Taobao

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a shopper. I don’t like to shop, and I am for sure an under-buyer, a term that Gretchen Rubin coined for people who only tend to buy things when they need it. And even then, sometimes I still won’t buy it, even when I know I need it! It can be very frustrating πŸ˜‚

Anyway, there’s this Chinese version of Amazon called Taobao, which I heard about when we first moved to Singapore. I had friends who swore by it. I’ve checked it out a few times, but each time I’ve gone in, I was overwhelmed by all the Chinese on the site, and so never really bothered checking out the site in any more detail than this initial cursory glance.

Today, though, I stumbled across this blog post called The Foreigner’s Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Taobao, and it’s made me want to revisit the Taobao site and see how much of the site I can now understand, without having to use the translate function. Plus their app only has Chinese, and if I am going to browse the site, I’d be more than likely to be browsing on my phone anyway.

It turns out that I can actually somewhat navigate my way around! 😱 I think I know enough characters now that even though I may not necessarily know a word, I can get the gist of its meaning from the characters that it is made up of. And if I want to learn new words, I have plenty to choose from just on this site alone. And getting a bargain or two is enough incentive for me to learn some new words! πŸ˜‚ Plus, now that we’re in Hong Kong, we’re even closer to the mainland, so deliveries should only take a few days. So I’ll let you know when I make my first purchase, as that will surely be a momentous occasion! πŸ˜†

Advertisements

Finding that right balance

I put together our new budget for HK today. Ugh, this city is so expensive 😩 I thought SG was bad, I think it’s worse here πŸ˜” Nonetheless, I’m going to make the most of our time here, and try and enjoy it as much as I can. We may not achieve our financial goals while we’re here, but we’ll do our darndest to get close πŸ’΅

I went to the gym today and apparently worked my arms to buggery, they are now sooo tired and sore! I can barely lift them πŸ˜‚πŸ’ͺ That’s a good sign πŸ‘

I didn’t spend much time on my Chinese today, because I spent so much time on our budget and finance stuff that there wasn’t much time (or energy!) left over for study. I’ll try and do more tomorrow to make up for it 😊

It’s always hard finding that right balance of how much time to spend across my different goals. I’ve been dedicating a whole ton of time on my language journey lately, and today I just rejigged it a little 😊 I think what I tend to do is focus on one particular area and end up spending way too much time on that, at the expense of other areas of my life. I need more balance! βš–οΈ

New ideas

Do you remember my other blog that I started sometime last year? Well I sorta abandoned it when we moved to HK, while we were just settling into this city. Anyway, I’m thinking of actually deleting it and starting a brand new one: writing about my language journey as I learn Mandarin. And then hopefully other languages in the future as I continue on this lifelong journey. I’m really enjoying the journey, and I think it would be nice to have a written record of it, to see the frustrations as well as the triumphs, and to share with others on a similar journey the numerous resources that I’ve come across that have helped me (or still helping me) improve my Mandarin. Anyway, it’s just an idea at the moment, but one that is certainly piquing my interest 😊

We had bak kut teh for dinner tonight! πŸ˜‹ N bought a few bak kut teh packet mixes from the supermarket in SG while he was there for work last week. Ah SG, how I miss you πŸ˜”

And then we watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones (season 8 episode 3) while we ate our bak kut teh. Stressful episode! But a damn good one. I don’t know how many more episodes are left, surely they’re close to wrapping up the series? I am thinking of making my way through the books now, surely they’re just as good as the tv series, if not better?? It’s not quite the genre that I like to read, so I’m not sure how I’ll find them. Maybe I’ll give the first book a go anyway. I’ll let you know 😊

Another polyglot

I still felt pretty shite today, and so I ended up sleeping for most of it. But it paid off, and I’m feeling somewhat better now.

And in the evening, I just watched a few more YouTube clips that polyglots have posted. I came across Lindie Botes today, and came across this clip of her time in SG. It made me miss that country so much! πŸ˜”

She absolutely LOVES Korean, and she also seems to gravitate towards various Asian languages. And what I like about her the most out of all the other polyglots I’ve come across on YouTube so far is that she’s learning my top three Asian languages: Chinese, Korean and Japanese. She’s even made clips about learning all three, which is sooo inspiring! She’s most advanced in Korean, which – despite all the fantabulous dramas that they make – is actually the language I’m least interested in out of the three! πŸ˜† But she says Japanese and Korean are so close that it sounds like you’d sorta get a 2-for-1 package deal if you learn these two languages πŸ˜‚ So I may consider picking up Korean later on down the track when I get a better handle on the first two πŸ˜ƒ

Typhoon season

I woke up with a bit of a sore throat this morning, and it never got any better as the day went on. I think perhaps the aircon was a bit too cold for me last night πŸ₯Ά So I just felt a bit under the weather all day. Hopefully I can shake it off tomorrow…

The heat and humidity have kicked in now, it seems. It’s starting to feel more like SG, but a little cooler, as technically it is still spring πŸ˜„ I have put away all my cold weather clothes, and my summer clothes are now all out and ready to be worn. Yeah! Bring it on!

The only thing about summer that is freaking me out a bit is this typhoon business in HK. I know the locals are used to it, but I am SO NOT, and just the word itself stresses me out a little. I was here once when they announced a typhoon, and I was also in Taipei once when a typhoon warning was announced there too, and neither of them turned out to be too bad – at least where I was! So hopefully that remains the case… 🀞 I remember shops and hotels in Taipei were taping up their windows the night before the typhoon, laying down sandbags across the bottom of their doors, to minimise any water damage. These guys know how to prepare. They must, as typhoons seem to occur so often in this part of Asia. Hopefully during our time here, nothing major happens…!🀞🀞

Being tourists in our not-so-new city

We wandered around and did some touristy stuff today. We decided to check out the streets near the HK Museum of Medical Sciences and Man Mo Temple in the Sheung Wan area. This area is steep, I remember exploring this neighbourhood when we were just tourists in this city, well before there was even talk of us moving here. I was climbing the bajillion steps in this area, following exactly what Google maps told me to do. Even though, yes, it was telling me the quickest route to get to the museum, but it didn’t take into consideration the steepness! I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to the museum – and I still remember finally reaching it, only to find out it had already closed for the day! The inter web gave me the wrong opening hours for the museum! Argh! 😩 And yet I still went back the next day, and climbed the damn stairs again, that’s how much I wanted to see the museum then!

But now I know better: do NOT take those damn bajillion stairs, unless you want the exercise πŸ˜‚ And especially in the HK heat and humidity, which can rival SG, believe it or not. Take the mid-level escalators and get off at Caine Road, and make your way to the museum from there. It may take longer, but it is a much less strenuous route. And then from the museum, you can then make your way down to Man Mo Temple. Doing the museum first and then the temple means a downhill walk, instead of a painful uphill climb. But you can make up your own mind which route you wish to take 😊

The area is pretty funky, with a lot of antique stores as well as a few cafes, creating a nice juxtaposition of eastern and western influence. And the place wasn’t overly busy either when we wandered around, which made for quite a relaxing afternoon walk 😌 So we’d like to go back again and check out a few cafes and restaurants in thjs area. Maybe find a new yum cha place sometime next weekend? πŸ˜„

And then in the evening, we finished the last few episodes of The Exorcist’s Meter. N is off to SG tomorrow for the rest of the week so we both just wanted to finish the series today rather than have to wait until next weekend to do so. I don’t want to say anything other than the ending was goood! It was right up there with some Korean dramas in terms of endings, actually. I was quite impressed with the last few episodes πŸ‘ Now we need to find our new drama…

Our first trip to Shenzhen

This post is about our experience of going to Shenzhen from Hong Kong. Firstly, the two posts from ausbt.com.au that I’ve provided links to in this post were the most helpful for me when preparing for our day trip today. I’ll outline some more things that we encountered today that weren’t mentioned in these two posts, probably because they’ve been more recent changes, but everything else is, by and large, still valid.

How to travel by train from Hong Kong to Shenzhen

Firstly, coming from HK, this still seems to be the most common route to take if you need a visa on arrival in Shenzhen. But do note that if you’ve already organised your visa to China beforehand, you can now also catch the high speed rail, which takes something like 15 minutes from West Kowloon station in HK to Futian station in Shenzhen. This is wayyy better than the normal train that supposedly takes 45 minutes or something. But yes, it is also more expensive. But the trains are newer, and you are guaranteed a seat, unlike the regular trains. So it is better to book your tickets for these beforehand, as you may not get a seat otherwise at the time you wish to go.

How to get a Shenzhen visa on arrival when visiting from Hong Kong

We went today, the Saturday during the Easter long weekend, and there were a bajillion foreigners at the visa office. The above article said that their wait was something like 10-30 minutes, ours was more like two hours. We got there at around 10am, and we probably left at around 12-12:30pm. It was crazy busy. At one point, there were no seats and people were just standing around inside and outside the office. So if you’re going during a long weekend like we did, I highly recommend that you get there as early as possible, perhaps when the visa office opens!

The steps they have at the visa office goes something like this:

  1. Take your photo in one of the photo booths
  2. Fill out a visa application form
  3. Take a queue ticket from the ticket machine
  4. Wait for your number to be called

They now have photo booths just outside the visa office, so the first queue you have to face is this one. But don’t do the steps as they suggest: I suggest first taking a number from the ticket booth, as the ausbt article recommends. You still have to wait, so you may as well cut down that wait time by doing a few other steps beforehand. Do note, though, that they say that if you miss your number, you’ll have to queue up again with a new number, so bear this in mind and assess whether or not this is the right thing for you to do, depending on the number of people ahead of you on the day.

Also note that the rules change all the time. We ran into a few of N’s workmates at the visa office – it was one big office reunion πŸ˜‚ One of his colleague’s visa applications was actually rejected, and he had to basically turn around and head back to HK. He was constantly checking to see what the latest rules were with his passport, and he was getting conflicting information, so do bear this in mind too if your passport is from one of these countries where the rules constantly seem to be changing. You do run the risk of not being able to get a visa on arrival, so it may be safer to just apply for your visa beforehand. He knew the risk he was taking, but I was still disappointed for him.

You can also pay by credit card for your visa. The cost of the visa does vary, but a lot of countries seem to be at the Β₯168 price point. You can pay by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Amex), as well as by UnionPay or just with cash. I wasn’t expecting to be able to pay by credit card, so that was handy too.

And then after you get your visa, you head down to immigration. What seems to be new now are the fingerprint machines near the arrival slips. You need to do this first, so you’re in the “system”, I suppose, before you head over to join the immigration queue. Note that the arrival slip and the departure slip are attached, so you can fill both sections out now if you want, to save you time later when you depart. But it’s not necessary, entirely up to you.

And that’s it! Ordeal over! 🀣

Shenzhen metro

This is actually pretty easy to understand, as it is very similar to Hong Kong’s MTR system. You can buy single journey tickets, but we decided to buy the Shenzhen metro card, which is similar to HK’s octopus card, as it’s just so much easier to get around with it. Note, though, that the machine to buy these metro cards are all in Chinese, there is no English option 😱 But we still managed to fumble our way through it (my limited Chinese might have helped!), and we paid the Β₯100 for each of our cards.

Then we realised that we don’t have any value on them, so we had to go up to the customer service counter to add value on to them. Now this staff member is completely rushed off her feet, fielding numerous questions from random people. This happens all the time in HK too, and it happened a bit in SG, so I’m used to it now: people butt in and ask customer service people questions, even while the staff member is already serving someone else. I used to think this was extremely rude, but over time, I’ve come to realise that it’s just the done thing, and no one pays any attention to it. Staff must just learn to multi-task. It’s insane.

Each metro station that we went to (all four of them πŸ˜‚) had a security check area before you enter the paid area of the subway platform, with the conveyor belts and all, like at airports. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It must be a real pain to have to go through that process during rush hour on a weekday – for all parties involved!

General comments

We didn’t explore much of Shenzhen today, unfortunately, as the rain was torrential. We only got to go to Leyuan Road and KK Mall. But from this limited experience, we came across very little English. It’s tough going, but for a day trip, you put it down to the adventure of being in a foreign land πŸ˜†

I was also warned that Google Maps won’t work in China (and anything Google or Facebook related). Well it still did work for me, but my location wasn’t as accurate as it normally would be, even in densely populated HK. People have suggested this map app instead, but it’s all in Chinese, so it’s much harder to use.

Overall, I think we sorted out the practical stuff today, which was really the main objective of the trip, as we knew the rain would probably make it hard for us to do much else. But we didn’t expect it to be so torrential! Despite not doing much touristy stuff, though, I still think we had a successful day πŸ‘ I’d like to go back again and do the touristy things that we didn’t get to do today because of the rain. Maybe we’ll apply for a visa beforehand next time πŸ˜„