Mar 162012
 

We took the new express train from Shanghai to Hangzhou yesterday and were really impressed.  The express train is apparently really new since none of our guide books referenced it.  We took the subway to Hongqiao Railway station by the domestic airport.  The station was HUGE and immaculate.  Mike wanted first class tickets, but when we saw second class those looked nice as well!  The whole trip only took 50 minutes and cost us about 250 RMB, or a little over $20 each.

 

 March 16, 2012  Posted by at 2:13 pm China, Hangzhou, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 142012
 

I’ve been taking shots of city life in Shanghai and here are the highlights.  Enjoy the everyday magic. =)

Monk robe laundry at Buddhist temple

Morning Fan Dance in the Park

Bicycle Parking

Streetside Butcher

Screen Shadow at Buddhist Temple

Old Couple Posing for Photo at Buddhist Temple

Laundry Day in Shanghai

 

 

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 11:36 pm China, Everyday Magic, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  2 Responses »
Mar 142012
 

We were recommended Mr. Yang’s Fried Dumplings from 3 friends, so this was our mission yesterday.  It’s located on the 2nd floor of building alongside a nice pedestrian mall that kind of reminded of 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

We got there and there was a line outside the door.  I had to figure out you pay first, then get in line to wait for your dumplings, and then you hover over people to finish eating so you can fight over spots to sit down at tables.  We didn’t really know how many dumplings to order and they were so cheap that we just ordered 10 each (came out to $5 total).

Mr Yang's Pan Fried Dumplings

Perfect Pan Fried Dumplings

Wow, did we order too many!  Well, I guess others usually had 4 plus a bowl of noodle soup, and others had 8 maybe?  So, not too bad, but I was definitely stuffed by number 8.  Mike managed to finish his entire plate and then regretted it later after the food coma hit.

Eating Mr Yang Fried Dumplings

Slurping the broth in the dumplings

These dumplings are magical!  So much juicy broth inside each dumpling and the broth was insanely good.  Best meat-inside-fried-dough I’ve ever had.  Perfect crispiness on the outside.

 

 

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 11:27 pm China, Food, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  2 Responses »
Mar 142012
 

There are so many snack shops in Shanghai, yesterday we finally decided to buy a couple we’d never seen before to try them.  On Nanjing Rd, which is a big pedestrian shopping street, Shanghai No. 1 Food Store is the largest and has every possible Chinese snack you could ever imagine.

shanghai no1food snacks

Beautiful Chinese treats

We also saw big lines outside one store called Shen Da Cheng and of course, that’s always the sign that you should wait in line too.  I had no idea what the snack was, some large green oval thing?  I asked someone in line and understood the words, but not when combined together.  So, I guess you just get in the line and point and find out!

Unidentified green snack

We got two and turns out they are sticky rice balls, similar to mochi but heavier and stickier, filled with red bean paste.  Still warm.  So good!  No wonder people were waiting. 2.50 RMB each, or less than 50 cents!

Red Bean Filled Sticky Rice Ball

 

 

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 11:25 pm China, Food, Shanghai Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Mar 142012
 

We didn’t get great photos when we went to the Bund earlier since it was morning, and the view of the Pudong side is essentially backlit.  This makes all the colors washed out, so we came back at sunset to get a shot with good lighting.  We got there around 5pm and it was perfect!  The whole skyline had that magic glow and we got some great shots.

Enjoying the Perfect Light

Pudong Skyline at Sunset

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 1:10 am Attractions, China, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 142012
 

Dinner was at a fantastic Shanghainese restaurant, Jade Garden.  We met up two of our classmates from Kellogg who are now working in Shanghai, so it was really nice to order food with locals!  Chinese food is really much better if you go with a group since everything’s family style.  You get to try so many more dishes and it’s much more affordable.

Jade Garden was a really nice restaurant: white tablecloths, marble floors, and high-backed leather chairs.  We ordered Shanghainese specialties like red-cooked pork, freshwater river shrimp, and pan fried buns.  The Sichuan-style crispy chicken was also delicious.  7 dishes between the four of us and the bill came out of 125 RMB each, or around $16 each.

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 1:06 am China, Food, Shanghai Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »
Mar 142012
 

We were excited to head to the French Concession after lunch thinking it would have interesting things to see, but boy, were we wrong.  We kept having to check our map to see if we were in the right place.  French Concession is essentially like Rodeo Drive in LA or 5th Ave in NY.  Just high-end shops where you can’t afford anything.  Foreign brands have about a 20% markup in China, we discovered.  Pricey!

Tip: For more interesting local boutiques, head to the street 1 block south of Huahai Rd.  Much more pleasant and cute local shops where you can buy custom made shoes and the like.

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 1:06 am Attractions, China, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 142012
 

Yesterday we walked around Xintiandi, which is a 2 block shopping area converted from old shikumen homes.  Shikumen are the equivalent of what tenements were in NYC, townhome type row housing for migrant workers.  It’s been totally gutted and redone now so that only the facades look the same, but the interiors have been renovated and now host Westernized shops like Coffee Bean and other designer shops.  Beautiful to walk around with all the open courtyards, but not really a cultural attraction.  There is a shikumen museum where they restored and furnished what a shikumen would have looked like in 1930, but it was small and Mike and I were the only ones in the exhibit.

We decided to have lunch at Din Tai Fung, known for their soup dumplings, which we’ve eaten at a lot in LA.  We were curious to see how they were different in China.  It’s much fancier in Shanghai and the menu is much more extensive—and it’s also more expensive than LA.  LA is pretty casual.

Verdict: Shanghai slightly better than LA!  Loved having the unique additional menu options and one standout we got were the dessert dumplings.  It was a red bean paste dumpling, but they inserted a whole chestnut in the middle.  SO GOOD.

Chestnut and Red Bean Dumpling

 March 14, 2012  Posted by at 1:05 am China, Food, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 132012
 

Last night we had picked out a restaurant from the Rough Guide China.  It called Wang Bao He the king of crabs and that it had been around for 200 years.  Since it was close by to our hotel, we decided to give it a shot.  We were walking and passed by this restaurant that was completely empty except for two American girls who looked like backpackers.  Ha, fools! we thought.  As a tourist, why would you go into a restaurant that was completely empty?  That’s food rule #1 when traveling: eat where the locals eat.  It will taste better and you’re less likely to get sick.

We’re looking for our restaurant and we notice we’ve gone past the address.  But we’re confused since we didn’t see it in the last block……OH.  And then we realized: it was that place, the one with no one in it except for the two American backpackers.  We almost died laughing.  Rough Guide China: strike one!  Bam!  I guess those two girls were led astray by Rough Guide as well.  The difference is when that happens to us, we just keep walking until we find something better.

We had walked into a hot pot restaurant the night before but it had an hour wait, so we decided to try our luck again.  It seemed like the happening spot, definitely where all the cool hipsters go to eat in Shanghai.  Not sure what the Chinese name is, but it says Top Spicy on the sign.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was blasting on the screen and we had about a 15 minute wait, not too bad.  Since I can only read extremely basic Chinese and have a huge American accent, I’ve been needing the waitresses’ help in ordering food.  There’s a lot of food in China that we just don’t have in the States, so sometimes it’s a challenge.

Me: Can you recommend what to order?  What’s good here?

Waitress: How about alskdjfdslk?

Me: Huh? What’s that?

Waitress: (looks around at other tables) It’s that over there.  It’s our house specialty.

Me: (still have no idea what it is) So…uh…what kind of meat is it?

Waitress: It’s s;ldkfjslkdjf.

Me: (still have no idea) Oh…okay.  Sure, let’s get one of those.

Mike is laughing because this happens for probably 80% of what we order.  He doesn’t understand the exchange but he just sees the waitress looking around to point at another dish every time I don’t understand.  Pretty soon, I just start laughing because I don’t know anything she’s recommending me!  I just tell her, I don’t really know, so just order me anything!

Waitress: So, what do you want to drink?

Me: We’ll get 1 beer and can I have tea?

Waitress: Sorry, we don’t have tea.

Me: Okay, can I get water?

Waitress: Water?  You want water?? No…you shouldn’t drink water, what a shame.  How about some preserved plum juice?

No water or tea!  She looked offended that I wanted just water with dinner lol.  Okay okay, another beer then.  So here’s the finished result, half Sichuan broth, half herbal.  Sichuan broth was way too spicy for me!  Totally numbed your tongue.

Top Spicy Hot Pot

We ordered some unidentified fish with red pepper flakes (on the right) and what I think was duck intestine (left)?  I have no idea.  If you think you know, let me know!

Unidentified Food Order

We had a tower of vegetables next to our table and two of them I had no idea what they were either.  One was a light green stalk and another was some sort of starchy root vegetable…yucca maybe?

Anyhow, it was all delicious and we had a ton of fun trying to taste and decipher what everything was.  The only thing that was not pleasant were all the smokers around us (you can smoke pretty much anywhere in China—even in our “non-smoking” hotel).  The guy next to us had at least 5 during the course of dinner!  My allergies were definitely acting up and the spicy Sichuan broth didn’t help either.

We had way too much food, definitely were stuffed by the end.  Dinner for two: 296 RMB, or around $42.

Oh, and this was funny.  They give you a ziploc bag to put your phone in, so it doesn’t get dirty while you eat.  Everyone has their phone out!

Keep Your Phone Safe

Our clothes still smell like spicy hot pot today, even though they give you chair covers to protect your jackets.

 March 13, 2012  Posted by at 1:06 am China, Food, Shanghai Tagged with: , , ,  1 Response »
Mar 132012
 

After lunch, we walked around Old City, which is kind of like an outdoor shopping mall with old Chinese style rooftops to make it look old.  It was really crowded and touristy.  I had warned Mike that the last time I was in China, I was surprised at how little foreign tourists there were, and that he probably would be the only white guy most places we went.  Definitely still true!

Old City

The main attraction in Old City (besides the food) is 400-year-old Yu Yuan garden.  It’s deceivingly larger than you think and inside are all these little alcoves and gardens that make for great wandering around.  I can only imagine how beautiful it is in late Spring with all the flowers blooming.  I had told Mike: see that huge rock with all the holes in them?  Chinese Emperors loved them and you’re going to see them all over the place!  He didn’t believe me until we went through the garden and they are literally on every corner.  The rocks are really distinct; they are all natural formations and usually excavated from a lake bottom and transported to the garden and given as gifts.  The formations take ages to erode, so they are valued for their natural beauty and age.

Yu Yuan Rockery

The garden was a nice break from the hubbub outside and you really felt removed from the city.  Entrance for two: $8.

Dragon Wall

 March 13, 2012  Posted by at 1:05 am Attractions, China, Shanghai Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »