Saturday, July 9, 2011

North East China: Shanghai. Man China is crazy!

Man is China a crazy place.  It's hot, dirty, crowded and full of a what appears to be a never ending sea of humanity frantically rushing around between this place and that.   Forget about pleasantries and common courtesy, no one in mainland China seems to have the time nor desire to help out a confused and lost traveler.  It also seems that the concept of a line or waiting your turn has yet to reach mainland China.  Everyone rushes to the front of lines and no one yields to anyone.  Drivers don't even yield to pedestrians.  Me and Chantra nearly got run over when we tried to cross the street and the driver gave us a dirty look like it was OUR fault!  You son of a bitch, my light was green and yours was red! 

That being said my first impressions of China are a mixed bag of love and hate, a confusing kaleidoscope of old and new, and some major culture shock.  And I'm HALF Chinese, although it would appear I literally know nothing of my father's people.  Of all the countries me and Chantra have visited on this trip, I would definitely say that China speaks the least amount of English and that it is the most difficult country to get around in.

Although, me and Chantra both agree that Shanghai is pretty cool city.  It is a perfect example, a literal microcosm, of what is going on in China today.  On the one hand it is a huge metropolitan city full of life and culture.  If you walk along the promenade and stare out at the Huangpo river, on the distant riverbank you'll be treated to beautiful vista of buildings from Shanghai's past that have a distinct 20's architectural feel to them.  It's as if these buildings belong in Chicago and not Shanghai.  On the other side, giant gleaming monuments of steel and glass grace the skyline and serve as a constant reminder of the continuing rise of China.  And yet, if you turn down any alleyway between these colossal buildings you'll find a dirty gritty world full of poverty.  Where the poor and growing middle class haggle over the price of cheap knock offs and eat strange foods from steaming pots of... of... well who the hell knows?  The Chinese eat everything!  The smell of sewage wafts up from open grates to sting the noses of beautifully dressed Chinese youth.  It truly is a strange and enticing culture.  There are parts I love and some part's I can't stand and yet I the desire to explore this culture, my culture, is undeniable.  The only question is will I like what I find. 
The Promenade on the banks of the Huangpo River. 
One of the many alley's me and Chantra happened upon.
A typical street corner market selling all manner of knock offs.

One of China's minorities selling lamb skewers.  I'm surprised at how many muslims live in China.

A bowl of spicy rice noodles with soy sprouts and meat balls.  Cheap and delicious.

A wedding photographer and his clients.

Chantra in front of the People's Monument.

Some more communist propaganda no doubt.

A delicious piece of fried bread stuffed with sauteed green onions.  Only 40 cents.  Man I love street food.
This was kind of a tourist trap and I only say this because after having eaten the street food I know that this stuff is way over priced.  But man it looks good doesn't it.
A bowl of dry rice noodles topped with chilli oil, julienne cucumbers, peanuts, and bean sprouts.  Under a dollar.

Street vender selling some pungent, but delicious stinky tofu.

The aforementioned tofu.  Quite good.

Another kind of pita pocket with eggs and sauteed red bell peppers and jalapeno's.  A personal favorite of mine.

A stall selling some kind of crepe.  It was a little over a dollar for one so a bit on the expensive side for street food.

The finished product.  A lightly fried crusty and soft crepe filled with a fried egg and one strip of bacon topped off with a slightly sweet spritz of mayonnaise.  It's a artery clogger for sure but man was it good.
The street right in front of me and the wifey's hotel room.  Some great street food and trying to communicate what we wanted without speaking a word of Mandarin was an adventure in itself. 

Shanghai's newly developed "old street".  Man China is a contradiction in terms.

Yes that is some kind of animal skull in that broth.  The meat balls were good though.

Me and Chantra's favorite dish in Shanghai.  Xiao Long Bao.  Small perfectly steamed pork soup dumplings.  When you bite into them the juice just explodes in your mouth.
My beautiful wife enjoying her soup dumpling.

I guess the Chinese like takoyaki too.

Delicious!  Freshly grilled skewers of lamb marinated with just a dust of chilli powder and salt.

Skewers of octopus, on top of skewers of chicken, on top of skewers of pork.  Mmmmm Mmmmmm!
 So the rain caught us by surprise today and we got suck in a pretty massive storm.  Luckily we were right in front of the Shanghai Museum when it happened and since the museum was free it was a perfect opportunity to stay dry and cool and get some culture at the same time.  What was really cool about the exhibit was that some of the pieces were literally thousands of years old.
A decorative piece of clothing from one of China's minority groups.

Some textiles.

A tea set.
A Tibetan mask.

I think this was a bronze aged sword.

Loved this scroll.  Just beautiful.

A royal seal.

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