Monday, 2 August 2010

Cheap DVD stores

There are many cheap DVD stores around here. There is a store which sells 5 RMB DVDs which come in plastic envelopes down the road, although these are the type of DVDs made from footage captured by someone holding a video camera in a movie theatre. Another store further down the road sells 10 RMB DVDs, also in plastic envelopes, which are DVD quality. They have a much larger variety, and specialise in English language DVDs.

A friend was going to another place that also sold cheap blu-ray discs, so I tagged along. Normal DVDs there cost 12 RMB, but were packaged to a considerable extent. The blu-ray discs were around 24 RMB, and there were also season collections of shows on DVD which varied in price depending on how many discs there were. The complete Californication was 72 RMB, given six discs within it.

Anyway, I ended up buying several, one of which was a favourite movie of mine.

2010-08-01 - DVD - 01 - Box

Inside the box, is a plastic case. And inside the plastic case, is an cardboard envelope. And inside the cardboard envelope, is a plastic slip. And finally, inside the plastic slip is the actual disc.

2010-08-01 - DVD - 02 - Box contents

I have to write some letters to the film studios and complain about the quality of their DVDs, often they have Chinese subtitles turned on by default, and they cannot be disabled via the menu.

Chinese power sockets

When I was looking at coming to China, I researched what power sockets they use here and was pleased to learn it was the same kind we use in both Australia and New Zealand. I also have a variety of different plugs on gadgets and appliances, depending on what country I bought them in.

The hotel room I am staying in is littered with these power sockets. They take pretty much anything whether European plugs, British plugs, Australasian plugs and American plugs.

2010-08-01 - Legend Hotel - 02 - Power socket

However, they do not take every New Zealand plug. It turns out they require the three prongs on plugs, which was mostly phased over the last decade or so. Without the lower ground prong, the two upper angled prongs cannot be inserted. So, pretty much every New Zealand gadget or appliance I brought, still requires a power adapter to fit in the socket.

Hotel room entertainment center

There's a large screen television in my hotel room, and a DVD player. For the first couple of weeks, I didn't pay them much attention. I watched the final movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy on HBO and marveled at how bad the movie looked on the television screen, but that's about it.

However, a friend was round having dinner and pointed out that the DVD player had a USB slot. So we turned it on to experiment with it, and it started playing the movie Kick Ass. It turns out that someone who had the room before me had left the disc inside the player. As a pirated DVD, it was not a good advertisement for their quality. The music was too loud, and the voices were too quiet. Watching it was a constant exercise in both preventing my neighbours from listening in on the experience, and ensuring I could actually hear what was being said.

2010-08-01 - Legend Hotel - 01 - Tech

I've tried plugging a USB hard drive into it, but the player refused to accept it. The player also has a habit of freezing up mid-show, although three times out of ten it eventually recovers and seven times out of ten it just stays frozen.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Bund at night

A friend wanted to see the Bund at night, so we took the metro out. We had to stop off and buy a laptop backpack for someone else at the Pudong Apple store (799 RMB I think). Then we went to the Superbrand mall for a dim sum dinner. Failing to find the recommended restaurant, the friend insisted on walking around for thirty minutes looking at every alternate place to eat. Then he declared himself tired, and that I should choose a place. I chose somewhere that a lot of locals were sitting around waiting for seats at, and with an announced wait of ten minutes, we had a seat in two. Then we went to some place called "I Love Cake" for desert, where we split two portions of cake. At that point, said friend was quite insistent we check out the night view from both sides of the river. I suggested we check out the closer side, and then see how we stand. So we checked out the opposite side from the Bund.

I don't know whether I do not know how to use my camera at night, or it was because the batteries were very low, but my photos did not turn out too great.

2010-07-27 - The Bund - 02 - Night distorted

Here's a clearer picture. The blur on the boats prevents you from obtaining the full glory of the picturesque advertisements on the side of them.

2010-07-27 - The Bund - 03 - Night

At this point, the friend was exhausted on his feet. So much for checking out both sides, and walking at his exhausted pace, we barely made it back before the metro lines we needed to take closed for the night.

The Bund in the day

A picture of Pudong from the Bund, if I have my place names right. We were going to take the river boat tour, but you needed to buy tickets hours in advance because the earlier trips were sold out. This was at the end of another day of travelling around, so we called it a day.

2010-07-25 - The Bund - Ferry

The ferry across the river was only around 2 RMB, but we weren't sure where it stopped on the other side, so we took the metro back. I think from memory, the ticket for the tour was 50 RMB.

Yuyuan Garden

A well known tourist attraction in Shanghai is Yuyuan Garden. The first time I went there, I had done a lot of walking and travelling on the metro, and was exhausted. The idea of seeing some garden for 30 RMB, where there were packed crowds outside, was no longer appealing. So we decided to call it a day. However, for lack of any idea where else to see in Shanghai, I ended up coming back and checking it out another day.

You can see how packed the crowds are in general in the areas outside the entrance.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 01 - Entrance

There's a plaque outside the garden. I don't know what it says, I didn't read it. But I did insist the tightly packed queue for tickets got out of the way so I could take a picture.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 02 - Marble plaque

It looks so peaceful and quiet.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 03 - First pond

A nice carved plaque beside a pane of glass. The glass sort of takes away from the experience.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 06 - Carved mural

Actually, many of the photos I took look peaceful, but from any other angle there are crowds of people inside. Still, it is a respite from the packed crowds outside the garden.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 08 - Crowds

A nice view down the pond, where it looks like a river. But let's be honest, there's probably no waterflow here.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 09 - River bridge

Things are living in the pond. Fish and apparently turtles.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 10 - Pond life

Inside the buildings, and there are many buildings, are sometimes shops. And inside others are curios which are roped off, like this.. caved wooden thing.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 12 - Carved wood

A picturesque wooden roofed bridge.

2010-07-25 - Yuyuan Garden - 13 - Roofed bridge

The garden appears huge when you are inside it. There is no end of things to see, or places to sit and take a moment in the shade. Shops sell various products, I don't know what as I never went in any.

Would you like to buy an iPhone?

One of the things you hear in a market, is requests to buy rolexes or phones. Now, I was fully aware that when someone asks if I want to buy an iPhone, I am unlikely to actually be buying an iPhone. The guy started at around 700-800 RMB and as I kept walking away and returning, he went down to 450 RMB. Now that is approximately 97 NZD, which is what I paid for my bare bones Nokia. So buying a dual sim card cell phone with touch screen and a variety of interesting features for that same price, was worth doing just to see what I got.

The box shows a picture of an iPhone. Ooh, a cell phone with maps functionality..

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 01 - Box

The bits and pieces inside the box. A USB cable, a custom headphone cable which also acts as an antenna for the radio functionality, a spare battery, the phone and a simple manual.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 02 - Components

The back case is certainly promising. 32 GB and an Apple logo. Both lies! The memory in the phone is actually around 512 KB and the phone is certainly not an iPhone.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 03 - Back case

Taking the back case off, which is not hard given it practically falls off, reveals the innards. A mini-SD slot, which can take a card with space of up to 8 GB I believe. Two slots for sim cards, both of which I have tested. And the model of the phone, which is a SciPhone i9+++. Quad band support is not bad, so this should work for both of Telecom and Vodafone/2degrees back in New Zealand.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 04 - Innards

The locked screen shows the state of each sim card. And has a slidable widget thing which allows it to be unlocked.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 05 - Locked screen

Once unlocked, the main menu is shown. But no maps! However, there is a Java button for what it is worth. I haven't tried out any applets. Maybe I could get Chron-o-meter working on it. If I recall correctly, it needs an SD card to give it extra memory. The phone has a tilt sensor or whatever it is called, so if I turn it sideways the menu screen will go horizontal. Holding a finger down on a button results in the ability to move that buttons position. You can drag the screen left or right, to access additional menu screens there.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 06 - Menu vertical

One of the many option screens. In this case showing the many multimedia related options. I need to buy a mini SD card before I can try them. Or stop being lazy, in the case of the radio.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 07 - Multimedia

The radio screen. When you first enter it, a popup displays requesting that the ear phones be connected so that an antenna is available.

2010-08-01 - Sciphone - 08 - Radio

The batteries that comes with the phone are pretty lacklustre. Apparently, people buy more effective Nokia batteries and use those instead. And you also need to buy a mini SD card to make the phone more effective. The phone would actually be pretty good for the price, if I cobbled together a way so that the back cover stayed affixed. However, not having done any of these things, and because it is not as light as my current Nokia, I keep it in the cupboard for now.

When I hooked up the phone to my laptop via the USB cable that comes with it, the phone displayed a new menu. This gave the option of accessing it as a USB storage device, a webcam or something else I cannot remember. Given this is a knock off of an iPhone, I can't help but be impressed by the amount of functionality that makes it up. If they only polished the last 5%, it would be quite a bargain and well worth buying. Oh, and it has a stylus slotted into the side.. erm.

This was an interesting "buy a knock-off at a market" experience, at least. Maybe I'll fix up the phone and give it to someone as a gift. Or put it up on TradeMe, when I get back to New Zealand.

People's Square

One of the sights that was recommended was People's Square. I don't know why, sure on a blue sky summer day, being green and all it looked nice enough. But it was just a park and a museum, as far as I could tell. Something that it is known for on a forum for foreigners related to Shanghai, are tea ceremony scammers.

2010-07-25 - People's Square - Shanghai Museum

Maybe we missed something and didn't get the full experience.

Oishi cheese sticks

Waiting for our mexican food to be delivered, a friend and I headed to the store downstairs and bought some drinks. He also bought these for some reason.

Shaped and flavoured corn snacks are unappealing enough, but wheat based variants are not much better.

2010-07-26 - Oishi Cheese Sticks - 01 - Bag

Just looking at them made me feel queasy. He ended up eating half the pack before he gave up.

2010-07-26 - Oishi Cheese Sticks - 02 - Sticks

The mexican food wasn't much better.

Uncle Pop milk flavoured waffle biscuits

A common theme about foods they put out at work are waffle like qualities. In this case, these biscuits are pressed with a waffle effect. Really, they taste like milk biscuits from home, but thinner and therefore more crisp. And given they are milk flavoured, this is not surprising.

2010-08-01 - Uncle Pop Milk Flavored Waffle Biscuits - 01 - Bag

Each bag contains a number of smaller portion bags of two biscuits.

2010-08-01 - Uncle Pop Milk Flavored Waffle Biscuits - 02 - Portions

I am a bit tired of these biscuits. They were nice enough as a snack to go with a cup of coffee at work, but I drink tea at home so there's no occasion where I think to myself that a milk flavoured waffle biscuit would be nice.

The water is green?

The cleaners of my hotel room leave the plug in the bathtub, so when I turn on the shower I generally return to find the bath full of water. That is all well and good, but the water is a green colour.

2010-08-01 - Legend Hotel - 01 - Bath water

Some things to note. When you go to a lake, the water has a greenish hue. When you go to a river in the countryside, the water has a greenish hue. When you run the tap, the water is usually clear. At least this country has natural looking water coming out of its taps.

Po-Li seasoned seaweed

There are a lot of strange foods in the supermarkets here, my approach to making easy choices as to which to try is to eat the ones they have at work. This is one of those foods. They put out the portion sachets of these seaweed leaves. They have a tangy, savoury taste.

Looking for them in the supermarket, I stumbled across the bulk pack. I think this was around 30 RMB.

2010-07-29 - Po-Li Seasoned Seaweed - 01 - Bag

Inside the bulk pack are the portion sachets.

2010-07-29 - Po-Li Seasoned Seaweed - 02 - Portion

And inside a portion sachet is several sheets of seaweed.

2010-07-29 - Po-Li Seasoned Seaweed - 03 - Sheets

All of the sachets shown here were eaten about ten minutes later.

Work also puts out red sachets, but I haven't seen them in the store. For reference, I found them in Carrefour.