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Exploring Shanghai – Indian food at Tandoor in the Jiujiang Hotel

22 Nov

Another special place that we found after we had such a great experience at the fairy tale castle was on the grounds of the Jiujiang Hotel in the French Concession in Shanghai.  The hotel is part of a conglomerate now – there are hundreds of branches across the country, but initially it was a special hotel founded in Shanghai only used by senior members of the Communist party.

Deng Xiao Ping is said to have told the hotel that it should be open to all people, not just party elite as he implemented his reform and opening up policy.  Now anyone with enough money to eat at one of the restaurants can come in and enjoy.

The grounds are extensive with multiple buildings and restaurants.  I think a couple of years ago I also went to a wedding in one of them (though I went to a lot of weddings of colleagues in a short period and I’m not 100% sure).  Once you enter past the gates the noise and bustle of Shanghai falls away.  There are tailor shops that line one walkway and when we were there one side was under construction where it appeared another Chinese restaurant would be opening soon.

We however, were exploring – looking for what is supposed to be the best Indian restaurant in Shanghai, Tandoor.  We had researched it and heard that it was the favorite of the Indian Consulate and so went to take a look.  The prices initially scared us off, but Li managed to find a Tuan Gou deal (similar to US Group-On) that provided us with a huge set menu at a very affordable price.

The entrance to Tandoor

The entrance to Tandoor

When we entered the restaurant, we were the only patrons for the first thirty minutes – and we arrived around 12:30 on a Sunday.  It made us a little nervous as typically in China empty restaurants don’t have the best reputation.

Empty restaurant?

Empty restaurant?

They seated us near one of the many mirrored walls and we sat back and waited for the food to be delivered.  One of the nice things about pre-set menus is that you don’t have to worry about what to order when you arrive.  It’s already been chosen!  I added a mango lassi (had to have it), but everything else was pre-selected.

The ceiling was covered with hundreds of Chinese characters - the only Chinese accompaniment to a very Indian meal

The ceiling was covered with hundreds of Chinese characters – the only Chinese accompaniment to a very Indian meal

The food was phenomenal.  There were three different curries, a huge basket of lovely warm naan bread, vegetables, tandoori chicken and beef, different sauces, dumplings – way too much food for two people.  As we ate, slowly the restaurant filled up, and around 1:30 as we were finishing a large table of Indians came in and sat down.  It made the restaurant warm and welcoming.

The pakoras and tandoori chicken and beef came out hot and not oily at all

The pakoras and tandoori chicken and beef came out hot and not oily at all

Curries, rice and vegetables

Curries, rice and vegetables

I would go back again just for the naan

I would go back again just for the naan

Enjoying my lassi (and the other dishes

Enjoying my lassi (and the other dishes

I haven’t eaten at every Indian restaurant in Shanghai, but it was the best I’ve had and I would believe the Indian consulate may order from there.  The combination of the story of the Jiujiang Hotel and the excellent food made our afternoon.

Have you searched for something and found it to be even better than you expected?  The empty restaurant almost made us turn around, but we were very glad we stayed.

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A fairy tale castle in Shanghai

15 Nov

Shanghai has many hidden treasures – places just around the corner with history dating to pre-Communist days.  Lately we have been trying to search them out – enjoying the autumn weather to find these hidden gems.

First view from the restaurant

First view from the restaurant

One such place that we found was the former residence of Eric Moller which looks like a fairy tale castle, just under the Yan’an elevated highway in the French concession.

Inspired by Snow White?

Inspired by Snow White?

Li found the secret garden when he was looking for lunch special deals – there is a beautiful Japanese restaurant situated in the garden overlooking the castle and so on a perfect blue sky day, voucher in hand, we went to explore.

Beautiful blue sky day

Beautiful blue sky day

The castle was built in 1936 and was supposedly inspired by Moller’s daughter who wanted to live in a castle – but the plaque outside states the castle was inspired by ships and ship-building as Moller was a “merchant prince.”  Either way, it is not something you’d expect in an Asian city today and it appears to have been preserved relatively well, though we didn’t enter inside.  Now there is a Chinese restaurant and event space – we could see people busily preparing for a wedding later in the afternoon/evening as we poked around the grounds.

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Our lunch was absolutely lovely – beef udon noodles in a lunch set under the terrace with a small goldfish stream to the side.  Initially when we arrived there weren’t many people there, but it slowly filled up.  I could feel my breathing slow down as the bustle of Shanghai fell away.

Under the terrace, waiting for lunch

Under the terrace, waiting for lunch

Beef udon sets

Beef udon sets

Finished off with a sweet treat

Finished off with a sweet treat

Have you found fairy tale castles in other places?

 

Friends across the sea

12 Nov

One of the wonderful things about all the travel I’ve done this year was the opportunity to see people that I don’t get to see very often.  As long as I know I’ll be in an area and have a little free time I will reach out to people to see if we can spend some time together.  This year was a new record for me.  I have been blessed with wonderful friends who are now scattered all over the world – I like to say that I “collect people” through my life, like the pearls of a necklace.

In February I got to spend a weekend with my sister in Austin, Texas between two sets of meetings for work.  The last time I was in town she was recovering from a knee injury – this time we enjoyed local barbecue at Rudy’s and took a long walk down by the river.  I would go back again for the barbecue in a second – and the banana pudding!  It was a great weekend.

Barbecue!  They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Barbecue! They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

A couple of months later I was back in the States again and got to spend a weekend back in my hometown with my best friend and her kids.  We had hamburgers and ice cream and went to the park.  It was the quintessential American weekend – one of those days that made me wonder why I am still living in Shanghai so far away from friends and family and blue skies.  The weekend also made me thankful that I have the resources to travel and the experience to appreciate going home.

Blue skies at the park

Blue skies at the park

In June I managed to connect with a former colleague in the UK at Paddington train station in London before heading off to the airport.  We had a long brunch and traded stories since we had last seen each other, nearly a year before in Singapore.  She has now retired and looked fabulous – rested, relaxed with a bit of a tan.  I hope when I get to that phase of my life I have that many stories to tell.

At the end of June I was in San Francisco and managed to connect with many old friends – both at the actuarial conference that I attended,

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

but also a friend from Shanghai who moved back to Canada and was randomly in town for the weekend when I was there.  That connection even surprised me – we both put a photo on social media of the beautiful day in San Francisco and then realized our hotel rooms were on the same street!

Also in San Francisco I met up with a friend from Shanghai who lives there now.  She spent a day taking me to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had seafood and visited the famous Boudin bakery where I bought myself a sourdough roll.  We rode the trolley and explored the city – I even bought a T-shirt.  Sometimes being a tourist is the best way to see a city.

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In July I had a friend come to me – Carissa from Everyday adventures in Asia.  She was in town for work and I was actually in Shanghai that week and volunteered my spare room.  We stayed up way too late to squeeze in every moment of time together  because neither of us know the next time we’ll have the opportunity.

And finally I managed to squeeze in a quick breakfast with an old friend from Shanghai who was in my first Chinese class at Miracle Mandarin when I was in Jakarta in August.  She’s Indonesian, married to an Australian who has lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia.  Her daughter was born in Shanghai and they moved a couple of years ago back to Jakarta.  We hadn’t seen each other since, but we connected as if we had seen each other the previous weekend.

We even remembered to snap a photo!

We even remembered to snap a photo!

Friends are that way – even when they are across the sea.  Shared experiences and special relationships come together to make a wonderful, welcoming place for me all across the world.  If you’re in my neck of the woods – I’m happy to welcome you too!

Do you have friends across the sea?

Tea and jazz at The Peace Hotel

8 Nov

Another special thing we did when my mom was in town was treat her to afternoon tea at The Peace Hotel.  When Li and I celebrated my birthday, we had slipped inside the lobby and happened to notice that every Sunday they have a special jazz tea with musicians who had played in Shanghai prior to the Communists taking over.  All of the musicians are in their 70s and 80s now so it seemed like a limited opportunity.

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We booked a table and my mom’s final Sunday in town we dressed up and headed out for lovely afternoon tea.

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It was a set menu – the only choice to make was what type of tea to enjoy.  There were all of the English classics – tea sandwiches, sweet cakes, milky tea and of course – scones!  The scones were my favorite – they came to the table warm with clotted cream and lovely jam.

My favorite - the scones!

My favorite – the scones!

The jazz took us all a bit by surprise.  I think we were expecting jazz more from the 50s and 60s – but instead it was more Big Band music.  They played When the Saints Go Marching In and other classics from the 20s and 30s – more Depression Era Jazz.  Mom commented that it would have been the music that her father grew up with.  Thinking about it after the fact though – that made a lot of sense.  When jazz was evolving, these gentlemen were not playing music in China.  They had other things to worry about.

 

The musicians - still going strong.  They played for nearly an hour without a break.

The musicians – still going strong. They played for nearly an hour without a break.

Given the age of the musicians, I don’t know how long this afternoon tea will last, but it was globalization at it’s best – English tea and American jazz in Shanghai, China.

Where have you had your most interesting mix of cultures?  How does music influence that?  I remember when I first moved to Shanghai my students assumed that I knew every song in English – because it was in English and I was a native speaker.  Have you ever had that happen?

Seven years!

1 Nov

Seven years ago today I arrived in China for the first time.  The date is forever fixed in my memory as I took off on Halloween and the flight attendants were all wearing Halloween costumes on the plane.  I landed the next day at Terminal 1 at Pudong Airport (terminal 2 did not exist yet) and looked for nearly twenty minutes before I found the representative of the English language training school who had been sent to pick me up.  We got on a bus and headed into the wilds of Shanghai.

I was scared and excited, spoke no Chinese, but figured I could do anything for a month if needed because I had booked a round trip ticket (just in case things didn’t work out.)

Wow.

Seven years.

Shanghai has changed a lot in the last seven years.  Four subway lines have sprouted into 16; two airports with one terminal each have become four total terminals; the high speed train now connects many more places – only five hours to Beijing!  Visas are easier (and harder) to get and the amount of English language signage has increased exponentially.

Prices have gone up – this has not been a stagnant economy.  Lunch prices have close to doubled, rent has increased, plane tickets, clothing, necessities of daily living are all significantly more expensive.  However, more things are available now as well – and if I want to pay I can have an organic smoothie or imported milk or laundry detergent from another country.

I have changed as well.

From my first month on the ground, I put in the time with my Mandarin teachers and textbooks and didn’t really stop until nearly four years later.  I slowly got comfortable speaking in different situations – ordering food, bargaining, daily life, work, on the phone, in presentations until I can now state my case and even argue.  Humor still escapes me most of the time, but that has always been the hardest for me because of the cultural overtones and word play.

As I found my “Chinese voice” I became more aggressive, more likely to speak up for myself – physically louder and more confident.  I managed a cross-cultural team and discovered that to survive in business I could not be a perfectionist or I would go crazy. I visited most all of the skyscrapers (new and old) on the Lujiazui side of the river and consulted with their HR on what the future of their benefit plans could mean.

I am proud to say that I am still friends with at least four individuals I met within the first week or two upon arrival and have watched them get married and/or have kids and/or switch careers.  I have done the same, switching jobs, meeting my husband and continuing to morph in this magical city.

So, upon this seven year “China-versary” I wanted to thank you all for following my ride, for looking into my jumbled view of the world and hope you stay around for whatever comes next.

I promise you won’t be bored.

 

The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth quarter review

22 Oct

I am trying to play catch up with my blog after such a long hiatus, so the content posted in the last nine months was not up to previous standards.  That said – I was reminded by my friend Carissa at Everyday Adventures in Asia that it is not a competition and I should continue to blog for the pleasure of it.

The eleventh quarter (like the last 12 months) was one of lots of travel – I had just finished six months at my new job and was definitely in the swing of things.  Unfortunately, that meant that the time I had to blog was reduced quite dramatically – meaning that I had to cut my post schedule, but I did manage to continue, which is more than I could say for June, July and August!

Even with the reduction in posts there were some fun elements and wanted to take the time to relive a couple of my favorites.  Do you remember either of these?

  • I posted on part of our trip to Greece and taking wedding photos in front of a certain church in “Do you speak English? (A Santorini photo shoot).”  Every time I walk into my apartment I am reminded of that wonderful trip because our “money shot” has been blown up and framed on the wall above our couch.  Believe it or not, I have even more photos from Greece that never made it onto the blog – but at least I was able to give you a sense of the wonder of that honeymoon.  I would go back again in a minute!
The church and the two of us - a perfect pairing - the money shot

The church and the two of us – a perfect pairing – the money shot

  • Replacing things in the new year (part 2) – My saga regarding the main air conditioner in our apartment where I narrowly missed an electrical fire thanks to the circuit breaker flipping.
    Would you use this plug?

    Would you use this plug?

    We have continued to have to replace things in this apartment, but did decide to stay another year when our lease came up in September.  The price is right, the location good and the landlord very responsive.  That said – I will predict now that this is our last year in this place (but I’ve been known to be wrong before.)  The most recent change was we got a new refrigerator at the end of August which we used as part of our negotiations.  It is larger than our old one and does not frost over every other week, so both of us consider it a good trade-up.

The eleventh quarter also contained Chinese New Year – introducing the Year of the Horse and after the official holiday we did slip off for a lovely vacation, so I’ll see if I have the energy to post on that one.  Any guesses where we went?

The twelfth quarter I also managed to get a handful of posts together – though this is when my work travel really started to pick up.  I’ll be posting retroactively on some of my trips (like the Hong Kong post earlier this month) to give you a sense of where I was and what happened – so more to come, but I did want to call out this post on living in Shanghai that I posted in May:

  • Door to door service – talked about the convenience of a big city – the good and the bad.  I’ve had even more things delivered since this post – not having to carry them and getting lower prices is a strong incentive, but luckily I have not had any more visits from the police recently.

I also thought I would leave a teaser – not all my travel in the twelfth quarter was for work.  Li and I managed to slip in a trip to Bali at the end of April that was absolutely phenomenal.  Here are a couple of photos.

A temple - and beautiful blue sky

A temple – and beautiful blue sky

Exotic Indonesian fare

Exotic Indonesian fare

Finally – the thirteenth quarter when I started posting again.

My most popular post was on Taxi Roulette – trying to figure out the best way to get a taxi and get around this city.  I have downloaded a new taxi app recently and am trying it out as well.  We’ll see how the taxi situation continues to evolve here in Shanghai.  Also – as per one of the comments – I have finally seen the new gold taxis on the streets.  They look like London Black Cabs, but they are gold – and since I was in London in June, I have a pretty recent comparison.  I haven’t ridden in one yet and don’t know if they are more expensive or have any special features, so more to come.

There are a couple of posts that continue to rack up the page views – even when I wasn’t posting which I find very interesting and thought I would call them up here as well.

1) Buying a jade bangle – which I did in Hong Kong two years ago AND

2) The pineapple cake wars – my descriptions of the two main competing pineapple cakes in Taipei in the summer of 2013.

I am guessing that somehow these two posts have gotten picked up by one or more search engines and they provide a steady stream of visitors to my blog.  It was definitely strange when I came back to see that traffic had not dropped all that significantly – which could be a good thing or a bad thing!  Folks don’t tend to leave comments on those posts now though – so I really appreciate those of you who stayed with me during the hiatus and your support as I share about my jumbled life.

Now I am (kind of) up to date, so hope to be back here soon with more stories in Shanghai and looking back over the last year.

Did I miss any posts you would have put at the top of your list?

 

More dumplings! Discovering Paradise Dynasty

18 Oct
Eight different types of soup dumplings!

Eight different types of soup dumplings!

I was lucky to have my mother visit me over the recent October holidays.  We had clear skies, readily available taxis (because so many people were out of town) and we ate like queens.  Each day we tried something special – either something I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before – or that I thought she needed to experience while in Shanghai.  It was a great visit.

On one of her first days, we tried something that had been on my list – Paradise Dynasty (乐新皇朝) – a dumpling restaurant that is known for its varied types of Soup Dumplings (小笼包).  I had been eating with colleagues at another restaurant talking about Din Tai Fung but one said she like Paradise Dynasty better.  One late afternoon we were in the new iapm mall in Jing An and I noticed that they had a branch there.  It seemed destined that we try their dumplings.

Their most famous basket of dumplings is the picture at the start of this post.  They give you a sampler of all of the different kinds of flavors you could think of.  In the middle is the traditional pork and then surrounding it there were cheese, foie gras, spicy Sichuan, black truffle, mushroom, crab and spinach dumplings (in no particular order).  Some of them we loved – the crab and spinach especially, others like the cheese were pronounced kind of strange.

In addition to the soup dumplings we ordered steamed veggie dumplings and the traditional pan fried shengjianbao (生煎包) pork dumplings.  They were lighter than Xiao Yang‘s and very good.  I would go back for more.

Finally, because we ordered the traditional basket and I shared it on my WeChat group they gave us a free basket of durian dumplings for the publicity.  My mom had never had durian before and Li really likes it so I went along.  They were okay – but I’m not sure I would get them again – I find durian has a strange after taste that lingers for a very long time.

All in all a very successful dumpling experience that I would recommend if you’re in Shanghai.

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When you have visitors do you take them to tried and true favorites or do you experiment?  This trip we tried a little of both and I think the balance worked out great.

What is your favorite type of dumpling?

A telephone booth with a twist

4 Oct

Telephone booths in Shanghai are disappearing with the modernization of the city, but there are still quite a few.  Most of the remaining ones have been changed into wireless hot spots and I can’t remember the last time I have actually needed to use one since my mobile phone is always in my pocket or purse.

I was heading back home from somewhere and the taxi was waiting at a red light.  I looked to the left and saw this advertisement stuck on the side of the phone booth.

The color of the ad matches the phone booth!  Have you seen an ad for ketchup recently?

The color of the ad matches the phone booth! Have you seen an ad for ketchup recently?

Look familiar?

Ketchup is a staple food in China, though it is more likely to be used with fried eggs and tomatoes than French fries.  I can’t remember the last time I had seen a print ad for ketchup and it struck me as very funny – a US brand advertising a product on a telephone booth in Shanghai.

Behind the phone booth you can see the bamboo scaffolding which is used on the traditional row houses each year as the roofs are checked.  Another part of life in Shanghai.

What ads have you seen lately that have caused you to smile?

Happy birthday to me!

23 Sep

This year I was lucky and got to celebrate my birthday early because my hubby will be out of town today, the day itself.  He organized a perfect afternoon as a birthday treat – and I didn’t have a clue!

We started by heading to Shook! restaurant on the Bund where they have a special lunch menu – with beautiful food.  Even though the day was misty – we got great views of Lujiazui and felt very pampered by the staff.

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IMG_20140919_132135 bday main IMG_20140919_143110

After a delightful lunch Li said we had extra time, so we headed across the street to the famous Peace Hotel which has been completely renovated in the last several years.  We wandered through the lobby looking at the photos of all of the famous guests, marveling at the beautiful stained glass ceilings and then eventually treated ourselves to a slice of fruit cake in the coffee shop looking out over East Nanjing Road.  I had never gone into the hotel – even after nearly 7 years in Shanghai, so it felt like we were exploring a new (yet very old) place.

bday tea

Finally we headed to another district and got educated on the colored gem stone industry and my hubby presented me with a very delicate birthday gift – my Chinese zodiac symbol (a monkey) on a necklace.  It is adorable – and something  I will wear a lot, I’m sure.

A lot has changed in the last year – I wonder what my next year will bring!

What is your preferred way to celebrate?  For me, friends, food and something new to see made it perfect.

 

Flying business

20 Sep

As I mentioned before, I have traveled a lot in the last four months.  I’ve been all over – the States three times, South Korea three times, the UK (Britain and Scotland), Australia, Singapore and Indonesia.  All told I was traveling over two thirds of the time from May through the end of August.

Blue skies

Blue skies

With that much travel, I spent a lot of time in airports – on planes, in lounges and in the duty free shops.  I also saw many, many more blue skies than if I had stayed in China.  My status on Delta and its alliance partners has ticked up to the top and I must admit that I’m getting a little spoiled from not standing in line, cutting security queues and having first access to the plane.

In London I got to explore the Virgin Clubhouse lounge which has waiter service, a hair salon, a music studio and a pool table inside.  In San Francisco, Korean Air uses the British Airways lounge where I was the only person in the highest lounge for nearly an hour with a full buffet to myself.  In Shanghai I now know which lounges let you access the plane directly and avoid the scramble around the gate above.  Sydney’s lounges have a full barista set up where I could get a fresh cup of chai and homemade scone.

A buffet for one

A buffet for one

I bought English breakfast tea and Winston Churchill’s caramels in London, kangaroo jerky in Sydney and my ultimate foot lotion socks in Seoul, plus lots of candy and other small gifts as I made my way through the airports.  I completed a survey on the Seoul airport and got a free toothbrush.

The best way to pamper your feet - only found in Korea.  Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

The best way to pamper your feet – only found in Korea. Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

I spent a weekend exploring the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, I ate traditional Korean food in Seoul and caught up with old friends in Singapore.  My boss bravely tried haggis in Scotland where I marveled that there was whisky on the breakfast buffet.  I met up with a former colleague for a weekend in San Francisco where we had sourdough bread and met people I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years at an actuarial conference.

My visit to Jakarta was punctuated with a breakfast with one of my first friends from Shanghai who was in my Chinese class way back when I was teaching English.  She’s Indonesian and had moved back with her husband a couple of years ago.  One visit to the States I had a rental car and enjoyed driving again with the windows down.

Of course I also met with clients and colleagues and had conference calls at odd hours.  I struggled through jet lag and time differences and not remembering which room was mine at the hotel because I had three different room numbers in a week and none of them stuck in my head.

Will my carry-on fit?  Of course... I am flying business!

Will my carry-on fit? Of course… I am flying business!

It was fun and invigorating and exhausting.

In short, it was business travel.

I’m ready for a break.

Have you ever traveled a lot for business?  What are your favorite memories?

 

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