Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

Running Mountains in May

Monday, April 26th, 2010


The flag-bearing students may have been loud (a fierce Peking & Tsinghua Uni rivalry) at the 2009 Beijing marathon, but few students outran the 50-something couple who cruised past me at 32km on the lonely stretch before turning into the Olympic Park. As I hit my wall-shuffle, she in her hand-patched lycra shorts, was casually discussing pace-time with her husband. Not surprising. Beijing’s youth may be strutting their stuff at the city’s fitness clubs each evening, but it’s the elderly who sweat it out in city parks early each morning, irrespective of weather.

Beijing has a fantastic mountain range 80mins drive to the North, but a dearth of recreational running events. May brings running to the masses.

The North Face 100 is being held on Satuday 8th May up in Changping around the Ming tombs. There will be 10k, 50k and 100k races. Most of the route is on hilly trails. The 50k has 1,700m in ascents. Ascents on the 100k are mind-boggling.

The following Saturday, 15th May, the Great Wall Marathon returns with it’s 5,164 steps.  I’ll be making the most of May by representing Lihong on the shorter North Face 50k followed by 42k on the Great Wall.

Wonder if that couple will be there?

Beijing Utility Costs

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Just got an email asking about utility costs at suburban homes in Beijing. Here my reply.

Dear ________,

Thanks for your email. At villas in Shunyi, it’s the heating (mostly gas) and air-conditioning (electricity) fees that are the highest with cost highest in the winter and summer months.

For a smaller 200sqm, I’d budget for an average utility cost of about RMB3,000/month. Costs could vary depending on your usage level. For example, if your family is at home during most days, or if you’re away for a month hot August, your costs will drop.

Note that some houses are more energy efficient than others. Also, some houses have thermostats on each floor or in each room. This allows better temperature control and less wastage. For example, older unrenovated houses at River Garden have one thermostat for the whole houses so you can end up having a 2nd floor room that’s too hot and a 1st floor room that’s too cold.

Utilities are typically paid by the tenant. Some tenants (who have room in their housing allowance) include a utility subsidy into the rent. However, note that the landlord would typically keep any unused subsidy.

Water costs are very low here. Satellite TV fees and family club memberships are typically included in the rent.

There’s more useful information in our FAQ here:

Feel free to ask if you have any questions about housing, or living in Beijing.Best regards,

Beijing 9th Most Expensive City

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

For RMB2.00 (USD0.30) you can travel to any location on its extensive (and growing) subway network. Lasagna at a good Italian eatery in Beijing’s CBD costs only RMB 70 (USD10). How can Beijing  be more expensive than London? That’s what Mercer LLC’s 2009 Expatriate Cost of Living Survey says.

Beijing rentals droped 15-20% over the last year, but this year’s summer surge in relocations has caused minor rent increases at the more popular housing developments. Waiting lists at WAB & ISB, the city’s two main international schools, have all but disappeared. Yet fees remain static. The survey uses a standard expatriate basket of goods to measure price levels across the globe.

Mercer says the strengthened US dollar (to which the RMB is closely linked) has had a significant effect on rankings. The survey is intended as a guide for assessing expatriate remuneration levels.

Beijing expatriates who buy local products (groceries & petrol) and services (restaurants, drivers & maids) must be smiling.

Read more about Beijing’s expatriate cost of living here:

Taxi take on Olympic traffic

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Five days from now Beijing’s drivers will be able to hit the roads each day without having to consider whether it’s an even or odd calendar day. Since the 20th of July traffic load restrictions have been in force. Besides keeping half the city’s private cars off the road, heavy trucks have been banned from coming within the 5th Ring. Curious, I struck up a conversation with one of the city’s many friendly cabbies kicking off with, “Did the restrictions increase your daily fares?”. Surprisingly, he claimed only a 10% rise in takings.

The designated Olympic lanes on major arteries meant that traffic levels were close to normal. Also, he noted a sharp drop in domestic tourism during the games. “Provincial visitors flock to shopping centres at weekends and take taxis as they don’t know how to use public transport. But they’ve stayed away during the Olympics.” he said. It wasn’t so bad during the first 3 weeks as he’d get 7-8 foreign tourist fares a day, but since then it’s been relatively slow, especially at the end of the week. Of course, one taxi driver does not a survey make, but an interesting insight nevertheless.

Commuting in Beijing

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

It’s an even number plate day today. With half the city’s privately owned cars off the road, traffic is running smoothly. Secondary roads are free-flowing but there’s still significant traffic on main arteries like Changan Jie at peak hours.

The #10 subway that runs along the East 3rd Ring has just opened putting Chaoyang Park, Sanlitun and Lufthansa Centre within a short stroll of a station. It took a few days for Beijingers to get acquainted with it but the new swipe card ticketing system is running well too. Fares are still at a flat RMB2.00 irrespective of destination. Will they increase and become destination dependent as in Shanghai? The hardware’s certainly there.

Our handy new Beijing subway map can be downloaded here.

Tremors in the CBD

Monday, May 12th, 2008

CBD tremoursAt about 14:40, we felt a gentle swaying in our 21st floor office. Within minutes, we’d walked down the stairs and joined the thousands in the street below. The mobile networks were overloaded.

The epicentre of the 7.8 quake was in a mountainous region of Sichuan.  As I write, Rueters is reporting casualties in the southern region. The tremors in Beijing registered 3.9.

Plastic bag ban

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Thursday’s announcement that ultra-thin plastic bags will be banned by 1 June 2008 has received massive media coverage in recent days. Supermarkets and shops will have to charge for thicker plastic bags, currently provided free. Jenny Lous (RMB0.20) and IKEA (RMB1.00) took the win-win plunge months ago.

Do your bit and stuff your washable Lihong tote in your regular work-bag.

Raw material shortage?

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Danish housing billboard  Danish housing billboard - close up Flying out of Copenhagen airport after the holidays, we spotted the above ad from a Danish real estate & relocation firm surprisingly targeted, not at clients, but at potential house owners about to be posted abroad, it reads:

“Would you like to lease out your home when you move abroad? Let us find a tenant who will appreciate your home as much as you do.”

In Beijing, a majority of high-end landed properties are investment properties (as are high-end apartments). In Denmark, most houses are owner occupied. Investment properties are commonly urban apartments. Denmark has traditionally had a very Danish work-force. The first batch of Indian doctors arrived last year.

On another note, my chemist cousin PA was also on the flight to Beijing. His company had put up a similar sized billboard very near the gate SAS uses for its Beijing flights. Thought it might be to impress Chinese clients coming on visits. Yes, but not quite. The firm needs people and the billboard targets potential recruits.

New subway construction in Beijing

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Five new subway lines totaling 140km started construction in Beijing on Saturday. They will be completed by 2015. The first phase of Line 10, Line 8 and a 28-km line linking the city to the airport are currently under construction. The Olympic and airport line will be completed before the games next year.

Beijing currently has 142km of subway lines but plans to have 561km by 2015. There are 1.2 million private cars in the city and about 1,000 new cars appear on the city’s streets each day.

Source: China Daily

Insider’s Guide to Beijing 2008

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Finally got my hands on the Insider’s Guide to Beijing 2008. Found it in, of all places, the good ole friendly Friendship Store on Changan Jie. Strangely, Jenny Lous isn’t stocking it yet.

Lihong’s insights have been quoted in every edition since the guide was first published 3 years ago. This edition includes our thoughts on rents in the Olympic year. Thanks Adam & John for putting our name up in lights.

It’s by far the best contemporary Beijing guide. Lonely Planet doesn’t come close to what this reference achieves. Packed with entertaining yet useful information, what always impresses me is how in-depth the articles are. Also, little or none of the content is re-hashed from last year’s edition. Get one even if you’re only considering moving to Beijing.