. I know the “political correct” answer, but my choice is the “reality correct” answer.

P.S. This is the bonus question for you:

A train running out of control. It runs toward a station. There are 20 children playing on the working railway, and one children playing at an abandoned railway. As the one in charge of the railway, you have two choices. One is to let the train go, and this will kill 20 children (who do not follow the safety rule, and playing in dangerous place), the other choice is to switch the train to the abandoned rail and kill one innocent children. He is doing the right thing but killed for someone else’s fault. What is your choice?

Update April 28, 2007

Check out the future discussion and explaination here.

Online Survey Need Participants

I am happy to help one reader to conduct his online survey about cross-cultural values. It seems interesting topic to me. Here is the letter.

Hello Jian Shuo,

I am a doctoral student doing cross-cultural values research and am in urgent need of help to complete my dissertation research. I have encountered a serious problem obtaining enough participants in China and am hoping that you may be able to help me. I found out a short time ago that copies of my survey were not distributed weeks ago in China as planned. Only a small amount of the data I had expected to receive by now has arrived.

I have now created an on-line version in (simplified) Chinese that could be distributed and collected quickly (on-line survey link):

http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB226D77RPTBB

My urgent request is that if possible, please forward the link below to friends, relatives, and colleagues in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. I would greatly appreciate it.

At this point, I am hoping to get about 30 additional respondents (more is better). The only mandatory requirement for a respondent is that they be at least 18 years old. I will be collecting responses for a few more days and will start analyzing responses as soon as I get enough.

Please let each person know that no personal information (like name, address or phone) will be collected, only the data they chose to enter.

It is okay if the participant does not want to answer some of the background questions, but it is very important for them to provide answers for age, travel, internet usage, and all of the 57 value items.

I realize that some of the standard web survey commands are in English, and it is important to ask all respondents to click on the purple arrow at the bottom of each web page marked “start survey” and “submit.” This needs to be done to have the responses recorded.

Thank you in advance for any assistance that you might be able to provide.

Regards,

Matthew Knight

Reasons of Bad Traffic in Shanghai

What are the reasons of bad traffic in Shanghai?

I believe among all the hundreds of reasons people can think of, “many people don’t know how to drive” is one – may be not the major one.

Personally, I follow the traffic rule much more after I learnt to drive. Why?

1) I started to understand how dangerous jaywalking is.

2) I started to learn traffic rules

3) I understand much better how annoying it is to stand in the middle of the road and slow down cars.

Let me explain these one by one.

I Started to Understand How Dangerous Jaywalking is

To be honest, not everyone understand it, including me 3 years ago.

Since majority of people in China don’t drive and don’t know how to drive, and never have the experience of sitting in the driver’s seat to look at the road from that angle, driving is basically a mysterious skill. Before I learnt to drive, I just take it for granted that the drivers can see EVERYTHING, and they can stop the car at ANYTIME, and they have 100% skill set to avoid hitting anyone.

For example, people think it is very easy to stop the car running at 60 km / hour within 10 meters of distance. This is wrong perception.

After I learnt to drive, I started to understand there are certain angles that I completely cannot see when I drive – the blind area; there are certain circumstances (like someone in the dark at night) that drivers barely see; there are many cases that it is almost impossible for the car to stop.

Unfortunately, any drivers know that, but majority of people don’t know it.

I Started to Learn Traffic Rules

There are many traffic rules. However, I first know it only after I pass the driver’s exam. When to walk and when not to walk? Many people don’t know. I still know a lot of people who firmly believe the red light is only for motors, and not for bikes or pedestrians.

How Inconvenience it is

Jaywalking or things like this is not only dangerous, but also troublesome. When I drive, I saw so many people standing in the middle of the street, waiting to continue walking.

Before someone learns to drive, they think it is perfect OK. “All those cars, just go – I won’t move!” However, drivers MUST slow down just in case. This slows down the traffic and bring chaos.

These are some examples of the difference between driver and a non-driver. I believe drivers are better pedestrians after they learn how car and traffic works.

In Shanghai, for example, the percentage of drivers are too small, and it is one reason for the chaos of traffic. (Well, as I said, I don’t think it is the major reason though).

Back from Xiamen

I am back from the 3rd China Webmaster Forum. It was intensive two days, and we have a wonderful, wonderful Kijiji night at the event. There are too many friends and interesting people to talk with, so we always sleep at 2:00 PM (with many people still hang around and talking), and wake up early in the morning. Let me make up some sleep and then post some pictures of the trip. (I didn’t bring my camera, and will post others’ photos)

How to Get to Xiamen

I need you help to provide me some info because we are planning to do back packing there. We will depart from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and then to Xiamen. My question is how much is the airlines/train/bus cost from Xiamen to Beijing or Shanghai? Which one is nearer from Xiamen; Beijing or Shanghai?

If we want to go to Great Wall, is it advisable if we go by ourselves or better we take tour package. Hope you can help because we are girls and this is our first time traveling to China by ourselves.

What a co-incident! I am packing for my trip to Xiamen tomorrow morning (early flight again in Hong Qiao Airport), and let me answer this Xiamen related question.

Price

It is highly suggested that you take flight instead of bus or train. Xiamen is in the mountain area, and bus or train takes too long time (correct me if I am wrong here).

Air ticket from Xiamen to Shanghai is 960 RMB (standard price), and usually you can get lower price like 380 RMB, or lower. On CTRIP.COM, the lowest price they offer is 290 RMB.

From Xiamen to Beijing by air is 1710 RMB and the cheapest flights I saw on ctrip.com is 940 RMB.

Xiamen to Beijing?

Definitely Beijing is farther than Shanghai to Xiamen.

I don’t have a suggestion for whether to take a tour or by yourself. If you are on a budget travel, try the buses near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. They directly brings you to the Great Wall. Or you can join a tour for a better experience. (Well. Not necessarily better. It depends on which tour you roll in).

P.S. Want to know more about Xiamen, check out my previous trip to Xiamen:

Where to Buy Tea in Shanghai

Sometimes friends ask me about where to buy something in Shanghai, like tea, food, silk, computer, mobile, or anything, you name it.

The challenge is, there are so many places to buy something, but when you ask me to figure out a single place, it is often hard to do that.

Just like this afternoon, when I am asked about “Where to buy tea?” near Xintiandi, my brain is completely empty. You know what, the only place I have immediately in my mind is either the shops in Carrefour, or in Hymall. Both are very far away.

So finally, we found there is a shop in Xintiandi to have tea, also, in Pacific Department Store, there are many – yes, many – tea shops in B2, and along Huaihai Road, there are also many. Well. You see, sometimes there are just too many places that you can not easily figure out.

Well. Someone Calls me a Shanghai Hater

I receive email in my mail box with comment about my blog Avoid Hong Qiao Airport on Friday Night

Wow you are like a tourist….Everyone knows what you do is walk outside of Airport turn right, go down two or three blocks to main st. and you will find a Green Taxi all the time in less then three minutes…I land at this airport 50 or 60 times a year…It is very simple……also you can take a bus to downtown Shanghai for almost nothing………I think it is a shame that you dislike Shanghai so much and you give people such Bias information about Shanghai….I am an American who has traveled extensively in China for almost 30 years. I have spend 4 to 5 months a year in China. I have a home in Shanghai and a home in New York……..

and then another one:

WARNING THE ADVICE ON THIS BLOG ABOUT SHANGHAI IS NOT CORRECT

THE PERSON WHO WRITES THIS BLOG IS A SHANGHAI HATER…KEEP THAT IN MIND……..

Hehe. This is just some sample emails I get after I publish Shanghai information daily. It is understandable. I was called “A Shanghai Hater”, like in this comments, or “Government agency”, or “Writer hired by CCP” or “Person who don’t have any respect to human being”, or …. (just name a few in my recent email). Well. I am not concerned about it.

I have the great opportunity to DIRECTLY communicate with every single person, and I see how difference people’s point of view is, and exactly how the “Elephant and Blind Men” theory works. From the single entry, I believe it is pretty fare to say I am a “Shanghai Hater”. :-) No one – I believe, in this world – has every read everything single post I wrote (I think so because sometimes I even didn’t read twice about what I post), and it is very easy to get an incomplete image.

What many people and cases have taught me is, always, always separate what people talk about your NAME with the real person. Recently, there are some rumors about me again on the Internet. Don’t worry. I read all the articles (some on headlines) with great interest and says: “Hmmm. This guy named Wang seems to be an interesting. Anyone know him?”…