Tag Archives: Din Tai Fung

Relearning Shanghai

9 Mar

I’m back.

Three weeks after my last post, I’m taking the plunge again to attempt to capture the joy and confusion and life that is living in China.  Thanks for staying tuned.

Looking at my stats during the time I was away – I have a remarkably loyal core readership – or by this point I’ve posted so much content that the search engines will guarantee a certain readership level even without posting anything new.  I’m not sure how to take it.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately – the entire month of February I was in my own bed for less than a week.  The posts at the beginning of the month were strategically scheduled to make you unaware of my whereabouts.  When I got back to China, my VPN was down, making scaling the Great Firewall impossible  – and I had all of those other “life” things I needed to take care of – food, clean clothes, making the apartment feel like mine again.

And Shanghai continues to change.  In my absence there felt like so many new elements layered on top of life – when in the day-to-day I may not notice, but coming back (especially after the US) they are front and center.

My walk to yoga is now past buildings that have been flattened (but were whole before Chinese New Year).  There is a new foreign supermarket in Times Square (two years after the old one closed) – that has a baking section with muffin cups and unbleached flour.  After reading a website, my husband has clued me in that within a ten minute walk are three of Shanghai’s most famous street food stands – not counting the one we discovered last year – Da Chang Mian.

The way to order a taxi has changed with a competition between two of the most powerful Chinese internet tycoons who are giving rides away for free, making hailing a cab much more challenging.  And my work schedule has shifted very nocturnally with lots and lots of conference calls after 9pm.  Re-entering Shanghai life has taken me a little time.

This past Friday, I met a vendor for lunch at a restaurant I have visited many times before – Din Tai Fung.  I’ve been to their flagship store in Taipei 101 and eaten at multiple locations across Shanghai.  This time, when I sat down, the waitress gave me this card.

This side has directions in Chinese, English and Korean - the reverse French and Japanese.  Eating soup dumplings can be tricky!

This side has directions in Chinese, English and Korean – the reverse French and Japanese. Eating soup dumplings can be tricky!

It details how to eat Xiao Long Bao (steamed soup dumplings) which is the dish the restaurant is the most famous for.  The two sides of the cards have multiple languages making sure whomever visits is clear.  It would have been very handy 7 years ago, but the effect now was it made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I had been in Shanghai a little too long.

My contact arrived and we ordered lunch and enjoyed the views of the Bund and I normalized, heading off to my next meeting and my massage that evening and a great dinner that my husband had prepared.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head – every single time I leave and come back I have to relearn this city.  Yes, my understanding grows deeper, but with that, I notice more changes.  I am no longer superficially connected to this place – it is in my psyche, my pace of living, my taste buds and internal soundtrack.

Shanghai.

Come visit.  I promise – it won’t be boring!

Taipei 101

23 Jul

On one of my weekend days in Taiwan I took it upon myself to visit Taipei 101.  I’ve seen television programs on it – how it is a city, you could go days without needing to leave, and I decided no trip to Taipei would be complete without a visit.

Approaching the town, I snapped a photo from quite far away so I could get the entire building in my frame.  It appears to billow at different levels, perhaps like bamboo?  One thing that struck me though was that the rest of the buildings around it didn’t even come close to approaching its height.  The skies were gray as I approached and I started to wonder what the weather would be like at the top.

Approaching the tower

Approaching the tower

Before entering I snapped a photo of kids soaking themselves in the fountain in front of the building.  Some things never change – no matter what culture!

All kids like to play in the fountain

All kids like to play in the fountain

After winding my way up to the fifth floor to buy a ticket and a postcard (which I later sent my mother), I entered the elevator to zip up to the observation deck.  The elevator is one of, if not the world’s fastest.  Going up over 100 floors took less time than my daily 43rd floor trip to my office.  It was very, very fast.

There was a free audio tour included with the cost of admission so I made my way around the circle and listened.  The aforementioned storm became reality and I slowly watched the views change from sun to clouds to pelting rain.  It was a unique way to see a summer thunderstorm.

My feeling from below was correct – there were no other buildings even close in height to Taipei 101 that I could see.  Instead, I looked at the mountains that surround the city.  Over the audio tour they talked about how important nature is to the Taiwanese and that the public transportation system connects city residents for easy hiking in the mountains all year round.  They also talked about the tunnels that cut through the mountains and the difficulty in building them.  Nature is a powerful force.

View from the top as storm clouds roll in

View from the top as storm clouds roll in

Just past the city is the rolling mountains - the tower appears taller than the mountains, but I am guessing that is an optical illusion

Just past the city is the rolling mountains – the tower appears taller than the mountains, but I am guessing that is an optical illusion

Since it was now storming pretty heavily I wasn’t able to go to the open air observation deck.  Instead I took a staircase down and looked at the dampers – the feature within the tower that allows it to withstand the frequent Taiwanese typhoons.  The dampers allow the building to sway with the storm and absorb the force.  They were enormous.

View of one of the dampers

View of one of the dampers

My visit complete I went to the famous food court in the basement and got a take out order of Din Tai Fung soup dumplings.  I have eaten them many times in the Shanghai branch, but wanted to see what the difference would be in their native territory.  Per my count, they tasted the same – but were much cheaper than the branch by my house!

Taipei 101 was an overall good experience.  I would recommend it if you are in Taipei.  And make sure you get a picture taken!

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

What’s the tallest building that you’ve been up?  Where was it and what kind of memories do you have?

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