Archive for the 'The Civilized Conveyance' Category

08
Jul
10

Scooter 1-2-3

Faster and sturdier than an electric bicycle, casual and a small enough an engine that a license is merely a formality. Anyone can learn to drive a scooter or moped (电动车).

It’s relatively quiet, efficient and fast. And affordable. A friend recently bought a black and red one, low CC Chinese-brand scooter for RMB 2500 (USD 368). “Liberating and a ton of fun!” he exclaimed, before tossing his man-purse into the scooter’s seat compartment, and put-put-putting off into the night.

But the best thing about the scooter is that unlike a bicycle, you can carry not just one, but two or heck, even three extra passengers.

Whether you’re travelling alone, with a buddy or as a family, a scooter gives you enough plastic casing, leather seating and that much horse-power, to take you places.

June 2010

27
May
10

Insert thought bubble here

Sometimes, there is nothing worse than having someone notice you with a camera. Or when you hit a low point in your photography for the day.

There are times when I take my kit out for a spin and position it by my hip to randomly capture anything that passes me. The diversity of the random, bizarre and mundane amuses me. Every once in a while, you chance upon a gem like this.

When I see this, I have a strong urge to draw in a thought bubble and guess what he is thinking.

What to eat for lunch or dinner? Strategizing the next mahjong session? Perhaps a haircut is overdue.

The endless possibilities of a wandering mind.

February 2010

On a separate note, I’ve noticed a huge jump in readership in the past week and wanted to extend a hearty welcome to new readers and thank existing readers for being patient with my slower pace of posting of late. Work and travel has kept me busy, regular programming will resume soon.

Finally, I was interviewed by BBC Vietnam last week about Shanghai’s development and the blog, the video is here. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a radio interview, I clearly did not dress/make up for the occasion.

06
Apr
10

The red bag (and buying a 2-wheeler)

Shanghai is a dense enough city that getting around can be quite a breeze.

The city has an ever expanding metro system which carries 3 million people each day, we’re up to 10 subway lines now and it is estimated to be double the size of London’s tube system by 2020. Cabs are relatively easy to flag down on the streets and if you’re lucky, you’d spot one of the new shiny Expo Volkswagon or Buick cabs that actually have seatbelts that work.

But there are also tens of thousands of people on two wheels zipping by the street while you are sitting in traffic, which seems to have worsened over the years. The mobility can be liberating.

I’ve been eyeing a moped (MOtor+PEDals) for a while but may settle for an electric bike. The former seems unwieldy, and the latter, if stolen, is easier to bear.

It’d be perfect to beat the arduous traffic clustering around my office area and head to the nearby wet market for groceries. I regularly cross the Huangpu river by ferry, along with the thousands of day-workers and pay 0.5RMB a trip, 1RMB if you’re on a 2-wheeler. If you’ve never done it before, I heartily recommend it as the view can be amazing.

Yes, I’m beginning to like the idea a lot. Stay tuned.

24
Mar
10

The ubiquitous Chinese electric bike

“In the chaotic ecosystem of Chinese roadways, the electric bike fits in right where the infernal moped might have once hoped to go, as a stepping stone for growing families or a low-cost option for commuters.

For anyone who has not been to China, it is easy to lose sight of just how big a deal this is: China has twenty-five million cars, but it has four times as many e-bikes.” ~ Evan Osnos, “The Turtle King Revolution”, Letter from China, The New Yorker

Taken on Lanxi Road (兰溪路)

March 2010

05
Mar
10

Alley bend blur

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” ~  H.G. Wells

04
Mar
10

When you slow down

The days have been dreary here in Shanghai. Nasty wet, grey gloom and all-round chilly.

That afternoon, I had descended into a mood I couldn’t get out of. I was hunting, in vain as it turned out, a particular mural of Mao in a part of town that was being swiftly destroyed.

Nothing seemed to work, photography-wise. Suddenly, everything looked the same. Old houses bereft of life, dirty markets and spitters everywhere. Why am I photographing this? Do I care?

By then, a cold wind had picked up which only exacerbated my fatigue.

Throwing in the towel, I sat down by a small alley bend along 黄家路 (Huangjia Lu) to pack up my equipment.

That’s when I noticed the traffic. Chatty passers-by on foot, some in a hurry, others in a casual amble. Two-wheeled traffic was sounded by clanging bicycle chains, the low rumble of scooters and the occasional rapid honk. At one point, a confused and shiny BMW inched its way through.

And so, I sat by the curb for a half hour, just watching.

Every minute was different and I felt myself in some kind of timelapse experiment. Some gave me lingering stares while others barely registered me while zipping through the alley bend.

I clicked away at a variety of f-stops just for the heck of it. At one point, an old man, his back facing me, urinated against a sink a few feet away.

The day didn’t necessarily right itself, but it did improve when you slowed down to a halt.

February 2010




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