Monday, October 24, 2005

Shanghai Trip - Day 2

It's sort of a slow process recapping the trip, but I do want to take the time to do it so that I will have a good record for myself and my family of all the cool things I did there. Luckily, my aunt marilyn sent me the photos she and my mom took so now I can post them up.

Anyway, Day 2 started with breakfast at La Seine, the "French" restaurant at the bottom of the hotel. The entire all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet including omelette station is only $4 US per person. Food is amazingly inexpensive in Shanghai. Actually, most things are amazingly inexpensive there, so if you're looking for a place where you can get the most for your money, Shanghai is a good place to visit. I have no idea why the restaurant was called "La Seine". I suppose it fancied itself to be sort of French inspired, evidenced by its constant blaring of French music (and the occasional Michael Bolton - the Shanghainese are very fond of MB - *shudder*), but since they offered up Chinese porridge and fried noodles for breakfast I think it's safe to bet there was no French chef in the kitchen. Anyway, the breakfast buffet, which we had nearly every day, was quite possibly my grandpa's favorite part of the trip. He enjoyed it immensely, and often sat by himself for a few minutes longer after the rest of us had finished breakfast and had gone back upstairs to shower and change. He told us there was no point rushing upstairs as everyone else would be trying to get in the bathroom to poop (see, there's the poop talk again) so he might as well wait downstairs in the restaurant. My grandma accused him of wanting to check out women in the restaurant by himself.

Here they are, enjoying breakfast:

The Chinese Costanzas Posted by Picasa

Grandpa enjoying breakfast at La Seine Posted by Picasa

After breakfast (and the pooping), we all headed out and I really got a chance to see Shanghai. The thing about the city is that it is modernizing at an incredibly rapid pace, but is not totally modernized yet. You'll often find a gigantic sky scraper right next to some super super old crappy buildings that haven't been torn down yet. And they don't have or use dryers. Apparently everything is hung out to air dry. Case in point:

Blankets being airdried in front of the hotel Posted by Picasa

I could only hope that those weren't hotel blankets.

Here we see...

One lone pair of red underwear to the far right of the pic Posted by Picasa

This was really common actually. People seemed to only hang out ONE pair of underwear. I guess they prefered to do their laundry daily and to hang it out to dry in the dirty polluted air of Shanghai. When I commented that that was kind of gross, my mom pointed out that maybe they thought I was kind of gross, keeping piles and piles of dirty clothes in a laundry basket, stinking up my closet for weeks. Point well-taken.

After breakfast, and some quick city touring, our driver took us to my Great Aunt's house. She is my grandma's older sister. My grandma is the youngest of 6 (5 girls, 1 boy), and the Great Aunt I went to visit is the second youngest. Although she lives in what is considered a very nice and expensive apartment in Shanghai, the small buildings next to hers were very old.

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Before there was barb wire, there was glass Posted by Picasa

Anyway, when we got inside, my mom and I (neither of us had ever met this Great Aunt) were quickly introduced to my Great Aunt, and her niece whose name is "14 lbs". Apparently she weighed 14 lbs at birth and unfortunately for her the name stuck. Anyway, following my mom's American-influenced lead, I gave both of them what were possibly the two most awkward hugs in all of history of mankind. Apparently Shanghainese women aren't used to other women randomly hugging them. Worst of all, I got so confused by who was a relative and who wasn't that I very nearly hugged the maid. Seriously, it was so about to happen except I was reluctant to hug anyone else (after the two awkward ones) and figured I would just smile and nod. I didn't realize until much later that she was the maid.

Great Aunt, Grandma, and 14 Lbs. Posted by Picasa

After the intros, awkward hugging, and requisite small talk, we moseyed over to a dim sum restaurant not far from Great Aunt's place.

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My mom, being ever so touristy, found some posters that we just HAD to pose next to.

Here she is, posing next to an awesome near-winning Mahjong hand. She took great pains in explaining what tile would actually make this a winning hand, but I will skip that.

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Here I am, posing next to a poster of HAIRY CRABS. Hairy Crabs are a delicacy in Shanghai. They are these freshwater crabs that come from a super super cold lake nearby. They are known for their crab fat. The "go." (that's what how it's pronounced)If you've had whole lobster before, it's the green or red stuff that's inside. That's the only way I can explain it. The females are chock full of solid orangey red fat. The males are full of clearish sticky white fat. Seriously. I'm a huge fan of the females, but not of the males, which sort of feel like I'm eating plaque. The fat sticks to my teeth and I imagine it clinging to the walls of my arteries. Anyway, there's the quick lesson of Shanghainese cuisine for today.

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We did not happen to have hairy crabs at this dim sum meal, but instead opted for squabs, which I think are also known as...pigeons. I like them alot - they taste like roasted duck. Here is a pic of several of them, all nice and chopped up and served on a platter. If you look closely, you can see their heads (not for the vegetarians, obviously).

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After lunch, we headed to a giant flea market where you can buy all sorts of goodies. My grandma is a super flea market negotiator so she got us all great deals. On average, we paid about 20% of the original asking price. I bought a lot of athletic/gym clothes that I plan to wear laying on the couch in front of the tv and some souvenirs.

Flea Market Posted by Picasa

Mom & Me, at the flea market Posted by Picasa

I have to check my notes, but I think after the flea market, we headed back to another Great Aunt's old apartment (she passed away a few years ago, but had a gigantic apartment that's now turned into a sort of party clubhouse for the relatives) for a big meal of the hairy crabs. Here they are!

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The whole point of eating the crabs is to eat the "go." The legs and the body are not particularly meaty, but a local Shanghainese person can deshell a crab in a matter of minutes. Me, I just tried my best but probably wasted a good portion of the crab.

Anyway, that was Day 2.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My absolute very favorite part so far is the woman who is named 14 pounds.

10:53 PM  
Blogger kate said...

your grandpa is a handsome man. Hope you don't mind me saying. I don't mean it in an objectionable way, more in a 'Hey, that's a pretty swank grandpa' way.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Welcome back! Thanks for sharing the photos and stories. Your culinary accounts are making me hungry. I actually miss having roasted squabs, hairy crabs and the crab fat (yum!). My folks are coming to visit in 2 weeks and I asked my mom to bring me some (that crab fat also comes preserved). But she's worried about customs here being too strict.

10:32 AM  
Blogger ElliottPreciousPants said...

I looked for the heads....but I couldn't tell which were the heads. Do you actually eat the heads??

11:26 AM  
Blogger Sareet said...

aj - the funniest part is that no one knows 14 lbs real name! i don't know what's worse - being called 14 lbs for your entire life, or giving birth to a 14 lb baby!

kate - hehe, thanks. i will tell him that - it'll make his day.

joanne- hmm i don't know if it can make it through customs but it might be worth a try.

i'm just glad you guys aren't totally bored with this stuff. i feel like i'm giving a travel slide show presentation. at least i'm not subjecting you guys to this in my living room.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Sareet said...

elliot - they are mostly in the center of the platter, although you can see one just to the left of the teapot that's closest to the platter. the heads are fairly small and no, you don't eat them.

cuz THAT would be gross... ;)

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Lala said...

They don't have dryers in Italy, either. We always had our jeans draped over every radiator trying to dry them...and my underwear always fell off the line into the courtyard below, so that some random neighbor guy would have to come bring them up to me.

2:45 PM  

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