I booked myself a first class ticket on the bullet train from Hangzhou to Shanghai. Whatever expectations I had to travel in class and luxury were shattered within the first five minutes. There was some guy in the carriage watching a soap opera sans earphones… (Believe it or not this is a regular occurrence in this part of the world). AND the guy next to me was talking so loudly on the phone that you’d think the person on the other end was hearing-impaired.
I generally think it’s impolite to talk behind people’s backs. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face. Be honest and upfront. If you’re the two-faced type, ultimately people won’t trust you. But in this part of the world, this is the norm. And it isn’t even personal. Too many people would rather preserve a surface harmony – and save face – than thrash out a conflict and be done with it.
Fast forward a year later, and I’m living in Zhejiang Province. I’d heard largely good things about it before I moved here. I’m not surprised. It is the ‘money province’. Unlike Shanghai and Beijing, it isn’t super crowded. Most of my Chinese friends said that it is one of the best places in China to live. Compared to other cities, the air quality here is supposed to good. (Ahem… Ahem…) It’s a great place for locals to live and is not one of those cities that’s littered with a whole load of expats. Oh and by the way – Ali Baba is headquartered in Hangzhou.
The weeping willows that were everywhere had a way of making the West Lake area look tragic for reasons that I can’t possibly fathom. The weeping willows were lovely – in a melancholic kind of way. I never knew a tree was capable of such great sadness…
Baopals is the English version of Taobao – a Chinese online shopping website headquartered in Hangzhou (my home city) and owned by Alibaba. It is the world’s biggest e-commerce website. I’ve bought all kinds of random bits on pieces on Baopal – from chopping board sets, to bins, to whole cartons of milk (and beer lol), plates, cutlery, honey – you name it and Baopal’s got a range for you to choose from. Depending on where in China the package is coming from – it can arrive at your doorstep in anything between 2 days to a week.
There’s nothing like sitting in your bed with a beer and shopping in the comfort of your apartment. Unfortunately, the Taobao website is entirely in Chinese and the banking procedure is kind of complicated. My boss told me about Baopals which is an English version of the website complete with English language support. Although I would have figured out how to use the Chinese version eventually, I couldn’t be bothered messing around with it… Baopals is slightly more expensive than Taobao, but hey… I’m happy to pay for the convenience.
Although I’m not in a megacity like Beijing or Shanghai, the smog that hangs over the city is still there. There are good days and bad days. Somedays I look out and am surprised to see clear skies. And other days it’s so polluted I can barely make out the next building. This is despite the fact that I live in an area that’s full of trees and is pretty far away from any factories.