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.

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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.

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:

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Finding Happiness in the Simple Things

Honest, rambly, longest post ever time. I have been quite unhappy in my daily life lately and I’ve been trying to find happiness in simple things, as cliche as it sounds. I have found that being unhappy can be a complicated and controversial topic to discuss with others. But it’s such an important to share your feelings and have a venting outlet can keep you from blowing up unexpectedly… because trust me, I’ve been there.

Honest, rambly, longest post ever time. I have been quite unhappy in my daily life lately and I’ve been trying to find happiness in simple things, as cliche as it sounds. I have found that being unhappy can be a complicated and controversial topic to discuss with others. But it’s such an important to share your feelings and have a venting outlet can keep you from blowing up unexpectedly… because trust me, I’ve been there.

People seem very surprised whenever I let it slip that I am unhappy because I have a pretty awesome life. When you have access to clean drinking water, have a roof over your head and never having the worry of going hungry plus on top of all that you manage your finances well enough to afford frequent travel, people assume that you must be happy. Somehow it feels like being happy is an obligation and you might even feel guilty if you admit that no, you’re not happy.

Personally, I feel the need to specify that I’m unhappy about *insert one of many reasons here* to avoid shocked looks and references to my most recent trip. I happen to be one of those people who only post happy things on Facebook. I don’t really see how sharing my unhappiness publicly would make me any happier, I’d rather discuss something like that one-on-one. I also keep so much unhappiness inside that when I let some out, a flood of complains threatens to swallow me up completely, drowning relationships and taking over my life completely.

Now that you understand a little about the reasons I struggle talking about my unhappiness, maybe you’ll be able to read this without having the automatic responses that shut me up and make me regret ever saying anything in the first place. Yes, I know that everything will be okay. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have what I do. I also know that I could work harder to have a more optimistic outlook on my life. But the truth is, you haven’t walked in my shoes…

Walking, or more specifically, taking the metro to work, is the core of my unhappiness here in Shanghai. Let me paint the picture for you. In an overpopulated city of 25 million people (New York only has 9 by the way) the metro can get crowded. When you live in the outskirts, the people crowding you are mostly farmers. Not only do they have lots of bulky baggage, but they aren’t the best at basic etiquette. I manage to exert a lot of patience with these hard-working people and almost always forgive them for acting the way they do.

I get much more frustrated with the rich, educated, iPhone X wielders who shove, push, run ahead as if they are on fire and cut in front of me on the metro every day. Now I’m not talking an accidental push with an immediate apology. Imagine men and women in expensive suits sticking out their elbows and charging into an already packed metro, showing people who are yelling out in pain without a drop of consideration or a second of hesitation.

This happens to me twice a day, Monday to Friday and always ruins my morning and afternoon without fail. Even the 15-minute walk before and after being on the metro isn’t always enough to calm me down. On a mediocre day, walking is one of the simple things that does bring me happiness and alleviates many negative emotions.

There are other rude behaviors on the metro that irk me, although being physically injured (I’ve been elbowed in the head four times this year without apology) tops them all. Yelling into cellphones (or at each other – not in an angry way), playing games or listening to music on the loudest volume possible (headphones cost $1), men shamelessly clipping or grooming overgrown nails and spitting on the platform or into the gap every time the door opens (there’s always a loud horrible vomit-inducing gargle before every spit) are a few other things that make me unhappy no matter how much I try to ignore them.

Another thing that happens on the metro, and anywhere in public really, is the pointing. Although most advertisements feature foreigners and most schools have foreign teachers, we are still a bit of a curiosity here in China. I’m not saying I’ve never noticed someone who looks different… we all have. I’ve even watched people out of the corner of my eye because I was curious. But I have never pointed, said: “look, a foreigner” or giggled directly at someone who looked, dressed or acted differently. This, also, happens to me every day that I venture outside. It is also the reason why I sometimes prefer to stay at home for an entire day or even weekend. Being outside is emotionally straining and being angry exhausts me.

The angriest I ever got in China was during a visit to the zoo where a mother poked her child, who was looking at animals, pointed to me even though I was looking right at her, and had her kid look at me instead of the lion. I had to lose my shit internally because I didn’t want to scare the innocent child, but I still wish I could have given the mother a piece of my not-so-innocent mind. Almost every expat I know has at least one similar experience, however, some manage to laugh at it instead of letting it eat away at them like I do. I’m very jealous of those people and if I were more like them, I wouldn’t be so unhappy. And yes, I’ve tried to be like them but I can’t turn my tears into laughter no matter how hard I try.

As always, when I discuss or write about these things that turn me into a bitter person that I don’t recognize, I feel bad. China is a fascinating place with so much history, culture and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I’ve had strangers help me without me asking and go WAY out of their way to make sure I was happy, healthy and safe.

It’s a cultural thing that once you’re on the metro, you only worry about yourself and getting to where you need to go. I honestly believe that this will change with time. We can’t forget that China was cut off from the rest of the world not too long ago. There are so many ways that China is ahead of the West that goes beyond technology, including the impeccable timeliness of their public transportation and some of the fastest delivery services in the world despite the insane amount of people using the services.

Also, doctors and nurses are amazing at what they do – don’t fear the gigantic needles that they use for a blood test. I’m a huge cry-baby and I’ve never had such fast or painless blood tests anywhere outside of China. My boss jokes that it’s because they do so many blood tests/operations/*insert medical procedure here* in China on a daily basis, practice makes perfect, right? Another plus is the direct nature of Chinese people is extremely refreshing and often better than fake politeness that’s popular in the West.

I’d also like to point out that expats living in China usually fall into one of the extreme sides of loving it here and never want to return home or hating it. You know what category I am in, but most of my friends and colleagues have never been happier. It seems to be 50/50 since you either come to China for a year (if you last that long) or you’ve been here for years without planning to leave. It all depends on your attitude, needs, where you live, whether you take the metro, your level of patience, where you lived before, what you want in life, the list goes on and on and on.

There are more reasons why I am unhappy in my daily life, including living in an apartment that is tiny even though I know I’ll soon be moving into my own house. Again, #firstworldproblems. Somehow, knowing that something will happen soon can make it even harder to deal with a present situation that is not ideal. But maybe that’s just me… I feel so vulnerable to judgment right now, but hey, that’s honestly for you.

Some of the simple things that bring me happiness, for example, my walk to and from the metro, are sometimes ruined by factors that I can’t control. Like the pollution that hurts my eyes and throat that can only be prevented by an ill-fitting mask that makes my face sweat and break out. Or the constant stream of trash littering the path even though I clear some of it up every day without making a dent. Then there are the people who stop to stare at me… Sometimes it’s the e-bike drivers that offer me a ride to the metro, that make grunting noises (or clap) at me to get my attention, oblivious to the fact that they are being rude. Do I have a right to be mad?

I recently visited a Chinese farm and even there I found things to complain about. I do know that I complain too much, by the way, no need to rub it in my face. But I also found some long-yearned happiness there. It was among the unique upcycled garden creations that inspired me. In meeting the owner of the farm, a smart and beautiful lady who is a vegetarian and owns an architectural company. There was so much happiness (and oxytocin) from petting adorable dogs and feeding sheep, geese and chickens. It was a great plus knowing that they would never end up on anyone’s plate.

Finally, I saw the most amusing zen frogs, doing yoga, in a beautiful greenhouse filled with exotic plants – Chinese farms are very different from the European farms that I’m used it. I mentioned to my husband that I want a statue like it one day and he surprised me by ordering a set on my favorite Chinese website, Taobao, that delivered them less than 48 hours later.

I’ve bought many things for our cramped apartment to make it feel homier over the last two years. But these frogs, something that I didn’t even pick out myself, have made me happier than any of the countless items I’ve purchased. Which, as a hoarding shopaholic with an OCD for having one of each color/style of anything that I consider cute or cool (especially when it’s dirt cheap) is an obscene amount of stuff even for my standards.

They are now sitting on the living room table and every time I look at them I feel happy. They make me feel happy despite being pushed on the metro, or not already living the life that’s almost in reach but not quite. Even despite hearing the neighbors coughing up mucus every hour through the thin walls that have zero insulation and let in the biting cold of winter, the unbearable heat of summer and the unexpected pollution that is now worse in Shanghai than in Beijing…

*looks at frogs to calm down after each ranting sentence*

Maybe, if I focus on these cute little frogs (named Mufrogsa, Frogalicious and Frogward) for my remaining 81 days here, I’ll manage to stay happy. I was so close to given up on anything other than traveling making me happy. But if I can find happiness in a set of $15 wooden frog statues sitting in peaceful yoga poses (I don’t even do yoga FYI) then anyone can manage to find happiness in something unexpected. I promise you that there is one specific yet random, very simple thing, that they can bring unconditional happiness into your life.

I don’t normally share personal thoughts like this, especially when I know that many people will judge and criticize me or will try to fix my problems by giving me advice that I’ve heard before. One of my friends unknowingly motivated me to write this. She is beautiful, ambitious, smart, kind and is in a disgustingly cute marriage. Basically, she is perfect and has it all. Yet, she shares posts about her insecurities, some of which I can’t relate to and others that describe my exact problems better than I ever could. It makes me feel like I’m not alone after all.

So basically, that’s what I’m hoping that this long, rambling post will achieve. If there’s at least one person out there who has felt misunderstood, unable to complain or unsatisfied with life when nothing major is wrong with it, then I didn’t just waste an hour writing this. If my problems really are unique to me, at least I got all of this off my chest and I’m hoping that if nothing else, my zen frogs put a smile on your face even if you couldn’t get past the first paragraph of my incessant babbling.

 

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Waste-Free Wednesdays: Intro to Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling. REFUSE, REDUCE, RE-USE, RE-PURPOSE, REPAIR snd finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have been on a journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle since the beginning of this year. What began as an item on my New Year’s Resolutions list sandwiched in between ‘lose weight’ and ‘leave China’ actually ended up changing the way I live and see the world.

Living in a rural area of Shanghai has really opened my eyes to the wasteful habits that plague the world we live in. It’s hard to describe the amount of single-use plastic I see littering the streets when I walk to and from work every day. Big cities on the other hand, especially in the West, produce more waste than you can possibly imagine, but it’s all very well hidden.

Until recently, most plastic produced by the USA was shipped to China and the responsibly to deal with it was shifted. But handing your trash to someone else to deal with is not the way to go. Just like simply throwing your recyclables into the allotted containers is not actually the best things you can do for the environment, despite it feeling like a good and productive thing to do.

Recycling is the last option on the “R” list that we had drilled into our heads from a young age. Recently, the list has grown to include even more “R”s that come ahead of recycling.

  1. REFUSE
  2. REDUCE
  3. RE-USE
  4. RE-PURPOSE
  5. REPAIR
  6. And finally, if all else fails, after you’ve re-used THEN re-purposed THEN repaired, THEN you should RECYCLE.

I have learned a lot about sustainability during my journey. Although I’ve been posting tips and updates on social media, a friend pointed out the other day that I haven’t been writing much about it on my blog… and that’s about to change!

After several people have asked me for tips on how to be less wasteful, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned on my blog in the hopes that others will be inspired to make the world a better place.

One big obstacle that everyone needs to overcome to begin this journey is actually extremely simple and happens to be a good life lesson as well. Everyone needs to realize that ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Sure, when you see the careless wastefulness going on around you, it can be extremely discouraging. Living in China, where the entire population is addicted to plastic has made me question if what I am doing actually matters. They literally buy drinks in plastic-lined cups camouflaged as paper (#sneakystyrene), with plastic lids and plastic straws that they carry in a disposable PLASTIC BAG. But I had a long-term zero-waste friend knock some sense into me.

– “How many bags and bottles do you refuse every day?” She asked me.
– “At least 10,” I told her after doing the math. “But everyone else uses up to 20!”
– “But if you save 10 bags a day, how much is that in a year?”

3,650 bags that would end up in oceans, landfills or incinerated and turned into air pollution. Does that really sound like not making a difference?

Other than refusing plastic, one of the biggest differences I make when it comes to sustainability is being vegan. Don’t panic! I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to become vegan to save the planet. Simply skipping one meat-meal can apparently save thousands of gallons of water so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! There are many ways that you can change your diet to make a difference without doing anything “extreme”.

SHOP LOCALLY! If you eat meat, find a local butcher, preferably working with a smaller farm. Not only will your purchases directly help a hard-working family instead of a greedy corporation, but smaller farms tend to treat the animals slightly better plus you minimize the waste that comes from shipping the meat across the country or even from abroad.

I can’t emphasize this point enough: EVERY single seemingly minuscule decision that you make every day can make a HUGE impact – never forget that.

You shouldn’t limit shopping locally to animal products. Find local farmers markets for fruit and vegetables as opposed to stale, plastic-wrapped vegetables full of preservatives in large shopping centers. You can also find a local producer of handmade beauty and cleaning supplies. Not only will it benefit the local economy, but they will be a healthier alternative for you and the world around you.

For example, I buy all natural cleaning supplies made by an Australian couple living in Shanghai. Although they come in plastic bottles, the store offers a discount if you come with an empty bottle for a refill. If you find a similar store in your area, you will only ever need ONE bottle of laundry detergent, window/mirror cleaner, etc.

Of course you can also buy your ingredients in bulk and create your own cleaning supplies. It’s much easier that you would expect, but I’ll share recipes and tips in another blog post. If you’re just beginning your journey towards sustainability, there are many other things to start doing before you become obsessed with everything DIY (like I am).

There’s one more important thing to know about pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle. It may not be the most CONVENIENT way to live, but it definitely is CHEAPER. Yes, you read that right, it is much cheaper to avoid single-use plastic! Warning: you might have to occasionally sacrifice your comfort and immediate needs. But ONLY until you get the hang of it – once you’re properly equipped with your canvas bag, collapsable food container (affiliate link), aluminum straw and re-usable water waterbottle. Again, I’ll write more about this at a later time, but a quick example is buying a safety razor.

In China, a SAFETY RAZOR only costs $10 but in the USA or Europe they can cost up to $100. It can be overwhelming to spend $100 when a disposable razor is so cheap. But unless you lose it, one of these $100 razors is FOR LIFE. I cringe when I think about the countless Venus razors I’ve bought over the years… All you need to buy for a safety razor are blades, that come packaged in paper and cost close to nothing.

If you’re interested in learning more about a zero-waste lifestyle (which I still haven’t fully achieved, and probably never will because I will never stop using toilet paper), follow my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel! I can’t wait to share my tips and stories about my journey to zero-waste travel as well as all of my successes and hilarious failures.

Have you made any positive changes towards a zero-waste lifestyle? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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Snow Day in Shanghai, China 2018

Shanghai experienced one it’s heaviest snowfalls in years and it shut down schools throughout the city. Rolls of non-slip carpets covered the Shanghai’s slipperiest paths and people were warned to stay indoors if possible or waddle like a penguin. Snow selfies took over everyone’s WeChat Moments and giggling children ran outside to build snowmen. Here’s what the snow day on January 25th, 2018 looked like…

While an unusually cold winter has been causing chaos around the world, the focus has been mainly on Europe and the USA. Although you can’t compare several feet of snow that’s keeping people from leaving their homes in the West, it’s surprising what a little humid snowfall can do to a city that isn’t equipped to handle sleet.

Shanghai experienced one it’s heaviest snowfalls in years and it shut down schools throughout the city. Rolls of non-slip carpets covered the Shanghai’s slipperiest paths and people were warned to stay indoors if possible or waddle like a penguin. Snow selfies took over everyone’s WeChat Moments and giggling children ran outside to build snowmen. Here’s what the snow day on January 25th, 2018 looked like:

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The Second Tallest Building in the World, Shanghai

When we’re not traveling and exploring South East Asia, we’re exploring China and the city we live in, Shanghai. We have now been to the three tallest buildings in Shanghai – the only trifecta of mega-tall skyscrapers in the world! “Mega-tall” isn’t just my way of describing them, it’s the official term for skyscrapers taller than 600 meters.

Second only to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Shanghai Tower towers over Shanghai and adds to the spectacular skyline. Although it isn’t the tallest building in the world, it does boast the world’s highest observatory deck. So even if you’ve been to Burj Khalifa’s spectacular observatory floor, you still haven’t stood as high as you could have while visiting the Shanghai Tower!

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Battle Shanghai’s Pollution: How to Stay Healthy

It can be easy to make light of air pollution, especially after living in China for a long time. Many locals never wear masks and some families will let their children play outside when you can barely see across the street. But even if you’re not sensitive to it, pollution does have serious impacts on your health.

Coughing and sneezing, which I do non-stop if pollution levels are high, are not the only side effects. Short-term effects of air pollution include acne, dry skin, fatigue, eye irritations, chest pain, headaches and even nausea. Long-term effects can be as serious as chronic lung problems and heart complications. Before you pack your bags and book a one-way flight to leave China, take these simple steps to protect yourself.

PM2.5 MASK

Most masks are ugly, make your face sweat, fog up your glasses, make you sound like Darth Vader, leave marks on your face when you take them off and worst of all, they interfere with selfies. There are few things less sexy than a pollution masks… except maybe chronic wheezing.

Many people, myself included, struggle to find a mask that fits properly. If your mask is too loose or the nose clip doesn’t stay closed, you’re probably still inhaling millions of pollutant particles with every breath you take.

Take the time to try different styles of masks and experiment with sizes. I guarantee that that there is a mask out there that’s perfect for your face. Invest your time and money, nothing is too expensive when it comes to health. For 300 RMB you can get a great mask with exchangeable filters that will last you years. Buying cheap single-use masks will end up costing a lot anyway, not to mention the unnecessary waste they create.

Fun fact: fashionable face masks do exist.
Less fashionable ones can be bought on Taobao:

mask 1mask 2mask 3mask 4mask 6mask 7

To be extra safe, keep your mask on in the metro. Many stops are partially outdoors or have terrible insulation. Wearing a mask on the metro will not only protect you from pollution but also viral infections. Have you noticed how right after the first Shanghai school gets shut down with chicken pox, the rest follow within the week? 25 million people riding the metro is a breeding ground for disease.

Fun fact: in Japan, many people wear masks only during their ride on the metro. It is rumored that a company in Beijing is working on a new super mask that won’t make your face sweat. It’s advertised as a sports mask because you can wear it to the gym and even run in it! But I’ll believe it when I see it.

AIR PURIFIER

I mentioned earlier that metro stops aren’t well insulated. Well, neither is my apartment. If you live in a place that doesn’t retain heat then it’s probably not insulated against pollutants either. An air purifier won’t come cheap, but it will keep the air in your home clean. Xiaomi seems to be the most popular brand and the purifiers they make are small, easily portable and come in stylish designs. Get one. Or five…

The newest Xiaomi air purifiers can supposedly purify your home in just 12 minutes by cleaning 406 square meters of air per hour and effectively covering up to 48 square meters. Although most wall heaters already have a flimsy filter in them to keep some of the nasty stuff out of your apartment (provided you actually clean/change them regularly), you should really have a purifier at home.

Other than PM 2.5, an air purifier will also get allergens, formaldehyde, animal fur, dust, pollen, smoke odors, benzene, 0.3 μm particles as well as other harmful chemicals out of the air. It can be a great device to have in any home, even if you don’t live in a polluted area.

When I said that you should consider getting five purifiers for your home, I wasn’t kidding. Our purifier is on all winter and gets moved to whichever room we are in. Ideally, we’d have one in each room and maybe two in our large 50 meter squared living room.

When you turn an air purifier on, it will automatically adjust its settings based on air quality. This past week, with the AQI over 250, it’s taken over an hour for ours to switch to a lower setting when it normally takes less than 15 minutes. At least the pollution in Shanghai doesn’t get nearly as bad as it does in Beijing, you can read about that here.

Just like with a mask, you need to regularly clean and/or change the filter for it to be effective. Like most things in China, air purifiers are smart and come with apps. If you sync your purifier to the app, it will automatically alert you when it’s time to replace your filter. The replacement process is easy, so there’s no excuse not to do it. Carbon filters lose effectiveness over time, even if you do your best to clean them. So it’s recommended that you buy a new one every six months.

GOOD INSULATION

I could complain about the bad insulation in my apartment all day and sometimes I do. But there are many simple ways to actually do something about it that don’t involve moving to a new place. Tape up or use the glass glue on cracks or just to reinforce the glass in your windows. There should not be a strong draft coming from your windows. Ever.

If you have two layered windows, stuff some foam in between the two layers around the frame. We used to do this in the “good old” days when I was little. It doesn’t look that great but it works wonders, trust me. It won’t just stop pollution from getting in, but it’ll help with heat retention and you’ll immediately notice the difference in your electricity bill.

Another solution is to get thick and heavy curtains. Just make sure to get a professional to come and install them. We have heavy curtains in the bedroom that are great insulators, but the flimsy hooks that keep it up are sagging and slowly destroying the wall. I’m just glad my husband’s the one who sleeps in their range of fall 😉

POLLUTION APP/WEBSITE

Finally, no matter how fancy your mask or air purifier is, they’re not effective if you don’t know when to use them. There are foggy days when pollution is at its lowest but people still wear masks because they don’t know better. There are also super sunny days that hide the pollution that is creeping in and killing you slowly – no exaggeration. Get an app on your phone that will show you the weather and pollution on your home screen. Or one that will alert you when pollution is high.

These apps can also show you the pollution forecast. So, check that too before you open all your windows and leave the house. One time I decided to air out my apartment because it was sunny and AQI was 80. I came home 6 hours later and choked in my 250 PM 2.5 apartment… It only takes a second to check the app and your lungs will thank you for it in the long run.

If you have any tips or stories to share related to pollution, don’t hesitate to post in the comments below!

Enjoy this video that shows you what an AQI of 250 really looks like!

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Shanghai Event Review: Ship of Dreams – The Titanic Experience

The Ship of Dreams – The Titanic Experience is only a once in a lifetime adventure if you can resist going twice!

When you’re not part of the crowd following Jack and Rose as they fall in love, you can enjoy some champagne on deck, watch the Captain have a few too many drinks or just explore the ship’s 1912-themed interior. These are just a few of the exciting possibilities aboard the Shanghai-docked Titanic!

Starting November 1st, you can become a guest on board the Titanic for an interactive theater experience. Until November 25th, the Ship of Dreams will sail away every night at 19:00 and will immerse you in the early 1900s. From the actors’ authentic costumes to the decor onboard the vessel, you’ll barely notice Shanghai’s famous skyline passing by.

My first night on the Titanic started off with wine and (surprisingly) vegan spring rolls. Guests around me sampled the wide variety of desserts and beverages while I got my brearings. The dining hall featured live music, dancing and other performances as well as a themed cocktail list.

With everyone dressed in floor-length sparkling dresses and classy suits, actors casually blended in. It wasn’t immediately obvious who was part of the show and who wasn’t. Walking around, I soon noticed dodgy man in search for something, a woman looking out at the ocean sadly and a young man scribbling in his scruffy notebook. *hint hint*

It took a while to make a full loop around the boat and I was pleasantly surprised by the comfortable number of people on board. Most of the passengers were following the main actors, which is how I found my way to Rose. To get inside her room, I had to slip in behind a couple who bribed the guard at the door. In the dimly lit room, I got my first glimpse of Rose, Cal and the Heart of the Ocean.

As Rose left the room, I had to make the difficult decision – to follow her or one of the many other characters? Throughout the night I would alternate following Rose, Jack or someone else. Since the play has 30 different storylines, it’s not an easy choice to make. However, the solution is pretty simple: go more than once!

I won’t spoil the rest of the experience, but trust me when I say it was completely unforgettable. The passionate actors were enchanting and managed to perfectly balance audience interaction with staying in character, and at other times acting as if they were the only ones in the room.

The audience had full control over their level of involvement in the play, although the characters only responded when appropriate. Some guests took full advantage and went out of their way to engage with the actors while others preferred to watch silently, just enjoying the moment.

Although everyone on board knew how the story would end, we were all pulled in by the dramatic buildup to the finale. There was excitement, commotion, pushing, shoving and desperate life vest bribing. I’m not going to say any more, but please don’t worry, no fancy suits or swooshing dresses got wet in the finale.

All in all, the Titanic Experience was truly unique and extremely well excecuted. After enjoying first-class treatment the first time around, I’m excited to return as a crew member next week for a completely new perspective on the Ship of Dreams.

There are several types of tickets to choose from:

  • First Class (including a 7-course dinner): 5,000 RMB
  • Lucky Traveler (including free-flow drinks): 880 RMB
  • Special Crew Member: 680 RMB
  • American Dreamer: 180 RMB (Students only)

Since the first time I followed the main storyline and focused on Jack and Rose, I will spend my second night on the Titanic discovering one of the other storylines. As a crew member I will supposedly have access to places where other passengers can’t go which is too tempting to pass up!

Are you curious to see behind the scenes, meet the Unsinkable Molly Brown or just see what the Titanic hype is all about? Book your tickets today! Thank you DreamWeaver Productions and the DeTao School of Design for the unforgettable night that transformed the Huangpu river feel like the Atlantic ocean.

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Huaqiao Off the Beaten Path (PHOTOS)

What happens when already live off the beaten path? Find something even more unusual! (PHOTOS)

First of all, Huaqiao is an entire city that’s off the beaten path. It’s an economic development zone right outside the Shanghai boarder. It’s a city within a city and it’s more like a village with high-rise residential buildings anyway.

The central areas of Huaqiao are modern with plenty of fancy restaurants. The main street is busy with cars, e-bikes and people rushing about their business. Just parallel to the busy, lined-with-skyscrapers street, is a farming wonderland where people live physically harder but in a way more relaxed and rewarding lives!

I found this place by accident while searching for a long-cut on my way to Kang Chiao International School.

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Half of these streets don’t even exist on Google maps.

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The houses here are fascinating. Huge, colorful and with a strange hybrid architecture.

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Farming can be beautifully messy!

The first time I got lost here, I didn’t have my DSLR. So I came back on the weekend and this time, we traveled in style!

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It’s not even a motorcycle… it’s electric. But it still makes us look cool!

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We just loved this mysterious door that didn’t even close…

Back to the beautiful buildings…

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Did you know that the norm in China is living with your entire extended family? That’s why the houses are so big.

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It is generally really cold inside these houses during winter time since there is no central heating. This makes drying laundry really hard! That’s why a bit of sunshine is the best way to dry everything.

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This is a Buddhist style shrine!

It’s not all sunshine and roses 🙁

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But the houses are SOOOOO interesting and beautiful!

After the crops are harvested, they are transported using these electric vehicles…

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Then the food ends up in markets like these.

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Don’t let the spiderwebs scare you away. There may be no health regulations but the locals shop here. Everything is home-grown, fresh and delicious. We’ve even bought meat at markets like this and we’ve never gotten sick!

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Thanks for reading (and picture looking). Feel free to leave comments below!

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144 Visa-Free Hours in China

Visiting China has never been so stress-free! You can now come to most visit-worthy cities without a visa for 72 or 144 hours!

The same week that the Land of the Free imposed a xenophobic travel ban, my husband’s family came to visit us in China without visas! In the past, the process would have been long and expensive. But since the beginning of 2016, passport holders of 53 countries/regions can enter certain Chinese cities for either 72 or 144 hours on a special visa-free transit.

All you need is a departure ticket within the allotted time period and the address of your accommodation. You don’t need to worry about doing anything in advance. Just arrive at the airport, register your address of stay at the check in counter and make sure not to overstay your welcome.

Although we had read a lot about this new visa-free option we were still understandably nervous about it. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. Isaac’s family flew into Shanghai from Hong Kong and got into a ridiculously short immigration line dedicated for the 144-transit. Once again, they had to show their return flights, register their address of stay and finally smile for an obligatory photo. That was it!

Their departure from China would have been completely painless too if it wasn’t for the pair of fake handcuffs that they were taking home for us. But that’s a story for another time… Even though they flew in from Hong Kong on one airline and were leaving to the US on another, there were absolutely no issues. Did you know that most China-USA flights let each passenger check in two 23-kilo bags for free?

You can find out more about this visa-free transit, including the list of nations who are eligible, here. Please keep in mind that there are many specific rules about which airports you need to fly in/out of and you can’t freely travel to other cities by train, bus, etc. Otherwise it’s all pretty self-explanatory.

Cities with the 144 hour visa-free transit include Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong. Those offering a 72 hour visa-free transit pretty much include all visit-worthy Chinese cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, Guilin, Kunming, Wuhan, Xiamen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao, Changsha and Hangzhou.

Shanghai has already welcomed 39,000 visa-less foreigners since the beginning of 2016. Join them by booking your flights today!

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