Tag Archives: Shanghai

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.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_20141024_130404 IMG_20141024_130503 IMG_20141024_130552

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?

 

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 NBA in Shanghai

25 Oct
NBA in Shanghai!

NBA in Shanghai!

A couple of weeks ago we went to an NBA pre-season game in Shanghai between the Brooklyn Nets and the Sacramento Kings.  I had read about it on a website a long time ago and convinced Li to get tickets back in August.  They weren’t cheap – even far up the tickets were over $100 USD, but I figured for once in seven years – why not?

They held the game at Mercedes Benz Arena – the last time I was there was when I went to the Elton John concert a couple of years ago.  This time I realized that the Chinese name is actually Mercedes Benz cultural center (文化中心).  I suppose Elton John and basketball are cultural events – but it’s not a literal translation of arena – that’s for sure.

We got to the game a little early to make sure we were able to soak in the experience.  I wasn’t sure what it would be like – and I haven’t been to an NBA game in over 8 years, but it was pretty much like I remembered.

Li had a great time too!  We sat next to a father and son who spoke Spanish and English the entire time so I got to eavesdrop a little.

Li had a great time too! We sat next to a father and son who spoke Spanish and English the entire time so I got to eavesdrop a little.

Our seats were great – we were right above one of the entrances so nobody was sitting in front of us and we had extra leg room which is always a plus.  I had a hot dog (seemed appropriate, though the chicken sandwiches appeared to be the more popular choices) and some popcorn and we enjoyed the dancers and people warming up the crowd.

Looking up above the big screen, I noticed that there were the Chinese and American flags at the top of the arena.  Basketball is fairly popular in China – Yao Ming is retired now, but he made an appearance court side and still caused a stir.  There were a couple of players who were definitely more well known than others who got huge rounds of applause.

A pair of flags - one in sport

A pair of flags – one in sport

It was obvious that some folks had never been to a western style sporting event before.  They had the “kiss camera” and the first several couples they zoomed in on seemed oblivious.  Finally one couple got the idea and the entire arena erupted into applause.

The game itself was high scoring with the lead changing constantly.  Players rotated throughout to get their minutes and things weren’t decided until the last two minutes or so – which meant everyone stayed until the end.  One highlight that occurred during the fourth quarter was that Shaquille O’Neal showed up as an ambassador for Meng Niu – which is a Chinese dairy company, in a cow print T-shirt to help judge a dance competition.  It was pretty funny and not something I think he would necessarily do in the US.

Enjoying the game

Enjoying the game

After the game was over we made our way slowly back to the subway.  I had never gone to an event there during the day, so we were treated to some nice views of Lujiazui across the river.  Development appears to be continuing in the area (which was the old 2010 World Expo site), but still not very much has happened, considering the Expo ended four year ago.  The Chinese pavilion still seems to be a big tourist draw – I have heard that it is a decent museum, so maybe one of these days we’ll go explore it.

We had a great time and am glad that we planned far enough ahead to enjoy it.  What was the last sporting event you went to?  Have you ever gone to a sporting event in another country where the culture is different?  Any fun stories?

 

 

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.

mmexport1412211767614

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?

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.

bday rest IMG_20140919_142822

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.

 

Looking down

17 Sep

On a recent weekend I was walking home past the maternity hospital that is close to our apartment complex.  I looked down and at my feet was row after row of characters written across the sidewalk.  They kept going – I could pick out bits and pieces, but wasn’t really able to follow what the context was.  The chalk was different colors and made a striking appearance against the gray sidewalk.

I hypothesized that it could have been a student practicing penmanship as sometimes in the parks I’ll see people doing calligraphy on the ground using a big brush and water.  As I slowed down to look a couple of other people were reading out the lines, but again I couldn’t quite catch what they meant.

So, I took a couple of pictures.

Multicolored characters

Multicolored characters

Poetry or prose?

Poetry or prose?

Later that night, I asked Li what had been written on the sidewalk.  He read it, then looked at me strangely.  His  question was unexpected, “Was anyone else around when you read this?”

I explained just some other folks walking along and reading aloud.

The text of the majority of the sidewalk poetry was about a beggar on the streets of Shanghai and his tale of woe.  He must have written it on the sidewalk and been begging by the side of the hospital.  By the time I passed by he had either moved on or been asked to move on, leaving only his written chalk poem as testament that he had been there.

Noticing details is part of experiencing a culture.  I’m glad I noticed this one, but not so happy as to what the result was.

Have you ever looked down and seen something you didn’t expect?

Dinner with Mr. He

20 Apr

Last weekend we went to dinner with a former colleague of Li’s – the driver of his former boss, Mr. He.  I had never met him and was curious because Li had always said he was a very wise man.

It was a fascinating dinner – his father had fought with Chiang Kai Shek in Jiangsu province and then had moved to Shanghai where Mr. He was born in 1953.   He was unlucky enough to be sent to the countryside with millions of other Shanghai youth and spent 8 years of hard labor in Hebei province in the far north of China.

After coming back to Shanghai in the late 1970s he met his wife and they had a son.  He now lives in the Hongkou district in Shanghai where he is a grandfather and still drives part time for my husband’s former company.   What a story!

He was a wise man, not prone to excess – he wouldn’t eat too much dinner and talked about his experience in a matter of fact way.   He was old enough to be my father and without meaning to I started making comparisons between the two and the luck of one to be born in the US and one in China.

From there I shifted to myself and how lucky I am to be able to make choices – to decide where I live and what I do.  Freedom is sweet.

I am glad we met.  Once I got home I had many more questions than answers.  If you were there, what would you have asked?

My Shanghai – our local hair salon

6 Apr

Since I have grown my hair long, I don’t go to the salon nearly as often as I did before.  My husband, however, goes about once a month to make sure that his cut stays in shape.  Because of that – he actually has a longer running relationship with his salon and stylist than I do.  He has followed her from one salon to another and even (in a moment of weakness) over a year ago, bought a membership card which means he gets 50% off all products and services.

Before Chinese New Year I decided I wanted to get my hair  trimmed and he asked if I wanted to go to his salon, which I gladly accepted.  I enjoyed it so much that recently I went back for another trim when Li went in to get his hair cut.

This salon is more traditional than some which means that they wash your hair while you are sitting in the chair – a dry wash – instead of over the sink.  Because it is done that way they can also simultaneously massage your shoulders and neck – which feels wonderful.  After a rinse they then finish the massage down your arms and hands so by the time the stylist arrives you are in a very pleasing mental state.

Enjoying a "dry shampoo"

Enjoying a “dry shampoo”

The shampoo girls were new arrivals in Shanghai, happy to practice their little bit of English and it made me remember the first time I got my hair cut in Shanghai where I couldn’t understand much more than, “Hello, goodbye, I don’t want that and thank you.”  How much has changed in seven years (I can have a full conversation now and actually am familiar with the different regions where the girls were from) – and how much has stayed the same, the continual change in Shanghai and people coming here to seek their fortune.

The cut itself is a little bit of an afterthought in my case – just a quick trim, but still nice to have someone else cut and style and blow dry.

By the time we walked out over an hour later I felt looser and lighter – all for the cost of 30RMB (less than $5USD).  Maybe I should get my hair trimmed every week?

What is your favorite salon?

The Mad Woman in the Attic

stories of a serial expat and solo traveller

Marta lives in China

8+ years and counting!

Foreign Sanctuary

Lead and Live a Life Less Ordinary

Crazy Chinese Family

My crazy Chinese Family I married into...

Writing Between the Lines

Life From a Writer's POV

A Kick In The Butt

Advice on all things FITNESS by Personal Trainer Ariana Dane

China Elevator Stories

Conversations with locals in China

Chasing Sunsets

Current Location: The Daraja Academy; Nanyuki, Kenya