Tag Archives: shopping

Ciuitates mutantur

I only turned my back for a minute.

Even if very little else changes in China (e.g. Have people in Jiangsu stopped wearing pyjamas in public? No. Are Chinese motorists considerate of other road users and pedestrians? No), cities never stand still. They perhaps don’t change quite as rapidly as the clichés would have the world believe. For example, it’s taken five years for the buildings to the east of me to reach their current unfinished state, and in Chengdu, the area around 大慈 has managed to go almost nowhere in the past eight years. The original development stalled, and the current one is making glaciers look like Usain Bolt.

But when I got back from Chengdu on Tuesday, I found there had been several changes while I’d been away. The 85° shop opposite Baoli has reopened after being refurbished. I must go in and see whether they have the tiramisu log which Linda introduced me to in Chengdu. Then via my former colleagues, Joe and Lucy, I learnt that the Metro has started running.

A couple of weeks ago, the entrances all seemed to have been opened. There was one from the Parkson building where Burger King used to be, and another from the Far Eastern where the posh wine shop once was. I need to go and have a look at a map to see what course it takes. I know it runs along Zhongshan Lu, which bisects the centre of the city, but I don’t know where the line has come from or where it’s going.

[As an aside, I now suspect that Jiefang Lu marks the line of the old city walls. The Metro exit from the Far Eastern is called 胜利门 (Shenglimen “Victory Gate”), and I see on the map 东门 and 西门. There seems to be no southern gate.]

When I went out to Ikea yesterday to buy a bedside lamp, I did see that there’s a station being built not far from there. I’m not sure whether the line, which is elevated, is going to be part of the Metro, or some sort of light rail link. At the moment, getting the bus to Ikea is no real bother beyond the length of time spent waiting at either end, and the slowness of the journey, which takes about half an hour.

Another new development was the roadworks on 学前东路 (Xue Qian Donglu) alongside Yaohan (aka, Ba Bai Ban). The road is completely blocked off at the moment as they rip up the surface, but that whole section to the next intersection has needed seeing to for a long, long time.

Things have also changed out at Ikea with the opening of the Livat shopping mall. This appears to be run by Ikea, and there are connections between the two buildings, but the shops in the mall are the usual sort of thing, and include a cinema, Auchan (a supermarket), and yet another Suning. The place also has Subway and Burger King, which both used to be in Parkson before they vanished. I’ve been wondering whether either place might reappear in town, but at the moment, they’ve been banished to the New District, and although it’s not difficult to reach them, the journey vacuums up quite a chunk of time.

Livat is also a good deal more expansive than it seems. From outside the building is reasonably large, but that also disguises the depth behind it. Most of the shops are up and running with a few blanks in between. I notice, though, that once again, there’s never anywhere to sit down. Perhaps this is to stop the local bumpkins swarming into the place for free air con but for little else. (They were already lolling all over the beds in Ikea.)

I wandered around the building, but by that time, I’d bought the lamp from Ikea and had had lunch, and there was no reason for me to linger. I note that there is ultimately nothing special about Livat. It’s the usual sort of shops, most of which don’t interest me in the slightest and most of which are already in town – apart from Subway and Burger King. I also note, once again, the complete absence of any bookshops.

One thing I noticed when I was in Chengdu was just how different the Far Eastern is there from the one here. In our one, there is a central space with the shops around it. The one in Chengdu has no central space, which makes it feel very different. It seemed more claustrophobic and more like those vast clothing markets in Beijing which I visited once or twice, where everything is packed in like sardines on floor after floor. On the other hand, the IFS building in Chengdu has a central space which, I assume, is some sort of psychological ploy intended to improve the shopping experience. (That’s probably what the brochure said, but probably didn’t say “ploy”.) Along with many of the shopping malls in town, Livat is based on the same principles.

Map of Wuxi Metro, Line 1

When I go shopping later, I’ll venture into one of the Metro stations to have a look at a map to see where the line goes, and perhaps where it’s supposed to be going. Is Line 1 the usual north-south affair or is it a circuit? What were they doing outside BuyNow on Wu’ai Lu, which seems to be a bit removed from the rest of the Metro system? I thought it was going to be another entrance, but that now seems highly unlikely.

[A little later. I went into the Sanyang en­trance outside Parkson and took this picture of Line 1. I suspect that Line 2 will run east-west and will include the station out near Ikea, though currently nothing heads into the New District (新区).]


Only 50ml more to England

Supply and demand.

A fairly frequent topic on this blog has been supply and demand with Chinese characteristics. When there’s a demand, there’s no supply, and when there’s a supply, there’s no demand. (It seems to be true when I’m the customer.)

Thus I’ve bought products which have vanished from the shelves, apparently for good, only for them to reappear sometime later with a substantial gap between the two points. I don’t know whether the coffee I used to buy is still available, and I know that Smoovlatté, which may be in evidence at the moment, could vanish next week.

A recent reappearance was Tim-Tams, which are now back in Walmart after a long absence. Why? Who knows?

The exception to the rule would appear to be Weetabix, which have been coming and going, and have now gone because of the poor wheat harvest in the UK. In this case, the absence of Weetabix products has nothing to do with local quirkiness.

The Lipton’s Italian-style lemon tea has been coming and going on a short cycle. One moment it was in the Far Eastern; the next it was gone; then it was back; then it was gone again; and so on. About a month ago, it was back, but didn’t last long. Then, about a week ago, I spotted something which seemed to be the same, but was now called English-style lemon tea, which came in a different-shaped bottle. The stuff seemed to be the same.

When I was in Walmart looking for some lemon tea, I found that far from the English-style one being a replacement for the Italian-style one, they were both on the shelves. In addition to the name and shape of the bottle, the former is 50ml larger than the latter.

I don’t suppose that I’ll ever know why the supply of most goods here is so ca­pric­ious.

Milking it for everything it’s got

It’s what the 太太 want.

I went shopping after school knowing that among other things, I needed to buy some milk. I don’t normally buy milk from Carrefour, but since I was going there, I thought I’d grab a carton.

Being a cheap bastard discerning shopper, I buy the local stuff, but today, there was none to be had. It was either New Zealand milk at twice the price (around ¥19 for one litre; NZ$3.74 at the current rate of exchange; I have no idea whether this is good, bad, or other; tick a box) or those irritating kiddie cartons.

I was heading to 远东百货 anyway, and know that I can usually get milk there; but instead, I found more New Zealand milk alongside other exotic, overpriced milks from around the globe. Since the prices in 远东百货 are even higher than those in Carrefour, I was damned if I was going to sigh in defeat and accept that I was going to have to pay well over the odds, or be inconvenienced further.

Instead, I went home via Vanguard, which had milk at a less disagreeable price.

Once again, I have to go to three different places to get everything I need. Once again, it’s one of those occasions when the supply chain goes funny and that which I expect to be able to find has vanished without being restocked. The situation must be especially bothersome for people who don’t have my mobility and must simply tolerate the annoyance of paying twice as much for milk because the financial damage to their wallets exceeds the inconvenience of traipsing all over the city for what they want.

No, I haven’t forgotten you

And I don’t need Freegate.

Here I am in Kuala Lumpur for three days of IB training and no weekend. Actually, I have two days of travelling, three days of IB training, and no weekend. I don’t like this game!

Fred and I travelled to Kuala Lumpur via Guangzhou on Thursday, arriving here at about 11.00pm. We’re in the Crowne Plaza Mutiara, which is not all that far from the Petronas Towers, which can just be seen from the other side of the hotel.

We took the express from  the airport to KL Sentral station, which is, we were told, a journey of some 65km. At the station we then bought a ticket for a taxi before we even got out of the building.

We’ve been being overloaded with information about the basics of the IB programme, most of which I will’ve forgotten before we’ve even left the hotel. There is lot, though, as we go through a verbose summary of the handbook.

The hotel is nice, but not quite as nice as the Crowne Plaza where we stayed in Chengdu. I’m on the 25th floor looking out over a monorail stop. There are quite a lot of roadworks in progress, and the streets can’t quite cope with the volume of traffic using them, it seeems to me. There are also gaggles of motorcyclists zooming about, although I can’t say why they seem to travel in groups. I can’t say whether the traffic is truly well behaved or whether it’s well behaved because the volume of vehicles prevents it from being anything else. If this was China, there’d be utter chaos on the roads because of the appalling state of road etiquette there.

The weather has been rather wet at times, although I came prepared since I’d read that this was the rainy season. We’ve had some very heavy showers, which generally don’t appear to last that long. Nor does the city seem that humid. At the moment, it’s pleasant.

I went for a brief wander yesterday afternoon through the Pavilion, which turned out to be a covered bar street, which, in turn, seems to be part of a larger tourist trap in the local area. Not exactly my sort of thing. My wandering took me to Watsons where I found that the deodorant for which I pay ¥32 in China was a mere RM7.11 (about ¥14.50).

This afternoon I went over to the Petronas Towers which contains the Suria shopping mall. There I found a branch of M&S and solved my ageing trousers problem at a stroke. The alternative was a trip to M&S in Shanghai at some stage; but possibly just as I paid less for the deodorant here, I also paid less for two pairs of trousers. I must go back to the mall again to explore the place further.

It’s hard to get an overall picture of Kuala Lumpur from here. This part of the city seems a little dead. Lots of cars pass through, but there’s not much about apart from bars, restaurants, and expat dens. It reminds me of a cramped version of Admiralty in Hong Kong after the lights go out at the end of the day. The area seems to be mainly hotels, banks and businesses, but I get no sense that this is a residential area.

Contrary to what I expected, when I looked this place up on Google maps, I found that Kuala Lumpur Call Girls was marked as being just nearby. I don’t know whether this is meant seriously or not, but Fred was accosted by someone, and I’m sure I saw a potential employee of the business yesterday evening. I thought Malaysia was rather more prim and starchy than that.

One more day to go and we’re back to the Land of the Ignorant, Unimaginative, and Benighted early on Monday morning. I have no problems accessing the Internet here and I don’t notice any signs that Malaysian society is about to collapse because people can see Facebook, G+, YouTube, WordPress, etc.

The week of promise

Or, No god did not piss through a sieve.

The week started so well – clear skies, sunshine, rising temperatures. Spring had finally arrived after weeks of predominantly crap weather. Or had it?

Initially, the forecast for today was promising, but then it was for rain. I hoped that meant it’d rain later in the day, but by lunchtime it was fairly horrible (well, all right, horribly horrible), and this afternoon it turned even worse and has remained even worse.

To add insult to injury (an old Inuit proverb which would be better known if they didn’t have 30 words for “insult” and 46 for “injury” [admittedly about 30 of those are for snow-related injuries]; ironically, they have one word for snow, but no one knows what it is), it was advisable for me to do a little shopping at Carrefour. I could’ve put it off until tomorrow, but the forecast is for more of the same.

I was at KFC for lunch yesterday and happened to look across 五爱路 which is mostly blocked by the work being done on the Metro system. There on the other side of the street was a shop called 芒可 (mángkě; if I remember the characters correctly; they might’ve been 杧可). Unfortunately, the transliterated form of the name was Mangoo. Slower readers will get that one in a moment. Wait for it… There you go.

The big news from the Empire today is the fall of Bo Xilai, the former chief party boy of Chongqing. The savvy punters are saying that he’s been removed so that he can’t turn up at a Politburo meeting, remove his mask, and reveal himself to be Chairman Mao. “Ha! You dumb bastards thought I was selling pizza out of Tiananmen Square!”

That 2Gb Aigo MP3 player left me with a mess to untangle. Because it organised its library by file name, I had to go through and rename sound files so that they would cluster together correctly instead of being listed alphanumerically regardless of their source. But this led to splitting up files into separate folders, and now that I have a Walkman, which supports its own playlists, I no longer need to organise things in this way.

I bought the third volume of Vivaldi’s concertos for strings played by Collegium Musicum 90, which again mostly added completely new material to my collection. I’ve been enjoying listening to Rameau’s complete harpsichord works played by Trevor Pinnock. Rameau’s style seems a little lighter than Couperin’s, which has always struck me as being like Black Forest Gateau with extra-thick icing.

Satan’s lucky cabbages

The number of the price.

I needed to do some shopping when I got back to the Empire, and went to Carrefour to buy various items for tea. I happened across a pair of cabbages for ¥6.66. I’m surprised that no one had bought them because 666 is a lucky number here and because imperial citizens are a fairly superstitious lot. Actually, I think I may already have mentioned seeing Satan’s lucky car (with 666 on the reg. plate) parked outside the building.

Satan would’ve needed his scarf on today. Yesterday was grey and hazy; today, clear, sunny, and bitterly cold to boot as an icy wind blew down shade-covered streets. There is some cloud off to the east, but the pollution in the air makes it hard to determine whether it’s a bank or whether it’s sheep-like clumps drifting across the sky as it is overhead. The air is reasonably clear although still has that brown tinge from billions of particles of dust. Cough.

Four words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence

Carrefour, priced, reasonably, wine.

I went to Carrefour yesterday to buy a couple of things, including some wine. Much to my surprise, when I got to the wines, there was a Carrefour own-brand section with prices starting at ¥39. Apart from the Vistamar at ¥69 and one or two others, prices for wine from Carrefour normally start at around ¥80 and rise to ridiculous levels from there. The range is small, but there is some variety.

I opted to try the Syrah and the Grenache Noir with some trepidation because it’s been a long time since I’ve drunk any cheap wine. However, I can report that the Grenache Noir is a reminder that a decent wine doesn’t have to cost indecent amounts of money. In fact, one of the worst wines I’ve had was a Jean Jean Syrah for about ¥89, which was like bottled heartburn.

It’s nice to see something more reasonably priced for once because I’ve long thought that Carrefour ought to offer more affordable wines and get away from the tyranny of luxury brands.

Adventures come in all shapes and sizes

And they start with an Aston Martin.

Sooner or later, once a year, I have to make a copy of some CD for listening. On each occasion, I say to myself that I really ought to buy a permanent marker so that I can write on the CD what it is, but so far I’ve been using a non-permanent marker, a Pental Sign Pen, which I’ve owned for about twenty years. I’ve also said that I really ought to get sleeves for these things because I’ve been lucky that a small supply has been left behind by some previous teacher, but those have long since run out. I did have a better idea, though, and that was to buy one of those CD cases.

But my adventure starts with a white Aston Martin which I might’ve overlooked had I not been wondering what some drumming was all about. It was parked under the 春申路 bridge just near the back gate. It’s still there right now because I can see it from the window near my front door. I think it’s a Vantage, probably the V8, and is as yummy as a fresh chocolate eclair on a bed of chocolate ice cream an smothered in chocolate-flavoured whipped cream with shavings of dark choc… [Yes, I think we get the idea. The car is very nice. –ed.]

I went to Walmart that was formerly Trust Mart, and had no problems finding permanent markers. As for the CD cases, nothing doing. They had none. Really, none. I went to Vanguard, but expected to find nothing, and Suyou, but found nothing, and then went to Buynow, where they did have them, but when the first person asked ¥128 and I protested, the price dropped to ¥68, and the other case I saw was marked as ¥58. So I headed to Carrefour, which I thought would have such cases at a more reasonable prices, but like Trust Mart, it had none at all.

I went to 远东百货 to get something for lunch (which I ought to start eating because I’m beginning to feel hungry). Outside I saw that pink BMW Z4 for the second time. Pink. Ugh. Lady Penelope and Parker could get away with a pink Rolls because they were too cool for school. The Z4 tells us that a.) the owner has money; b.) certainly enough to get the car resprayed; and c.) has no sense of good taste after turning a tiger into My Little Pony.

My bike does have pink flashes on it, but they actually go well with the darker red of the frame. In this case, pink works as a highlight whereas it’s just not right as the main colour on some things.

I needed to find one of those ubiquitous stationery shops which are so easy to find near most schools in the Empire (一中 being a bit of an exception), and went down the back streets behind the 红豆 building and across 解放路 into a commercial electronics district. I was still looking for a stationery shop, but I was also looking for a market where I might find cheap CD cases. I stopped at the very sort of shop I was looking for, but got sent off up the street where I found a CD shop which seemed to specialise in educational material, but they had CD cases. They had quite a selection with car badges on them, but these were small and didn’t have the capacity I wanted; but they did have what I was looking for at the right price: ¥10.

I have quite a number of CDs in my desk drawer at school which need a home, and they’ll now have one.

I took my bike out for a spin yesterday, which included a turn in the park to play about with the gears. What did we learn? Gears 1.1 to 1.71 are almost entirely too low unless you’re going up a hill. I could easily fling the bike out from under me on 1.1 when I accelerate. I find 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 good for general cycling, and 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 quite good for going up bridges. A combination of the gears and the lightness of the aluminium frame allows me to get up too some scarily high speeds which just did not happen on my old bike.

The other night my dear and beloved colleagues claimed that I was the fastest thing on two wheels in Wuxi, which is only a slight exaggeration. It is, though, a poor reflection on the rest of the population when some middle-aged git like me is faster than just about everything else, motorised or not.


1. For convenience I’m number the driving cogs as 1 to 3 (the first number) and the secondary cogs as 1 to 7 (the second number). Thus 1.1 is the lowest gear and 3.7 is the highest.

My squashed croissant

My flat-out pain. (Geddit?)

It’s very grey and very hazy this morning. The ground seems to be drying out, but there’s good chance that there’s invisible drizzle swirling about, little wet phantoms ready to pounce on me the moment I go outside. and I have to go out because I need breakfast cereal, which I can purchase in only one place – Carrefour. (Read that with a dread and august rumble of thunder.)

I’m hoping that everyone did their shopping for the long weekend yesterday, but that would require long-term planning, and, instead, the queues are as bad as ever. I have two things to buy.

I started queuing at 11.30am and estimated that I’d reach the till at 11.50am. I was almost absolutely right even although there were fewer people in the queue because the till was closer not farther away. Roughly speaking it took me twenty minutes to move about five metres. That’s a heady 25cm per minute, I believe. Did I mention that I had two things to buy?

Theoretically there are the multi-tills for people like me, but they’re never fully manned and the pyjama-clad morons still insist of pushing their trolleys into those queues.

Mrs Shouty Woman, who was in the next queue over to my right, was shouting at someone, but I don’t know who. She vanished off back into the shelves apparently leaving her daughter as a kind of place holder. When I next spotted her, she’d reached the till and I wondered whether her husband had borne the brunt of her anger and frustration for forgetting the 粽子.

It has been impossible to log on to gmail since yesterday. In fact, when I try, the following page is blocked and Google becomes inaccessible as well. The kind interpretation would be that the imperial government is thoughtfully blocking access to gmail to prevent the (evil) hackers from attacking it. I’m not in a kind mood and interpret this as the imperial government thoughtfully blocking access to gmail so that the (evil) hackers can attack it.

I’m pleased to say that etimo.it, the online Italian etymological dictionary, is visible again. I needed it for a minor matter yesterday only to find it was inaccessible. This sort of occurrence hasn’t been unusual recently. Both this blog and my LJ one appear blocked one minute, but are then viewable the next. Today it’s the turn of the Lingua Franca Nova website, which I haven’t visited in some time; and if it really is blocked, why?


Taking its queue from eggs.

wuxi_lightingThere was another queue in Walmart this evening along with the usual group of people watching a DVD, but without feeling the slightest compunction to buy the machine on which it’s being played or the TV on which they’re watching it. They probably haven’t even bought the DVD. But the queue. What was that about? Eggs again? No. Rice. What was special about it? I don’t honestly know. Farm-fresh rice? It was coming from sacks in a shopping trolley and being doled out to each customer by some man wielding a scoop. 

When I got to the checkout, I noticed a sign on the wall beside the exit which had the label “Servant Leadership”. On the divider at the checkout it said “Please checkout at  nearby cashiers”, which I took to mean (probably) that the till was closed, although you can never be too sure. It might’ve been an ironic statement, of course.

There was a large crowd outside dancing to loud, grating music and another large crowd spectating[1]. The stage was being dismantled and packed onto a small truck, probably to be unpacked from the same small truck on the same spot some time next week. There was even a beggar on the first landing up to Gizma, which hadn’t been my first port of call for tea, but when I got to the Western restaurant, the flight controllers had people in a stacking pattern.

I happened to spot the scene above while I was chatting to Linda, and liked the contrast between the late afternoon sunlight lighting the buildings and the greying sky behind them.

My hit count has gone a bit wild this week. 1321 so far and 67,000 hits is now memory from some time earlier today. One visitor allowed me to correct an error in a title. The negative past habitual “didn’t use to” has always been a bit of a pest for me.


1. That’s odd. Live Writer thinks “spectating” is misspelt. [31.08.13. So does Chrome.]