Chinese New Year Parade in Manhattan, NYC

The highlight of the day for me was two dogs, a husky and a golden retriever dressed in traditional golden Chinese lion uniforms. Just like the ones that are worn for the lion dance!

Yesterday, on February 17th, we went to see the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown! As you may already know, Isaac and I lived in China for two years before moving to New York. We ended up going to the parade with a friend who we met in Shanghai! It was the first time we saw her since we had payday sushi and it was great to see her!

Our friend had actually been to this parade before so she convinced us to meet her for brunch at Jing Fong at 10:00. We thought it was ridiculous to meet so early when the parade didn’t start until 13:00, but she just said to trust her and we’re glad we did!

The brunch at Jing Fong was interesting. You need to keep in mind that we didn’t enjoy our time in China as much as our friend, so while she thrived in the chaos of Chinese waiters yelling and carts of mystery food rolling by, we felt like we were back in a place we didn’t love. Also, although the official menu had a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, this dim sum brunch did not.

So even though we were less than two blocks from our favorite vegan dim sum place, we were stuck eating the same two overpriced dishes, one of which was a dessert. It wasn’t the best experience but if you’re a meat eater and want to enjoy a new culture, I think you’d like this place!

The way ordering works, is that everyone gets a ticket – sometimes there will be several groups of people at one table if it’s crowded. We had two older Chinese gentlemen sitting with us which was interesting. When the carts come by, you can take plates of food and they will stamp your ticket in the correct category: small, medium, large, special, etc. Each category has a set price that is tallied up at the end.

Just like in China, not everyone at Jing Fong speak Chinese. It was really difficult for us to communicate with them to find out if things were vegan or not. Even though Isaac speaks basic Chinese! It also took 20 people to explain that we wanted two separate tickets for our group – even the two men sitting with us got involved in explaining what we want. This was a typical problem for us in China – simple things became a huge ordeal to explain and solve.

We left the restaurant after about an hour – when we first got there, it was only half full. On our way out, there were hordes of people standing in a line out the door. When we got out onto the street to find a spot to watch the parade, it was no different. There were already thousands of people standing and waiting for a parade that wouldn’t start for two more hours!

It was lucky we came early, although we did had another friend who came out at noon and he managed to find an ok spot to watch from as well. But if you want a guaranteed great spot to watch from, definitely come early. The earlier the better!

As for the parade itself, I wasn’t too impressed but I may be a little jaded. There were many impressive dragons that got better the later it got. Those and the lion dancers were amazing. But like all parades in New York, in between the cool performers were people campaigning and I hate that every parade is so political.

The police department performed too and that part was great, but I could have done without all the boring stuff in between! If you haven’t been to Chinatown or New York before, you may not know this, but most police officers in Chinatown are Chinese or of Chinese descent, which is really cool!

So this was our third parade in New York. The other two we had experienced were the Caribbean and Halloween parades and they both had similar boring political fillers in between the cool stuff. I guess they don’t get the necessary funds without agreeing to include these? I’m not really sure to be honest.

All in all, the Chinese New Year Parade was interesting to see. I definitely recommend seeing it at least once, especially if you haven’t been to China and want to experience the culture a little. The crowds to get in an out are also very authentic, and if you think being smushed by crowds of people is unique to New York, don’t be fooled and read about my description of my daily rush hour commutes in Shanghai!

The highlight of the day for me was two dogs, a husky and a golden retriever dressed in traditional golden Chinese lion uniforms. Just like the ones that are worn for the lion dance! Did you get to see the parade? Tell me about your favorite part in the comments below.

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Haggling for a Tailor-Made Suit at Shanghai’s AP Plaza’s Fake Market

In China, most consumer items are cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world. As we have posted before, Taobao is usually our go-to place for cheap goods, especially clothes. However, this particular item I wanted to buy in person. In person, you can get accurate measurements, try on the suit when it’s finished, and of course, in China you can take part in a coveted sport of sorts: haggling!

Recently I found myself in Shanghai’s AP plaza haggling for a tailor-made suit. I had recently realized that my wardrobe was missing this crucial component. Over the years I had accumulated several pieces of second-hand suits that I would splice together as best I could for any formal event. It had gotten to the point where, when preparing for the Titanic Experience back in November, I’d ended up wearing a pair of dress pants from Savers, a second-hand shirt donated by a friend, a suit jacket from the Salvation Army, and a suit vest whose origin I can’t even remember. Suffice it to say, I was in dire need of an all-purpose suit that actually fit me!

In China, most consumer items are cheaper than almost anywhere else in the world. As we have posted before, Taobao is usually our go-to place for cheap goods, especially clothes. However, this particular item I wanted to buy in person. In person, you can get accurate measurements, try on the suit when it’s finished, and of course, in China you can take part in a coveted sport of sorts: haggling!

If you live in Shanghai, you must be familiar with the famous “AP Plaza” or “Fake Market” inside the Science and Technology Museum metro station. A friend had recommended me a specific place for suits in this market, so I headed straight there, ignoring the calls for overpriced and clearly fake watches along the way.

My wife Olena hates being around me when I do it, but I love the sport of haggling. I’ll cover the process in another article, but their starting price was 1,200 RMB for one three-piece suit (jacket, pants and vest). Of course, I knew that was far too much. I even had them look up my friend’s name in their system so I could prove to them that I knew the price was lower. In the end, I managed to secure a jacket, vest, two pairs of pants, a shirt and two ties for 900 RMB ($136 USD at this writing). That’s not bad, considering a good quality suit in the USA can cost upwards of $1,000!

If you find yourself in need of a suit, go ahead and hop on Line 2 and go to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum stop in Pudong. From there, you can’t miss the AP Plaza. Look at the numerals above the shops and ignore everyone around you. Almost everything at this plaza is overpriced junk bought on Taobao. You’re looking for Samth’s Tailor, at room K1-50. Once there, tell them your friend Isaac sent you. They’ll look me up in the system (Isaac Roosa) and you can get the exact same price. They might try to tell you the price as increased since then, but be firm. Pack up your things and make to leave if you need to! Eventually, you’ll get the right price.

Taobao Trendy: Online Bargains in China

When I’m not traveling, crafting or telling other people to eat insects even though I don’t anymore, I’m trying not to shop because I have way too many clothes. How did I go from moving to China with five suitcases between Isaac and myself to having piles of clothes over the apartment and bursting out of my closet? Taobao.

I’ve never been much of a shopper because going to shopping malls is exhausting and sometimes unproductive. The clothes are either too expensive, too long for my short limbs or not available in the one color or size that I actually want. Taobao fixes all of these problems and adds the excitement of finding the best price and waiting for the package to arrive.

Most of the clothes that I buy on Taobao fall into one of two categories:

  • Cheap, mass produced clothes made in China that I buy one of every color in (plain cotton T-shirts that are 56 cm long, a.k.a the only t-shirts that aren’t too long for me and dresses with fun prints that I can’t get enough of)
  • Overstocked/second hand items from nice brands that were either stolen from/donated by/I have no idea how they get them from Western companies.

The first is the risky kind. “Made in China” can sometimes mean bad quality, although that is quickly changing and China makes literally everything even if it’s not clearly labelled. So many Chinese products, even knockoffs, are great items and sometimes, like in the case of the Yi Action camera, they are even better than the original!

Scrolling through all the provided info and reading (or in my case, Google translating) can give you a lot of information like the material, the exact sizes and sometimes even pictures of a model wearing the clothes with the details of her height and weight. However, all of this information could be completely untrue! So head down to the comments.

In the comment section you will see people complimenting the packaging, saying if the sizes fit, and sometimes there will be photos of the people wearing the item which can help you gage the size. People will say whether or not the item arrived as expected (Chinese people do NOT hold back) and whether the seller was easy to communicate with.

If there are no comments and no one ever bought the item, you’re going in blind. Even if you find the same item in a different shop, it could be completely different and not at all what the photos show! If you still want to buy it, check out other items in the store and their reputability. Zero buys and reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be authentic… it just means that you might be disappointed! Or not.

I’ve received many items that didn’t fit, that I didn’t like or simply changed my mind about. The great thing about Taobao is that you can return anything that’s not a food or an animal within seven days without explanation! If the seller doesn’t reimburse you within a week, Taobao will do it. Sending it back via door-to-door delivery has never cost me more than 15 RMB ($2) even when it was a lot of stuff going to traveling to the farthest most remote corner of China.

When it comes to my second category of bought items, the rules for buying are pretty much the same. But to be honest, I don’t have a trick for finding these magical shops that sell items like $60 Mango dresses with the original price tag still on for 10 RMB ($1.50). It also isn’t always obvious that the close are from these brands… that could be for copyright issues. The Chinese government has been cracking down on Taobao and getting rid of shops with copyrighted items, like re-printed books.

One of my more recent orders was what I assumed was second-hand clothing. It turned out to be all brand new items with all their original tags from a variety of stores ranging from Walmart to Reserved. Strangely enough, my $40 Reserved denim jacket cost 13 RMB ($2) which was half the price of the $5 Walmart shirt… apparently the original cost or brand plays no role the pricing. This is what makes all this online shopping in China thing so crazy and addictive!

I’ve actually had to uninstall my Taobao account (again) to avoid buying even more amazing and cheap clothes. After all, I won’t be living in China forever and I’ve already taken four suitcases jam-packed with new clothes to store with family. Chinese apartments weren’t made from Taobao shopaholics like me!

Enjoy your shopping and share your most exciting purchases/bargains in the comments below 🙂

 

 

Dragon Burn: Shanghai’s Burning Man

Last month Isaac and I visited our first Burn! It was the Dragon Burn – Shanghai’s regional of the Burning Man. It was bigger than ever, with almost 700 attendees and there were plenty of workshops (planned as well as guerrilla) and lots of fascinating art pieces! As members of the Vegan Camp, The Cucumburners, we made a lot of delicious food to share with the camp as well as any hungry passersby. Check out the highlights of our camp and the effigy burning finale below:

The Politics Behind the Chinese Exhibition in Prague 2014

Looking at the two mighty soldier statues evoked respect and admiration for Chinese culture and history. It is clear why Zeman hopes to gain economic insight and profit from cooperating with China. But adopting some great ideas can lead to also adopting less desirable ones — and if Czech respect for human rights ends up traded for money, then more people will begin looking at both statue and flesh-and-blood soldiers in fear instead of awe…

The beautiful and renowned Prague Castle in the Czech Republic is currently exhibiting the “Treasures of Ancient China” — including two statues of warriors from the Terracotta Army. There are over 90 exhibited objects that show the development of China over 5,000 years, starting with the Neolithic period and going through the very last ruling dynasty. The pieces for the exhibition come from several different museums in China that loaned them out for the exhibition, which opened Aug. 8 and will run through Nov. 9.

I attended the exhibition and found the art breathtaking and the history fascinating. However, recent developments in Chinese-Czech relations are even more interesting than ancient artifacts.

The Czech Republic and China began their diplomatic cooperation 65 years ago. Milos Zeman, who took office as the president of the Czech Republic on March 8, 2013, has been trying to improve relations with China. Zeman met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Feb. 7 in Sochi during the Olympics. They spoke about beginning a new relationship and cooperating in a variety of fields, from manufacturing to medical care. They also spoke about potential investments.

Zeman wants to cooperate with China “on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity,” which includes not interfering with internal issues of the other. According to the Prague Post, Lubomir Zaoralek, a foreign-affairs minister, visited Beijing and stated that the Czech Republic doesn’t support Tibet’s independence and believes it to be indivisible from China. Zeman will be visiting China again in October.

Karel Schwarzenberg, the former foreign minister who ran against Zeman in the 2013 presidential election, had said that the Czech government traded the protection of human rights for money. He said this due to the human rights that are violated all over China. He is not the only one who has this opinion. It is undeniable that cooperation with China and Chinese investments could do wonders to the Czech economy, but the price might be steep.

So although the Chinese exhibition — located in the most important building in Prague and the entire Czech Republic — is wonderful and educational, there is a bigger picture here. The Chinese loan has a deeper meaning than just sharing their culture with Czechs. The presence of China will remain even after the exhibition is over, and as the relationship develops, their influence here will intensify.

Looking at the two mighty soldier statues evoked respect and admiration for Chinese culture and history. It is clear why Zeman hopes to gain economic insight and profit from cooperating with China. But adopting some great ideas can lead to also adopting less desirable ones — and if Czech respect for human rights ends up traded for money, then more people will begin looking at both statue and flesh-and-blood soldiers in fear instead of awe.

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Originally published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/the-politics-behind-the-c_b_5699143.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.