twang's Comments

10 China's Social Resources

I agree with DC. The hospitals here waste too much of the patients' time by having them pay too many times. Why can't they just let the patients pay at the end of the visit. I did ask an employee at a hospital this question. The answer I got shocked me. She said if they don't charge patients ahead of each service, some patients would leave(flee) without paying.

The good thing though is that quite a few hospitals have the so-called VIP quarter, in which there are few patients in line. I used to go to Dongfang Hospital in Lujiazui in Pudong. I used its VIP service. The registration fee was 100 Yuan, which you pay at the VIP ward. Then a nurse accompanies you to the doctor in the regular ward. You pretty much see the doctor as the next patient. The nurse then take you to the drug store to get your medicines. So the money you paid is like buying priority priviledge, which means saving time. I think the 100Yuan paid is worth it for the time saved However, my impression was that the doctor seemed to prescribed me too many kinds of medicine. Some of which were entirely unncessary. I paid for 4 kinds of "medicines", but I found out one of them was just drink mix, which was sweet and minty.

Some other private clinics for foreigners take advantages of the patients' health insurance coverage, and overcharge the patients arms and legs. So watch out for these unethical clinics or doctors.
Posted by twang at 2007-07-04 22:32:06. More

9 From the Hottest to the Coldest

Jian Shuo,

Speaking of your frequent flyer mileage from Air China, you should check its expiration date if your account stays inactive. Some airlines have a 3-year validity period, but some only 18 months. Do you know that you can accumulate United Airlines's Mileage Plus miles on certain Air China flights because Air China is UA's regional partener. I know flights from Shanghai to Beijing is included, so in the future, give your UA FF# when you travel on Air China. Call UA's Membership Dept to find out the details. You should always try to concentrate your mileage accural to one or two airlines to that you can reach the elite status faster.

I don't know about Air China's miles, but you can change to a award ticket from Shanghai to Tokyo or even Taiwan with 20,000 miles.
Posted by twang at 2007-03-05 03:31:39. More

8 View of Shanghai under Clear Sky


Wow amazing! The first picture you took shows the building where I lived before. It's on the lower left-hand corner.

My memory of Shanghai's is it has overcast sky for many of the winter days. It's gloomy and cold and can be quite depressing!

Posted by twang at 2007-02-02 10:40:55. More

7 Living Cost in Shanghai - Medicine


I'm very sorry to hear about what happened to your wife's aunt. And I agree, those who can't pay is being denied of the chance to see a doctor.

After some unpleasant experences visiting doctors in Shanghai, I wouldn't want to go anymore unless I had some acute illess that I couldn't wait to go back to the States. I've been to both the VIP ward where mostly foreigners go to as well as the regular one locals go to at Dongfang Hospital in Lujiazui, Pudong. I did both just to compare the difference.

Basically, the differences were :

1)Registration fee: 100 Yuan for the VIP ward vs. 11Yuan(I believe) for the locals.

2) Not much a difference with the doctors you see you save time. A nurse at the VIP ward took me to the doctor, who's housed in the regular ward. I didn't need to wait in line, so time was saved. While with a local's registration, one has to wait outside the doctors' offices for a long time.

3) I was prescribed with 3-4 medicines beside the antibiotics given via an IV for three days. It appeared that some of the medicines were not necessary. I stopped taking them after one day. I had to pay another 100 Yuan each time to receive IV given in the VIP ward, which was quite clean and had only one other patient there. My total bill was something like 400 Yuan in total the first time and two hundred something the next two days.

Some clinics seeing expats charge like the doctors would charge in the States. 4 years ago when I first moved to SH I heard about World Link. One day I went into one of its clinics by Hotel Portman Ritz Carlton. I wanted to pick up a brochure listing what services it provided and what doctors they had. Surprisingly, the receiptionist woudln't give out this informaiton. Meantime, I saw the fees posted in a billborad on the wall. I was shocked to see the consultation fee was something like 1,300 Yuan. Maybe they figure folks going there have overseas insurance coverages, so why not charging them an arm and leg. Although I had excellent medical insurance that pays 90%, I wouldn't want to go to World Link because I don't like to reward those who rip people off. Luckly, I was very healthy and rarely needed to see doctors in Shanghai.

A friend of mine had gull bladder stones and was in great pain when she visited Beijing. She went to a hospital . To enroll in the hospital, they took her credit card as a guarantee. She was kept there 3 days without the necessary surgery. They kept giving her injections of pain killer. She spoke with a Beijing friend who told her to change a hospital. But it would not release her inspite of her persistence. Her friend was an influential businessman who had to come and fight with this hospital and finally they released her. The bill came to over 7,000 USD for her stay. She was rushed to the second hospital and had a surgery that night. She had to give "red packet" money(10,000 Yuan for 4 of them) to all doctors who operated on her there. The story afterwards is long, but I won't get into it.

Bottom line, have a good check up before leaving your country. Bring some medicines for common sickness(sore throat, cold etc) or discomfort to minimize having to go to the doctors.
Posted by twang at 2007-01-25 16:55:37. More

6 Living Cost in Shanghai (2007 Edition)

OOOOPs! I didn't finish reading your blog. I thought you didn't talked about housing, but you did. I think your estimates are much lower than what I know of though. Maybe your prices apply more to the locals or for younger expats. For nicer condos in the downtown Puxi areas, be prepared to pay 5,000-6000 for a small two bedroom unit(Appx. 80 Sq. Meter) The 3-bedroom unit or 2 + study room costs 12,000 up for 130 + Sq. Meter.
Posted by twang at 2007-01-22 23:09:10. More

5 Living Cost in Shanghai (2007 Edition)


Your estimates for transportation costs and food costs are pretty realistic. For those who can live on Chinese food, their food budget can be very cheap comparing to those in other major Asian cities. I now live in Taipei, and food costs no matter cooking yourself or eating out are at least 4-8 times more than those in Shanghai. However, for expats who must eat specialty foods, especially if they eat in nicer restaurants, be prepared to pay 100-200 Yuan without alcohol drinks or 300 Yuan up with drinks. It's common to spend 600 + Yuan per person at a French restaurant

JS, you didn't mention much about costs for clothing and lodging. I almost never bought clothes when I lived in Shanghai partly because I didn't like the styles and colors of clothes sold in local shops, and partly because most of the clothes are too small for me. I wouldn't buy imported name brand clothes in Shanghai as they are too expensive and the selections are limited for me. I buy them when I go back to the States. What I did was having all my clothes tailor made in the Dongjiadu area. DJD has been torn down, but the old vendors have been relocated to two fabric markets near the old DJD. Men's long sleeve-shirts can be tailor made for 80 Yuan per shirt, men's slacks cost 40-50 Yuan for labor plus whatever you choose for the material. Labor costs for men's suit is about 250 Yuan and a long coat is about 150 Yuan plus material. Cashmere long coats for guys is 800Yuan labor plus material, and about 100 Yuan less for women. Okay, you get the idea.....Having clothes tailor made in Shanghai is a very special treat. Exceptions: Some shops such as Silk King charge much much more for its fabric and labor cost, but it has a great selection of fabrics.

Lodging costs varies depending on the districts, neighborhood, proximity to Metro lines and shopping facilities, age of the buildings and other amenities available in the complex. Rents have come down at least 20-30% with the abundant supplies. Expats housings are more costly, but are still very cheap relatively speaking.
Posted by twang at 2007-01-22 23:01:24. More

4 Chinese Stock Market is Crazy

The Chinese stock market does look irrational to me. Will it crash? I think any market that experiencing this kind of irrational exuberance is bound to have major correction, be it in the US or in China. But what worries me about the China market is that eventually when the bubbles burst, it's the average small investors who will suffer the most. Many of these folks have little knowledge of what they are buying into. And as dessa upstairs said it the Chinese companies still lack the much-needed and regulated transparency. Average small investors simply have no tools to judge the quality and financial strength of the companies they have bought their shares. It's scary!

The major reasons for the escalating Chinese stock markets are many folds. I'm not a pro, but I ived in Shanghai for 4 years, and my observations may have some validity.

1) Lack of investment channels: The interest rates paid by banks for savings is pitiful. I believe I was getting 1.7% for a 3-month term deposit. Yet, I'm getting 4.7% for money market fund, which I can liquidate any amount of money within one business day. So anything with substantial higher yield attact people to flock into.

2) The housing market has suffered prolonged setbacks due to a series of new govermental tax laws implimentated since March of 2006. Shanghai's real estate market appreciated so much so quickly between 2001-pre-Feb.2006 that many foreign buyers bought properties there. In addition, major foreign real estage funds also bought a number of highend commercial properties. That all said, people shift their money to the stock market from the real estate market.

3) The expectation of Yuan appreciation also propelled much "hot money" pouring into China. Well, Yuan has appreciated a good 6% since China abandoned pegging its currency to the USD. There are all kinds of rumors about how much more Yuan will appreciate. Time will tell.

4) Sheer herd mentality. Word of month quickly spreads news both good and bad.

Personally, I wouldn't want to invest in the Chinese stock market, but I may shelter some money into an US mutual fund that invest in Chinese companies.
Posted by twang at 2007-01-22 10:30:46. More

3 New Xiangyang Market Location?

I lived in Shanghai for almost 4 years and just moved out there in Sept. of 2006. Like many foreigners who either move to Shanghai for short term basis or visit there for several days, I used to go to Xiangyang Market quite often, and therefore learned the tricks or art of getting bargains.

The rule of the thumb is never espect to make the purchase in the first shop you go into, instead ask the price of a merchandise you are interested in at the first shop, then say, " Too expensive, thank you" and walk away. Don't bargain at this point because you don't know what's the best price to offer, but the vendors know their costs. If you name a price which is accepted, then you are obligated to buy. Of course we ought to let them make some money, but not outrageious amount. As you are walking away, the shop owners will most likely start lowering prices. At this point, you can ask, "How much? (after they tell you just say) but it's still much higher than aother store's price." Then continue to walk away. By this time, you already know the lowest price for that merchandise without having to bargain at all.

Since you can find the same or similar merchandise in other stores, just go to a second shop that sells the same or similar things you want to buy and say "I've seen this in some other stoeres, how much is your price?" The vendor hears that you've already been to other shops and assume you know the prices, so will not ask for a high asking price. Whatever price he or she gives you, just say, " it's too high", and then walk away slowly. You do this in three different shops, you ought to get a feel of what you can get them for. They if you really want the item, offer a price 20-30% lower than the lowest price you were told earlier. If you are interested in other merchandise in the same shops, start asking the its lowest price, offer a lower price if you really want it and bundle it with the other item you want to buy together. In other words, either either you buy both or none. At this point, the owner would not want to kill the deal and will let you have them at your prices.

Anohter tactic I used to use is I would say(I'm Asian American and speak Manderin, which helps a great deal), I'm not a tourist, I live in Shanghai so I'm not in a hurry to buy this item. I don't like to bargain either. If the price is reasonable, I would buy it. If on the other hand I don't like the price, I just don't buy it. Most vendors in this case would offer much lower starting prices. I generally say thank you but it's too high, and I would leave. Often times, the vendors will lower the price again. See I never named a price and hence not obligated to buy.

Truthfully speaking, it's very time consuming shopping this way, but since I did live in Shanghai and had the free time to kill, I didn't care if I bought anything or not. If I find a good shop with reasonable prices, I usually would go back with my visitors to SH. If you like the shop owners, get their cards and write down the prices of what you paid for on the cards. At least if you have to shop for the samething again, you don't have to repeat the same process again. And the vendors are generally good to their "old customers". When you do go back, they'll be nice to you and may give you even better prices."

Another good tactic is after you are told of the price of an item, ask how much would it be if I buy 8 or 10 of them? In other words, find out the "whole sale" price. They would give you very low price by the bulk. If you are not going to buy more than one or two, then say, I'll go home and ask my friends to come and buy with me next time. They don't want you to leave that day, and often will offer you the same price for one as they had said as they would for 10.

Posted by twang at 2007-01-21 13:26:40. More

2 Where are the Train Tickets?


Right after I posted my comment, I read yours. As I said in my earlier post, most people don't believe they have the right to compalin thinking it's no use fighting with the goverment. I disagree.

Why do you just accept this phenomenon and be silent about it? Now that there are forums in major media websites, why don't you shout out loud there to warn more people of the situation? I'm sure many of the college students are from other provinceses and will go home for the holiday. You guys should bring this to your school's attentions. Team work will make a difference. Another thing you guys can do is to broadcast this kind complaints in international media forums such as the ones in, Chinese govenment sure doesn't like this kind of negative publicity.
Posted by twang at 2007-01-21 12:34:14. More

1 Where are the Train Tickets?

Thanks for sharing what you know of. But what puzzles me is that if all tickets went from the ticketing agents to the scalpers to sell them at a 50Yaun mark up, and later on only a handful of passengers were on the train. I'm sure that somebody reads the revenue numbers of the train ridership. Wouldn't the revenu be very low? Meantime, wouldn't there be many people complaining this situation to the governement? There must be a governmental department that handles complaints like this. I would think the flock of complaints would have brought loud attentions from the high-ranked official and start its investigations to see wha's causing the shortage of tickets?

Haven lived in Shanghai for four years before, I know how helpless most of the civilians are. Many don't even believe they have the right to complain. Meantime, highly educated folks such as you, Wang Jianshuo, ought to write to media and perhaps even to the Major Han Zheng who ought to appoint a task force to investigate the situation, and to punish those who are responsible for scalpering the tickets. Make sure that they get heavy fines puls jail time.

Posted by twang at 2007-01-21 12:21:24. More