Today is our first post in a series designed to help you make some everyday aspects of life here cheaper, easier, or more functional. We’ll offer five hacks per post. Have a Hohhot hack of your own? Leave a comment for us!
ONE: Smelly bathroom drain
We wrote about this a long time ago and here is the link to the older post. There are a few solutions for this one. There are drains that can be installed that can open and shut. They open to let water down the drain then shut to keep smells out. They work well, but you have to be able to find them, install them, and pay for them. (You can purchase these drains at almost any bathroom fixture store and they’ll have a guy who can install it for you, but this post is about a simpler solution).
If it’s a drain you never/rarely use, just plug it or cover it. If it’s a drain you use, here is our suggestion.
Hack: Use a ping pong ball
Here is a drain in our former residence. Theoretically, the ping pong ball will rise when water needs to go out of the drain and fall back into place to stop the smell when the water goes down.
TWO: Taking lots of stuff on the train
Are you taking the train with lots of stuff? Do you want someone to help you load your things? Or, do you want to help see someone off? Train station security has made it more difficult for non-ticketed passengers to go down to the platform.
Hack: Buy a ticket from one Hohhot station to the other. It’s only a few RMB and then you’ll be able to help a friend or have a friend help you.
Thanks to JS for contributing this one
THREE: Hanging stuff on concrete walls
I know there is more than one solution for this, and the most sturdy is to call a guy with a hammer drill and have him install whatever it is you want to hang up. However, I think the best and most affordable option are the hooks picture below.
Hack: Hardwall hangers
We purchased these particular ones at a hardware store in the US, but they can also be found at Ikea, where they come in a set of other wall-hanging items. They’re in a plastic case with other kinds of nails and hooks.
Ikea’s version here
The ones from the US hardware store come in 15 pound and larger 25 pound varieties and a package of 6 or so was about $3-4. You simply hammer the three prongs in and can hang whatever you’d like on the hooks. They don’t crack the wall and you can remove them easily when you leave to re-use and they have only put three small pinholes in your landlords wall.
Order hardwall hangers here from amazon
FOUR: Shower making the entire bathroom wet
In the years I have been here, I’d say one of the biggest changes is the vast improvement in the overall appearance, comfort, and conveniences of personal residences. I realize the condition of bathroom in homes is improving all the time, but they are generally still not designed very much like American/Western homes.
Sometimes, in fact, they are designed with the shower head directly over the sink or washing machine or something else and makes a big wet mess every time you shower. Other times it’s much better. Of course, sometimes there is a way to hang a shower curtain to contain the spraying. (A shower curtain costs 20-40 RMB at any larger supermarket and a tension rod to hang it costs 40-80 at some of the biggest supermarkets. I haven’t seen them at Vanguard or Spar, but Carrefour and HuaLian both have them).
The purpose of this post is to talk about the water mess on the floor, not the spray mess. Our new house is actually very well-designed compared to the other places we have lived, with a little cove behind the door for the shower. However, the water would still run all over the floor and because it was so close to the door, sometimes in the hallway too.
HACK: A piece of rubber or plastic tubing
Stop water from running all over your bathroom floor.
We bought this piece of hose for 10 RMB/meter. The caulk was another 7 RMB and the caulk gun another 10. We caulked on both sides of it and now, with the shower curtain, the water stays where we want it to and doesn’t make the rest of the room wet.
FIVE: Want to use an appliance with a different plug-in type, voltage, or just one that can’t be found here?
Appliances common in the West are getting easier and easier to come by now and so many times it will just be easier to buy it here than to use this hack. However, if you have something from home that’s near and dear to your heart or some brand you just prefer to the Chinese brand or model, here’s how to make it work with the electricity here.
I’m not an electrical engineer so forgive me if my technical terms aren’t accurate. But basically this box plugs into China’s standard plug and then the appliance, in this case my mixer, can be plugged and without any fear of flipping a breaker or starting a fire or other hazard. These magic converter boxes come in all watts or voltages or whatever and are clearly labeled with what they are converting. If you can find the output of the appliance you want to use take it to any of the big electronics stores (map of the three biggest that I know of is below), they can sell you one of these boxes that will convert it. I think this one cost roughly 50 RMB. Now I can use any standard American small appliance. (Again, you’ll have to consider if it’s worth the luggage space to bring your stuff from America or to just buy the appliance here).