Archive for shopping

Express VPN

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Toys R Us

If you’ve been to City Mall (Mo Er Cheng) recently you might have seen the “Toys R Us coming soon” display. I’m always curious when a new foreign/international brand comes to Hohhot. Although I love life here, it’s not like we’re known as being a test-market for foreign brands entering the Chinese market. Also, in a country that has pulled off fake city governments, fake Bank of China, these fakes, and where 40% of online commerce deals in fakes, I’m not eager to believe it’s real.

Hohhot itself has had its share of fakes in the past. I know of at least one fake Starbucks location (two if the one down by Madison Patio ever opened up). Hohhot had a fake Ikea in 2002/2003. Last week or so there was also an advertisement in one of the Hohhot expat groups on wechat for a teacher at a Waldorf School. Again, I could be wrong, but my best guess is that if you ask the Waldorf School accrediting agency (or whatever their formal alliance is) if they have a school in Hohhot……I think they’re going to say no. The ad also mentioned the need to contact the principal, which isn’t how Waldorf Schools work. And I’m veering away from the topic of this post now, but their foundation of religious principles, lack of testing, and emphasis on social transformation don’t seem like ideas that would be well-received here. Which is again why my best guess is that it is not a true Waldorf School.

Anyway, because I’m such a phenomenal journalist (please laugh) I’m trying to get the true story: I wrote an email to the Toys R Us corporate office to ask if our newly arriving Toy R Us is legit.

I need you to vote in the comments with your guess:

  1. They won’t even write back.
  2. They’ll write back that we are indeed being graced with the presence of Toys R Us.
  3. They’ll write back that it’s as fake as all the other things linked to above.

Locally Roasted Coffee!

If you love making a great cup of coffee at home, Harvest Coffee is selling high quality imported coffee beans, roasted and packaged right here in Hohhot! Below are the types available for September and October! The owner speaks great English so don’t worry about a communication barrier.

Harvest Coffee Roasters also teach training classes to locals about how to make a good cup of coffee at home and sell equipment and implements.

 

You can order by phone or wechat (QR on image below).

 

Harvest Coffee

Harvest Coffee, Hohhot

 

Sorry, I know the image isn’t super clear, if you need the pdf, add my wechat and I’ll send it to you:  hohhotjill

 

14 years in (and out of) Hohhot

 

Early September marks the anniversary of my first arrival to Hohhot in 2002. Although I haven’t been here continuously, coming in and out for 14 years I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing changes in the city. I posted articles in the past from news sources about some of the changes, but this post is my own reflections on what has changed in the Blue City since I first arrived.

Airport Arrival

When I arrived in 2002 the current airport wasn’t in existence yet (the old HET was a few hundred meters to the east of the current location) and the road (Xin Hua) into Hohhot proper wasn’t paved.

Western Food and amenities

There were 4-6 locations of KFC, two locations of Dairy Queen and that was the extent of international establishments. The newest big “thing” was the mall that’s now called Kai De, although it had a different name then.

There was, surprisingly, a decent sit-down Western restaurant that could rival, and arguably upstage, Hohhot’s current Western restaurants.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Communication

I didn’t have a cell phone. Some foreigners and very few locals I knew did, but they weren’t a necessity. Every convenience store had a red public use phone one could use for a few mao.

This situation meant that one had to know the full Chinese name of one’s local friends because you weren’t calling them directly. The mother, father, roommate, etc might answer the phone and one had to be able to ask for Wang Shao Hong (or whomever).

I also think this made us (foreigners) learn the city better since we had to be able to get to a location without the aid of being able to call multiple times along the way when going to meet someone.

Transportation

EVERYONE with the exception of professional drivers and government officials rode a bicycle. I didn’t even know anyone who owned an electric bike until 2006 and didn’t know anyone who owned a car until 2007. (And I wasn’t a hermit who sat inside and didn’t know people).

The only vehicle on the road were taxis, public buses, deliver vans, and black government cars….and LOTS of bikes. Lots and lots of bikes.

Also, the size of the city was much smaller. The second ring road was an anticipated enigma much like the subway now and places that are now six lane roads were dirt alleys then.

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Standard of living

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the standard of living in the average person’s residence. Housing in Hohhot has come a LONG way in 14 years. For the first few years I lived here, one would have to inquire if a home had hot water all the time, or just the standard two days per week. The public water service provided heated water through the pipes at set times, twice per week, and landlords were only just becoming willing to fork over money for a hot water heater if one wanted hot water all the time.

I only knew of one complex of “high rise” apartments (I think it’s called the Metropolitan, west on Da Xue Lu). Otherwise, most lived in 4 or 6 story walk-ups and some in ping fangs.

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Many homes still had plain concrete floors and interior design wasn’t a thing.

BUT, we’re all paying for those upgrades in our rent now. The first two bedroom house I rented was 450 RMB/month. The second one, 4-5 years later was 600 or 700. Even in 2007 I only knew 1-2 people (families with kids) who were paying more than 1000/month.

Interesting enough, though, it was much more common to be invited to someone’s home for a meal, instead of being invited out to eat. My guess is that economics is the reason for this. Meals could be prepared at home much more affordably than eating at a restaurant, which was still a luxury for many.

Entertainment

There was roller skating, bowling at the Xin Cheng, and KTV was big. The squares, particularly Xin Hua, had lots of cool things it doesn’t have now….a camel to ride on and take a photo with, and cars like these, below. They weren’t bumper cars and they weren’t for kids. Just small electric cars for adults to drive around the square.

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Other old photos

Chang Le Gong

Chang Le Gong and the New York New York Club used to be located in the same building.

I've heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

I’ve heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

12th Annual Inner Mongolia Food Expo

April 15-17 the Inner Mongolia International Exhibition Center is holding the 12th Annual Inner Mongolia Food Exhibition.

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You can see more about the event here and here.

A few people asked in the wechat groups about the time of day it closes each day, but I couldn’t find that information on any of the sites.

And you can find all the events happening at the International Exhibition Center here.

And here is a map of where the center is.

international exhibition center

market finds

Well, first let me tell you what I didn’t find at any of our local stores…all those Smithfield products that were there just a few weeks ago. They went from having entire cases to a couple of packages of ham. Maybe the Weiduoli at City Mall still has some but both the large stores near us have sold out with new replacements in sight.

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Someone with better Chinese than me confirm, but I think those are pecans. Too bad Thanksgiving is half a year away.

 

IMG_20160329_135026When choosing the wipes that will be exposed to all the things that come out of my kids, I always choose the Fashion Choice 🙂  Not really, I get the cheapest one, but this made me chuckle.

 

Free Meat!

A local beef and mutton company has a fantastic promotion going on now: GET FREE MEAT!

The full details are in Chinese below, but the basics are you go to their store on January 30, scan their QR code, take a photo in the store and share it on your moments, and walk out with 2 boxes of mutton (a 118 RMB value).

There are other promotions if you spend 500 or 1000 RMB, or just get your free meat.

Here are the two addresses: (maps are on the link below). Click here if it doesn’t display properly.
呼和浩特市前进巷双树海鲜市场对面,蒙高丽亚牛羊肉专营店

This one is near dong wa yao.

2店地址:呼和浩特市展东路博尔顿广场对面,蒙高丽亚牛羊肉专营店(党校门脸房)

This one is a bit south and east of the exhibition center.
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some of my favorites

Today is my birthday. (I know, I’m surprised as you that it’s not honored as a public holiday, too). Because it’s my birthday, I wanted to share with you some of my favorites so you can enjoy them too.

My favorite shopping:

  1. Chang le gong, 4th floor, stall on east side of furthest west hallway. This stall is full of intended-for-export clothing and shoes which means you can find foreign brands for local prices. This also means they have foreign sizes to fit those of us who aren’t Asian size. It’s not displayed well…no racks just stacks of stuff, and each time I go it’s a completely selection than the time before.
  2. Erlian Wen Zhou Shang Chang: This isn’t in Hohhot but in Erenhot/Erlian on the border of Mongolia. (This is also where all the jeeps to cross to border park and wait to fill their cars before crossing over). This market has 4-6 long hallways of stall after stall of anything you could possibly need. Some of the stalls are items intended for export, some are from Russia and Mongolia, and the selection is great. I’ve found great deals for clothes for my kids here, sometimes western name brands.
    Erlian jeeps
  3. Guo Mao/Tong da
    Both of these markets are near the train station. Tongda is diagonal toward the southeast, guomao to the south. You can find all the household items you need, stationery, clothing, Christmas decorations, and lots more. Find a map here. 

My favorite restaurants:

1.  Ban Mu Di You Mian Da Wang
You Mian (pictured below) is my favorite local food and Ban My Di is my favorite place to get it, although I’m not that picky. It’s a noodle made from oats that has a soup to dunk the noodles in. I like the cold vegetable soup but James prefers the hot mutton soup. Ban Mu Di has multiple locations throughout the city. It’s also a plus for the kids because they have a large glass window into the kitchen where you can watch the cooks work.
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2. Western: Cheese Factory
We eat at home more often than anywhere else, and we cook mostly western food at home. So if we eat out, we generally eat local food, but if we eat Western out The Cheese Factory is our favorite. Remember to use the code 0471 when you pay your bill for a 10% discount.

3. Korean: Hang Guo Gong
This is now on Wanda’s walking street but it used to be near the bridge. The owner is the sweetest lady in Hohhot. She will speak slow and smooth Chinese so that you can understand clearly.

 

My favorite local treats:

1. Bottled jasmine tea
I don’t have a picture but I love the one with the green and white flowers on the packing. I should just buy these bottles by the case or invest in the company or something.

2. spicy peanuts

Any brand, any kind. Packaged or the kind you buy by weight at the supermarket. It’s my favorite TV watching snack.

3. Nai Dou Fu (horrot)
This is a Mongolian traditional food that they eat dipped in milk tea. I don’t love milk tea but I do love this particular kind of nai shi pin. I usually go in phases of loving this for awhile, then not wanting it for a few months, then craving it again. It’s pictured below, but it’s generally served cut in small square slices.

IMG_20150328_213133

 

I could add to all these categories and make even more categories, but that’s all for today. Share your favorites with us in the comments.

this week’s market finds

Here’s another edition of what you might and might not want to buy around town.

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A large box of French chocolate truffles for 99 RMB. I didn’t try them, but they seemed legit so it seems like a pretty good deal.

Located at Beijing Hualian across from Runyu (Xing An and Hailar)

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Small Jif peanut butter for 47 RMB. I will personally be angry with you if you buy this for this price. We can’t let the stores think this is the market value for this product. You can get 2-3 times as much for 35 RMB at Dong Wa Yao.

Also located at Beijing Hualian across from Runyu (Xing An and Hailar) but I saw a similar size and price at the Weiduoli in the basement of City Mall.
And it seems avocados are becoming a staple at many of the larger fruit markets. However, this week, the one near our home on the corner of Zhan Dong Lu and Ai Min Jie has them for 5 RMB each. Join us for guacamole later this week. 🙂

 

What interesting, cool, tasty, or overpriced items have you seen this week?

 

 

Hand Made Christmas Trees

Are you still looking for a Christmas gift or looking for a way to add some Christmas cheer to your home? Some local ladies are selling handmade fabric Christmas trees.
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mmexport1450184428776trees measure 23X18 cm
mmexport1450184431755You may also request these hand-made greeting cards.
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Trees can be purchased for 89 RMB.
English speaking customer service is available. Call Oyuna at 15034796051 or contact her via wechat at oyun578347667

Don’t forget we have Hohhot-themed gifts as well!

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