The Traveler Guide to Shanghai

Are you staying in Shanghai for a while? Wondering about what to eat and trying to Google it out? To be honest, you will probably get much better results if you know some Chinese using Baidu search. If not, then you are stuck with me here in this blog but I will be try to be as helpful as possible.

I would like to begin with the fact that I liked Shanghai a lot. It’s really a clean, organized , has an amazing public transportation network and plenty of food places. If you are not really into Asian then you still have plenty of international options. Many people can speak English or at least a few words, the rest usually is smart enough to understand what I want using some body language.

This guide is intended to pass over my experience to people who are intending to stay in Shanghai for a couple of months or more. It’s not targeting tourists but it could help anyway.

Essential Mobile Apps

I think before everything it’s essential to prepare some apps on your mobile, otherwise it would be more difficult to survive even when some of these apps are completely in Chinese they will still prove to be useful in some situations.

wechat

WeChat  [English/Chinese]

I would say WeChat is the most important app in China, it’s much more than chat, it’s like a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook, Apple Pay and it’s also used in business frequently. For the Chinese people it’s pretty normal that your co-worker or boss asks for your WeChat id to call you for work purposes or even pass you business information through it and expects the same from you, additionally all your new Chinese friends will be on WeChat and you don’t want to miss that and on top of all that you can use it to pay nearly anywhere even at the small fruit shop around the corner.

Alipay logo

Alipay [English/Chinese]

It’s the same here, it’s just not your standard mobile payments application. Maybe because Chinese like to have many functionalities on a single platform. Some additional features that I used on Alipay:

  • Paying utilities bills: Basically you need to enter your subscription number which should be written on the bill (a friend can help you to locate it) and you will be able to pay your bills with one click. Extremely efficient.
  • Renting a bike: The usual drill, scan, unlock and pay.
  • Top up: for Chinese mobile phone numbers.
  • There are more features like booking trains, flights or even movie tickets but I didn’t really explore them.

This leads us to a crucial point which is how to activate the mobile payment feature on Alipay or WeChat? From my experience your normal credit or debit card won’t really work but adding a Chinese debit card should be straight forward. However, you need of course to open a bank account which should take a couple of hours depending on your visa type. If you have a long stay visa it should be possible but if you are on a category M visa only 2 banks as far as I know might agree to open an account for you: Eventbrite and Shanghai bank. You will also need a letter from the Chinese entity that you are working with them locally.

VPN

Google, Facebook, WhatsApp. Youtube .. and many other western world services are blocked or very slow therefore you will probably need a paid VPN service to be really able to use these services reliably (to contact your family for example). And don’t forget to figure out this before landing in the airport, once you are in China it will be a very difficult job to obtain a VPN solution.

I tested around 4-5 solutions and concluded that the most reliable ones are:

  • Ladder VPN; Cheap, mobile only, speed is ok.
  • Express VPN: Expensive, mobile and PC, speed is very good, however it’s popular and probably known to the Chinese government so it’s possible that it gets blocked for a few hours/days then returns back up.

I would recommend that you have at least 2 solutions. If you are on a work assignment then probably your company’s VPN should be a feasible resort.

440px-AutoNaviLogo

Amap  [Chinese]

Google maps are not really helpful in China, they don’t have a lot of data. And won’t help you in finding the correct transportation. On the other hand Amap has accurate maps with extensive details. There are two tricks to use it if you don’t know any Chinese:

  • Try to search with English names or addresses, it will mostly work.
  • If you know a close metro station to where you are going you can also type it in English. This will definitely work.

Now, you were able to locate where are you going and have all the alternative routes listed on the app screen but unfortunately everything is in Chinese. There will be no problem reading the metro/bus line number and the poor man solution to read the destination station name (or at least what I used to do) is to look into the map in the station before you hop into the carriage and try to compare the Chinese text character by character, it might sound weird but it will eventually work because inside the metro station there are alternate English/Chinese texts on every sign. It’s really clear once you get used to it but you might to need to do this matching a few times in the beginning.

Trip.com

If you are willing to travel, this website will help you to book train and flight tickets. It has also a wider selection of hotels in China compared to Booking.

A tip regarding purchased train tickets through the app: You will need to give yourself some lead time to go to the ticket office before your trip to get printed tickets.

Microsoft Translator  [English]

This one saved me a lot. If at some point you need to say or understand more than your usual little dictionary of Chinese words then this app will definitely come in handy. The most useful feature is the voice translation mode where it splits the screen into 2 halves, the first half has a mic icon that listens to Chinese and translates to English while the icon on the second screen half does the inverse. It works well on most of the cases and was really useful on many situations.

Didi  [English]

Equivalent to Uber

Note: It’s not on the play store.

Ele.me_logo

Ele.me [Chinese]

Food delivery is very popular here, you will find motor bikes rushing everywhere on the streets to deliver food somewhere. It’s also in Chinese but you can search in English for some kinds of food like pizza or burger and select food based on the pictures, making the order and paying via AliPay or WeChat shouldn’t be a problem. An important hint is that you need when setting up the app some help from your Chinese friend to type in your address very accurately in Chinese. When the driver arrives you will get a call from him and because you don’t know any Chinese and he won’t probably know any English you better show up quickly at your doorstep or in front of the building to receive your food.

Youku [Chinese]

It’s the YouTube + Netflix + Sports streaming of China. There are some free movies but the latest ones will be watch-on-demand. You can buy a ticket for a movie by scanning a code using AliPay or WeChat. It also has very nice sport content as I was able to watch some free premier league matches, the important matches are watch-on-demand though.

Money

China is in my opinion at a point beyond the cashless society, mobile payments are dominant nearly everywhere. If you were able to activate any of WeChat or AliPay wallets then you are already in a very good position, however cash of course still works.

I don’t recommend exchanging money in the airport except maybe a very little amount for the taxi. (beware of scams and don’t go with anyone, just outside the airport you will find an organized line of metered cabs with well-defined tariffs and will also give you an invoice)

Back to our topic about obtaining Yuans or RMBs (the 2 names are equivalent but the later is used more) it really depends on where do you come from and how much fees your bank will charge you. MasterCard and VISA cards should work normally and there are many ATMs everywhere but maybe not all of them will work with your particular card so you need to try different banks. All ATMs I used supported English and Chinese. In my case my I could use my MasterCard to withdraw RMBs from my Euro account at the market rate with a 1.7% fee. Your bank may give you a better or worse deal. I would then take the cash and deposit it into my Chinese bank account. In China the ATMs that support depositing money are called CDSs.

Food

Enjoy trying all sort of Chinese local recipes especially the roasted duck but if you are longing for something that you would find home, there are many alternatives.

  • Pizzahut, McDonald’s, KFC and all your lovely junk food is available nearly around each corner. I have seen more KFCs than any city I have been to.
  • The Habit Burger and Grill: Very good burgers and a great variety of tasty salads (Grilled chicken salad, Cesar salad, chicken BBQ Salad). I have eaten too much salads from this place to the extent that most of the staff recognizes me when I enter the place.
  • The blue frog bar and grill: Steaks and burgers
  • Eli Falafel (Halal): Lebanese, near People’s square, it’s on Google maps
  • Brothers Kebab (Halal): Shawrama and Koshari, many branches around the city.
  • City Center Super market: The concept of a large super market isn’t prominent here, instead there are small shops everywhere. This was the only place that actually looked like a conventional super market. It has many branches and recognizable food brands but they are overpriced because this place isn’t targeting the ordinary Chinese.

    IMG_20190813_195301.jpg
    Crazy prices for diary products.
  • Carefourr Easy Market: there are plenty of branches around the city with various sizes.

Transportation

I have already blabbed a lot about the metro. It’s really clean, clear, convenient,  inexpensive (3 RMBs for a short trip, more for longer) and almost covers the whole city. I would suggest that you buy the metro card, charge it from the vending machines (have English support) instead of buying a ticket each time. There is also a mobile version but I just used the card. The electronic gate will show you your current credit at entry and credit after deduction at exit.

Buses are also OK and extremely cheap (1 RMB) but you need to have a better Chinese because unlike the metro there are no English signs.

You can use the same card for public Ferris crossing the bund and also the maglev train to the airport. (a one way ticket costs 50 RMBs)

Moving your legs

IMG_20190623_183458
View from Jin Mao building, 88th floor observation deck. 

Sadly there isn’t a lot of green areas in the city. It needs really a big park to allow people to breathe some fresh air. Still there are a couple of places to move your legs. If you are in a shopping mode walk the Nanjing pedestrian street near the people’s square, it’s very vibrant and has a lot of shops. Yuyuan market is also very nice.

IMG_20190629_191439.jpg
Yuyuan market.

 

There are tons of malls with all the well known western brands, consumerism at its best here.

My favorite walk was over the bund and in the financial district (near the fork tower). There are 2 sides of the bund, one is not very clean and usually crowded but If you took the ferry to the other side (only for 1 RMB) there is a much better walking lane for pedestrians and cyclists. There is a couple of good restaurants by the river too.

IMG_20190406_173318.jpg
Walking the bund.

Mosques

IMG_20190329_122659.jpg
Huxi mosque from inside.

If you type in the word mosque into the Amap app you will basically find 3 main mosques in Shanghai. I only went to Huxi mosque near Changshou Road station on line 13 for Friday prayers. The prayer speech is mostly in Chinese with few Arabic sections. It’s very clean and well maintained and there is a halal meat shop just beside this mosque if you are planning to cook.

If you are not a Muslim I would still highly recommend to visit the street food market there. It’s open every Friday. There are plenty of delicious kebabs, skewers, sweets and fruits. Really cool.

 

That’s all. I hope that you enjoy your trip to China and explore more cities.

 

It Begins ..

I have been aspiring to improve my writing skills and vocabulary since a while ago but never really took any steps towards this goal. I think if you need to achieve something you need to do it , so I will define a goal for myself to write a biweekly 250 words essay.

This means by the end of this year I should have published 14 short articles (not counting this one)

A simple structure will suffice for a 250 words essay , it will be composed of :

  • Interesting Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

And a simple methodology will do too

  • Choose a topic
  • Research
  • Write ( Learn some new vocabulary in the process)
  • Proof read
  • Publish !

Having defined a SMART objective and a lucid approach to accomplish it , see you after 2 weeks then !

Have you ever felt really stupid for saying something ?


Yes you did. Probably many times too.

Unless you don’t care that much which is a blessing or Unless you are like me , I follow a golden rule that never failed me even once but on the contrary breaking this rule has always led to dissapointments, work problems , enemies created , people getting hurt .. and the list goes on. This stay-safe rule is really simple : ” In any situation that you are given the option to talk or stay silent. Be silent ” .This wise tactic works like magic because the more you talk the more you make mistakes and by losing your mystery and showing your vulnerability you lose your upper hand.

But lately in a clear sky night I thought : this is contradictory to another rule that also worked very well for me which is ” We only regret things that we didn’t do , not the things we have done ” So isn’t saying/not saying is equivalent to doing/ not doing . How can 2 right things be inconsistent ?! this is impossible .

Through the past few days I was having a debate with myself. Will one regret not saying things or regret saying them ? Is saying wrong things or things that make you feel stupid afterwords is an inveitable part of the learning process or it’s just an avoidable mistake that you could have skipped if you just stayed silent . Isn’t being vulnerable just a part of being human ?

That’s something to think of.

الأبارتهايد الإسرائيلى – الفلسطينى … فى 8 صور : لماذا اسرائيل دولة عنصرية ؟

هذه الصور مقتبسة من الموقع الإلكترونى VisualizingPalestine.org المهتم بتوثيق حقائق التفرقة العنصرية فى اسرائيل فى شكل انفوجرافيك *

ملحوظة : اضغط على الصورة لتعرضها بحجم أكبر.

1.  إلى المنفى ..

يعمل الصهاينة بشكل مستمر على تضييق كل سبل العيش على الفلسطينين لإخراجهم من بلادهم .
اليهود in .. الفسلطينيون out

2. التهجير المستمر ..

لا يكتفى الصهاينة باخراج الفلسطينين من بلادهم .. بل يعملون باجتهاد لاخرج القلة الباقية من منازلهم

3. عنصرية حتى فى الموت ..

لا تتوقف ماكينة القتل الإسرائيلية عن استهداف الأبرياء .. الموت يرى الفلسطينيين بنسبة 6 : 1

4. لكنهم يحرقون أشجار الزيتون ..

كونك فلسطينيا يعنى أنك مستهدف .. تجارتك مستهدفة حتى لو كنت فقط تاجر زيت

 

5. اللوحات الصفراء تعنى رحلة سعيدة ..

اذا كانت سيارتك تحمل لوحة اسرائيلية صفراء فهذا يعنى أن كل الطرق مفتوحة أمامك .. أما اذا كانت لوحاتها بيضاء فخياراتك محدودة  و الأفق مسدود

6. الجدار العازل ..

متجاهلة كل الأعراف و القوانين الدولية تستمر سلطات الاحتلال فى تطويق الضفة الغربية بجدار ليفصل بين “الفلسطينيين” و “البنى أدمين”

7. حقوقك حسب بطاقة هويتك ..

تحدد بطاقة هويتك الأماكن التى يسمح لك بالتواجد فيها و اذا كان يسمح لك بالاقتراع أم لا

8. تفتيش .. تفتيش .. تفتيش ..

اذا كنت فلسطينيا فمن المرجح أنك ولدت فى نقطة تفتيش مقارنة بأقرانك فى الدول الأخرى

* : الصور منشورة تحت رخصة Creative Common license و تبيح الرخصة اعادة النشر و التعديل بشرط أن تنسب العمل لصاحبه الأصلى
* : فكرة المقال مستوحاة من مقال انجليزى بنفس العنوان .

5 Things Egyptians should know about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

5 .  What is Grand Ethiopian Renissance Dam (GERD) ??

GERD is a dam built by salini inpreglio construction company for the Ethiopian government on the Blue Nile River . I quote from the company’s page:

“At the end of the works, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be the largest dam in Africa: 1,800 m long, 170 m high and with a total volume of 70 billion m³.The power stations are positioned on the right and left banks of the river and comprise 16 Francis turbines with a total installed power of 6,000 MW and estimated production of 15,000 GWh per year.”

Work started in April 2011 and is expected to complete by July 2017.

 

4. Hmm ….Where is that ??

 

Well .. As we studied in schools (and probably don’t remember now),  there are two main sources for the Nile : the White Nile and the Blue Nile , The GERD is planned to be built on the course of the Blue Nile near the borders with Sudan.

The Blue Nile is vital to the livelihood of Egypt.it contributes more than half of the Nile’s streamflow.

 

River Nile Map ..  Google map grd

 

 

3. How much work is completed till now ??

 

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ethiopian Electric Power Engineer Azeb Worku in April 2014 :
“The construction of the dam is progression well without any problem with a great support of the people and government of Ethiopian people. The dam is now over 30% complete. “

 

2. How do Ethiopians think of Egypt’s political stance and Egyptians ??

Well… they clearly don’t like us
eth comment 7 eth comment 6 eth comment 5 eth comment 4 eth comment 3 eth comment 1

 

1. Ok… I skipped all the bla bla to here…How will GERD affect our lives in Egypt ??

 

First, go and check this animated timeline that I prepared to describe the problem: http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/gerd


GERD Timeline

Then, let’s do some simple Math:

GERD Capacity =70 billion m³

Ethiopians want to fill GERD in 5 years (the sooner they fill, the sooner electricity is generated) 70/5 =  14 billion m³ /year

Egyptian experts suggests that the dam to be filled in 15 years at least 70/15 =  ~5 billion m³ /year

Egypt’s yearly average annual Nile flow according to 1959 treaty = 55.5 billion m³ /year

Effect of filling GERD in 5 years = 14/55.5 = 25% yearly loss for Egypt !

Effect of filling GERD in 15 years = 5/55.5 = 9% yearly loss for Egypt !

 

gerd loss

According to Egyptian experts  that would cause 2,000,000 farmers to lose their income during the period of filling the reservoir, also production of Electricity from the High Dam will be reduced by 20% – 40% !

 

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Ethiopian_Renaissance_Dam

http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/the-grand-ethiopian-renaissance-dam-fact-sheet-8213

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/05/201353081623734349.html

http://www.aljazeera.net/news/pages/237b864d-0553-416a-b507-c8374073a607

http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=27042014&id=15304d92-b50d-4daf-9ff6-29638ae95dd5

http://www.shorouknews.com/mobile/news/view.aspx?cdate=29042014&id=d4e31ad2-e47d-4379-ab2f-3933b040f017

 

البت كوينز .. العملة الرقمية الرسمية لتجارة المخدرات

فى الأسابيع القليلة الماضية قامت السلطات الأمريكية بمصادرة 144,336 بت كوين بما يعادل قيمة 28 مليون دولار أمريكى من جهاز كومبيوتر ينتمى لصاحب موقع سيلك رود الألكترونى الذى يعد بمثابة السوق المزدهرة لتجارة المخدرات و الأنشطة الغير قانونية الكترونيا .

 

اذا ماهى قصة البت كوين ؟ و ما قصة سيلك رود ؟

فى نوفمبر 2008 قام ساتوشى ناكاموتو بنشر ورقة بحثية تحت مسمى : ” البت كوين : نظام النقد البير تو بير الالكترونى” حيث قام باقتراح نظام نقدى الكترونى جديد يمكن استخدامه فى عمليات الشراء و البيع على الانترنت و لكن الجديد فى هذه النظام هو أنه “مفتوح المصدر , تصميمه غير حصرى أو سرى بل معلن للعامة مما يوفر درجة أعلى من الثقة , لا أحد يمتلك أو يتحكم فى البت كوين و لكن كل المساهمين يؤدون دورا “

اذا قمت بتحميل ملفات تورنت من قبل فانت بالتأكيد سمعت عن البير تو بير حيث تقوم نظرية عمل تحميل ملفات التورنت على اشتراك جميع الأجهزة التى أكملت التحميل برفع الملفات لنظيراتها الذين لم يقوموا بتحميل الملف بعد , فلا يوجد سيرفر مركزى يقوم بتخزين الملف و يمكن التحميل منه بطريقة مباشرة و لكن الكل مشارك فى التخزين و الرفع . تقوم عملة البت كوين على نفس النظرية تماما و لذلك هى تعد أول عملة الكترونية لا مركزية مما يمنحها بالتأكيد العديد من المميزات لأن المعاملات تتم مباشرة بين الأفراد بدون وجود وسيط

– مما يخفض من تكلفة التحويل بشكل كبير

– لا يمكن أن تتعرض لتجميد حسابك

– من الممكن أن تستخدم البت كوينز فى جميع انحاء العالم بدون اجراءات ادارية مملة 

 

سيلك رود

كأى ابتكار جديد له جوانبه السلبية فان السرية المطلقة التى اتاحتها منظومة البت كوين للمستخدمين أتاحت قيام أسواق سوداء الكترونية تحمى هوية البائع و المشترى تقوم بتجارة كل ما هو غير قانونى بداية بالهيروين مرورا بالأسلحة و حتى يمكنك أن تستأجر قاتل محترف أو هاكر محترف لاختراق احد أكونتات تويتر أو فيسبوك  !  

فى الفترة من فبراير 2011 حتى يوليو 2014 تمت حوالى مليون و ربع المليون معاملة ناجحة تضمنت ربحا حوالى 9 مليون و نصف المليون بت كوين بما يعادل ما يقرب من 2 مليار دولار أمريكى , و بالرغم من كونه سوقا لتداول المنتجات الغير قانونية فان نجاح سيلك رود أثبت أن البت كوين منظومة تداول ناجحة و يمكن تعميمها أكثر لتحتل مساحة واسعة فى النظام النقدى العالمى

خاتمة

يدعى المتحمسون لمجتمع بت كوين أنها ستقوم بتغيير النظام البنكى العالمى بنفس الطريقة التى غير بها الانترنت وجه الكوكب . فهل تظن أنهم على حق ؟؟
يمكنك التجربة و الحكم بنفسك

 

مصادر

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/28-million-in-bitcoins-seized-from-silk-roads-ross-ulbricht-438465

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin

http://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

https://www.weusecoins.com/en/