Category Archives: Shopping

For Would Be Philatellators

“I am into philately,” my father once said. “I like to philatellate.”

I squinted my eyes at him, sternly.”You like to whip people?”

“No.” He rolled his eyes. “Rich, that’s flagellate.

“Oh, got you,” I said. “So, you are a philatellator!”

He sighed. “What is wrong with you? The right word is philatelist.” He pointed at me. “And furthermore…”

“Oh, who cares?” My mom interjected. She looked at my dad. “A grown man obsessed with stickers! Besides, I’ve had to listen to you two invent new gibberish words all dinner.”

“They’re postage stamps, not …”

“Paul, you are talking about little pieces of paper with glue on the back.” She took a sip of her Diet Coke. “I pass out stuff like that to my students when they do well on tests or behave themselves.”

“Jeez, I can’t win for trying.” My father stood from the dinner table. “You know, I am going to go to my office right now and philatellate some.”

And by that, he went to go play with his stamps. It’s hobby that has engrossed my dad for his entire lifetime. Given the international scope of his career with the US federal government, his extremely large collection spans the entire globe. The above conversation happened when I was a senior in high school. On and off, I have always talked about stamps with him, and it seems I am the only of his three kids that was remotely interested in doing so. Ever since I moved to China, I thought it was only fitting that I help round out his collection.

Recently, I sought out some new Chinese stamps for him, but not because I am a dutiful son. Actually, I can be quite a moron, and recently, that was most definitely the case. Because of a recently planned trip to Buffalo, my father took me to JFK International in New York City in a rental car. After he dropped me off and left, I realized that I still had his regular car keys. Basically, I accidentally stole his regular house keys and had no way to get them back to him — other than mailing them express from Changzhou once I returned. Essentially, I screwed up royally, and there is no way to really say “I’m sorry” to someone than to give them something that genuinely excites them. For my dad, that’s stamps.

So, that brings up a question. If you are a stamp collector and you live in Changzhou, how do you go about adding to your collection? China does not have stamp stores the same way America and Europe does. The first option is to go to an antique market.

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There are a few scattered across the city. One of the biggest ones — across from Hongmei Park — recently got bulldozed. So, the defacto go-to place is now behind the Christian church downtown.  However, there are challenges when shopping at places like this.

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There is the issue of the language barrier, but that can be fixed by having a Chinese friend tag along. Antique markets are usually better for experienced collectors, and this is a place where you can find old themed albums or issues from years ago. In short, not only do you need to be able to communicate, but you also need to know what you are looking for. There is another option for those who are wading into Chinese philately for the first time. It’s the actual Postal Bank of China.

This is a place where you can not only buy stamps, mail letters, and ship packages, but you can also open a savings or checking account. It’s both a post office and a bank. However, the branch offices scattered throughout the city are not really suited for stamp collectors. There is only one place that actually geared toward philatelists. Its English name says it all.

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China Philately. This place has all the services of a China Post branch, but they also have display cases of all the recently published collectible sets. As it turns out, stamp collecting has some aspects unique to China. I say this not as a collector myself, but one who has known one my entire life. Micro collections, published as brochures, seem to be more of a thing here than it is in the west. Take this, for example.

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This is a two-fold brochure celebrating Xuan Zang. He’s the Chinese monk who traveled to India to find Buddhist scripture and bring it back to the Middle Kingdom. Famously, this story is told in Journey to the West, a classic that also stars the Monkey King.

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Once you open the brochure, you see two sheets of four protected by plastic holders. Since these micro collections act like brocures, there is usually some explanatory text and biographies of the artists involved. As a collectible, it’s not just the stamps themsleves that make this important. The packaging itself is also collectible. So, this isn’t really something where you’d pull the stamps out and put them into a separate album. It’s best to just leave it alone is one complete philatelic item. And that gets into another thing my father has told me, after looking at the stamps I have provided to him in the past.

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Chinese stamps are colorful, artistic, and look like a lot of care and attention have been put into their look and design. After all, roughly about one third of global stamp market is made up of Chinese investors. To put it another way, one third of all stamp collectors are Chinese. It’s a big thing in the Middle Kingdom.

To be honest, I am tempted to start collecting myself. My dad would joke that it would have taken him 44 years to convince me that this wasn’t a foolish hobby. Sure, because I have spent much of my adult life talking to my father about postage stamps (I have the collector bug, but it usually was comic books and punk rock vinyl records), I might know more than the average newb. However, for the time being, I think I will just stick with China Philately. I can walk in and point at stuff I want to look at without having to ask complicated questions.

Changzhou has only one of these stores. It’s located dowtown and across the street from the Jiuzhou Shopping mall.

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The 50’s Purpose

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Sometimes, public bus routes are like riddles. They usually exist for a reason. Some are quite easy to understand, and others are not. Bus #50 actually was actually quite easy to figure out once I got off at its Zhonglou District terminus.

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This municipal bus depot also acts as an intercity coach station with destinations in places like Jurong and elsewhere. Sure, it’s not like the hub downtown and next to the high speed rail station. In many cases, places like this are also stopping points on coaches heading out of town. In trips to both Liyang and Yixing, the intercity buses have stopped in other city locations to pick up more travelers, for example.

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Ok, that’s well and fine. So, what’s the purpose of the 50 municipal bus?

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It connects an intercity coach station to Dinosaur Park, which is the other terminus. Dino Park is a major source of tourism revenue for both Changzhou and Xinbei. In theory, people in smaller cities to the west could get off bus here and switch to a public bus that would take them to Dinosaur Park and a potential hotel reservation in the area. That’s well and fine. Why would a Changzhou resident use this bus, besides the convenience of some of the stops in the middle of the route?

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Zhonglou’s Decathlon is the second to last stop. Changzhou only has two of these sporting goods stores. During my years in China, this retail chain has actually meant a lot to me. I am a tall guy with big feet. A lot of brick and mortar stores do not carry sizes 46 or 47. Decathlon does. Also, my Taobao situation is a bit screwy, so if I want to try on shoes to see if they actually fit me, this place has always been reliable. I will ride a bus in the name of convenience and not bothering Chinese friends to order, receive, and return footwear for me.

Changzhou’s other Decathlon is in Wujin. Quite honestly, both are pains to get to when you live in Xinbei, but the one in Zhonglou is easier. I boarded this bus actually at Xinbei Wanda Plaza, and that seems to only other major landmark this line services. For the most part, the 50 is not a scenic ride.

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Obscure Tea in Tianning

I once used to search out antique markets in Changzhou. I did this because these shops are often places of forgotten history. Often, there are stories behind what some consider to be old junk, and I used to regard these things as puzzles to be solved. I would often buy an old poster, take it home, try to figure it out, get thoroughly confused, and then send a picture of it to a Chinese friend and ask what it was.

I actually no longer do this and prefer to find other ways to waste my money (beer). However, when I did, I ended up finding nearly every antique market in Changzhou. Like I do with everything else, it was a case of trying to find the right Chinese keywords and inserting them into Baidu Maps. In this case, it was 古玩 Gǔwàn. It didn’t always work. We are, after all, talking about Baidu Maps, which has had a penchant for red herrings and sending me into weird places.

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One of those locations involved tea. This would be in Tianning and down the Lanling Road from the Jiuzhou New World Plaza. It’s an obscure alleyway next to the Changzhou Revolutionary Martyr’s Cemetery.  Did I find the aforementioned educational junk here?

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No, it’s just a concrete set of alleys with places that deal in what looks to be gourmet tea.

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Did I buy anything? No. I normally rely on coffee or energy drinks for caffeine. I am an American, after all.  Also, the culture of tea in China is rich and complex, and even if I entered any of these shops with a Chinese pal to translate, I seriously wouldn’t know what I was buying or how to appreciate it. Then again, I never really knew what I was buying in my average Chinese junk shops. It’s just a matter of perspectives, I guess. So, forgive this outrageously bad pun, because I can’t resist: This area is not my cup of tea. For others, however, it might be.

Luqiao and the Nature of Chinglish

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For me, Chinglish has two valuable uses. First, it is a huge source of entertainment. I am a native English speaker, and I have been an English teacher for a very long time. This language has been my professional business as a poetry student, a college writing instructor, a published writer, and as an EFL teacher in China. Second, it has uses in the classroom in with Chinese students. The purpose there is never to mock but to use it to engage students on the differences of native language versus learned language. So, trust me, I have a vast treasure trove of Chinglish pictures. By the way, a Chinese person could easily do the same in the West be taking pictures of absurdly bad Chinese characters some Americans have chosen as tattoos.  Anyhow, so sometimes, I actually go out and seek out Chinglish so that I can grow my archive. I often do that at places like Luqiao Market in downtown, Changzhou.

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Why Luqiao? It’s simple logic. Chinglish can easily be found on public signs or on clothing. So, if you were to go looking for examples, a huge clothing market really is the easiest place. Chinglish there is low hanging fruit that is easy to pick.  So, on my latest wandering around Luqiao, what did I find? This…

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I am from New Jersey, so that makes this extra hilarious. There is no town in the Garden State with that name. Trust me. Jersey folk would have mocked and ridiculed any municipality named Stomach Parboil out of existence a long time ago. Sarcastically making fun of each other is how Jersey Folk and New Yorkers say Hi! to each other. It’s what we do. Howyadoing?

For example, this photo has already had me thinking of the Jersey Devil — a mythical monster that looks like this.

 

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You can read up it’s the legend on this beastie’s Wikipedia page. It allegedly lives in Jersey’s Pine Barrens. That is a huge flatland forest. Whenever other Americans like to joke about New Jersey being a toxic urban wasteland, I like to remind them that the Pines are a lovely place to take a camp, fish, hunt for deer, and take a nature hike.

Only,  the above-pictured monster is also rumored to live there. So, that hooded sweatshirt at Luqiao sent my overactive imagination into this direction: the Jersey Devil has discovered Chinese hot pot, has a plate piled high with tripe, and is boiling them quickly. With chop sticks, he plops them into his mouth one at a time and chews thoughtfully. Then, he looks over at his dinner guest, Sasquatch, who has traveled over from the Pacific Northwest.

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The Jersey Devil asks his hairy friend if he thinks the red peppers in Chendu-styled soup brings the true flavor of organ meat. The primate wipes tears off his furry face. “This is way too spicy,” he says.”

Eating this drains my sinuses!” He smiles before chopsticking up another bit of stomach lining and dipping it into their shared bubbling cauldron for thirty seconds and chomping heartily on the parboiled result.

Yeah, I know that sounds absurdly stupid, but so does Stomach Parboil N.J. Yet, I do like to approach bits of Chinglish like puzzles to be solved.  How do these linguistic mishaps happen in the first place?

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I actually spent a few hours trying to figure this out by looking at a Chinese map of New Jersey. I wanted to see what characters were being used for Chinese version of New Jersey town names and if one could be accidentally be “boiled stomach” in translation. Sometimes Chinglish is not as random as some people think. Most of it is organic, as it arises out of very bad translations from Chinese into English.

Proper names are particularly hard. Shanghai 上海 uses the characters for “up” and “sea.” Wuxi 无锡 is “no tin.” Nanjing 南京 is “south capital.” Changzhou 常州 is “common place.” Sure, no remotely sane person ever actually calls Shanghai UpSea on a daily basis, but, newly arrived Changzhou expats can be routinely confused when a local alternates between Xinbei 新北 and New North in the scope of one conversation. New North is the exact, literal translation Xinbei after all. This is why a common rule is never translate the names of places or people. Leave them as they are. The best way is to write the characters as Pinyin and leave off the tone markers.

Chinglish tends to get sillier once you take into account transliteration. For example, Obama is 奥巴马 Àobāmǎ in Chinese. If you stupidly translated that, one character at a time, you could get Obscure Desire for Horse. (And we are going to conveniently forget that horse can also be slang for heroin.) Are the Chinese mocking Obama by calling him 奥巴马 Àobāmǎ? Are they say that he has an obscure desire for a pony or a mare?Are they saying he wants herion? No, of course not. Some Chinese characters are used for approximating the sound of a word or name that is being brought into the Chinese language.  The actual meanings of the characters are irrelevant.  This is why 沃尔玛 Wò’ērmǎ is supposed to translate as Walmart and not Furtile Thus Agate.

While all of this sounds like an exercise in futility, remember that a lot of lousy phone language translation apps do this all the time with English, Chinese, and other languages. I suspect it’s how Stomach Parboil N.J. came into existence. Somebody absentmindedly copied from a machine translator. It’s why linguists, ever since the dawn of technology, have tried to tell people to trust a living, breathing, fluent human being over a computer when it comes to language. And, dear God, if you are an American, show your potential tattoo to a Chinese person before getting it permanently inked. Laser surgery to get Sweet Lesbian Lawnmower Juggler  removed from your arm or lower back is painful and costs a lot of money.

So, did I ever figure out the origin of Stomach Parboil NJ? No. I searched for a bit and then had to run off and teach a class.  As for Luqiao, it has its practical uses beyond laughing at knock offs and abuses of the English language. If you can fit into Chinese sizes, it can be a useful place to skip Taobao.com and go clothing shopping. After all, while some people swear by Taobao, it’s always better to try clothing on before you actually buy it. Luqiao is walking distance from Nandajie.

The Real Changzhou Beer

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This is a no-holds barred death match between two Changzhou beers.

 

If you would like to get a stern lecture, tell a drunk Australian that their country makes great beer. Then, cite Fosters — not Little Creatures — as an example of a great Aussie brew. They will inform you that 1) it’s not made in the Down Under, and 2) depending on where you buy a can, the rights are actually owned by Heineken or Miller. Fosters is Aussie in name only. There is a parallel that can be drawn to Changzhou, here.

Tianmu Lake Beer claims to be from Liyang City, which is part of greater Changzhou. The claim is that the beer itself is made from Tianmu’s water. So, while it’s made locally, it does have a claim to being a local beer. However, its actually owned Chongqing Brewery, which was is basically Carlsberg. The Danish brewer bought an ownership stake because it wanted entry into the rapidly growing Chinese beer market. So, Tianmu Lake Beer is NOT locally owned.

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Psst! Hey, you! That bottle of Tuborg? It’s brewed and bottled in China by the same company that owns Tianmu Lake Beer. So, it’s not actually an import. That’s why it is so easy to find. 

 

There is also nothing unique about Tianmu Lake Beer. It’s bland, it’s watery, and it tastes just like Snow and most other Chinese beers. It comes in with a 2.5% alcohol level, so if you actually drink a bunch of these, you would feel more bloated than drunk. That is likewise true for Snow and a lot of other Chinese beers. They tend to be flavorless. The truth is this: Changzhou recently got a better beer, and it has a greater claim at being truly local. 

Riguli is launching a line of craft beers. Right now, they offer an urban wheat beer, and they have IPA coming out very soon. So, what about this wheat beer? Any good? Well, you can easily say it’s 10,000 times better than Tianmu Lake. But then again, every craft beer made in China is better than Tianmu Lake.

The easiest comparison would be to Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale out of Chicago. Both that and Riguli’s 0519 Urban Wheat Beer have a smooth, easy-drinking taste while still maintaining a complex flavor profile. If I was forced to compare the two, Goose Island is still the better beer. Riguli is still very enjoyable. You can draw a very subtle connection between the two by way of labeling and branding. The numbers can be taken as a homage and a nod to Goose Island. In Chicago, 312 is a phone area code. In Changzhou, the area code on landlines would be 0519.

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Riguli 0519 at OK Koala in Xinbei. I don’t know if other bars are stocking this.

Both beers have another distinction. European wheat beers, especially German ones, have a very powerful taste. Some people, myself included, have developed an aversion to those wheat beers over time. As a flavor, I have found that people either like it or dislike it with no middle ground. Both Riguli and Goose Island does not taste that way, and both are proof that you can’t judge a beer on the word wheat alone.

Since Riguli is still in its launching phase, it does not have wide distribution. Personally, I tend to drink it while at OK Koala in Xinbei. They have a wide and international selection of craft beer. However, since this is China, the easiest way to buy Riguli is through their store on Taobao.com.

 

Silver Valley of Mingxin

Living in Wujin is not bad. You just happened to live in one of the most boring parts of Wujin.

— A friend and a very long term Changzhou expat.

Everytime I return to Wujin, I am reminded of how it is constantly changing and is actually beginning to look profoundly different from when I moved there. After two years, I decided to pack up and move to Xinbei. So, every time I go down there, I’m reminded of the above quote. I will not mention her name, but let’s just say it rhymes with Mikki Spaff. This is especially true when I go to my old stomping grounds of College Town.

When I moved there, a lot of storefronts around my vocational college were empty and devoid of life. Now, most of those shops have filled in. However, one big thing reminded me of how the area has been changing. This was a few days ago, before I sprained some ligaments in my foot (again). Consider this…

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I normally would not be celebrating the opening of yet another shopping center in Changzhou. Good lord, the city has enough already. Some of them have been abandoned and have laid mostly empty for years now. However, this one makes sense.

It’s at the intersection of Mingxin and Wuyi Roads in the College Town. This is where the B1 and B16 turn north and head towards down town. The name seems to be Silver Valley in English, and it had a bit of a soft opening. Besides a Pizza Hut, a supermarket, a cinema, and a few other shops, a lot of the stores here are empty. However, if the rest of the area is any indication, those shops will eventually fill in over time. Why? Think about this area for a moment.

There are six institutions of higher learning here. There’s my former employer, Changzhou University, and four others. When spring or fall semester is in swing, this place is crammed with thousands upon thousands of college students. You figure there would be more here to cater to them and their money. I have always argued that College Town has been under served in terms of development. Remember, I partly left out of boredom and needing a new challenge.

When I first moved to Changzhou, this shopping mall was a huge hole in the ground surrounded by a construction barricade. Three and a half years later, it seems to have undergone a soft opening after the construction has finished. However, there is something more particular to day to day living that this shopping mall brings to Mingxin.

It’s the supermarket. Now, anybody who has lived along Mingxin knows this sounds like a dumb statement. Before Silver Valley, the area already had four. What’s the difference of having a fifth?

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Easy answer. It carries things that the other four didn’t when I lived in the area. A bottle of western booze used to require a trip to RT Mart or Tesco. The same could be said for cheese, butter, cat food and a few other foreign items. Yeah, I know Wujin has Metro now, too. However, College Town is really the southern most part of the city before you start getting into all the industrial parks and the more rural areas of Wujin. Yeah, Metro has a lot of what somebody needs, but sometimes having the convenience of just going down the street and saving some time on some very basic items is nice comfort, too. That’s why having a shopping center here makes perfect sense.

Where Aussies Might Find Tim Tams

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Closed near Wujin Wanda.

What is one way to potentially piss off an Australian? Claim to be a Aussie specialty shop and do not sell Tim Tams. That actually happened in Wujin. Axmall was this little nook store next to the Wanda Realm hotel. Only, they didn’t have Tim Tams the last time I went there. Sure, they had some bottles of Australian wine and some health products, but the shelves seemed remarkably empty. Not long after that, the store shut down for good. Word is, Axmall will be moving to Xinbei.

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YUM!

So, what is a Tim Tam? It’s two biscuits sandwiched together with a creamy center. Those biscuits are then dipped in chocolate. There are a variety of different flavors from doubled coated (double dipped), dark chocolate, white chocolate, and more. Amazingly enough, you don’t have to go to an Australian shop to find them.

However, they were not at Metro last time I looked, and they are not on the import shelves of the major foreign grocery stores like Walmart or Tesco. I have only seen them in two different imported good shops and both are chains.

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All three Zhoumo stores look like this, pretty much.

Zhoumo 周茉 has consistently had them. The smallest one of these is downtown and right off of Beidajie and near the now mostly empty Parksons. The Xinbei store is on Taihu Road and can be easily walked to from Wanda Plaza. The Wujin shop is on Wuyi Road and is across the street from the Coco City shopping mall. Only, that one only had white chocolate Tim Tams the last time I was there. And ugh, to quote an Australian friend and all around Tim Tam enthusiast, “White chocolate is not real chocolate and does not deserve to be in the same category as chocolate.” For the sake of a general readership, expletives were edited out of that quote. Anyhow, that’s just our two humble opinions on the matter. The variety of flavors available seems to fluctuate, but Zhoumo usually tends to restock and reorder Tim Tims regularly, so it could just be the luck of when you go and what they have.

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The smaller Way To Delicious stores that don’t carry Tim Tams tend to look like this.

The other store to carry these yummy biscuits is Way To Delicious 味和氏. I have seen some of those stores either keep that English name, but the trend seems to be a switch to “Waycious.” While I have seen Tim Tams at all of Changzhou’s Zhoumo supermarkets, the same cannot be said for Way To Delicious. It seems that if the store is large, you will likely find Tim Tams. If the store is very small, they will likely not be stocked. Personally, I have seen them at three specific locations. The stores on Hanjiang Road and Taihu Road in Xinbei both had them. The Wujin location in the South Town area near Jagerwirt also had them.

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Way To Delicious in Wujin, near Jagerwirt, RT Mart, and The Grand Metropolis Mall. The development is called South Town in English.

Of course, you don’t have to be Australian to enjoy Tim Tams. Last I checked, my home state of New Jersey was nowhere near the Down Under. All you need to love these things is a sweet tooth. As part of “research” for this post, I also shared some with a Chinese friend, and she said, “Wow, these are quite good” after her first bite.

As is always the case when writing about shopping, I can only attest that the products were on the shelf when I looked. I can’t guarantee that they will always be there. 

Way To Delicious rebranded as "Waycious" on Taihu Road in Xinbei.
Way To Delicious rebranded as “Waycious” on Taihu Road in Xinbei.

Polish Nut Wafers and Few Other Things

 

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As previously noted, the Import shop on Xinbei’s Chaohu Road is currently the home of Russian chocolate, Polish green apple yogurt, and American Spam in Korean packaging. On a return visit, I found three more unique things on the shelves there. Let’s start with the Polish item that had me excited.

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No, not the granola. As it turns out, Emall on Beidajie Road downtown has that, as it does with more flavors of the Polish yogurt Import stocks. The item next to is type of wafle orzechowe, a Polish person told me after I showed them this picture. Basically, it’s a nut wafer. However, it doesn’t seem to be a brand in Poland itself. However, since the packaging itself is in English and not Polish, this friend and I agreed that it’s likely something made specifically to export — much like Australia and Fosters beer. I couldn’t resist and bought a bag. So, you can say I’ve now eaten my first Polish nut wafer in Changzhou.

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Unlike some other Polish wafer snacks, this has the wafer acting as a chocolate coated shell. The interior is a hazelnut creme. So far, I have only eaten about three of this. I have been a good boy. I didn’t shove all of them into my face all at once. There were only two bags, so the store may only have one left. And, as it goes with these types of blog posts, I can guarantee that products such as these were on the shelf when I visited. If they go out of stock, there is no assurance that the import store in question will reorder them. So, besides this. What are two other things at Import that I missed last time?

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There are multiple flavors of Bulgarian fruit juice. I saw two separate brands, but after looking closely at the packaging, I realized that both came from the same company headquartered in Sofia. The third thing I found wasn’t from Eastern Europe at all, but rather from Vietnam.

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Unlike the Polish nut wafers, I was not as enthused to try these and actually didn’t buy any. Durian has a complex flavor. Some absolutely love it, and others detest the fruit, its taste, and it’s smell. I am somewhere in the middle. I don’t hate it, but I’m not willing to put forth the effort to acquire a taste for it. Bahn pia is a Vietnamese specialty pastry that can be compared to a moon cake.  So, this could be summed up as “Durian flavored Vietnamese moon cake.”

Import is located, as stated earlier, on Chaohu Road in Xinbei. That’s the street on the north side of Wanda. The store itself is a quick walk west from Wanda.

 

 

Three American Comforts at Chinese Convenience Stores

I used to think that “if you couldn’t find it at Metro, you can’t find it in Changzhou.” The longer I live here, the more I am discovering that is wrong. Unique items may pop in the most unexpected places. Sure, there are other western supermarket chains, and there are smaller import shops all over the city. However, the most surprising thing, recently, were some things that have been popping up in 24 quickie mart convenience shops like Kedi.

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Monster, a very popular American energy drink, has been popping up all over Changzhou as of late. The only other place to carry this so far has been OK Koala in Xinbei, but that is only occasional and with other energy drinks like Red Bull and some lesser known brands. Metro doesn’t carry it, but it does carry something that tries to rip off Monster’s logo.

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At the convenience stores, however, it’s only been the green Monster, not the sugarfree blue one. In a way, that’s not surprising. If you exclude Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Coke Lite, and Pepsi Lite, diet sodas haven’t fared well. Well, the next thing is a promising thing if you like zero calorie soft drinks.

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Sprite Zero has shown up. This one is easy to miss because the cans and bottles seem to lack the English name. I have never seen this anywhere until recently — not even at Metro. The third thing I found recently at convenience stores has not been drinks.

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Yoplait is a very common brand of yogurt in America, but Kedi is the only place that I have seen it. Monster and Sprite Zero I have seen in some convenience stores besides Kedi. One thing to keep in mind when it comes western food and drink items is that they may not always be there. I can only guarantee that I saw it at the time I took pictures or bought them. For example, I once bought a Polish brand of plum juice at Way Too Delicious in Xinbei, and it never got restocked.

Biji Lane’s Questionable Comb Museum

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As I have mentioned in the past, part of how I explore places relies heavily on Baidu Maps, my phone, and learning Chinese keywords. For example, 故居 Gùjū means “former residence.” 名胜 Míngshèng translates roughly as “famous place” or “attraction” (in a tourist sense). Another common one I use is 博物馆 Bówùguǎn. There is sometimes a problem with the last one. Sometimes, a business lists themselves on Baidu Maps as this. You show up, and it’s a retail store, not a museum.

When this happens, I just shake my head and walk away. There is one that I will make an exception for. There is something that translates as Comb Museum over on Biji Lane. This is in the small little historical alley behind the Injoy Mall, downtown.

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This is historical home for one of Changzhou’s oldest traditional industries: handcrafted combs. This city has been well renowned in China for this for at least two thousand years.  Only, the museum is not a museum. It’s actually a gift shop, and some of the combs can cost upwards of 1000 RMB. I, however, never treat it like a gift shop. A lot of the more exquisite items are behind protective glass cases.

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There are also non-comb realted items like bejeweled hairpins.

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The place also has other traditional Changzhou crafts, like carved bamboo.

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While I have given Changzhou combs to people back in America, they were the cheap 10 RMB knock offs. This place is too expensive for me. And, even though its not a museum, I like to treat it like an art gallery. I go in browse, but never buy.