Malaysia, Macau and Hong Kong

Or as it’s better known, Yet Another Strange Trip (YAST!). I have to be in Macau for training the 27th and 28th of November, so I figured might as well extend a few days one each side and make a little trip out of it. After scouring for cheap flights and easy of travel within the country I picked out Malaysia as the destination. Plus, the NYT just did a feature piece on the food in Malaysia specifically around the fusion of Malay, Indian and Chinese flavors. Here’s my itinerary:

  • 23 Nov: fly to Hong Kong, then fly to Kuala Lumpur, stay in KL for the night
  • 24 Nov: bus up to the Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata or thereabouts) and spend the night. Highlights are the tea plantations and the jungles/forests.
  • 25 Nov: bus up to Penang Island (probably stay in Georgetown) and spend the night. I plan to eat a lot around Penang, plus it’s up for nomination as a UNESCO site.
  • 26 Nov: stay in Penang for the day, fly from Penang to KL (ticket was $25!), fly from KL to Hong Kong, ferry from HK to Macau. I’ll likely have to cross in to Hong Kong proper since I’m arriving after the last direct HK Airport to Macau ferry operates
  • 27, 28 Nov: work/training in Macau
  • 29 Nov: ferry over to HK for the day and stay the night in HK. Likely lots of shopping in Hong Kong for stuff I’ve been meaning to buy.
  • 30 Nov: fly back to Shanghai

It’s a lot packed in to a few days but I’m looking forward to spending some time out of Shanghai. As usual, I’ll blog while traveling.

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The OCI Process, Part Y of Y

I received a call yesterday from the Indian Consulate in Shanghai saying my OCI application had been approved and the documents had arrived from New Delhi. So I went this morning with my passport and they affixed the sticker to my American passport as well as gave me my “Certificate of Registration Overseas Citizen of India.” It’s not a travel document (e.g. I can’t visit Cuba on it) but it does for the purpose of all things India related act as a green card/citizenship-lite.

Strangely enough, the paperwork has printed on it my job title and my current address. That’s odd considering the paperwork has lifelong validity and it’s certain that both of those will change in the course of my life.

In terms of application time, it ended up taking almost exactly as long as the forums mentioned. I submitted my paperwork on 14 September 06 and all the stuff was received back at the consulate on the 16th of November, thus about two months, including the photo snafu. I’d honestly expected the process to take another two months after resubmitting the new photos.

 Aditya, now with 100% more citizen:

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Tennis Masters Cup 2006

This afternoon and evening I went to the Masters Cup in the Minhang district of Shanghai and watched all four matches played, including Blake’s upset of Nadal.

The venue was fantasic, it’s a purpose built 25,000 people (I think) stadium built specifically to host the Masters Cup three years ago or so and our cheap seats gave us fantastic views of the action. We were in the grandstand behind the umpire’s chair, almost dead center giving a perfect view of both sides of play.

The Blake-Nadal match was great to watch. In the second set Blake was down 0-4 and he rallied back to take it in a 7-6 tiebreaker. I’m quite tempted to go watch another game later this week, since Nadal, Federer and Roddick are all playing a few matches this week. Plus, Blake is really fun to watch play and I woudn’t mind seeing him again.

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Office 2007 Installation

Hands down, the best installer of any application I’ve ever used is Office 2007. You just double click the setup.exe file, and a dialog box with two buttons is shown, “Install Office” about twice the size of the next one “Customize”.  Push “Install” and a while later, no dialogs, no ads, no sub-installers, no marketing promotions, and no questions asked it’s done. Icons are in place, files open properly and everything works.

Installers are really hard to build and even harder to make this seamless, so hats off to the Office folks. They nailed the out of box experience on 2007.

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Shanghai Street Names in the French Concession

Fuxing Lu (复兴路), Jiangguo Lu (建国路), Xinguo Lu (兴国路). For a long time they were just proper names for streets. But like all nearly all Chinese proper nouns, they actually have a meaning if taken word for word. So what do they all mean?

The streets listed above (Fuxing, Jiangguo and Xinguo) are all in Xuhui District (徐汇区) and Luwan District (卢湾区) which contain the old French Concession. The area is full of leafy trees that form canopies over the streets and old 1900s homes among hip cafés. If you look at historical maps, most of the streets around there have old French names.

The modern Chinese names tell a whole different story:

  • Xingguo – Xing means to flourish, Guo means country/nation; thus “Flourishing Nation Road”
  • Fuxing – Fu means again or to recover, Xing means to flourish; thus “Recover Road” or maybe “Flourishing Recovery Road”
  • Jiangguo – Jiang means building or creating, Guo means country/nation; thus, “Building Nation Road”

Given that all these streets run near each other, it’s a pretty interesting mix of history and communist revisionism to see in action. Roads like Fuxing Lu and Xingguo Lu either intersect or are parallel (can’t remember) which leads to funny translated names like “meet me at café at Flourishing Nation Road and Recovery Road.”

update 12 nov 06: my friend informs me that some of the names might not necessarily be communist, they may be from when the foreigners were kicked out of China in the 1920s.

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The OCI Process, Part X of Y

I’ve been in the process of applying for my Overseas Citizen of India “permit.” The name “overseas citizen” is a bit of a misnomer as India’s constitution only allows for single citizenship. It’s more of a special visa/licensing scheme that is life long and allows you free entry/exit in to India without reason plus all the benefits of a citizen (such as around property ownership/etc). I’ve wanted dual citizenship for quite a while and this is the next best thing.
I applied for it early September. Well, actually, I first went to apply in June or July with photocopies of all my and my parents documentation showing their citizenship and my birth as their child (and how I used to be on their passports/etc). The first round of the application was denied based on the fact that they didn’t have the originals. My parents, being in the states and me being in China made it hard to get originals of my birth certificate or other such consular documents.

When they made it out here for a holiday they brought the paperwork with them, so I submitted then in early September, along with copies of just about everything that proved I was me, plus photos, signature samples and money.

Last Thursday I received a phone call from the consulate saying my photos were rejected from Delhi stating that they had the wrong background color (white). Mind you, nowhere on the application forms, the internet forms, etc had it mentioned that photos require a *red* color background. They were kind enough to forward me a sample photo. The Word document that it came on was titled “Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Diaspora Division, Undersecretary – Diaspora Service.” I guess when there are millions of overseas Indians, it makes sense to have an entire Ministry for it.

In any case, I got the pictures taken yesterday and dropped them off along with new application forms this morning. Hopefully this set will be accepted and the process can move along. I’m supposed to hear back in 10 – 14 working days so I’ll post more when I hear more. The entire process takes about 2 – 3 months assuming no snafus (such as this picture one).

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Lay’s Potato Chips Made With Beef Extract

I bought a bag of the new (to Shanghai) ruffled Lay’s potato chips, “original flavor.” About a third of the way through the bag I thought the taste was a bit off so I looked at the ingredients: MSG and beef extract. The non-ruffled variety is made without beef extract. Come on guys, get with the program! What’s the deal with beef extract?

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