Shanghai Travel Blog› entry 8 of 8 › view all entries
August 2nd, 2008 – by: puttyland
Jackie took me around for a little orientation, checking out the Bund, then going to the Yu Gardens and the famous (but touristy) shopping area around it. We got lost down a small street and were mesmerized by this guy in a shabby open storefront making noodles - the finest thin noodles with just his arms and hands. You couldn't have made them any more perfect on a pasta machine. We were standing there watching too long so we had to get some in a soup for lunch - delicious, and about 75 cents.
We had tickets to the Shanghai Acrobats at night. We hooked up with another Intrepid tour group - they were all in their 20's - slightly different itinerary than mine (still can't believe they ran my tour with just me in it...Intrepid must've lost a lot of money on me and my "private tour"!). Somehow we got front row seats. Talented acrobats - but I felt the production values of the show needed a lot of help - really bad dance moves, terrible costumes & music, and the worst MC ever. No one could understand this guy's English. Actually, that part was pretty entertaining, but we were in gales of laughter in the front row and I felt bad! The Swiss girl next to me leaned over and asked if he was still speaking Chinese or was it English now? I said, "I THINK it's English," and then the Chinese part always started, "Rama lama shing shong.
Found out later that the "shing shong" part (not pronounced that way exactly, but on the mic...) meant "please enjoy," so while he was giving these flowery, multi-paragraph speeches in "English" about the next act, the Chinese just heard, "Here's this, please enjoy."
The next day we took a taxi (the cabbie overcharged us $20 and then gave us a fake receipt...scams everywhere, I guess) to the charming canal town of Zhujiajiao. Kinda like a Chinese Venice. They specialize in sticky rice w/meat steamed in leaves, so we got some of that, and some marinated pork steamed in leaves too. Then we had lunch. Basically, I told Jackie I want to taste everything, so she pretty much orders for about 8 people, and we gorge ourselves.
As we're sitting in the restaurant overlooking the lovely canal, this group of 7 swarthy guys walk in. One of them makes a beeline for our table, looks at what we have, and asks, in accented English, if it's good. We said yes, and he yelled to the waitress and pointed at what was on our table. Turns out he and his group were Turkish businessmen, having loads of trouble ordering because so many menus (outside of Beijing anyway) don't have English, or even pictures sometimes. Jackie recommended 2 of our dishes and helped him choose some others.
We took a boat ride on the canal after that.
There was a group of teenage girls that seemed to be everywhere we went. Turns out they were following us and finally got the nerve to ask Jackie if they could take a picture with me. My new modus operandi is to take photos of them back, so I'm getting a collection of "fan" photos.
The next day we took a taxi to the Antique Market. So fun. I haggled for all kindsa crap. Got a wood carving, a fabu bronze dragon and a ceramic plate. We found a hole in the wall basement restaurant for lunch. We ordered REAL sweet and sour pork. What a difference - it's NOT orange and glutinous - it's delish. The food was wonderful, and the lady who owned it was a crazy character. She was telling us stories, and acting them out, and had the whole place (2 tables plus her family) in stitches...and I didn't even understand her. I asked for a card and she got all excited. Jackie's mumbling under he breath, "Take it with both hands...take it with both hands..." I said, "I know!!" It wasn't her card - it was the drugstore's card, but she wrote the restaurant on the back, and then bowed, shook my hand, hugged me, and then kissed me (Chinese are not very demonstrative, so Jackie was cracking up over this).
This being the last day of the tour, Jackie left to get her hair done before she left to meet her boyfriend Paul in England, and I went to the Jin Mao Tower - this humongously tall TV tower on the other side of the river. It wasn't as smoggy as it usually is (according to folks who've been there), so it was a good day to check it out, although more smoggy-looking from the top (but nowhere near as bad as Beijing). So many tall buildings...looks like 50 Manhattans (this from a Jersey girl).
I took the "tourist tunnel" back to the other side of the river, per Jackie's suggestion. She said, "The Chinese love this sorta thing." It was like a Disney ride through a 70's laserium. The announcer would say something in Chinese, and then a bizarre translation like, "FOSSIL...VARIANCE," and space music would come on and projections of fossils popped up all over, and then lasers and a light show, as the covered glass car takes you under the river. Jackie had checked out the hostel for this last night since technically the tour was over and she was off Intrepid's budget, but the hostel was expensive. I had 2 beds in my room (booked at the same hotel), so I just told her to move in there - we were both leaving for the airport in the morning.
I really wanted to try the restaurant M on the Bund for dinner...heard loads about it. Fancy French place with a gorgeous view, and supposed to be good food - one of the top places in Shanghai. I had bought a nice dress during the day so I had something to wear. They weren't kidding about the view - it looks right out onto the lights of the Bund - stunning. Had "foie gras made 3 ways" to start - that was the best dish. A pate, a mouse and a seared lobe cooked perfectly. Mmmmm. Then I had the specialty of the house - a leg of lamb dish with sweet potato and a parsley salad with a citrus vinaigrette. I liked the parsley salad more than I thought I would, but the lamb and sweet potato were uninspiring. Presentation - eh. Not worth the money. Paying for the view. Jackie had the Moroccan chicken, which she thought was great (hers was more flavorful). I grabbed the check (man, you really have to fight for the check with Chinese folks!) to thank her for a great tour, and she thanked me for taking her there, saying she'd never been anywhere so posh!
On the way back I saw a couple of sellers with the bamboo poles over the shoulders carrying buckets and trays of fruits & veggies. I saw this tiny eggplant-looking thing that I'd seen all over China, so I thought I'd verify - is that a tiny eggplant? Jackie said no, it's a mangosteen. DAMMMMMMMNNNN. I had mangosteen in Bali years ago and loved it - remembered what it looked like on the inside (it's gray, kinda sectioned like citrus...kinda looks like a brain, but a yummy brain), but forgot what the outside looked like. I had no idea that's what it was, and by the time I asked the mangosteen sellers were gone. Bugger.
Jackie left early for her flight - I ran around in the morning trying to find some interesting breakfast besides the hotel's buffet...found some steamed buns with cabbage and meat inside, and what looked like a yogurt drink with a straw that everyone was grabbing - but it was a slightly-cereal tasting warm milky thing. No idea.
Had a pretty funny flight back on Korean Air. Was sitting by the window next to two businessmen from Guatemala. A Korean guy on the aisle was bored and desperately trying to initiate a conversation with them. They spoke no English, but that didn't seem to deter him. When they both got up to pee, the Korean guy hopped over onto the seat next to me and asked if I spoke French, because his French is better than his English. I said yes and he start yammering away in French in a thick Korean accent. The Guatemalans laughed when they came back - bastards left me with him on purpose!
When the food came, Korean Air always offers the traditional Korean "bibimbap" for dinner. Meat, garlicky veggies, chili paste and sesame oil over rice, with pickles. Yummy. The Guatemalans looked at me... "Bibimbap??" Like, "Are you going to eat it?" I said, "Bibimbap muy bueno!" They: "Vero? Bibimbap?" Me: "Si! Bibimbap!" (This, and "arroz con pollo" is the extent of my Spanish). I convinced them to try it somehow - they liked it. But every once in a while during the movie I was watching, one of them would lean over and ask, "Bibimbap?" just to crack me up.
My overwhelming thought as I left China...there's so much more to see...and taste! I'm not done!
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