Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shanghai --- first couple of days

On our first afternoon in Shanghai Bill walked down the street from our hotel and found a small store to buy snacks and Diet Cokes. Easy to identify Diet Coke cans even when written in Chinese characters. He didn't notice the small print in English on the Lays potato chips
--- Classic Great Taste --- Italian Red Meat Flavor. Actually, they weren't bad.

Our little hotel is in an alleyway off tree-lined Xinhau Road in the popular Changning District. By all appearances this is a vibrant neighborhood section of Shanghai…..sort of like West U in Houston, Chinese style and multiplied by a few hundred thousand. The small blue sign in the tree indicates where our hotel is located down the alleyway on the right hand side of the street. This area was previously known as the French area of Shanghai, although I did not know that the French ever occupied this part of Asia. We walked a lot the first afternoon to see the sights. That night we went to Kaiba on Dong Xi Lu street, which 6 blocks from our hotel. Kaiba is a new Belgian beer bar that also serves food. The food is good, but beer is the big draw at Kaiba. We recognized maybe 3 of the dozens of beers served. Bill enjoyed Flemish beef stew for dinner. Who would have thought we would find Flemish beef stew in Shanghai.

Monday dawned with a dreary rain that lasted the entire day and temperatures that were slightly too cold for comfort for outdoor activity. We decided that this might be a good day to visit the Shanghai Museum since it was crappy weather. We walked several blocks in the rain and managed to find the metro (subway/city-train) station, but we were not successful in figuring out how to buy tickets from the automated machine for where we wanted to go. The instructions were to first click on the metro line that you wanted and then to click on your desired destination station. However, we wanted line number 7 and there was no option for line number 7. (Check out the photo of the overhead sign at the metro subway station and see if you can tell which trains are approaching and departing and from which track. You can see why we were having difficulty!) I was in no mood for figuring it out. Instead, we walked back toward the hotel and stopped in a shop for DVDs for a few movies and TV series that we have wanted. Stopped off at Kaiba again for a really good lunch of creamy udon noodles and Belgian beer; then back to the hotel to watch DVDs and while away the dreary afternoon.

A fellow American sailor who is on temporary job assignment in Shanghai met us at the hotel and treated us to dinner. We had never met Mil before; I knew him only from Yahoo sailing groups over the past 5 years. Mil brought along his Chinese friend Nancy. We walked to a really good restaurant that serves local style food; right next door to Kaiba. ( Can't seem to get away from that Belgian beer bar. ) Nancy and Mil ordered and we were very pleased with their selections.
All the food tasted very good and fresh. Mil explained to us the proper manner of eating Chinese style. Each person is provided a plate, a very small bowl, a Chinese style spoon and chopsticks. Each person is also provided with a wet fragrant cloth to wipe your hands. It is considered very rude to also wipe your lips or face; only wipe your hands. The food is served in the center of the table. Each person uses his chopsticks to eat food directly from the serving dishes in the center of the table. If the food is messy (like things with sauces), then you should use the spoon to scoop some of the food into your small bowl; then use your chopsticks to eat from the small bowl as you hold it up near your mouth. One should never place food onto your plate and eat from the plate. The plate is strictly for placing any 'garbage' residue from the foods that you eat --- such as shrimp shells or hot dried peppers or meat gristle or pieces of bones. We were glad that Mil explained this because we would have automatically placed food onto the plates and eaten from the plates in the normal Western style. Now we know better. Nancy was a little surprised that Bill and I know how to use chopsticks.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Mil and Nancy. Mil has a very nice boat that he will be fitting out for cruising. Nancy had lots of questions about cruising and living on a sailboat. We enjoyed talking boats with them. They are each very nice and we enjoyed their company very much. Mil also gave us a couple of prepaid metro cards and a metro map printed in English. That makes things much easier!!

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