Sunday, April 17, 2011

House Party

Three weeks since my last post. So much has happened, and yet, I've done so little. Seems almost a recurring theme.

The weather is starting to warm up. Good and bad, I suppose. Good because it will no longer be the cold that keeps me from going out. Bad because I hate the heat, and I can just tell it's going to be hot real soon.

- House Party

I went to my first "house party" in Shanghai last night. It's not really a house party... Well, it does take place at someone's house, but it's not really a party. It's where someone turns their house into a bar/restaurant. It operates without a license, and marketing is pretty much through word-of-mouth and evites. An incredible concept, really.

On Nanjing West Road, there's a district known as Jingan (Villa) Bieshu. It's an upscale neighborhood filled with old architectural 3-stories. Mostly old people live there, but increasingly, young people are renting out the ground floors and opening flower shops, souvenir/memorabilia stores, and bars/restaurants.

The one I went to was called Felix; run by a dude named Felix. Happens to be a middle school friend of a girl I met out here. He's an interior decorator by trade, and owns an antique furniture shop. Rent for 4 bedrooms is roughly 10,000RMB. It's a dinky place, but has really got it's own style. I suppose I had a similar feeling the first time I saw TianZiFang.

He serves noodles for lunch, and says business is good. At night, he turns his living room into a hangout. Small tables with benches; candlelit; a projector showing Love & Other Drugs against his white wall. There's an outdoor patio area with more tables, a dartboard, and a small fridge stocked with beer.

Without a doubt the coolest place I've been to in Shanghai so far.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Hate Sunday Nights

It's getting to the point where I can no longer tell people I'm new to Shanghai. Though most people I talk to still consider me a newbie, I feel like I'm fitting in pretty well. Speaking the language definitely helps. Getting decent at haggling. I know the streets around my part of town, pretty familiar with the subway system, and anywhere I can't get, I tell it to the cabbies.

Work is hectic. I hate conference calls. I used to think it was cool to be able to work remote. That it was cool when the company gave you a laptop and a cell phone... But now I see how all those things do is enslave you. The hours are fine: 9AM to 6PM. It's the 9PM - 11PM conference calls that really bugs me. Gets in the way of my drinking...

Just a rambling of random thoughts to follow:

The weather here is starting to warm up. As predicted, the stench is starting to pick up as well. I don't even want to begin to imagine what the summer here is going to be like. For now, I'll just try and enjoy the Spring, short as it is.

Time really goes by fast here. I can't believe it's already been three weeks since my sister and cousin visited.

The 生煎包 is still my favorite food in Shanghai, though I've recently discovered the wonder of poached eggs.

This is from Maya, on 562 Julu Lu. It's a contemporary/fusion Mexican restaurant. The Maya Mary (their version of the bloody Mary) is pretty good. Mojitos there suck, surprisingly.

Had a family friend, Gene, visit from Singapore last weekend. He just started a job with Ikea (in their food department), and was in town briefly. Took him to a XinJiang restaurant for some lamb skewers.

Apparently, XinJiang is known for being dangerous. Most of China's thieves originate from that province. But they make one helluva lamp skewer.

My weight loss has kind of inverse-plateaued. Haven't gained anything back, but no longer dropping like it used to. I guess walking only does so much if I'm still eating my heart out every meal.

I bet this guy is getting a workout...

Oh, and to tie out with the title of this post, I HATE SUNDAY NIGHTS!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Buns and Buns

I have two favorite foods in Shanghai. They are the 生煎包 and the 籠包. Basically, pork buns and pork steamed dumplings. For those who know what I'm talking about, you'll know that 籠包 is usually known as 小 (little) 龍包. But you'll see why I decided to omit the 小.

This is 小陽生煎. It's my all-time favorite chain in Shanghai. These amazing pork buns are packed with juice. If you're not careful, biting into one could render your tongue scalded and your shirt soaked with pork bun juice. The proper way to eat one of these is to bite a little hole off the top and let the inside cool off before sucking out the juice. Then you eat the bun like any regular bun. Under normal circumstances, I'm not a big fan of sesame. But in this case, it's really the icing on the cake!

Now on to the 籠包. I don't call these 小龍包 because there's nothing 小 about them. See the green, yellow, and red things off to the side there? Those are straws. These 籠包 are are packed with juice, or soup, or whatever you want to call them because sucking juice sounds kind of nasty.

Anyway, you know how, normally, it would take two full steamed racks of 小龍包 to fill you up. Well, it just takes 3 of these!

And here's yours truly taking a literal stab at one of them!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Rat Race in Shanghai

I've been here for a month. Shanghai is so big and so small all at once. One one hand, it's such a huge city that the chances of running into people you know are slim to none. On the other hand, if you're an out-of-towner like me and a patron to a select handful of venues, you're bound to run into the same people over and over again. And what makes Shanghai even smaller is that these people will know your friends and your friends' friends, and eventually your family, so that you become inextricably tied.

There's a giant rat race going on in Shanghai. My feeling is that not many people are willing to admit it because they're active participants. It's not necessarily even a race to the finish, because people hardly ever finish the race. It's about how many days a week you go partying. How expensive your watch is. What part of town your apartment is in. How many girls you slept with. The funny thing about this race is that there's no clear goal to the finish. And regardless of what category you're leading in, or how many categories you're leading in, there's always someone you know, or a friend of yours knows, who is ahead by a mile. 

Most people burn out...

In order to survive in this city, you need to treat it as a final destination rather than a stop. Then again, if it is a stop, make sure you get out before it's too late; before the booze, the girls, the other temptations which I won't venture to utter, the nights, the days, the everything grab hold of you and never let you go.

Some give up before it's too late and go back to where they came from. Others die, and their remains turn to the contagious dust we breathe walking down the streets every day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Wow! I can't believe it's been nearly two weeks since I last posted! Coincidentally, I starting working two weeks ago. A lot has happened since then. In fact, so much has happened that one post won't suffice.

Work is good. My direct manager is still abroad on business (and has been ever since I started), so work has been pretty chill. That said, I have been busy. The hours are flexible, which is definitely a plus. But having to deal with people in the US and Europe all the time mean really early and really late conference calls, which I'm not a big fan of.

So my sister was right in telling me that "there's more to Shanghai than food." But only partially...

Over the weekend, I did get a chance to visit TianZiFang (田子方) again.

And rather than just walk around talking pictures like I did last time, I actually had dinner in one of the restaurants, looked around some of the shops, and bought a painting!

Here's a steak I had. Doesn't look that good, didn't taste that good either. TianZiFang is definitely a tourist trap. A good place to take a date and all that, but the prices are jacked pretty high up there.

The tiramisu cheesecake was a different story. Looked a lot better, and tasted a lot better, but still really pricey.

Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot bargain everywhere in Shanghai. I dare say this shop that sold random communist memorabilia is not very Shanghai...

One thing I did notice was that the shop was pretty much empty and the shelves were very well stocked. Know why? Cuz 90 RMB (that's about $13.50 USD) for a leather bound journal is NOT a steal... Especially if you can't bargain.

So this is the painting I got. I didn't know this when I got it, but it's actually a very famous painting by a very famous Chinese artist. As it happens, the original one has a blue background. But I think this one is much nicer.

And a funny thing about the price. Originally 500 RMB, I talked it down to 400 RMB and paid a 100 RMB deposit. On the day I went to go pick it up, I gave the guy 200 RMB and took the painting and left. Who needs haggling when you know how to swindle?!?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vacation is over

But all is not lost. Sort of like flipping to a new mini-chapter in my life. A 'mini-chapter' because I flipped a 'real' chapter about two weeks ago when I got to Shanghai. Anyway, after dicking around for a while, I'm ready to get workin'.

And what better way to start than spending some quality time with family, meeting some new friends, getting a massage after dinner, and capping it off with some baijiu before calling it a night?!

A couple of new and old dishes to introduce... Lunch was with yet another big group of relatives at 海合滙, a decent joint out on TangShan Road. It's a seafood place, but really, just about everything was good.

Sliced pork. It looks really fatty, but didn't taste like that at all. The skin is crunchy, yet the meat was melt-in-your-mouth...

Sweet rice stuffed lotus roots soaked in honey. I figured out that this is a pretty common appetizer in Shanghai restaurants. Just about every place I've been to has had it.

Shrimp in salt. Not sure why they do it like this, actually. You take the shrimp and dab it in a bowl of water before eating so the salt washes off. My grand-aunt is semi-senile and just ate it straight, then complained about how salty it was. We had a good laugh around the table at that one.

This one's pretty special. The name of this dish is "seeds of the ocean." They're just miniature clams, but really do look like seeds. You kind of put them in your mouth like you would sunflower seeds and use your tongue to get the clam out.

And last, but not least...

Pho!!! From Pho Asia on 85 FuMin Road. Sort of an expat place, but without the exorbitant prices. The noodles are a bit wider than the ones I'm used to in SoCal; good nonetheless.

I'm going to bed. Full day tomorrow. Goodnight Shanghai!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Short and sweet

I am enamored of this sprawling city, with its millions of inhabitants, its forest of modern skyscrapers, its dense traffic, its bustling life and nocturnal energy.

--Chol-Hwan Kang