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With only one night in Shanghai, it was important to make the most of my time. After I sat through an obligatory dinner with my host, it was almost my bedtime, but, convinced that I should at least try to see something, I headed to The Bund with some of my co-workers.  

The Bund is a riverwalk along the Huangpu River and it is for sure a Shanghai must do! From The Bund you can see several of the buildings that are Shanghai skyline icons such as the Shanghai World Trade Center, the tallest building in China, lit up in blue.

 

 

 

The west bank of the river is developed with many extremely modern buildings, while the east bank is fronted by historical building. The old buildings are hard to make out in the picture, but they remind me more of being in Venice than they do of Asia.

Going back to that obligatory dinner and my previous comments about my meals here, I thought that I could provide some samples from our dinner menu.

First up is the sweet and sour fish. No, that isn’t the real name for it, it was ‘squirrel fish’ fried and then smothered in a pretty standard sweet and sour sauce. Happily, this fish was filleted, which helped detract from it’s very, um, anatomical look. I am not a big fan of eating animals that still resemble animals in any way. It makes me feel guilty and sad for them. Aside from that aspect, of the fish, it was prepared well and the sauce, while overly abundant, had good flavor. I would never order a dinner for myself that was that fried or quite that covered in sugary sauce, but it seemed like the best option that I was offered, so I actually had quite a bit of it.

Next up is this innocent looking dish. It is difficult to see here, but everything is served family style on a ‘lazy susan’ type disc in the center of the table. When this came around to me, thinking that it looked pretty safe, I picked up a few pieces to add to my plate. ‘What is this one?’

‘Cow tendon and broccoli.’

Of course it was. I should know better than to ask questions like that. I am not hugely familiar with cow tendons, but I think that this was a botched translation. I think it may have been large veins and arteries because of the tubular structure of the ‘meat’. Who knows? In any event, I found myself with food on my plate that I was determined not to eat. I usually pride myself on not being a picky eater, but group meals in China definitely test the boundaries of that. I guess I am far more picky than I like to admit. Thankfully, after manipulating them around the plate a bit and pushing them under some other inedible parts, our server saved me by changing out my plate for a clean one. Whew!

 

On to dessert! These pictures are not exactly in sequence. We ended up getting ice cream on The Bund. I got peer pressured into ordering this giant dessert. Had I known that this was in my future, I probably wouldn’t have indulged in quite so much sweet and sour fish. Whatever. I don’t eat ice cream in India because of sanitary concerns, so I’m not too worried about it. I doubt I will have more anytime soon, nevertheless, this was definitely overeating at it’s finest!

I vote ‘Yes!’ for tiramisu ice cream.

This morning I headed to Wuhan, also a new city for me. More on Wuhan coming soon!

Going to the airport in Chennai is always an adventure. Most of the flights that I take depart in the middle of the night, which typically intensifies the oddities that I encounter.

My adventure began with getting my suitcase checked. It irks me every time, but I have yet to figure out how to pack a bag that weighs less than 7 kg. They don’t seem to check when I fly business class, but I got stuck riding in the back of the plane this time. Sad, sad story, huh?

Yeah, I wouldn’t feel bad for me either.

After passing through security, my first stop was the bathroom. I am not a huge fan of the restroom at MAA because it is BYOTP (that would be toilet paper) and BYOS (yep, soap), yet I end up going almost every time. Usually it isn’t a huge deal, but this time my soap was in the bag that got checked.

Bad planning. Eww.

If that wasn’t enough to make an exciting bathroom experience, I should mention that there was a whole pile of women sleeping on the floor in there. I tend to avoid contact with public restroom floors as much as possible, but who am I to judge. I should have gotten a picture, but there was no way to do so gracefully.

After pacing around the gate area for a short time, I was happy to find a seat at the far end of the terminal, nowhere near my gate, across from this guy.

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He seemed innocent enough until he started clipping his toenails. Little bits and pieces were flying all over the place. Why in the airport? Geez.

Suddenly the red-eye flight that I had been dreading for days didn’t seem like such a bad alternative. After all, it would put me one step closer to a halfway decent hotel room. Well, at least in theory anyway.

I’m headed back to China in a few hours. Yippee! Not really. Nobody likes a red-eye flight. Well, at least I don’t think so anyway.

On the bright side, I will be going to three cities in China that I have never visited before. I’m pretty curious about Hong Kong and Shanghai. Hopefully I will get to see a bit more than just the inside of an office! Doesn’t look promising so far, but you never know.

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(Sorry for the ugliest picture ever. We have horrible lighting in this apartment at night and my attempts at doctoring the picture seemed to only be making it worse.)

Last time I was in China, I struggled a bit with knowing which foods were safe for me to eat. Between the standard avoid uncooked/unpeeled produce and the extra pregnancy related guidelines about pasteurization, certain seafoods, etc., I was hungry, frustrated, and frequently unsure about my food.

This time around I’m going to take control of my menu, at least in part. No, I am not actually smuggling any food. All of this is legal and legit. I packed breakfast for five days (my standard oats, protein powder, and craisins), an extra scoop of protein powder per day for just in case, and a Larabar per day.

I sound like I’m four. “Seriously, grow up and eat the food.”

Seriously, I’m a bit scared of being sick and pregnant in China. I don’t feel that way so much in India because I have a great deal of control over what I eat.

For example, I went out to lunch earlier today in India and ordered food that I ended up being scared to eat. It turns out that my grilled chicken was in the form of ground chicken, made into a patty, then grilled and not thoroughly enough for my liking. I paid my bill, left the food, and ended up eating lunch at home.

On a work trip in China, that isn’t so easy because most of my food seems to be ordered by the Chinese speakers and served family style. I can only ask “What is this?” and “How was it cooked?” so many times before I either look unappreciative or like a total pain in the neck. I also don’t know when I will get another chance to eat if I do turn my nose up at anything.

On second thought, I may add a few more bars to my suitcase. Wish me luck!

On Cell Phones

Remember huge amount of trouble that we went through to get cell phones?

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Total pain in the neck. Would you believe that they got turned off a few weeks later because the correct paperwork had not been filed?

Fortunately for me, Chris got to brave the cell phone store without me the second time around. The phones are on and working again and all is right with the world.

 

On Air Travel

A few weeks back I mentioned my disdain for checked bags. They make me nervous.

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It is no surprise that I was super upset when, after six flights with the same bag I was nearly forced to check it when leaving Melbourne. It turns out that they are extremely strict with checked luggage there. I talked my way out of it. Close call, huh?

Ironically, thanks to Chris’ huge purchase in Kuala Lumpur (more details next time) I elected to check my bag for the final of eight flights on my journey. Go figure.

On Toilets

I prefer the ‘Western’ variety. Not really a surprise.

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I wonder if I would feel differently it I had grown up with the other variety? I bet I would. I always appreciate ‘Western’ toilets with instructions, we could use more of those at home. Maybe that would prevent the ‘splatter’ so common on public toilet seats.

On Chinese Candies

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Acid Horns do not taste good.

Well, not to my American palate anyway. During my week in China, one of the ladies in my meeting would pile the middle of our tables high with candies and sweets late in the afternoon in attempt to keep us awake and focused. Each day I would eagerly anticipate this event like she was the Easter Bunny or something. Most days, I was sorely disappointed.

I clearly don’t understand Chinese candy. There were many corn-flavored treats. I am still not sure what flavor the Acid Horns were. After all, you can only ask ‘What is this?’ so many times before people suspect that you might not like it.

Next time I go, I think I will bring some American candy. I wonder how it will go over?

One of my co-workers brought Jolly Rancher chews to Australia. The Aussies seemed to think that they were way too sweet and flavorful, but the group did seem to polish off a few boxes of them each afternoon.

On Expensive Bananas

Food prices in Australia were very high in general compared to US food prices, but the first time I tried to buy bananas there I was especially taken aback.

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During the last grocery run of my trip, I finally got to the bottom of it. See the fine print? Remember the flooding in Queensland earlier this year? It seems to have wiped out the banana crop severely cutting supply and thus driving prices sky high.

I asked a few people why they didn’t just import bananas. After all, most of ours in the US come from South America. The opinion on the street was overwhelmingly that Aussies would rather buy bitter, overpriced bananas than anything imported. That’s some serious national pride, especially from the point of view of this girl with a one (or more) a day habit.

I am up bright and early this morning to head to China, via Dubai of all places… seems like a logical routing.

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Luckily I am traveling for work, not pleasure so at least I should have another glorious lay flat bed on the plane. We’ll see. I have never flown Emirates before.

On second thought, I’m not sure if traveling for work is lucky or not. I have kind of been enjoying my work from home status. I find that I am super productive when I am nice and comfortable wearing my running clothes to ‘work’.

Hopefully I will be able to blog while I am in China. I know that sometimes WordPress is blocked there, but perhaps with my US VPN I can still get to it. If not, I suggest that you read Eat, Run, Travel as a substitute. Amelia is teaching abroad in Shanghai and recently ran the Great Wall Marathon. She has hilarious stories about her time in Shanghai that I really enjoy.

As for me and Beijing, we go way back. I did a summer program there back in 2006 while I was in grad school. I am really curious to see how things have changed because of the Olympics. Perhaps most importantly, I am curious if menus in English will be more prominent.

On my first trip to China I ate quite a few mystery meals, which is fine, I’m an adventurous eater. This time around maybe I will be able to make informed ordering decisions!

I think the thing that I am most excited about is being able to run this week. I’m not sure what the neighborhood of my hotel looks like, but I brought my Garmin just in case it is runner friendly and if not, I know that they have a treadmill.

Boarding has started, I’m off to China!